Book Review: Love in a Time of Broken Heart – Healing from Within

Benig Mauger

Soul Connections, Dublin 2008 ISBN 978-0-9547012-1-5

Eros is a difficult and elusive being who doesn’t like to be talked about. Benig Mauger, a Jungian Psychotherapist and writer has bravely undertaken the task of seeking out this God. Like Psyche in the myth, she lights the lamp and reveals the trials and sufferings that always accompany this visitor when he appears in our lives.

The central theme of the book is about the universal search for love which is a search for wholeness. It explores what happens when love breaks down and our tendency to seek love outside of us rather then seeing it as being within. Mauger seeks to bring the reader on an inner journey to heal the heart from within. She offers the book as a guide to the interior where if we are blessed and lucky we may discover the truth as the great Sufi poet Rumi wrote;

‘Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere, they’re in each other all along.’

In the introduction, Mauger writes of her own devastation following the breakup of her relationship with the man she regarded as her soul mate. She describes her subsequent plunge into darkness and the slow discovery, over time, of a world more beautiful as she journeyed within her own psyche. She reminds us that embracing the darker aspects of our souls, restores us to a wholeness we long for but rarely have the courage to seek out except when forced to by some life changing event. It is here that we meet all those aspects of ourselves, our own vulnerability that we wish to disown, Jung’s shadow. Yet it is ultimately in becoming more conscious of this aspect of ourselves that we grow stronger.The pain of heartbreak, in leading us to a questioning of all we thought we knew about ourselves, brings us into the realm of the Divine.

In writing of heartbreak as a spiritual journey Mauger does not disregard a psychological understanding but rather she interweaves aspects of her own experience, seeks to explain how our earliest experiences shape our own patterns of relating, and uses personal stories, fairy tales and myths to illuminate the way.

The book is divided into six parts. In part 1 Mauger relates her personal struggle with the battleground of the heart and how she found that in trying to write about it that it was to the great poets and mystics that she was drawn rather than psychology. She sees the starting point for inner healing as a period of being alone with oneself to start the process of bringing us back to ourselves. In part 2 she explores the search for love as a spiritual search and the idea that we all have a memory of wholeness in our souls and a sense of this loss. She quotes from two Jungian authors, Nathan Swartz-Salant and Aldo Carotenuto who have explored this theme. She again emphasises that we will encounter all that we don’t wish to find about ourselves on this journey and that the painful acceptance of these rejected aspects of ourselves is a necessary part of healing. In part 3 she returns to territory that she explored in her earlier books, the formative impact of prenatal life and birth on our lives. She introduces the idea of sacred contracts, an agreement each soul makes before being born and quotes from Carolyn Myss who introduced this concept. This area may be too speculative for some tastes and I found myself more at ease once she had moved onto early infant development and the contributions of John Bowlby, Donald Winnicott and Daniel Stern.  Section 4 introduces the ideas of myths and fairytales and how these contain universal currents of history and archetypal energies that resonate at a deep unconscious level. Mauger, through examples, e.g. the Little Mermaid, seen as a search for impossible love, advocates that we identify the story each of us is living out of so we can begin to unravel and understand our patterns. In part 5 the role of complexes, as central organising principles in the psyche, are explored. Mauger outlines how each complex generally has a basic theme e.g. abandonment and betrayal, or humiliation and shaming and how such experiences buried deep in our unconscious are responsible for reactive behaviour at ego level. Complexes are the manifestation of underlying archetypal patterns and Mauger again turning to Myss outlines several possible archetypes e.g. Inner Child, Divine Child, Inner Victim, Inner Prostitute that may be at work in our lives and affect our intimate relationships. This chapter really brings the concept of archetypes to life and into our lived lives. In part 6 Mauger draws the various strands together. Mauger with an open heart and compassion shows the path and in this book offers us the gift of hard won knowledge of healing from within and offers a link between the psychological and spiritual traditions. She has written movingly of love as the very essence of our human nature, of the challenges and truths it reveals and reminds us that if we cease to love, we cease to live because love is part of our soul.

If, as Leonard Cohen has written, ‘there aint no cure for love’, well here’s a book we can recommend for all sufferers.

Richard Blennerhassett is Clinical Director of St Ita’s Psychiatric Service and a Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.