Belly Laughs and Sighs on the Road to Individuation


Creating a definition of Carl Jung’s idea of individuation is not my forte; at its best, my definition will serve as a layman’s understanding. But then, what good are theoretical concepts if they do not invite creative exploration?

 Individuation is the realization of what we have the potential to be at birth. Conscious reflection on this potential is the work of the second half of life. It is not something that we achieve, instead it is an awareness that enriches our living. This awareness often does, but not necessarily, produce experiences of the numinous and the transcendent in our lives. As we near the end of our time on this earth, there is a growing sense of wholeness, if we have explored our potential for being.

 As I have shared before, part of my process of individuation, is a passion to tell stories that foster understanding. The following personal story, that happened recently, shares an example of my own experience of individuation.

 Six years ago I sensed a need to change my direction in life. After thirty-five years of telling stories to children in schools, I stopped advertising my programs and over time the work disappeared as I planned. I began exploring what I call, ‘my work for the last third of life’. Over the past six years this work has had many manifestations, some of them are described in this blog. Two weeks ago I experienced another special time.

 It was almost exactly a year ago that I approached the Mercer Museum, in my hometown of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, with the idea of a storytelling concert. They were interested and we settled on the idea of ‘love stories’ for Valentine’s Day. I wanted this concert to be more than an experience of tellers sharing their individual stories on the subject of love. I wanted it to be an ensemble of stories performed in poetry, narrative and song. I wanted the stories to be accented with musical interludes between tales. And most important, I wanted to work with a group of artist who were willing to come together to create a performance from their combined talents.

 It took several months to consider the artists in the area around Philadelphia, discuss potential stories, poems and music, and gather to begin working on a performance. What a pleasure it was for me to first talk about ideas with the artists; then we selected the actual offerings to be performed; and finally we rehearsed the performance several times. Looking back on the process, it was very organic, I cannot tell exactly how we made many of the artistic decisions.

 Sunday afternoon, February 10, 2013, about sixty to seventy people gathered in the Elkins Gallery of the Mercer Museum in Doylestown. The audience size was perfect for the venue. I positioned myself near the front, but not to see the stage. I positioned myself to watch the audience’s reaction to the presentation. I know I am prejudiced, but I will say that I watched an audience that was totally involved and entertained for two hours of words and music. The performance flowed from stories in rhyme to stories in narrative;  some of the stories were personal and others were mythic. The whole performance was woven together with music and song that mirrored the ideas and emotions shared in words. It was clear that people were enjoying the experience. Belly laughs and sighs accented their looks of rapt attention.


 Afterwards the cast gathered at our home, a block from the museum. We sat around the table to eat and share impressions of the performance. But more than that, we talked about ourselves, we shared ideas and generally enjoyed a generous winding down from the energy of  performing. I think all of us were happy to have been part of the Mercer Museum performance.

 So how does this relate to the subject of  individuation? Well, I would not say that there was anything numinous or transcendent about our performance at the Mercer Museum, but I did feel that I experienced something of what I intended when my purpose for the last third of my life was conceived six years ago. My life was enriched by being part of an experience that focused on creativity and community rather than ego and individual performance. For me, it seemed right and whole. Next month I hope to share an interview with a person who has explored the path to individuation in a different way.

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