“Is that You
John Wayne? Is this me?” – Joker
The “individuation process” is a term created by psychologist Carl
Gustav Jung to describe the process of becoming aware of oneself, of one’s make-up, and the way to discover one’s
true, inner self.
For as long as mankind
has existed, there have always been people who asked themselves that most intriguing question: "Who am I". There is no simple
answer, but Jung’s individuation process provides us with some guidelines.
We are all familiar with the ego, but what exactly is it? When we say "I" or "me", what are we pointing to? The ego is the
centre of consciousness, but it is not what you are, rather, it is a function that allows you to distinguish yourself from
others. It is a structure that orders your psychological qualities, so that you can make sense of yourself and your actions.
It gives you a sense of uniqueness.
Full Metal Jacket begins with Joker questioning himself. Who am I? Is that you John Wayne
or is this me? Am I a cold and hardened killer or am I soft and intellectual? Joker’s ego distances himself from the
other marines. His aloof and cynical persona is created in an effort to detach himself from the marine group.
Conscious and Unconscious
Jung also speaks of the conscious and the unconscious. With the conscious we are able to experience everyday life. In contrast,
the unconscious is the part of ourselves that remains in the background. The unconscious tries to bring man back into balance.
In life we are not always able to do or be what we would like. Thus, the unconscious will influence our behaviour and actions
in such a way as to compensate. These unconscious tendencies can be stronger than our conscious, and can even go against our
will. For example, we yell out in anger, though we are often very sorry afterwards.
In Full Metal Jacket, we see Joker’s unconscious flare up several times. He beats
Pyle harder than the other marines and is quick to demand payback when his friend Cowboy dies. Though Joker hides behind a
mask of intellectual detachment, buried deep is a desire to embrace his more primal, animal instincts.
Jung then divided the unconscious in two parts: the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. The personal conscious
only belongs to yourself. It is the collection of subliminal perceptions, repressed or forgotten memories, wishes, and emotions
in an individual. The memories of the personal unconscious can be evoked, although they cannot be totally controlled by will.
Sometimes an accidental association will bring them to light. Sometimes they appear in dreams and fantasies.
Another important term is the Self. The Self is often confused with the ego. As the ego is only a temporal structure that
gives us an identity in this life, the Self is from a higher order, far beyond the ego. The Self is that which we are in essence.
In psychological terms, it encompasses the conscious, the unconscious, and the ego. The Self is the central archetype in the
collective unconscious, like the Sun is the centre of the solar system. The Self is the archetype of order, organization and
unity. It unifies the personality. According to Jung, the Self is our goal in life, because it is the most complete expression
of the highest unity that we call individuality.
In Full Metal Jacket, we watch Joker journey toward self-actualisation. The irony is
that despite embracing his Self, despite balancing primal aggression with his capacity for compassion, Joker loses all individuality.
The Collective Unconscious
writes that the collective unconscious is shared by us all. It is present in each of us; a vast reservoir, comprising all
of humanities archetypes. In general, the collective unconscious consists of characteristics that many people have in common
and which each of us inherit at birth. Fear and happiness, for example are inherited human characteristics. They arise without
conscious motives but simply arise from inner necessity.
These archetypes are the result of the many experiences of life that repeat themselves: sunrise and sunset, the seasons, life
and death, food, danger, and so on. They are symbols for the experiences of mankind.
The content of the archetype is basically unconscious. It undergoes a transformation when it becomes conscious or when it
is being perceived. The way it is transformed depends on the state of consciousness of the individual in which the archetype
An archetype is experienced as image and as emotion. It is especially recognizable in such typical and important human situations
as birth and death, adolescence, extreme fear, or a fearful experience. During such life phases and experiences archetypes
will often appear clearly in dreams.
The form of the archetype is only partially determined. Its content is a primal image that can only be given form when it
has become conscious (and thus has become filled with material from the conscious). Thus,
archetypes, when becoming conscious, will shape themselves. For example, a fairy in Europe will be dressed in medieval or
renaissance clothing, while in the East it will wear ancient Eastern clothing and be more djinn-like of appearance. The underlying
content, however, remains the same wherever you go. Archetypes are like a frame. The frame remains the same, but the image
that appears inside the frame will be dependent upon the circumstances.
