Development of Personality by Carl Jung

PsychologyPersonality Psychology

Have you ever found yourself commenting on what a different person your childhood friend has become? Or how there are stark differences between you and your parents? Or how have you gone from being self-centered to think about everybody else before yourself? This is because all of us undergo different stages of life wherein different aspects of our personalities also change. While many elucidate the process, no one set school of thought could concretize the process.

Unlike popular belief, Jung postulated that personality development takes place over a series of stages that result in the culmination of individuation or self-realization. To him, the latter half of life, the period after 35-40 years of age, is crucial in bringing together various aspects of personality in an attempt to attain self-realization. However, the risk runs high for a steady decline or severe reactions if a balance between polar opposite forces is not achieved. This ability relates to the proportionality of success gained in traversing through the previous stages of life.

Stages of Development

Jung identified four developmental stages: childhood, youth, middle life, and old age. He believed that the traverse through life is analogous to the sun's journey through the sky, with its brightness representing consciousness. The early morning sun reflects childhood which is full of endless potential but lacking brilliance, and the morning sun is our youth where a steep climb towards the zenith is observed without the slightest knowledge of the impending doom; the early afternoon sun characterizes middle life, brilliant like the late morning sun, but headed for the sunset and the evening sun is old age, the once brightly lit consciousness losing its light. Jung believed that the ideals, values, and modes of behavior are dynamic entities that must be changed to adjust to current life stages.


Childhood was divided into three stages −

  • Anarchic Phase − It is characterized by a disturbed and irregular consciousness where little or no connection may be found between different intervals. Certain experiences enter the consciousness at times as primitive images that cannot be adequately verbalized. It can be called "islands of consciousness."
  • Monarchic Phase − It lays the foundation for the development of the ego and the onset of logical and verbal thinking. During this phase, children usually refer to themselves in the third person because they begin to see themselves objectively. Here, the islands of consciousness enlarge and provide a home to a primitive ego that perceives itself as an object, unaware of its ability to be the perceiver.
  • Dualistic Phase − In this stage, the ego identifies itself as a perceiver and is divided into objective and subjective. Children go back to referring to themselves in the first person as they see themselves as separate individuals. Here, the islands of consciousness become continuous land inhabited by an ego complex. At this stage, the child's personality is just a tad bit different from that of their parents, thus, showing the strong influence that parents play in shaping their child's personality.


The period from puberty until middle life is called youth, wherein young people strive for psychic and physical independence from their parents to find a partner, raise a family, and stand some footing in the world. According to Jung, this period should entail an increase in activity, achieve sexual maturation, widen consciousness, and, most importantly, come to terms with the saddening reality that the carefree childhood phase is long gone. The major obstacle of this stage is to overcome the barrier of clinging to the narrow consciousness of childhood in avoiding problems about present life situations. This desire to live in the past is called the conservative principle.

It is not until puberty that the psyche formulates into a concrete entity. This phase has been named psychic birth by Jung and is marked by difficulties and the need for adaptation – putting a full stop to childhood fantasies and confronting reality demands as adults. Our focus on youth is external, with a dominating consciousness as we aim to achieve our goals and establish a secure and successful place for ourselves in the world.

Middle Life

Jung said that this stage starts around 35 to 40 years of age when descent is overserved. It might present people with anxious thoughts and yet provide immense potential. If the tendency is to retain early life's social and moral values, a rigid and fanatical approach might be observed in trying to maintain their physical attractiveness and agility. Hence, to live fully during this stage, the period of youth should not be lived by either childish or middle-aged values. People who can do that can give up extraverted youth goals and move towards the introverted direction of expanded consciousness. Their psychological health is a characteristic of finding new meaning in life and not merely achieving success in business or good family life.

Jung believed that major personality changes occurred during this phase. It was a period of personal crises stemming from the dawn of realization that although a well-established life had been achieved, the zest and enthusiasm of younger years had been compromised. Although saddening, these changes were inevitable and universal. So, it would be beneficial to spend the first half of life focusing on the objective world of reality – education, career, and family and the second half looking I subjective self-reality inwards. The personality's attitude must move from extraversion to introversion, increase awareness of the unconscious, and shift interests from physical to material (spiritual, intuitive, and philosophical); thus, embark on the journey towards self-realization.


According to Jung, psychological rebirth, also called self-realization or individuation, is the process of becoming an individual or whole person by integrating the opposite poles of personality into a single, homogenous self. There are several stages enlisted to reach the ideal of self-fulfilment.

  • Confront the unconscious − The first step is to desert the behavior and values guiding the first half of our life, confront our unconscious, and accept what it tells us. This means listening to our dreams, following our fantasies, and exercising creative imagination. Rational thinking must not be the guide; spontaneity should (flow of unconscious). However, this does not mean being governed entirely by the unconscious and letting it dominate us but by striking a balance between the two.
  • Dethrone the persona − For a smooth shift to the process of individuation, the shift is of utmost importance, like archetypes. The first involves dethroning the persona. Although normal life continues with the multitude of social roles we play, we must come to terms with the fact that this public personality does not represent our true nature and accept the genuine self that the persona has been hiding.
  • Accept our dark sides − An awareness of the destructive forces of shadow dawns, and we acknowledge that its primitive impulses like selfishness do not mean we let it dominate us but accept its existence. During the first half of life, we conceal it in an attempt to show only our good side, but in that process, we also conceal it from ourselves. In getting to know oneself, accepting both constructive and destructive forces will give a deeper and fuller dimension to the personality.
  • Accept our anima and animus − Expression of the anima archetype that is feminine traits such as care and concern by the man and an expression of the animus archetype by women that is masculine characteristics such as assertiveness symbolizes the acceptance of psychological bisexuality. Jung believed this is the most difficult step towards individuation as it posits the biggest challenge to our self-image. Nevertheless, an acceptance of the same opens up new avenues of creativity.
  • Transcend − Once the individuation of the psyche's structures is acknowledged, transcendence occurs, an innate tendency towards unity and wholeness. Environmental factors such as failed marriages or unsuccessful careers might inhibit the process.


While many ideas Jung postulates make sense and might sound doable, personality development is not that simple. We draw on different forces of nature, and different hurdles might characterize each stage, so a sequential flow is now always possible. Apart from the deterministic view by Freud, Jung put forward an approach that sounds both mystical and yet not completely distant from scientific concepts. However, the problem lies with the universality of ideas.

Updated on 13-Oct-2022 11:19:47