Individuation And Organizations

Life in the post-modern world is organizational life. Individuation, the journey towards psychological wholeness, occurs in the context of the organizations with which we engage. Both individual and organizational psyches are living systems and as such share attributes. The journey to wholeness is retold in myths and fairytales, in the same way the alchemists projected it into matter. Nowadays, facets of the individuation process are mirrored in the physical and social sciences. In the corporate world, people project aspects of their psyche onto money. The historical connection of money to ritual and sacrifice resides in the collective unconscious and constellates in organizational life. Our experience of consciousness and unconsciousness, our complexes, behaviors, values, defenses, relationships and communication style reflect our individuation process. Our encounters with organizations do not determine us. Rather they offer us a venue for engaging with the collective and for experiencing our unconscious in that engagement. Engaging with others in organizations perturbs us, provides interactions that allow our personality to unfold along the edge of our shared experiences. The interactions between individual and organization are autopoietic, self-generating, mixtures of emotion and rationality. The interactions of individuals and organizations are encounters with destiny.

Within organizations, typology is the best known application of Jungian psychology. Within Jungian circles, Jung’s concern for the tendency of the collective to squelch the urge toward individuation is a common perspective. Yet we are born into organizational life–the relationships, the complexities, the psyches of others. From birth to death we experience ourselves and others in organized groups. Human organizations have existed since our ancestors assembled the first hunting parties and today flourish wherever we gather to work, play, study, or worship.

In 1990, General Motors was the largest corporation in the world with over 370,000 employees in the United States. At one time, AT&T had over three million stockholders. By 1975, three percent of hiring organizations employed 55 percent of those working. One in four people worked for organizations with more than 1000 employees, although 51 percent of organizations employed three or fewer people. Manpower Temporary Services employs more than 800,000 temporary staff a year. With the advent of desktop computer, the average size of businesses in the United States has declined from 50 to 30 employees. In 1960 one person worked in manufacturing for every two in services; by 1990, one person worked in manufacturing for every five in services. In the 1940s, women comprised 20 percent of the workforce; in the 1990s, over 40 percent of workers were women. By the early 1990s, women owned 30 percent of United States firms. Finally, two thirds of adult Americans participate in voluntary organizations outside of employment.

Post-modern life is organizational life. To live in the world is to encounter, engage, and individuate in relation to organizations. Jung might have encouraged the individuating person to follow a path outside the collective. In post-modern life, resacrilizing our participation in organizations, contributing our individuation back to our organization is another alternative.


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