“…emotion is the moment when steel meets flint and a spark is struck forth, for emotion is the chief source of consciousness. There is no change from darkness to light or from inertia to movement without emotion.” C.G. Jung, CW, 9i, par. 179.
Most of us think we know everything we’re feeling, but the truth is, we don’t. Our egos are skilled deceivers. They believe exactly what they want to believe. Luckily we can count on Dream Mother to show us the truth.
Years ago I dreamed I was responsible for a baby that had a huge head and bright, intelligent eyes. Her head was connected to a limp, lifeless, doll-like body by a thin spinal cord—which made picking her up or moving her around extremely problematic. I puzzled over that image for months. I just couldn’t see what that fragile baby had to do with me.
Several life lessons later, I get it. Most of our dreams are about us. This one said a large part of me was living in my head, just like that baby. My decisions were based on thoughts and ideals that had little to do with how I felt or what I was passionate about. The fact that the baby’s body was inanimate meant that the organ that would normally animate it—my heart—was barely functioning (metaphorically, of course). Dreams often exaggerate to get our attention.
Why would a person live this way? In my case I think there were two reasons.
The most obvious is that I was still unconsciously trying to protect myself from feeling the long-buried pain of my parents’ divorce and my father’s death. But why, as a child, did I choose to shut down my heart as a response to them? Why didn’t I let myself feel my pain? Why didn’t I grieve openly and freely, as many children would?
I think it was for the second reason: Self-control, idealism, and dignity were among the most important values of my religious, well-meaning family. Cerebral to a fault and dutiful to the point of exhaustion, my Dutch and English relatives prided themselves in modeling reason and stoicism. Nobody I knew, save my handsome unfortunate Father with his aberrant streak of romanticism, exhibited a taste for drama or the instinctual life. When reason is your rule, following your heart seems like a fatal flaw. It was, in fact, fatal for my father, and I learned my lesson well.
“You cannot do psychology with an excellent intellect alone. You also have to identify the feeling values, not only the meanings.” C.G. Jung. Children’s Dream Seminar. p. 157
The mindset that values head over heart is characteristic of immature egos that feel compelled to repress and control frightening aspects of the feminine. The head and mind are strongholds where egos feel comfortable and safe. But hearts and bodies? Many of us just don’t want to go there. There lie vulnerability, pain, suffering, mortification, death.
Hearts are associated with the capacity to feel, to fully experience pain and pleasure, sadness and joy. Feeling and emotion are almost universally accorded to the feminine principle. This explains the Catholic Church’s extensive use of Immaculate Heart symbolism for Mary, and why Sophia’s wisdom is called the wisdom of the understanding heart.
One emotion in particular—compassion—is the core value of religion. Composed of the prefix com (Latin for “with”) and passion, it means that true spirituality is about living with passion. This does not mean being passionate about your beliefs while criticizing or disliking people with differing beliefs! This is the consummate lie of dualistic thinking and obsessive masculinity. When it’s about words and ideas and not tender feeling, so-called compassion is an act of will that comes from the head and not the heart. This is fake compassion. When you worship God in a way that makes no difference in how you live or relate to others, it’s empty worship. Fake compassion and empty worship do not make a person spiritual, and they will never heal a soul or make a lasting difference in the world.
Living with compassion means feeling passion: passion for yourself, for others, for life. Following your passion means doing what you truly love, what feels good and right to your Self. This is not a license to be selfish or irresponsible, but a spiritual path that releases your creativity and empowers you to make the difference that only you, with your particular genius can make.
Jung believed that only in the advanced stages of the individuation process does the ego have contact with the Self in its feminine aspect. This means that our ego’s acceptance of our honest feelings and emotions, combined with its union with the Self, (the transcendent function), walks us down the aisle to the sacred marriage of integrated consciousness. And because spiritual growth accompanies psychological growth, as we deepen the Sacred Marriage within ourselves, we create a new, unified God-image for a new world.
What is your default preference for decision-making: thinking or feeling? When is it difficult for you to recognize your emotions?
This material is from Chapter 25 of Healing the Sacred Divide. Copyright 2012.
Image credit: Pinterest. The Day I Lost My Heart. Katrin Welz-Stein.
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