(I wrote the following for the Jung Society of Utah blog. Click here to see it on their website!)
“Nothing is possible without love…for love puts one in a mood to risk everything.”
– C.G. Jung
Carl Jung used the term individuation to describe the “process of integrating the conscious with the unconscious for the purpose of realizing or fulfilling one’s talents and potentialities.” Individuation usually begins with a crisis, often death or some other loss. “The shattering, emotional power of such crises breaks down our ego identification, causing us to question our sense of self and our life’s meaning.”1
Love as a Crisis
That same “shattering, emotional power” may also be found in love. Jung considered Eros to be a “kosmogonos, a creator and father-mother of all higher consciousness.” He wrote, “we are in the deepest sense the victims and the instruments of cosmogonic love.” Falling in love “can shatter normal ego identifications. Through such experiences of ego death, we awaken to a more expansive way of being.”1
Our relationships may reflect contents of our unconscious. (Image via aestheticblasphemy.com).
A Mirror for the Soul
In The Red Book, Jung wrote that he found his soul again “only through the soul of the woman.”2 He later explained that unconscious contents are first met in relationship with a partner: “This urge to a higher and more comprehensive consciousness … if it is to fulfill its purpose, needs all parts of the whole, including those that are projected onto a ‘You.’”3, 4
Often, it can seem easier to love someone else than to love oneself. We may be more willing to see and accept both the light and shadow aspects of another than to acknowledge those same aspects within ourselves. However, Jung said, “We meet ourselves time and again in a thousand disguises on the path of life,” meaning that any light or shadow traits we see in others are merely a reflection of those traits within us.
Love can be a transformative process of mutual individuation. (Image: “Twisting Love” via paintinghere.com).
Both Are Transformed
Sometimes it is through loving another, including their shadow aspects, that we learn to accept and even love those same shadow aspects in ourselves. “If one’s partner is ‘truly loved,’ then that human being becomes a ‘representative of the unconscious.’ Love is a mediator, circulating energy both outwardly and inwardly.”4
This type of love, which breaks through “the illusory maya of unconscious projections,” could be considered “a process of mutual individuation.”4 If the tension of opposites can be held, a “third kind of relationship” can be formed, which Jung called a “Golden Thread.”4 He considered this type of relationship to be “the only lasting one, in which it is as though there were an invisible telegraph wire between two human beings.”4
Jung said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Through the transformative reaction of love, one may discover “the distinction between what one really is and what is projected into one, or what one imagines oneself to be.”4 Understanding that distinction contributes greatly to individuation.
- Lucid Dreaming: New Perspectives on Consciousness in Sleep, Volume 1. Ryan Hurd and Kelly Bulkeley.
- The Red Book: A Reader’s Edition. C.G. Jung.
- The Psychology of the Transference. C.G. Jung.
- Jung in Love: The Mysterium in Liber Novus. Lance S. Owens. PDF provided by the author here.