The Heart of the Matter:

Individuation as an Ethical Process


Christina Becker

When Freud invented the “love cure,” he soon realized that he had opened a can of worms. That is, what boundaries does love recognize? How far should the doctor go for his patient? When two people sit alone and share confidentialities, a special relationship develops. Are there no bounds? Are there any limits to what a therapist might do in order to serve the interests of the patient?

These questions seem extremely relevant and recognizable when I rephrase the issue as the phenomenon of sexual exploitation of patients and clients by their healers, mentors and priests,. You’ve probably read some about this corruption. I don’t know if you realized that Jung also confronted this issue, and had some relationships with clients that would be illegal today.

I wouldn’t be mentioning this book if it were relevant only to therapists and sexual exploitation. I am bringing this very readable yet profound book to your attention because 1) It has “heart” in the title and offers many insights about heart as a channel of awareness, 2) it discusses the paradoxes and mysteries of “the talking cure” and 3) because it takes us on an important journey of working through our conscience, where we hope to follow our heart and yet be consistent with society’s applicable norms.

I’m pleased to receive confirmation of what I suspected was an established fact: The heart is able to integrate the individual with the universal, the human with the spiritual. I have worked with it because the psychic and the spiritual combine in that energy field. Becker brings a lot more support to honoring this special channel of awareness.

The book is full of Jungian terminology, as it arose from the author’s doctoral dissertation as part of becoming an official Jungian analyst, but it is still worth reading. In my collection of books on boundaries, this one contains the best discussions of the process of working through the heart with conscience. It brings up little things that most folks would not notice. Boundaries in therapy are not just about sex. How much help do you give? When do you “bend the rules?”

There is quite a bit of personal assistance going around these days, from coaches, mentors, workshop leaders, not to mention teachers and therapists. I’ve found that most “lightworkers” have a light touch on boundaries. Some of that comes from our emerging paradigm of oneness, but some comes from a lack of careful consideration of how some of our statements and actions affect our client’s autonomy and freedom of choice. Becker’s book makes clear that it is not easy to work through these dilemmas, and she has presented some of the best meditations I’ve ever read on the process.

Becker has a lot of interesting things to say about the heart, especially as it can mediate between the human and the divine. The human, a member of society, knows of rules to follow. But when two people come together to explore the unconscious, they can become so joined that the “Voice of God” might dictate all sorts of comingling among souls. It is the heart, she advocates, with a lot of patience and the ability to withstand the tension of the opposites, that can come up with the right action that respects the individual and yet is informed by the gods. I like it that she uses my favorite image for dealing with this predicament. She refers to the story in Homer’s Odyssey, where our hero approaches the island of the Sirens. Here are the mermaids whose songs attract sailors like flies to honey, only to have them crash their boats on the seashore rocks. The solution: Our hero plugs the ears of the sailors (symbol of the lower self), so they won’t be affected as they come so close to the women singing. He then has himself tied to the boat’s mast (symbol of the spiritual ideal he holds) so he cannot act out while he becomes enraptured. That approach takes a lot of wisdom, heart, and earnestness.

There’s another aspect to this book that attracts my favorable regard. It has to do with reconciliation. As Gibran remarked in The Prophet, and I paraphrase, the victim is not completely innocent of the crime perpetrated. We make the distinction and create a boundary between perp and victim, which leads to recrimination, anger, frustration, guilt, etc., but no healing. Wanting to get beyond such dichotomies, Becker hit upon her discovery of indigenous healing circles, where dialogue, not blame, is the order of the day. I’m reminded of the book, Talking Stick, by Stephan Beyer, who presents a similar “council” approach (also based upon indigenous tradition) to healing the perp-victim wound. Becker describes the indigenous use of the “circle” to bring back together what had been broken, split and polarized.”

I’m very glad to see this book come out, speaking with depth and compassion about a very real challenge, and that she found that “heart” was the solution, and that our indigenous ancestors had already figured out how to apply this wisdom in a practical way that makes a difference!

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From the Publisher

The Heart is the meeting place of the individual and the divine―the inner ground of morality, authenticity, and integrity. The process of coming to the Heart and realizing the person we were meant to be is what Carl Jung called “Individuation.” This path is full of moral challenges for anyone with the courage to take it up.

Using Jung’s premise―that the main causes of psychological problems are conflicts of conscience―the author takes the reader through the philosophical and spiritual aspects of the ethical dimensions of this individual journey toward wholeness.

This book is a unique contribution to the link between individuation and ethics.