Our Inner Child and Individuation: What Mister Rogers can teach us about healing
There seems to be a misunderstanding about the term "individuation:" that it is some sort of destination of perfection or enlightenment. But Jung defined it differently:
I will try to explain the term “individuation” as simply as possible.
By it I mean the psychological process
that makes of a human being
an “individual”--a unique, indivisible unit or “whole [wo]man.”
Individuation refers to separating one's self from the outward expectations or socialized "shoulds" of their life. I think when we talk about our Spirit Guides, our Higher Self, Spirit, we are referring to a our Divinity that propels us toward individuation.
When I think of folks who I consider individuated, I think of people who are so aligned in their will, so certain of their purpose, so connected with their own essence, that nothing, not even death, would stop them from doing the work they were born to do. I often think of Civil Rights activists like Stokely Carmichael or Angela Davis or Martin Luther King, Jr.
I might think of Jung himself, who was so compelled to understand the human spirit, he almost lost himself in the depths of a prolonged psychosis. These people are different expressions of the same energetic propulsion. And, after watching the new doc, I think of Mister Rogers.
Individuation is not that you are "above" normative human struggles. There is nothing transcendent about it, really. Though Mister Rogers struggled with a profound self-doubt and the desire to be accepted, even until he died, he was still able to become most fully himself. And by being fully his own person, he touched many more than he could possibly imagine.
Jung also says:
“What is it, in the end, that induces a man to go his own way and to rise out of unconscious identity with the mass as out of a swathing mist?
It is what is commonly called vocation: an irrational factor that destines a man to emancipate himself from the herd and from its well-worn paths. … Anyone with a vocation hears the voice of the inner man: he is called.”
Towards what are you being called?
What is the fullest expression of yourself?
If you do not know yet, ask to know.
I must warn you, it could radically alter your path.
We are all called toward something, but often the outside gets in our way: what we "should" do or become, what our parents expect, what our culture says is valuable, what has happened to us. Sometimes, our essential truth is standing in direct opposition to the messages we've received our entire lives. Mister Roger's was supposed to become a pastor but something else stirred him.
I know for certain by pulling that thread of passion, you will inevitably be guided toward that work which is healing for you.
When you prioritize your own healing,
you prioritize the healing of the entire world.
We are inseparable.
Mister Rogers is an example of privilege in action. He put himself and his livelihood on the line by addressing all manners of oppression on his show: he took a stand against racism, against the lie that we should suppress our feelings, against the idea that children cannot or should not understand death and other complexities, against what a toxic culture says masculinity should look like. The rumors that he was a closeted gay man or an army sniper tried to undercut the idea that a heteronormative man could just be this way, authentically peaceful. He did not get out untouched, he was made fun of sometimes in vile ways that hit on the very childhood wound with which he struggled.
Nonetheless, his show gave voice to his Inner Child. The tiny child that holds our deepest longings, struggles and fears; the same tiny child that holds the key to our creativities, our passions and our integration.
The most potent healing practices acknowledge and soothe our Inner Child, allowing ourselves to experience the vulnerability of all the feelings we were not able to process as a child. Some of us have more to process than others, but no one escapes childhood unscathed.
When we begin to feel through our feelings, our healing removes the blocks to individuation. We become less swayed by what we are told is important and we reconnect with our true values and our true voice. We develop an unshakeable courage and a unified will.
I am only able to write these emails because I take on the frightening challenge of facing the depths of my own emotions regularly. It is hard work.
When you process through your own traumas and disappointments, you cannot help but see how to love better everything around you. As you accept yourself with love and compassion, in your entirety, you see how to accept others who may have seemed disgusting to you before. When you see yourself with clarity and total self-awareness, how you have a little fascist dictator that lives in your own psyche, so you can begin to imagine how our world rulers might be overly identified with that aspect of themselves.
Self-righteousness and judgement render us ineffective
to change or heal the suffering around us.
Forgive yourself. Set yourself free.
When you are free from judgement towards yourself,
you can fight injustice without judgement.
As Mister Rogers showed us when he testified before Congress with bewildering vulnerability, calling people into love is always the most effective way to disarm hate, and to change our collective trajectory. Judgment would not have worked in that situation. You and I would not have had the daily delight of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood or any PBS program, for that matter, if Fred had decided to be a "normal" man and rely on domination tactics.
Thank you, Fred, for taking the risk of embodying the vulnerability of your Inner Child. My life and work is profoundly and utterly shaped by the hope and dignity you offered to me day after day as a five year old.
Returning to that five year old turned out to be the missing key between me and my voice.