Heart Murmurs


“…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.

Paper and E-book versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. The Wilbur Award-winning Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.com. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.

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17 Responses

  1. Dear Jeanie,

    That’s it my heart shouts, a re-read of your third book must happen, soon! This is a brilliant excerpt and everything I love about your writing – its richness, depth and lucidity. Amazing and so relatable as I face a challenging time, once again, in my life with my estranged father now hospitalised following last week’s haemorrhagic stroke with him having a bleed on both sides of his brain. I’m not sure what the future holds but his doctors say, even if he does survive, he will never be the same.

    Hence this passage is so important for me today as I find myself, despite many years of estrangement, sitting with the deepest of feelings, weeping for the relationship we never had, weeping for the pain and confusion my father finds himself in, and for myself too as this sadness and his possible death comes eight months after my mother’s death last May. Although he may yet survive, your wise, compassionate words remind me that here too is a gift, a chance to stay close to my feelings.

    Love and light, Deborah.

    1. Oh dear Deborah,

      I’m so very sorry. To experience two such heartbreaking blows in eight months is devastating! I’m amazed at the depth of your compassion for your father and for yourself in the midst of this most challenging time, especially considering your history with your parents. And in the midst of it all, you still remember that this too, painful as it is, can be a gift, a chance to stay close to your heart.

      I’m no expert in kundalini yoga, but I find myself thinking of the challenge this is to your root chakra — the energy center that grounds you to life — with its issues of home, safety, security, vitality, and survival, as well as your emotional need for interconnection. Thank Goddess you have Lin and your clients to help you stay close to your heart’s deepest feelings and needs.

      As I wrote the above, an image of a fierce, roaring lion flashed through my mind along with the term, lion-hearted. That resonates strongly. I see you as one brave, courageous, and intrepid warrior woman who will move through this with the grace, presence, and heart that characterizes everything you write and communicate.

      Love, Jeanie

      1. The depth of my compassion surprises me too yet what else can I do as the past rushes up and the future dissolves. Standing strong and lion-hearted reminds me of the “Strength” card in the Tarot. Your words are the ones I needed today, thank you. Being an intuitive type I hadn’t considered the challenges to my root chakra but your observations make so much sense and I will explore this while hopefully, continuing to open the eyes of my heart.

        1. I’m glad my words filled a need. I’ve always been very drawn to the “Strength” card. I’ll post another lion image on FB in a moment. Blessings.

  2. Dear friends,

    I’ve just received a note from a friend who used to be the program chairman of the Jung Society of Sarasota and has now moved to Maine to be close to her family. After reading this post she wanted to share a link to a newsletter from writer Karla McLaren, author of a book titled The Art of Empathy. My friend highly recommends Karla as someone who is “terrific about focusing on a range of emotions.”

    I’ve read the newsletter and thought I’d share it here for anyone who might be interested in an online course called Empathy and Self Care that begins on Monday, January 31st.

    Here’s the link: https://mailchi.mp/karlamclaren/empathy-and-awaken?e=495bce1851

    Enjoy. Jeanie

  3. Jean, I so identified with your post. I’ve had to re-learn this message (heart vs. head) every day – ‘feeling’ being my inferior function. This was the essence of my mid-life encounter with the greater psyche, communicated to me in a poem: “My HEART wields a mighty sword / stronger than my mind’s senses / cutting through sterile bandages / hiding old war wounds / when I was felled by stronger forces / no armor to protect myself . . . ” (‘War Wounds,’ p. 84, The Unseen Partner).

    Early childhood trauma – when “feeling” the emotions was too hard (we weren’t prepared!) – requires self-compassion for the adult child. It feels selfish, but doing so allowed me to “push aside the rock / of my imprisonment / to live again.” (the final lines of the poem). This is an image of resurrection – it’s never too late to recover lost aspects of our Self.

    Bless your seeking, bless your finding – and, as Jesus warned, when you “find,” then the trouble begins! But it’s all worth it. Onward we march, Diane

  4. Dear Diane,

    Heart vs. head was the essence of my mid-life encounter with the greater psyche too. Your poem describes the suffering so well. When the heart insists on waking up after years of denial and neglect, stronger forces take over and there’s no stopping them. I spent one summer writing poetry in an effort to find some relief, and it helped very much. The poems were pretty bad, but the struggle to create art to express my unconscious truths was a great healer.

    Your image of pushing the rock of your imprisonment aside to live again by learning to feel compassion for yourself is so powerful. Logos is a very hard rock to push aside, especially for those of us who excelled in traditional schools. As one whose identity was tied into being an excellent student, it took me years to recover my feeling self by resigning from teaching and accepting my soul’s calling to write a book…from the heart. It became my first book: The Bridge to Wholeness: A Feminine Alternative to the Hero Myth. Even though writing full time did feel selfish, by then I knew it was absolutely right for me. I imagine your experience with The Unseen Partner was similar for you. And, of course, in choosing writing as our path to healing, we both consciously crossed the Bridge to Wholeness to reunite Logos with Eros/Mythos in a sacred marriage!

    I’d like to highly recommend your beautiful book to anyone undergoing the same struggle we experienced: The Unseen Partner: Love and Longing in the Unconscious, by Diane Croft. As you say, it’s never too late to recover lost aspects of our Self.