Archetypes cannot be brushed aside. They will always manifest. When a society undergoes a change, its manifestations of the
archetypes will change too. They get another form, another image in the frame.
Archetypes by themselves are neutral, without value judgments attached to them, but they can be interpreted in a positive,
negative or neutral way. Full Metal Jacket itself is a film awash with archetypes. The father, the mother, the daughter, the
Joker, the trickster, the Animal Mother…on some level, the characters all exist to fulfil archetypal functions.
Individuation means that one becomes a person, an individual, and a totally integrated personality. It is a process of self-realization,
during which one integrates those contents of the psyche that have the ability to become conscious. It is a search for totality.
It is an experience that could be formulated as the discovery of the divine in yourself, or the discovery of the totality
of your Self. This does not always happen without pain, but it is necessary to accept many things that normally we would shy
away from. Once a person has accepted the contents of his unconsciousness and has reached the goal of the individuation process,
he is conscious of his relationships with everything that lives, with the entire cosmos. The irony of Full Metal Jacket is
that Joker’s process of individuation, eventually results in him losing all individuality. Joker seems to have an acute sense of the conflict within himself. “I wanted to see exotic Vietnam, the jewel
of Southeast Asian. I wanted to meet interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture and….kill them,”
he says. He has reconciled conflicting components of his unconscious experience and achieved a sort of individuation and wholeness
of self, albeit in a rather bizarre and ironic manner.
Individuation is a natural, inherent process in man. It cannot be stimulated by something
external, but it grows from the inside. Just as the body can become deformed or sick by lack of nutrition or movement, the
personality can be deformed by lack of experience or education. Jung stresses that our modern world does not give enough opportunity
to experience the archetype of the Shadow. When a child expresses his animal instincts, generally it is punished by its parents.
Punishment does not lead to the extinction of the Shadow (repressed tendencies, more about this later on), which is impossible,
but it leads to the suppression of this archetype. The Shadow retreats to an unconscious state, primitive and undifferentiated.
Then, when the Shadow breaks through the repressive barrier, and this does happen once in a while, it manifests itself in
a sinister, pathological way.
In Full Metal Jacket, the military nurtures the Shadow in a very deliberate way. It feeds
man’s primal lust for violence, but goes to lengths to paint all “female” traits as obstacles which must
The first step of integration is individuation of all aspects of the personality, which is called the individuation process.
There is a second phase that Jung called the transcendental function. This function has the capacity to unify the opposite
tendencies of the personality. The goal of transcendence is the realization of all aspects of the personality as they were
originally concealed in the one’s centre, and the development of the potential unity. The transcendence is the means
to realize the unity of the archetype of the Self.
The Individuation Process
The individuation process begins with becoming conscious of the Persona, the mask we take on in our every day life. After
this we become conscious of the Shadow, the repressed characteristics of the ego. Then we become conscious of the Anima, the
inner woman in each man, or the Animus, the inner man in each woman. Then the image of the old wise man, or the old wise mother
appears, after which the experience of the Self happens.
These phases are not necessarily chronological in order or separated from each other. They can overlap each other or run parallel.
In Kubrick’s film, the term “Full Metal Jacket” can be used as a substitute for the Persona; Joker puts
on a Jacket and pretends to be a cold hard killer. It can also be used as a metaphor for the marines themselves. The military
puts metal jacket’s on them, by destroying the Infantile and Feminine.
The Persona is the mask we all wear, a mask that pretends individuality. It makes us
believe that one is a certain individual, but it is nothing more than a well played role. The persona is a compromise one
creates between himself and the community about how one appears to be. One adopts a name, a title, an occupation, and identifies
oneself with this or that. One thinks that one is a businessman, a good father or a misfit, but all these are masks; ways
we would like to be or appear to other people.
The Persona is a complicated system for connecting the individual consciousness with society. One could call it a mask
that makes an impression on other people, but also hides the true nature of the person. It partly results from the demands
of a society that one has to play the role that has been ascribed to him. In your profession you need to fulfil the demands
of that profession as well as possible. As soon as one deviates from his role, he becomes a suspicious person, despite the
fact that he might still be an excellent worker in his profession. Therefore, if one wants to make it in society, one can
only devote himself to one single thing. Of course, few people are able to do this, as we all have more than one interest.
