Jungian Re-integration: Gathering Wholeness


Allow me to share two difficult stories around the theme of re-integration this week. Carl Jung recognized three stages in the process of psychological individuation that are closely tied with the three phases of the hero cycle or the three stages of rites of passage cycles. For Jung these three stages of individuation include: integration, disintegration, and reintegration. The story of Isis descending to retrieve and reassemble the dismembered parts of her brother-husband Osiris well illustrates this process.

We may feel as if we are whole until some disruptive experience  dismembers us and we feel we have  “fallen to pieces.” Then we must “pick up the pieces” and “put ourselves back together again,” resulting in a new self with regard to difficulties we have faced.

On NPR on Saturday, I listened to a story that reminded me of this theme of Jungian reintegration. A mother, Sarah, was dealt the worst blow life has to offer: one of her two twin sons, Caleb, died from a genetic illness. Sarah donated Caleb’s body to science. Yet she found she could not leave it at that; two years later Sarah followed up on where various body parts of her beloved son were delivered and to what use they were being put.  She found that Caleb’s cornea was still in use in studies of infant blindness; DNA studies comparing her two twins’ blood samples had revealed thousands of discrepancies of an epigenetic nature; and Caleb’s retina was a valuable resource in a Philadelphia study of infant illnesses.


In tracing what had happened with her son’s donated parts, Sarah was re-integrating her very memory of Caleb. He had not died without purpose or consequence, and Sarah’s decision to donate his young body to science had served more than to alleviate her own suffering. Sarah summed it up nicely:

“The choices you make affect others.”


images are from pixabay.com

The second story I wish to share is as grim as Sarah’s.  Just yesterday while driving on an interstate highway to Denver, I passed a male deer which had just been struck by a vehicle. It was terrible. The deer had been impacted at its rear so that both of its rear legs were broken. I pulled off The highway to call the state police. That poor deer was scraping itself off from the highway shoulder, in terrible agony. He could not survive for long in that condition. The state troopers would euthanize this Soul’s mortal body. I knew this was the only way for this Deer Soul to return to wholeness spiritually, though it could never return to its physical family. I stayed until the troopers arrived, sending what peace and love I could to the struggling animal.

Reintegration is a reassembling of parts of the Self which may have been lost or dismembered through crisis.  As we pick up the pieces we go forward with what we have left, hopefully contributing to others from the lessons we have gained from our ordeals, so that others may suffer less down the road.

These stories are grim indeed.  But they remind us of how life may also deal harsh experience. Yet, the hero cycle or rites of passage allow the process of individuation to be always an upward spiral of growth and purpose.

I welcome always your comments and stories.

What’s a Heaven For?


Throughout this year at Life Paths for Better Endings, each month we are conjoining one of twelve universal archetype character types with one positive Life Metaphor, forging an ‘alchemical’ pairing of elements. These conjunctions are to help us manifest Better Endings with respect to our highest values and pursuits. The archetypal energies we are invoking can help us to actualize the Life Metaphor impetus; that is, calling upon the strengths of your intrinsic archetypal character modes can help you realize your highest life values and goals.

Mountain Climber Summit Retro

This month we are pairing February’s astrologically associated IDEALIST archetype with the metaphor Life is a Long and Winding Road.  This feels a very natural conjunction in that sometimes, when the Road feels too long or windy, we can derive needed inspiration from our deepest ‘sense of idealism’.

Corporate Ladder

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,” said Robert Browning, “Or what’s a heaven for?” (“Andrea del Sarto”, line 98).   Let’s call upon our Idealist traits of fortitude and perseverance this week. An ideal or your ultimate Life Dream is worth all the patience and love you can give to gradually realize its highest form of expression.

Like the Monarch butterfly, we cannot be pulled too quickly from our chrysalis of an ideal; only by its own natural struggle toward unfoldment can the strong and healthy, beautiful butterfly emerge from its cocoon.

Digital Painting of a Butterfly

I am reminded of the Buddhist practice of travel via prostration to reach the pilgrimage center of Bodh Gaya where the Buddha is said to have reached enlightenment under a peepul tree.  A monk, e.g. Sherab Gyalsten from Tibet recently (see story), “takes three and a half steps forward, then prostrates flat on the road while chanting mantras. Then he gets up, folds his hands in prayer and repeats the process.” The pilgrimage may take the monk many years to reach the destination. I have seen a documentary about such a monk who arrived after several years to attend a special ceremony at Bodh Gaya. When he arrived he learned the ceremony had been cancelled for that year due to weather conditions. He turned around, prostrated and chanted, and began his journey home.

young Buddhist monks

In what ways are you set upon a Long and Winding Road in your life? How can you draw upon your Idealist strengths to help you to realize your Dream?