own unique task to fulfill. It may well be that human problems always remain similar, but they are not the same. All pines resemble one another, otherwise we would not be able to recognize them as such, and yet none is made exactly like any other. As a result of these individual differences, it is difficult to describe the endless possibilities of individuation. For this reason, Jung’s views were often accused of not being clear. But here we are talking about things that can only be grasped by feeling, through living experiences, things that are not susceptible to theoretical abstraction. Here the psychology of the unconscious runs into the same boundary as modern atomic physics has encountered. To the extent that we are dealing with statistically expressible, average facts, we can describe them exactly; however, the individual event can never be grasped in exact terms—we can only describe it as honestly as possible. Just as the physicists cannot say what light is “in itself,” but only, on the basis of two experiments, describe it as particles or waves, psychology too runs into similar difficulties. We cannot say what the unconscious and the process of individuation are in themselves, but we can attempt to describe some of their relatively typical manifestations.
The First Encounter with the Unconscious A person’s childhood is usually characterized by a gradual awakening to the world and to his or her own being—in a state of great emotional intensity. The majority of childhood dreams, and often also the first vivid memories, already exhibit in symbolic form a person’s most essential determining traits —sometimes, however, these are memories of real events, which, when looked at symbolically, are in effect prophetic.9 Thus a young woman who, suffering from pathological states of panic, took her life at the age of about twenty-six. As a small child she had dreamed that she was lying on her bed when Jack Frost came into her room and pinched her in the stomach. When she woke up, she saw that she had pinched herself. The odd lack of reaction that characterized the child’s meeting with the demon of cold and of life brought to a standstill was not a good sign for her future; and in the end she did cold-bloodedly take her life with her own hand. Her childhood dream had presaged her whole tragic destiny. Sometimes it is not only a dream, but the inextinguishable memory of a real experience, that elicits early on in symbolic form certain fateful components of the personality. These memories can be regarded like dreams,