To accommodate to the wishes of society, we create a mask, a Persona. What is behind that mask we call ‘privacy’.
This split in our behaviour is not without consequences. If we neglect the development of the Persona, then people might find
us insulting or they make our lives difficult, because they expect us to behave in the way society demands. On the other hand,
there is danger of identifying too much with the role that one is trying to fulfil.
The Shadow represents unknown or little known characteristics of the ego. When one tries
to see his Shadow, he becomes conscious, and often ashamed of, the characteristics and impulses that he denies in himself
but sees clearly in other people: for example: egotism, spiritual laziness, unreal fantasies, intrigues, indifference, cowardliness,
greed, and all those little things of which we say "Oh, it doesn’t matter. Nobody will notice, and besides other people
are doing it too".
The Shadow is the inferior being in all of us, it wants to do all those things that we do not allow ourselves to do, or that
we don’t want to be. It is the Mr. Hyde in relation to Mr. Jekyll. In the first half of Full Metal Jacket, Pyle represents
the group’s collective Shadow.
The Shadow is not only about not doing something, but also about impulsive and ill-considered deeds. Before you have time
to think about it, a nasty remarks slips out, leaving you confronted with the result of something that you didn’t really
The Shadow is all those uncivilized desires and emotions that are incompatible with the norms of society and with our ideal
personality. It is all we are ashamed of, that we do not wish to be. In the military, the Shadow is essential for survival.
When a person joins other people, he automatically feels the need to behave as they do
in order to be accepted. Thus, he suppresses more of his tendencies, and thus makes his Shadow bigger. The Shadow can also
be a collective phenomenon in regards to the whole of humanity.
While it is necessary
to have a certain degree of suppression of one’s characteristics in regards to one’s role in society, the Shadow,
remaining the unconscious, will increase in strength. When a moment arises that the Shadow must appear, it can be so powerful
and dangerous that it can overwhelm the personality. It shows, for example, when one suddenly gets very angry. It certainly
is true with the collective Shadow. For example, when a mass of people is protesting, only to find themselves suddenly turning
In dreams the Shadow appears as a person of the same sex as the dreamer. The Shadow does not have to be an opponent. As it
is a part of ourselves we need to take it, give it love and compassion, control it, guide it. The Shadow will only become
hostile when it is not understood or is neglected.
"There is in the unconscious of each man an inherent image of woman who helps him to understand her being." –
"You got a girl friend in Vietnam?”
"Not just this minute.”
The anima is the personification of all female psychological tendencies in the psyche of a man, including feelings, moods,
intuition, receptivity for the irrational, the ability for personal love, nurturing, a feel for nature, and the man’s attitude
toward the unconscious.
This image becomes conscious by real contacts with women, especially the first woman he encounters in his life. Normally this
first woman is his mother, who is the most powerful in shaping him. There are men who have never been able to free themselves
from her fascinating power. A man’s experience of his mother is of course subjective. How she behaves is less
important than his experience of how she behaves. The image he builds is not an exact representation of how she really is,
but it is colored and shaped by his inherent ability to produce an image of her, that is, his anima.
If man has the feeling that his mother has had a negative influence on him, then the anima will often be expressed with
irritating, depressive moods, insecurity, a feeling of being unsafe, and touchiness. This negative anima can be expressed
in nasty, effeminate remarks, with which he demolishes everything possible. Another anima trick is pseudo-intellectual discussions,
which prevents a man from feeling life closely and coming to real decisions. He thinks so much about life that he cannot live,
and he losses all spontaneity and the flow of life.
Without a healthy anima, a man becomes effeminate, or becomes the prey of women, and he is not capable of handling the difficulties
of life. Such men can be very sentimental or touchy.
When he is grown up, his image of the anima is projected onto the women that attract him. It is then that a lot of misunderstandings
arise, as most men are not aware that their projection does not correspond with who the woman is in reality. This is the cause
of a lot of strange love affairs and divorces. Unfortunately, this projection does not happen in a rational way. It is not
that a man is actively projecting, but that the projection happens to him automatically.
