Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Positive Psychology

The Psychology of Our Fall from Wholeness

A process of transformation makes possible the merging of apparent opposites.

Key points

  • The individuation process initiates a remembrance of our innate wholeness.
  • Though the "nameless" fragmented into the "named" becoming "ten thousand things," a hidden thread of wholeness still connects us all.
  • As we communicate more with the inner realm, lost archetypes burst forth from within, giving us a timeless understanding.
  • Our life journey consists of a process of knowing, forgetting, and remembering.

As we live out certain types of experiences that are common to all and become conscious of their meaning, we initiate a process of remembering our innate wholeness.

Robert Atkinson
Source: Robert Atkinson

Carl Jung calls this the “individuation process.” It consists of the archetypes we are born with, embedded in our psyche or unconscious, bubbling up from within, released by those common life experiences, making us aware not only of their purpose for us but also of their transformative power in our lives.

Most often a very long process involving great struggle, the result of this conscious experience of merging life’s opposites into a new whole is a remembrance of our own wholeness.

The union of apparent opposites into a wholeness previously unimagined, in which all things are in harmony and balance, is made possible through a process of transformation that realigns and renews the entirety of our consciousness.

Is this transformative process of remembering our wholeness even necessary? Is it a process that is essential to fulfilling our potential? Is it something we choose, or not, or maybe just fall into? The short answer to these questions is yes. Let’s step back, look at the big picture, and decipher why.

There was a time when all things in existence made up a whole. In this holistic view of reality, apparent opposites—like yin and yang, feminine and masculine—were seen as complementary, interrelated halves of the same whole, transcending their own presumed duality.

Lao Tzu called this wholeness of existence the “nameless,” which is all there was at “the beginning of heaven and earth.” In this original wholeness, all things are in harmony with all other things and in perfect relationship.

However, the evolution of existence took a turn in the Garden of Eden with the eating of the forbidden fruit. And, in another version of this narrative, in Greek mythology, with the opening of Pandora’s Box.

These narratives are not only about asserting our individual will over a greater will but also about humanity’s fall from wholeness.

The separation of the “named” from the “nameless” fragmented the “named” into “ten thousand things,” as Lao Tzu noted, and broke the Whole into countless pieces.

At the same time, a hidden thread of wholeness still connects us all. This is what Jung identified as humanity’s archetypal heritage embedded within the collective unconscious.

We become aware of this connecting thread as we communicate more with the inner realm and as lost archetypes burst forth from our unconscious, giving us a timeless understanding that countless others have experienced before us, and will after us.

Many mystic traditions and mindfulness practices seek this state of unitive consciousness that is available to all. Many traditions also share versions of a legend in which our journey in life consists of a process of knowing, forgetting, and remembering.

These legends say that we innately know we have come from wholeness, but we are born into a realm that eventually causes us to forget what we once knew, and we spend our lives in search of what will enable us to remember the wholeness we once knew.

Since our consciousness originates in unity, this is where our search leads us back to. Remembrance, which is the essence of all mindfulness practice, gets us in touch with the source of that knowing and reminds us of our deeper nature.

Individuation, or remembering who we really are, is a necessity for reclaiming – and returning to – our original wholeness.

It also represents a process through which we come to realize the wholeness of the entire creation. In A New Story of Wholeness, this process is explained as a blueprint consisting of three archetypes: call to wholeness, path of purification, and return to wholeness.

This universal pattern, embedded within our unconscious, provides a roadmap for achieving the greatest expansion of consciousness that is humanly possible. It allows us to fulfill our innate potential, which leads naturally to passing on this understanding to others and transforming the world in the process.

The purpose in having forgotten our inherent wholeness and undergoing a transformative process to remember this, which may be repeated many times over in our lives, is that this is how we discover we are more like others than not. The goal in going through this process is not escaping from the world but the fullest possible psychospiritual development through our work in the world.

All perceived distinctions or differences between things that are complementary parts of the same whole can become catalysts for our own growth, just as are life’s difficulties, struggles, and challenges that contribute most to meaning-making.

Life as a quest for the union of opposites leads to this all-embracing unity of the whole. As we live our lives consciously and deliberately, with universal motifs and archetypes emerging from within, we discover not only who we are but also why we are here and that our lives are directed toward experiences that naturally and purposely bring about personal and collective transformation.

The journey from wholeness to duality and back to wholeness is the journey humanity has been on for millennia. What’s getting us to our destination is that consciousness evolves toward wholeness.


Atkinson, R. (2022). A New Story of Wholeness: An Experiential Guide for Connecting the Human Family. NY: Light on Light Press.

Jung, C.G. (2012), Man and His Symbols. New York: Random House, Part 3.

More from Robert Atkinson Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Robert Atkinson Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today