Love, Heartbreak, and Healing

In a time of fractured relationships the search for love is increasingly urgent. Most of us are or have been broken hearted, and most of us need healing. And although it may seem strange to have the words heartbreak and healing together in one sentence, not many know that in fact, they belong together- that our heartbreak is actually a conduit to personal healing.

At the basis of our human relationship experience lie three fundamental truths, as I see it:

Firstly, our impulse to love another soul is part of our spiritual journey and our inner search for wholeness. Secondly, our adult relationships bear the mark of our first relationship with our parents. Thirdly, a broken heart is a sacred initiation with opportunities for soul growth.

Loving, and relating, is fundamental to our spiritual growth. The consciousness of relating to another being opens us to union and wholeness that is not possible any other way. It is only through the constant chafing of differences that we learn to deal with otherness. Through this acceptance we move to inner wholeness. Jung claimed that fundamental to individuation is the vow to another. In weddings, ordinations and other ceremonies, the taking of vows is a symbolic act, which transcends the individual. Jung writes of the necessity of this vow as a step to inner wholeness.

‘The unrelated human being lacks wholeness, for he cannot achieve wholeness only through the soul, and the soul cannot exist without its other side, which is always found in a ‘You’. Wholeness is a combination of I and You, and these show themselves to be parts of a transcendent unity whose nature can only be grasped symbolically, as in the symbols of the rotundum, the rose, the wheel or the conjunctio Solis et Lunae (the mystic marriage of the Sun and Moon)’.

A vow to the other is an essential part of our soul’s journey to wholeness. Sometimes the vow is to the creative muse, as with Rilke and other great poets and artists. Rilke’s wedding was an inner marriage to the divine within. It can also be to God as with the great mystics, and it can be to one’s calling in life. For others, this call to the divine, to wholeness is through a lover and soul mate. But ultimately, the vow represents in all human beings a longing for transcendence, for wholeness and is an affirmation of relationship.

Why do we search for love?

In some deep part of our soul we all have a sense of love, as well as a memory of wholeness, and of belonging. We also have a sense of having lost this wholeness, and this further fuels our search. Some psychologists would tell us that what we are searching for is to return to the nirvana we experienced when we were in our mother’s wombs.

My own belief is that while the birth experience is most definitely our first great experience of physical separation, it is merely a reminder of an earlier separation, and causes us to search endlessly for the person who will give us the desired sense of completion. Often this is a nameless yearning we feel in our hearts and we imagine it will be healed through meeting the perfect partner, our soul mate.

Our innate sense of belonging and of loss is archetypal and primeval. The search for love is fundamentally a search for God or other spiritual source. Because of its transcendent nature, love can take us straight to the Divine. And it is sometimes through loving - and perhaps losing - another person that we are thrust into a spiritual search so that our love relationships become an intimate part of our journey to reach the inner depths of our own souls. In short, as we search outwards for the person we believe will ‘complete’ us, we are simultaneously searching inwards for a sense of wholeness. In this sense, our love experiences become initiations of a sort. All initiations are spiritual tasks of empowerment that we can choose to either engage with or not.


Struggling with a loss of soul, as Jung noted in the last century, we are increasingly fractured making the search for wholeness all the more urgent. We tend to think in parts, thus fragmenting our lives. We do the same with love. Although love is a human and divine passion that we are all compelled to seek, we tend to separate the two aspects in ourselves. Read the mystics, who knew and wrote about love. In his writings, St John of the Cross, one of the greatest spiritual love poets of all time, said that a few bars of a Spanish-Arabic love song that he heard one night inspired his best work. Paradoxically then, it is our sense of fragmentation that produces both our search for love and simultaneously, our inability to receive it. Love and the search for it is how we touch the divine within ourselves, and even though we have become separated, we long for reunion and for healing. Basically, our sense of separation is what causes us pain and also drives us into relationship.

Love and Healing

Intimate love relationships offer us a unique opportunity to heal childhood wounds and overcome the scar tissue of our past. Some people think that they can only do inner work and pursue their soul’s calling if they withdraw from engagement with others. It is easy to become conscious alone, but when we return to arelationship, that consciousness is constantly challenged.

We can heal a certain amount by being alone and sometimes that is appropriate, but we cannot grow alone. Not an easy task: loving another person can open our hearts, and bring us to experience compassion. However, because of our innate sense of separation, love remains locked in ambiguity. We have a tendency to imagine that it is outside of us- it is out there in the world and if we’re lucky we might be loved, or someone might love us. We don’t see that it is inside us, that we are love. It is the projection of love ‘out there’ that ultimately makes us unhappy.