    Thank you for writing, Diane. And thank you for your blessing. I return it to you with love and gratitude,


  5. Dear Jeanie,

    What a beautiful “heart-felt” post which draws out the heart in Deborah and all of us. Thanks for sharing that intimate dream. As you know, I’m a feeling type always struggling for clear thinking. The more I live alone, the more my feelings grow and demand center space. I can’t project them on a partner or my children and I don’t see friends much now because of Covid and winter cold. What a strange world this is.

    In a recent dream, Marion Woodman was my mother–or my biological mother and Marion were the same. It showed a change and release of the negative mother complex which plagued me much of my life. Time to let Marion be Mom.

    As a child, I followed my mother’s lead through the 12 years of my father’s illness. I knew there was too much tragedy in the family and in her and felt I shouldn’t express difficult emotionality over anything. It’s hard for me to recognize the girl who didn’t weep and held her feelings in check since as soon as I met my life partner Vic when I was 21, my feelings began to flow. My mother stayed locked up in her head until she got Alzheimer’s and then she and I connected from the heart again. She may not have remembered our last interactions, but I still remember the feelings.

    May I add a note to Deborah who is enduring yet another tragedy with an estranged parent and has to find her way to respond to what’s happening. I can only imagine how your father is transformed by such a stroke, Deborah, and how you are transformed whether you see him in person or not. I’m sorry you must revisit the wounds of your relationship with him again, but there seems to be no other way. Death or an illness like this push us up against the hidden pain and give us a chance for forgiveness–at least that’s what happened to me. I’m glad to read your compassionate feeling response to the wounds of the past.

    You’ve uncorked compassion in this post, Jeanie. Thank you so much. May all be well and safe.

  6. Thank you for your gracious response, Elaine. It warms my heart. 🙂

    Your dream is amazing. What a gift your Self gave you in affirming your hard inner work to heal your relationship with your mother. And who could be a more wonderful and apt image of her transformation than Marion Woodman? She had a big influence on my life and writing too. I read most of her books and heard her speak in person twice. I remember both experiences very clearly. Women and men everywhere in this world owe her a huge debt of gratitude for helping us heal our inner and outer relationships between the feminine and masculine.

    I love your comment to Deborah, “Death or an illness like this push us up against the hidden pain and give us a chance for forgiveness–at least that’s what happened to me.” I’ve found that to be true as well. Nothing speaks louder or clearer than personal experience.

    Stay warm,


  7. I’m a poet without words tonight, just a full and bursting heart. Thank you so much Elaine and Jeanie for the gift of your beautiful, wise words. Oh, what an awakening I want to sing, what an awakening! What an incredible post this is! xx

  8. Thank you Jeanie for this post and comments back and forth. I feel for Deborah having to face her father both literally and metaphorically and all the attendant complexes around him, and her. Though it will be painful on many levels, i can only hope that her grace and compassion, and wisdom, will see her through this as she revisits old wounds.

    I remember a dream from a long time ago. I was standing on the tennis court of our old home. The sun was strong. I was not dressed in tennis kit. I was just standing there on my own. There were many bookcases on the court and all around me. Suddenly, they came crashing down. A couple of books landed on my head and knocked me over. This couldn’t have been clearer to me although I think it took me a little while to figure it out. I’ve always known that my thinking function is the dominant one and that its been necessary to develop my feeling function. Which I continue to strive towards, without devaluing the thinking function. I remember that good thinking encompasses good feeling; they are both valuing functions.

    Both parents were of the school of Stoicism, hardly surprising since the stock or heritage from which they came was late Victorian. I suspect we all suffered in our way from lack of demonstration of feeling from them.

    Thank you all, Elaine, Deborah, Diane, and you Jeanie for reminding us that our hearts murmur, sometimes more than other times. Mine is murmuring gently –

    1. Dear Susan,

      Wow! What an amazing dream that was. It appears that you and I both received pretty much the same message from the Self, but in ways unique to us that would be sure to get our attention. You had to be hit over the head with books. I had to see and be in charge of a baby with a huge head barely attached to a shriveled and lifeless body. I was trained to be stoic too, but you were on your feet on a tennis court, suggesting that you could walk and were in the habit of using your body in healthy ways with a fully functioning heart. There was no such suggestion in my dream. That baby was utterly helpless, completely at the mercy of my dream ego. Maybe the good news was that since it was a baby, there was always hope that it could grow healthier with time if I could learn how to take my feelings seriously. Fortunately, I did. You got books too. Perhaps a hint of things to come in your life? Was that before you became a writer?

      Shortly before I started my first book I dreamed of being taken on a tour of a magnificent house that belonged to a writer. It was perfect in every way, with gorgeous woodwork, a beautiful winding staircase to the second floor, even a grand piano! (I don’t remember a library though. Surely there must have been a library…..) Anyway, at the end of the dream I was told this was to become my house. That bolstered my confidence to write in a big way.

      Thank you for sharing your heartfelt thoughts here…. Love, Jeanie

  9. Thank you so much dear Susan for the gift of your beautiful and warm-heared reply and for adding your wise voice to this very important rich and deeply insightful conversation. xx

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