“One cannot individuate as long as one is playing a role to oneself; the convictions one has about oneself are the most subtle form of persona and the most subtle obstacle against any true individuation. One can admit practically anything, yet somewhere one retains the idea that one is nevertheless so and so and this is always a sort of final argument which counts apparently as a plus ; yet it functions as an influence against true individuation. It is a most painful procedure to tear off those veils, but each step forward in psychological development means just that, the tearing off of a new veil. We are like onions with many skins, and we have to peel ourselves again and again to get at the real core.”
By Carl Jung
This quote, by Jung, expresses the idea that self-knowledge is a difficult and ongoing process that requires overcoming one’s own self-deceptions and self-justifications. The quote uses the term “individuation” to refer to the psychological goal of achieving a coherent and authentic sense of self, which is distinct from the social roles and expectations that one adopts. The quote suggests that one of the main obstacles to individuation is the “persona”, which is the term Jung used to describe the mask or facade that one presents to others and oneself. The quote argues that even when one is aware of one’s persona, one may still hold on to some positive or flattering beliefs about oneself that are not based on reality, but on wishful thinking or ego defence. The quote implies that these beliefs are another form of persona, and that they prevent one from confronting one’s true nature and potential. The quote states that in order to achieve psychological development, one has to constantly challenge and discard these false beliefs, which is a painful and unpleasant task. The quote uses the metaphor of an onion to illustrate the idea that one has many layers of self-deception and self-illusion, and that one has to peel them off one by one to reach the core of one’s being.
The image illustrates that below a relatively calm persona, there may well be an angry persona or mask, confused and frustrated at the world. This would be a painful and challenging mask to confront. Below this is shown a mask of sadness, which could represent the inner pain, which the angry mask was used to deflect this pain onto the outside world. Behind this mask of sadness, there is the mask of the inner child, the authentic self that we hide from ourselves and the world, to protect our inner infirmities.