Anima and Animus

For all of us, our first relationships create the template for later relationships – particularly relationships involving love and intimacy. Also, since our mothers and fathers are generally the first male and female in our lives, they make up our inner images of male and female and so influence our choice of partners later in life. We are greatly influenced by parental imagery. Trans-generational patterns are passed on in prenatal life since it is in the womb the archetypes become humanised-and pre-existing trends or patterns begin to be activated. It is not that we are already primed to live a particular life or that our future is mapped out for us, it is more that we are predisposed to experience life a particular way. Our archetypal and psychic inheritance together with our early life experience greatly influence us, but need not determine how we go on to live our lives. We always have choice, but we generally need to become aware of our unconscious patterns before we can exercise this choice.

Nonetheless, both mother and father archetypes are seminal to our development as men and women, and how they have been humanised for us will depend on our parents. The animus or inner masculine is responsible for our creativity, and more specifically, our ability to bring that creativity to life. Jung suggests the animus represents the spiritual aspect of the psyche in so far as this is as counterpart to nature, and a certain amount of this activated energy is necessary in order to become conscious. In terms of creativity, the animus is responsible for the activation (or lack of activation) of that creativity in our lives.

Developing the anima or feminine principle, is also very important, because she represents everything to do with relationship, our relationship to ourselves, to others, to God, the world of love and emotions- how we relate in general. The anima (in contrast to the animus, which is more about meaning than image) is always about relating, and in a man is usually about relating to a woman. This woman can be his inner woman or an outer woman who represents his anima.

'Our birth is but a sleep...' 

Birth is significant as the first physical and emotional experience of separation. At birth, we are separated from our mothers and womb life, thereby activating what psychologists’ term ‘separation anxiety’.

However, I do not believe birth to be our primary separation. At a soul level, we already hold a memory of wholeness and of having lost this wholeness. The added significance of birth is that it triggers the original separation of our soul and Oneness, when we lost something so integral to our spiritual wellbeing that we spend our lives trying to return to the state of union we once had. From a psychological perspective however, our original love affair is with our mothers, so that what happens before, at, and immediately after birth, in relation to our closeness to her, is important as it sets down or activates dormant emotional patterns. Bonding is necessary for the healthy emotional development of the child and his or her ability to form healthy attachments later in life. Crucial bonding and attachment patterns are forged during pregnancy and birth when the child is coming into being. Our birth experience will certainly affect the path we will take to return to this place of wholeness, of soul.

Every time we find ourselves involved in a love experience, we are re-enacting the lost wholeness that goes back to our earliest moments. We are not aware we do this, it is an unconscious impulse created by our need for healing. Our first relationship is with our mothers and fathers, and this relationship becomes the template for all future relationships, and most particularly intimate ones.

Heartbreak as Spiritual Opening

Being in love and suffering the loss of love throws us into a deep place. Our hearts are touched and we open ourselves to depths of pain and joy, to profound feeling perhaps never experienced before. Though we are all probably destined at some stage to have our hearts broken, it is less often understood that this ‘break’ enables us to ‘open’ our hearts more. And that this opening is to the Divine, to infinite love. There is a saying among Sufi’s, asking God to break one’s heart: "Shatter my heart so a new room can be created for a Limitless Love". Experiencing the loss of love paradoxically returns us to love, to the inner marriage, and to the sacred wisdom of the heart. In profound vulnerability, a deeper intelligence comes through. Heartbreak in this sense is a sacred initiation.

The journey to healing after heartbreak is well documented in great myths and stories handed down to us as part of our archetypal heritage. The journey always involves exile, trials and tests, death (of the ego) and rebirth-new life. Symbolically, we are in exile because when we are broken-hearted we are divided, and our search to return home to ourselves represents our healing journey. To be an exile is to be apart from others, divided within, and forced into a search for belonging. We have to endure the dark night of the soul. Part of the journey involves the willingness to suffer and endure. The dark night is like death in that everything we know is dissolved. Our castles are destroyed and our troops are killed. The battle has been fought and lost. Our dreams are smashed and our hopes are dashed. And our old heart has to die along with the relationship that is no longer.

Awakening the Inner Lover

At the end of our journey, our dark night, we are rewarded by Love. Our inner process, if it is fully engaged with, leads to an encounter with our inner lover, our hearts, so that our marriage is to the other, within-the inner marriage. In the space left vacant by our lost love, we find ourselves. We discover the one we have neglected for another. As Derek Walcott writes:

The time will come when,
with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self

In losing love, you will have found it.

About the author: 

Benig Mauger is a Jungian psychotherapist, writer and speaker in private practice in Ireland. Author of Songs from the Womb, Reclaiming Father, and Love in a Time of Broken Heart-Healing from Within, she is a pioneer in human consciousness and travels internationally to lecture and run workshops. A frequent speaker at international congresses, she has featured on TV and radio and she is published in Germany, U.S.A., Greece, Russia, and Britain. Her work is featured on her website

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