Is psychological balance and fitness primary or is the individuative drive central to our psychology? Obviously, individuation exists as an unconscious impetus, because we must leave childhood naivete behind and become responsible individuals. Also in adult life we want to make headway in order to feel good. But which is the egg and which is the hen?
Arguably, individuation is secondary to psychological harmony. After all, should personality experience stagnation, then the individual would like to break out from the stagnant condition, even if much has been accomplished. What's the point in living in a beautiful castle if one is bored? So the foundational principle is perhaps that life must keep flowing. But this also means that growth will occur.
In Poul Bjerre's (1876-1964) thought, individuation is a function of the continual process of "death and renewal". Any achievement of wholeness will sooner or later turn into a stagnated condition, from which personality must break free. It means that wholeness as a goal also means psychological death. On this view, wholeness is an ambivalent symbol. Although being a goal for personality, its backside is stagnation. It's the important realization that St Augustine made, i.e., that it is not worthwhile to strive after a worldly paradise (v. "City of God").
Bjerre, who was one of the first psychoanalysts, saw destruction as a central theme in individuation. If personality is stuck, a renewal must be invoked. But this means that the old Self is abandoned and what has been achieved is thrown off. Thus, individuation can mean destruction, in the sense of breaking out of an old shell. Yet, it conflicts with the psychoanalytic notion of integration, central to which is to integrate disowned aspects of ourselves. In Jung's thought, individuation consists in collecting psychic content into a 'complexio oppositorum'. The principle of negation is given little weight. Rather, what counts is assimilation. Yet, evidence suggests that negation is very central. A woman recounts her dream:
"I have had recurrent dreams of a woman living in an ivory tower, or other buildings, and being forced to leave. In one dream I was admiring the garden outside the woman's tower. A disembodied voice said: 'This is beautiful, but all this must change.' --In the period following, my life became much more "real" and a lot less beautiful."
The conclusion is that personality isn't imprisoned in childhood, but we are wholly capable of changing our ways. It's just that people are reluctant to abandon old habits of life, including cognitive habits. For various reasons personality remains stuck. It could be due to insecurity or inertia. (I write something about Bjerre's view of individuation, which involves also negation and destruction, here.) From this perspective it is easier to understand this dream from my early twenties:
"I entered a huge library with an enormous cupola, which had a pinkish plastering. In its centre was a round mandala with four black circles in square formation. I was awestruck. On the outside was the blackness of the universe. A voice said: 'These are the holes through which the soul leaves at the moment of death'."
In this dream, the quaternity, which is supposed to mean life's fulfilment, acquires the meaning of death. The dream seems to compensate the ideal of quaternary wholeness by associating it with death. Indeed, to collect all knowledge in a huge library is symbolic of intellectual wholeness. But it is a deadly backwater, too. So the quaternity is like the Mother of Life and Death--it is ambivalent.
The four is regarded a feminine number, contrary to three, which is masculine. Arguably, the quaternary focus of Jungian psychology is misguided, because one shouldn't pledge allegiance to any single archetype. The trinity and the quaternity are opposites, denoting different kinds of wholeness. This complementary dynamic must remain at play.