Because the anima is an archetype, she has characteristics that continue to appear throughout the ages. She has a quality
of eternity. Often she looks young, although she has the feeling that she already has years of experience. She is wise but
not overpowering. She often has the feeling of being special, or having a secret knowledge. She is often connected to the
earth or water and can have great power. She has both a light and a dark aspect. She can be the pure, good, noble figure,
almost a goddess, but she can also be a prostitute, a seductress or a witch. Especially in children’s dreams these opposite
aspects are pronounced.
The dark aspect will most likely appear when a man has suppressed or underestimated his female nature, treating women with
contempt or carelessness.
The anima can also appear in the form a fey or an elf and lure men away from their work or home, like the sirens in ancient
times. In mythology and literature she continues to appear as a goddess and ‘femme fatale’.
Positive and negative are just two sides of a coin. In essence, the anima is a guide to the psychological development of a
man. Each time when man’s logical mind is not able to recognize or understand unconscious contents, his anima will help
him to dig them out. His anima helps him to tune himself to the correct inner values, thereby helping him to open the door
to his inner world. Thus the anima takes the role of guide and mediator in his inner world. Then man has to take serious those
feelings, moods, expectations and fantasies sent by his anima, and fix them in one form or another, like writing, painting,
sculpting. When he is working on this with patience then his unconscious contents will well up and connect with earlier material.
Whatever results from it has to be examined both intellectually as well as with his feelings. It is important to consider
it is not just ‘fantasy’, but that is very real.
The animus in women is the counterpart of the anima in men. Like the anima, the animus has three roots: the collective image
of a man that a woman acquires, her own experiences with men in her life, and the latent male principle in herself.
The animus also has good and bad aspects. In contrast with the anima in men, which appears most often in the form of erotic
fantasies or moods, the animus has a stronger tendency to appear in the form of ‘sacred’ convictions. This male
part in women is apparent when she lectures with a loud, obtrusive, male voice, or by unreasonable, emotional scenes. Even
in a woman who at the outside is very feminine, the anima can be a hard, unforgiving power. That woman can suddenly become
stubborn, cold and completely inaccessible. The animus never believes in exceptions. In general, one cannot contradict an
animus, because usually it is right, but at the same time it doesn’t quite fit the individual situation. It is mostly
only reasoning, an opinion. It looks right, but is beside the point.
Just as the anima of a man is formed by his experience of his mother, so the animus of a woman is formed through hers of her
father. The father gives her indisputable ‘true’ convictions that never include the personal reality of the daughter
In his negative aspect, the animus is personified by a cocoon of dreamy thoughts, filled with desires and judgments of ‘how
things must be’, excluding the reality of her own life. In his positive aspect, he can be very valuable aid in building
a bridge to the Self by his creative ability.
The animus often appears (especially in dreams) as a group of men. This shows that the animus personifies a collective element
rather than a personal element. Because of the collective aspect, women usually in reference to "they’ or ‘everybody’
include ‘always’, should’ and ‘must’.
The animus is a kind of collection of fathers and similar authorities, who pass an intellectualised, indisputable judgment.
It is mostly formed from words and opinions picked up from childhood onwards and later brought together into a canon of half-truths,
a treasure chest of preconceptions. This judgment can sometimes act against her self, resulting in an inferiority complex
limiting her self-initiative. In other situations she can turn against people in a completely destructive way. She will criticize
her neighbours, demolish the reputation of strangers without any reasonable explanation, or she makes belittling remarks to
her family members or people with whom she works.
An intelligent and developed woman is just as susceptible to the negative aspects of the animus as a less developed one. If
her opinion is being questioned she will become quarrelsome or dogmatic. This side of a woman craves for power. She can become
aggressive, dominating and unreasonable.
Because of this aspect of the animus, it is very difficult for a woman to think in a non-prejudiced way. She always has to
be aware of that inner voice that constantly tells her "that it needs to be this way", or "they should do it this way".
The positive side of the animus is that when a woman needs the courage and the aggressively he will be there to support her.
When a woman realizes that her opinions are based on generalities and authorities, then the animus can help her to look for
knowledge and wisdom.
