A Process in Individuation, by Dr. Stacey Shelby

  • AuthorStacey Shelby
  • Date 20 December 2014
  • CategoryPsychology

An article for the Pacifica Graduate Institute Dissertation Newsletter about the process and experience of writing my depth psychology doctoral dissertation.

A Process in Individuation

By Dr. Stacey Shelby

I invited the Wild Woman archetype to work with me (well, at that time, I still believed I was the one doing the inviting)­­—my dissertation title is: Tracking the Wild Woman Archetype: A Process in Individuation. I had an early dream during my concept paper development. I am at my farmhouse tending animals and I see the bear with her cubs in the backfield; her and I have a long, respectful relationship. But, this day, she comes for me! I hide in my farmhouse kitchen in a little cupboard, which I peak out of. As she enters, she stands, and, staring at me, she transforms into a woman. I recognize this woman; she is me! After the initial waking shock, I understood this dream—the first of many—as a sign that my concept was on track and would be supported from psyche (and it was, my dissertation took one year).

If I am really honest, I probably wrote my dissertation to come to terms with an impossible love relationship I was enmeshed in for three years. My research chapters included: The Wild Woman Archetype; Women’s Psychological Development at midlife; Relationships; and Sexuality. What I did not realize while in the relationship was that I was in the throes of an intense period of individuation. Through writing my unintentionally personal and vulnerable dissertation, I understood that it was not about the relationship, but my individual process in sorting through the complications and questions it raised. Unraveling in the alchemical vessel of the dissertation helped me identify my feelings and values from those I had appropriated from culture. My research resulted in numerous questions, and the “answers” were often paradoxes. I learned to trust the Wild Woman’s way, which includes being responsive to each unpredictable moment, being passionately engaged in life, and valuing human love as equal to divine love. As I came to know this wild wisdom within myself, I finally realized that the Wild Woman was the one tracking me, with a whole entourage, all along.

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