The Makings of a Good Character- Individuation and the Art of Change

character-arc-1During the course of a novel or film, a good character needs to change.

We all want to be a better person.  Change, transformation, is a constant in our lives and if you can impel some kind of emotional change within your character, it creates an arc of behavior and adds another dimension to who he or she is. Syd Field – The Screenwriter’s Workbook

While there many paradigms through which you might view character arc change, the one that appeals most to me is based on the concept of Jungian ‘individuation’.

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 man.” Carl Jung

While admittedly this journey to one’s destiny – or ‘true self’ – is a life-long process, it does move in fits and starts;   not all the phases occur chronologically.  They can overlap each other or run parallel.

The individuation process begins with becoming conscious of the Persona, the mask we take on in our every day life.[1] After this we become conscious of the Shadow, the repressed characteristics of the ego.[2] Then we become conscious of the Anima, the inner woman in each man, or the Animus, the inner man in each woman.[3] Then the image of the old wise man (the Conscious), or the old wise mother (the Unconscious) appears, and if the union of the two, or the Coniunctio, is successful the experience of the Self occurs.

In terms of psychological astrology, this process is well-characterized by what is referred to as ‘growing into your sun sign’.

Sun sign columns would be much more worthwhile if they began with the underlying premise that the Sun sign represents qualities which you need to build and develop in a constructive way in order to become who you uniquely are… Howard Sasportas – The Luminaries

This transition might be dramatically depicted by movement from the more negative to the more positive emotions associated with the character’s sun sign:

  • Aries               Bored–afraid–angry–eager–brave–enthusiastic
  • Taurus           Greedy–lethargic-stubborn–mellow–safe-comfortable
  • Gemini           Restless–nervous-curious-interested–informed–proficient
  • Leo                    Humiliated-defensive–wilful–playful–proud–self-assured
  • Virgo                Obsessive–skeptical–competent–modest–productive–helpful
  • Libra                Uncooperative–indecisive–dependent–balanced–engaged–pleasant
  • Scorpio           Vindictive–paranoid–wounded– vulnerable–passionate–powerful
  • Sagittarius    Disbelieving–righteous–benevolent–expansive–jovial–optimistic
  • Capricorn      Isolated–inadequate–anxious–determined–focused–successful
  • Aquarius        Aloof-rebellious–tolerant– altruistic – objective-open
  • Pisces               Guilty–passive–inspired–blissful–elated–compassionate

The emotional trigger for a successful transition from the negative to positive emotions is the Coniunctio which can be viewed astrologically as the successful harmonisation of one’s natal sun (representing conscious thought) and natal moon (representing unconscious instinct) – (See Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas, The Luminaries).  For some this will be easier than for others.ros3

For example, in my novel, The Curve of Capricorn, the sun sign of my heroine, Abby, is Capricorn.

Therefore one of her main (solar) purposes in life is to develop her Capricorn qualities: ambition, authority and determination to achieve and succeed.

True to form, throughout the first half of the novel, Abby’s Capricorn qualities are at the negative end of the spectrum; she feels isolated, inadequate, and anxious.  Accustomed to living in the shadow of her highly powerful and successful (and authoritarian) father, how could it be otherwise?  Achieving personal ambition and authority has never even been a possibility for Abby much less a realistic goal.

With Daddy dead and all that  for which she believes he’s has stood for in tatters, she realises it’s time for her to ‘step up to the plate’.  But a life on auto-pilot hasn’t prepared her for the challenges ahead and initially, instead of success she faces failure and despair.

In order to proceed, she must successfully cobble together (i.e. the Coniunctio) an integrated ‘Self’ from the ashes of her parent’s ruined relationship (symbolised by her natal sun and moon in hard aspect – the square).

Her challenge is to integrate that which she got from (1) her father (Sun in Capricorn) – the need to find enough stability in her outer life so that she can live authentically and not simply conform to societal norms and (2) her mother (Moon in Aries) – the need find the courage to stand up for a cause for the greater good and the conviction to succeed at it despite the personal cost.

If she’s successful, she can save her country as well as the man she loves.

However if she fails, all is well and truly lost.

[1] According to Jung, the Persona is a mask of the collective Psyche, a mask that only appears to have individuality.  In effect, it’s only a clever piece of playacting  – a compromise of the tension that naturally exists between the individual and the community – so that she only appears to fit in.

Astrologically the Persona is symbolised by the MC–IC axis  (4th–10th houses).  For my heroine, Abby, whose MC-IC axis involves Libra/Aries –  this means a constant struggle to find balance between autonomy and compromise.  While she appears (MC) to live in perfect harmony with others, in reality (IC) she has a strong need strong need for personal freedom and autonomy.

[2] Astrologically, the Ego is identified with Saturn which represents the boundaries and structures (both psychological and physical) we put in place in order to keep us whole and safe.  When one’s Saturn functions well, she is organised ad ‘together’ in pursing her goals for success.  When Saturn is not functioning well (the Shadow side), she may find herself beset with (often self afflicted) delays, limitations, blocks, and restrictions.  To the extent she perceives these as unfixable, the more she’ll procrastinate and the deeper she’ll sink into the melancholy that so often afflicts under-performing Capricorns.

[3]  According to Jung, the anima or animus is unconscious or true inner self of an individual (as opposed to the persona or ‘outer’ self).  In the unconscious of a man, the anima find expression as a feminine inner personality and manifests in his dreams as well as his attitudes towards women.  In a woman, the animus is the personification of her masculine tendencies.  As the archetypal masculine symbols within her unconscious, it likewise manifests in dreams and attitudes towards men .

In psychological astrology, (1) the anima is assigned to the eighth house (which represents the intense emotional experiences and encounters that will change us forever) and (2) the animus to the twelfth (which according to Jungian psychologist and astrologer Karen Hamaker-Zondag, is the ‘hidden power in the horoscope’).

My heroine Abby has Uranus in the 12th house and as such, her image of men is of movers and shakers – they shock, shatter, destabilise – for (hopefully) altruistic and humanitarian reasons.  What she doesn’t yet realise is that this is what she herself is meant to do.

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