Significance of Anima and Animus
The way anima and animus function can be made conscious, but they are themselves factors that are transcendent to the conscious,
and thus to perception and will. They remain autonomous and one needs to keep an eye on them.
Anima and animus are mediators between the conscious and the unconscious psyche. They can be understood when they appear,
personified, in fantasies, dreams, visions.
The Old Wise Man
After the anima and animus, the archetypes of the old wise man and the great mother arise, respectively in man and woman.
The old wise man appears in the form of king, hero, medicine man, savoir, magician, saint, ruler over man and spirits, God's
closest friend and so on. This archetype is a real danger for the personality, because once it has been aroused, a man can
easily believe that he possesses ‘mana’, real magical power, and wisdom. He who is possessed by this archetype
believes he is gifted with great (maybe esoteric) wisdom, prophetic gifts, the ability to heal and so on. Such a man can gather
followers, as he has entered the unconscious way further than anybody else.
The archetype has a fascinating power, intuitively felt by people and not easily resisted. They are fascinated by what he
is saying, but after analysis it is often not intelligent. The power of the old wise man can be destructive as it forces a
man to act above his power and capacity. He does not posses the wisdom he claims. In reality it is the voice of the unconscious
that should be subjected to criticism and analysis.
In a woman the archetype of the great mother acts in a similar way to the old wise man in a man. Any woman possessed by this
archetype, believes that she is gifted with an unlimited capacity to love and to understand, to help and to protect, and she
will exhaust herself in service to others. The archetype can be destructive when the woman is fixated on the belief that anybody
within her sphere of influence are ‘her children" and therefore they are helpless or dependent on her.
The Experience of the Self
The process of individuation is not easy for Western man because he has difficulty with the concept of paradoxes. Nevertheless,
it is necessary to accept both the superior and the inferior, the rational and the irrational, the order and the chaos, light
and darkness, yin and yang.
The Self, according to Jung, is not a kind of universal consciousness. It is rather an awareness of our unique nature and
our intimate connection with all life. This life is not only human but also animal, with plants and minerals, and even the
entire cosmos. It gives us a sense of ‘unity’ and acceptance of life as it is, and not as we might think we want
it to be.
The Self is symbolized in the form a child, Christ, Buddha, and so on. In dreams it can sprout forth from an animal or an
egg. The hermaphrodite, an often used alchemical image, is another symbol, it joins the opposites of male and female. Other
images are the difficult to obtain treasure, a jewel, a flower, a golden egg or golden ball, a chalice like the Grail, and
all fourfold images like mandalas.
Importance of the Environment
Jung thought that heritage can play a role in the balance of a personality. Man can have inherent extrovert or introvert tendencies,
or he can be a rather emotional type instead of an intellectual. Likewise, his anima can be strong or weak.
The other major component in the development of a personality is the environment. The environment in which one grows up or
lives, can deform, stimulate, or stabilize one’s development. The environment can interfere with the growth of the personality
by taking away the necessary stimuli or by making inappropriate contacts.
Parents play an extremely important role in the development of the character of the child. They are responsible for the mistakes
of the child and for stimulating his good tendencies. During its first years, the child does not have its own identity. His
psyche is a reflection of the psyche of his parents. Every psychic disorder of the parents is reflected in the child. When
the child goes to school it starts to develop its own individuality. The influence of its parents can still be strong if they
are overprotective, make decisions that the child should have made, and prevent the child from having sufficient experiences.
Under these circumstances the individuation of the child is stunned.
The individuation process is also limited by parents who try to impose their own psychic tendencies onto the child, or when
one of the parents is seeking to compensate for his/her own shortcomings through the child.
Jung was convinced that educators have a much stronger influence on the individuation of a child than the parents. Educators
should bring the unconscious in the student into the conscious. They should expand the conscious of students by providing
him with a multitude of experiences. Educators are in a position to discover imbalances in the child and to help it to overcome
weaknesses in its character. A child who is an overly developed intellectual type should be stimulated to come into contact
with his feelings. An introvert student should be stimulated to show his extrovert side. However, the most important task
of educators is the recognition of the individuality of each student and the promotion of a balanced development of individuality.