It was a joy to write this review of Diane Croft’s beautiful book, The Unseen Partner: Love and Longing in the Unconscious, for the Jung Society of Utah blog. The book is a poetic documentation of her individuation journey. Highly recommended.
“I have again and again been faced with the mystery of love, and have never been able to explain what it is…For we are in the deepest sense the victims and the instruments of cosmogonic “love.””
– C.G. Jung
“In the center of my being, there is no external object of affection—no I love you—just love itself,” Diane Croft writes in The Unseen Partner: Love and Longing in the Unconscious. “This is transpersonal love, an ideal psychological state only temporarily felt.” In her book, Croft describes the journey to that center, guided by an “unseen partner” through automatic writing. Croft’s personal confrontation with the unconscious came in the form of poetry, fragments of which appeared each morning for three years. She “took dictation,” and then spent two decades making sense of the experience.
The Journey to the Center
The gods grew tired of waiting
and woke me from a heavy sleep,
not by shaking my shoulder
but by breaking my heart.
In the commentary for the poem above, Croft describes her life at the time as “out of balance,” relying too heavily on intuition and thinking as her dominant functions. “What “the gods” were attempting to do was to redirect my energies at midlife toward feeling and sensing.” Some form of heartbreak is often inherent in the individuation process, as a person finds that the ways of being in the world that had previously served him or her well are no longer working. “The individuation process begins with a psychological “death,” a descent into the unconscious, for the purpose of “resurrecting” that which was lost to consciousness, namely our connection to the life-giving aspect of the psyche,” Croft writes, while also acknowledging that “few people are willing to undergo the process of individuation because it’s so disagreeable.”
Several poems and their commentary make clear that Croft often found the process quite disagreeable indeed. In a poem titled “Barren,” she describes the ““dark night of the soul,” where life feels emptied of psychic content and meaning.” However, by surrendering to the process through what she refers to as “conscious suffering,” she was able find greater acceptance of herself and her life. “Suffering—that painful feeling we all try to avoid—understood in the larger context, means a willingness to bear our own burdens in life, an acceptance of life as it is (a natural conflict of opposites) that takes on meaning when we attempt to balance it ethically.”
The Great Presence Within
For Croft, that attempt to find balance and meaning was a “process of searching…But what I seek has been staring right at me all along, which speaks to the reciprocal nature of an ego-Self reflection, i.e., seeing and being seen… From a Jungian point of view, the “game” is to redeem by conscious realization the hidden Self. This is not a passive game of the redemption of God through faith, but an active process of making conscious the Great Presence within, to seek and find our own true self.”
Through this process of creating a dialogue between her inner and outer worlds, and embracing her authenticity, Croft found that “there is love in the unconscious. But first we must make manifest and heal what has been hidden and ignored. How do we take part in this transformation? For the unconscious to become morally responsible, it must first be seen.”
Croft presents individuation as a journey of love: To truly see and heal these hidden and ignored aspects of ourselves, love is required. When we are able to accept and love our own shadow aspects, we are better able to love others in the same way. From there, we may access the type of transpersonal love Croft writes of near the end of the book, a love with no object, which, though felt only temporarily, has great power to transform. The purpose of the individuation process, as Croft describes it, is to lead us to that center of transpersonal love, from which we can truly be authentic.
Croft’s writing is clear and elegant throughout the book, offering an excellent description of what individuation is and how this experience can manifest. She makes Jungian ideas deeply relatable through the poetry and her commentary, which is rich with relevant quotes, particularly from Jung, Edward Edinger, and Rumi. In bringing her experience to consciousness with this book, Croft has made the unconscious morally responsible through love, truly a heroine’s journey.