The Transcendent Function & Personality Growth

Posted on 2019-07-26 By Joanna

The-Transcendent-Function-and-Personality-Growth

Have you ever wondered how do we change and grow? What allows us to adapt to unforeseen and challenging circumstances? Or how is it possible that many of us can seem totally different to who we were 10 years ago?

Carl Jung observed that people seem to be going through the process of individuation during which their personality undergoes a metamorphosis. In essence, individuation is the process of acknowledging and exploring the uncharted territory of our unconscious mind. It could be also described as stepping outside our comfort zone which encompasses our current attitudes, beliefs, interpretations and self image, and assimilating new knowledge and understanding of ourselves and others. As a result of this process, we become more whole and flexible. We become more of who we can be.

In more technical terms, this process could be also viewed as a modification of our personality structure and the ego. If you imagine yourself in this very moment as being composed of a network of beliefs, understandings, attitudes, interpretations; undergoing individuation or similar process would equal simply modifying this structure by adding new information. As a result, you would become much more to who you are now. Such possibilities or potentialities of expansion belong to the realm of unconscious – until you go through an expanding and challenging experience, you cannot be aware of the potential person you might become as a result of going through such experiences.

Learn more about the ego transcendence: Mind Mastery Video: What the Ego Transcendence is about

The transcendent function is the mechanism of the psyche which allows us to assimilate new knowledge and experiences, and expand the existing structure of our personality and the way of being. When we, for example, enter a new environment and we don't know how to behave, we are faced with conflict: we can either learn and adapt, or draw on existing knowledge and behave in the same way we behave in other contexts. Behaving in a novel way might provoke insecurity and anxiety, but behaving in an old way might also seem inadequate and embarrassing. The transcendent function in this case, arises as a tension between two opposite options. The conflict creates tension and energy which then allows for the third option to arise – after evaluating all possibilities, knowledge, learnings and interpretations, eventually we can come up with a solution that allows us to adapt to the new situation and adds to the existing repertoire of beliefs, knowledge and behaviours.

It takes time to transcend the current structure we are embedded in. The above example is a simplified version of the process that could last weeks, months or even years, depending on the extent we allow ourselves to transcend our existing ego.

“When there is full parity of the opposites, attested by the ego’s absolute participation in both, this necessarily leads to a suspension of the will, for the will can no longer operate when every motive has an equally strong countermotive. Since life cannot tolerate a standstill, a damming up of vital energy results, and this would lead to an insupportable condition did not the tension of opposites produce a new, uniting function that transcends them. This function arises quite naturally from the regression of libido caused by the blockage.“

- Carl Jung

Looking from a broader perspective, the transcendent function might be responsible for the process of moving through developmental stages of the psyche. In most theories, the development occurs by mastering a particular stage and then using this stage as the building block of the next stage. ([1], [2], [3]). One of the possible explanation for our ability to move from one stage to the next one is the transcendent function – broadening of our personality and self-concept by stepping outside the existing ego structure and then assimilating the novel knowledge and perspectives.

When the new possibilities of growth and expansion enter our mind, usually as a result of novel experience and insight, the very awareness of the contrast between the old and the new creates a tension. Embracing the new way of being might seem scary and less comfortable than staying the way we are now. In that moment, the first response might be to stay with what's familiar and comfortable in order to resolve the conflict between two contrasting states. However, the longer we stay with that conflict without jumping to conclusions, the more we enable the transcendent function to create a bridge towards a third option which most likely, will join the old and the new, and create a pathway towards next developmental stages.

Learn more about the ego transcendence: Mind Mastery Video: What the Ego Transcendence is about



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