~Participation Mystique~

In participation mystique, a person is unconsciously identified, psychically fused with and tied to objects, or persons, in their environment. When someone has fallen into the mystic identity called participation mystique, a phrase that Jung uses often which he borrowed from the French anthropologist Lucien Levy-Bruhl, they are bound to their environment by their unconscious projections in such a way that prevents any real detachment from the object/person. It is a state of mind which involves a minimum of self-awareness combined with a maximum of attachment to the object or person with which they are identified. Developmentally speaking, participation mystique is a primitive and un-evolved state of consciousness in which the person is unconsciously merged with something outside of themselves, be it object or person, at such a fundamental level so as not to be able to differentiate between themselves and the object/person of their fascination. The object/person with whom the person in the state of participation mystique is identified with then exerts a seemingly magical, compulsive effect over them. A typical example of participation mystique is the mutual identification that happens within families between parents and children. It is a natural part of the child’s growth to unconsciously identify with the parent; at a certain point, however, as the child grows into being their own person, this identification with the parent organically falls away. When the parent has such an unconscious identification with their child, however, it creates a situation in which they hold onto the child as if the child is an extension of themselves. When there is participation mystique between anyone, but particularly between parents and children – whose natural tendency is to identify with each other, the family members become psychically entangled, bound and tied to each other in a way which reciprocally inhibits their intrinsic autonomy, independence and freedom.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s