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Marriott, K. (1980). On Becoming a Person. J. Anal. Psychol., 25(2):125-140.

(1980). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 25(2):125-140

On Becoming a Person

Kathleen Marriott, B.A

As A Trainee I had been lucky enough to be given first a patient who, I soon discovered, had reached the depressive position, had achieved a unit-self, was in fact ‘a person’; and then, a year later, a second patient who, though highly developed in many ways, was, in an important sense, not yet ‘a person’. He was still functioning from an early, split position, where his world was experienced in all-or-nothing terms, and his prolific dreams, and transference phantasies, were centred on very early, infantile longings, terrors, and needs. He had not firmly established a me/not me, inner/outer position: his perception of the world was still deeply distorted by unassimilated unconscious contents projected into the environment. The first patient's defences were of the neurotic, the second patient's of the psychotic, kind.

The comparison of these two patients, outwardly similar, inwardly so profoundly different, led me to think hard about the whole concept of individuation, of ‘becoming a person’.

As I read Jung's account of the dissolution of the persona, and the confrontation with the collective unconscious leading to individuation (JUNG 3), the urgency, the vividness, the involvement of body sensation, the feelings of totality, all strongly reminded me of both the intense imaginative play of children in therapy, and of my second clinic patient in analysis, a man in his late twenties.

Clearly, there was something in common here. At first this was puzzling. Jung's description of a socially successful adult of mature years, consciously and conscientiously attempting to relate to his inner messages, is a far cry from a little boy in a playroom being pursued by a ferocious lion. Yet were they not both committed to the urgent task of getting to know, then relating to and finally integrating, a denied part of themselves? Were they not both trying to get access to their own inner energies, so that they would become strengthened, and not persecuted by powerful forces seemingly ‘out there’? Were they not both struggling to find a broader basis of self from which to function?

Certainly, much of what Jung said about individuation is to do with maturity, and not childhood. I think perhaps there are roughly four areas with which he was concerned.

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