Individuation, Art Therapy & Astrology

In my studies in Astrology and Spirituality, I love the belief that although we are born pure and as a blank canvas as little human babies (awaiting the excitement of natural human development) we are also born with innate gifts: each one of us. These are not talents or skills, but effortless gifts; it is what makes us so special – it is typically what we came here to share with the world! I believe these gifts are embedded in our souls. The goal of Esoteric Astrology is to integrate our soul with our personality. I love that. A soulful personality, one that breaths authenticity, meaning, wisdom, and depth. I like to use the metaphor of your favorite jacket (the jacket is your personality/ego) it does not just look “cool”, is your style or suits you well; it also truly feels “cool” it feels good on you, it breathes the essence of you. This is a way one can conceptualize a personality that has a soul. (I’m open to new analogies, too!)

It requires an effort, interest, and level of maturity of our caregivers to nurture their child(ren) and their child(ren)’s gifts and true Self in an emotionally safe environment early on which is the only kind of environment where one can grow in a healthy way. We need the freedom to color (outside the lines), explore, and just be. This nurturing or holding space is an environment where basic concepts of love are not enough: being an extension of your parents/caregivers or a fusion of sorts due to the biological fact that we depended on them to survive. It requires deeper forms of love and intelligence (the job of a parent requires a level of self-mastery): differentiation as a form of respect. This kind of respect is the basis of a very safe and grounding love that gives children the potential to be their own person while still having the healthy attachment and fusion a child needs in their development. Differentiation is key to happiness.

Respect is differentiation: you belong to yourself, and you’re an extension of no one. 

Barbara Sher

How can we expect so much from our children if we cannot differentiate and allow them to individuate guilt/shame-free into their own person? This is the root of so much distress and suffering. Through travel and study, I find that the structure of the Self is as simple or complex as we make it. For example, I love the ancient language of the stars which derives from ancient civilizations such as the Aztec Mayans and Egyptians: Astrology helps me see that we have many different facets! For example, the personality (sun), the emotional body (moon), the spirit (rising/ascendant), the mind/intellect (mercury), and so much more! I believe the stars have a lot to teach us.

I had so much fun doing a personal Art Therapy project with some acrylic paint and a set of wooden Russian Nesting Dolls. Studying my natal chart helps me to understand myself and this Art Therapy project truly helped me to integrate parts of myself into who I am as a whole person.

With healthy differentiation (even if we must break away from unhealthy attachments ourselves); we then can truly individuate! It is common to struggle with this process growing up or as an adult which is often linked naturally to our role models (our own parents/caregivers) and their personal Self process struggle. As a therapist, I see how the anxieties of our parent’s undeveloped personalities and overall Self often subconsciously become the unrealistic responsibility of their children. Often, in therapy, this reality becomes conscious which is the first step in reclaiming the identity: individuation (becoming an individual) should be FUN! This is the fun part of becoming who you want to be, learning, growing, evolving, and healing.

In Jungian Psychology, individuation is the creation of Self which is the process in which the various aspects of personality are integrated. So, now we talk about integration. This whole being a human thing… has layers depending on how we look at it. I hold the belief as a therapist and person that we are all trying to move toward wholeness, especially when we hold the belief that we are already whole. We truly are; it is just that sometimes we need help, guidance, or support in getting there due to a lack of support, guidance, or help in the past.

If we are all naturally moving toward wholeness; we are also all naturally integrating. We integrate every day. Through our dreams and sleep, through feeling safe, grounded, and secure; through learning new things that resonate with us specifically and applying those new learnings to our lives, through movement, breath, meditation, spending time in nature, talking to someone to process what we think, feel, and know… writing, making art, and so much more. When we integrate; we make information, wisdom, knowledge, healing… all part of who we are: coming into wholeness.

All parts of Self become One! I love this Russian Nesting Doll metaphor or symbol of the Self. As an Art Therapist, I find making art to be supportive in therapy, especially because it becomes a transitional object during a specific time in our process. The art becomes a meaningful visual that speaks to us deeply and something that we can see every day in our environment which can help us to integrate. I love Object Relational Theory and with this theory, transitional objects are innate in our development and are very supportive. One of mine was a light teal glow worm stuffed animal when I was a child! It could be a special blanket, a pet, a toy, or something you formed a supportive healthy attachment to. In Art Therapy, we are practicing forming healthy attachments to our art as well. How neat is that?!

For example, this art object, at the time I made it, was so meaningful and supportive to me. I placed it near me in my home and it was very supportive in that process of integration. Now, I look at it and I have the memories and the felt sense of what that process was for me, but because I can relate to it in different ways now, shows that I may not need it as much as I did at that time (it’s integrated into who I am); due to my ability to be flexible in my attachment to it.

Trust yourself that you know what you need in order to integrate and be whole. Trust is key in the development/strengthening of resiliency and being able to ride the waves of change.

To promote a healthy “becoming you” process, it is best for one to feel safe and secure. Feeling that safety might look different for everyone during different stages of their process. Most of us require stability and our basic needs to be met for us to reach those higher levels of development.

You cannot individuate on Everest.

Barbara Hanna, cited in Jung: His Life And Work

That does not mean one cannot hike Mount Everest and individuate at the same time; it just means that it is very difficult to reach higher levels of development if we are in survival mode. When safety is secured, those survival times can be beautifully integrated as we process and heal from them if needed. There is a sweetness about the feeling of safety when “coming back home” to yourself, to integrate at the end of each day, even if it is just a felt sense in your body of home nestled there: accessible due to comfort and safety of the environment around you!

You are amazing and fascinating. You deserve a healthy and supportive environment in order to come to wholeness.

Many blessings & kindness to you,

Rachel Howard, LMFT, ATR-BC, RYT

All images © Rachel Howard

Friendly reminder (disclaimer): The information in this entry is not therapy and cannot be a substitute for work with a licensed therapist. The information in the entry is only intended for educational purposes around the topics written about above pertaining to psychology, art therapy, spirituality, and astrology, and for self-care and wellbeing ideas and food for thought.