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Notes on counselling

Dealing with broken love

Dr. Soumitra Basu


A broken love is an important issue in counselling. Its genesis lies in the severance of oneness and is experienced vitally as depression or aggression leading to vengeance. Instead of an analytical approach, the passion and anguish of love can be shifted to a new poise of consciousness or a higher paradigm of love.

One of the most important issues faced in counselling is the agony and anguish of a subject with a broken love affair. It is something that cuts across all cultures. It is also something that cannot be addressed through moral sermons, ethical guidelines or rational approaches. Love bursts all norms and standards of conduct for that is the nature of love — to blossom for its own sake.

For youngsters, love arrives riding on the waves of passion. Conservatives will argue that passion is a child of desire but the buoyancy of youth does not care for that. For them love is a bond that sings of oneness. In fact it is in the severance of oneness that lies the genesis of broken love. Love sprung up to heal the division and reinstate the primal oneness in creation.That is why when the bond of love is broken, there is so much agony. It is not surprising that one yearns to re-live the experience again. One is reminded of the heart-breaking anguish in Elvis Presley’s golden voice, “Shall I come back again?” in his famous song, Are you lonesome tonight?

And yet the response is not always the same. Human love is egoistic and is actually a form of self-love. As such, any severance of this love can result in intense despondency and depression that can lead even to nihilistic attempts. There can also be a reaction of anger at having been betrayed when a love affair ends ignominiously. That anger can swell into intense hatred and stimulate an attitude of vengeance and revenge. If one feels that the cause of the broken love is due to the intrusion of a third subject, an acrid jealousy can be aroused. The sceptic might say that this is unbecoming of love. But at a certain plane of vital consciousness, this is the mask that love wears.

The Vital is that plane of consciousness that holds all our emotions, whether complementary or contradictory. It is the repository of all our passions, desires, longings, moods and emotional reactions. If it holds the passion of love, it also holds the anguish of grief, as well as the impulse to retaliate if the desires are not satiated. Truly, Madan or Cupid, the vital godhead of love narrates his ambit of qualities:

“I am that Madan who informs the stars
With lustre and on life’s wide canvas fill
Pictures of light and shade, of joys and tears,
Make ordinary moments wonderful
And common speech a charm……
‘But fiercer shafts I can, wild storms blown down
Shaking fixed minds and melting marble natures,
Tears and dumb bitterness and pain unpitied,
Racked thirsting jealousy and kind hearts made stone:
And in undisciplined huge souls I sow
Dire vengeance and impossible cruelties….(1)”

Thus in terms of consciousness, if love is solely based on our passionate upsurges, it can also lead to a depression that would be unpitied or an aggression that would be disruptive. Yet one cannot stop loving, one cannot ignore one’s passions, one cannot stop that feeling of oneness in love. In fact love in its passionate poise is so compelling that even a section of schizophrenic subjects continue to love, albeit in fantasy and as their ideas are delusional, the illogicality of their love cannot be challenged and cannot be obliterated completely even with the best of medication!

The way forward

Thus dealing with broken love is a sort of dilemma in counselling for love per se cannot be morally condemned. One positive way would be not to analyse love but to move forward, sublimating the passion of love with a new poise of consciousness, a higher paradigm of love.

First, a subject with a broken love affair can be encouraged to keep that love if it was genuine even for a moment in some melodious corner of consciousness. Many subjects want to know how they can forget the relation that was broken but truly nothing is forgotten. In one of Tagore’s famous nostalgic poems, a separated couple meets for a short time during a train journey when one wonders if all were forgotten. The other answered that all the stars of the night still twinkled in the depths of daylight.

In fact, this recommendation of not forgetting a past love forcefully or having a bout of grief or an impulse of revenge but keeping it as a sweet memory in one part of consciousness helps the subject to move forward in life on a more positive note.

Second, one can be exposed to the full range of what The Mother called the ‘rungs of love’. One has to learn to love and shift from the zone of petty desires, vital upsurges, or intellectual stances to a zone of love where love exists for the joy of love and for nothing else, just like a flower blooms for the mere joy of blooming. As The Mother explains:

“The Rungs of Love
At first one loves only when one is loved.
Next, one loves spontaneously, but one wants to be loved in return.
Then one loves even if one is not loved, but one still wants one’s love to be accepted.
And finally, one loves purely and simply, without any other need or joy than that of loving(2).”

Third, there are a few intellectual subjects who after a separation in love opt for a different type of love — a love for humanity or of some ideal. But it is difficult to love something impersonal for love demands a personal bond. Teilhard de Chardin explains that there is a difference between universal love (that is spiritual) and an altruistic love for the collectivity; otherwise we cannot explain the massive amount of repulsion and hatred surrounding us. He points out that, “...human collectivities are essentially unlovable as one cannot surrender to an anonymous number.“

“But if the universe ahead of us assumes a face and a heart, and so to speak personifies itself, then in the atmosphere created by this focus the elemental attraction will immediately blossom. Then, no doubt, under the heightened pressure of an infolding world, the formidable energies of attraction, still dormant between human molecules, will burst forth (3).”

Fourth, in consonance with de Chardin’s viewpoint, there are actually the fortunate few who love God in a personal poise for the Personal and the Impersonal are two poises of the same Reality. One loves the Christ or the Krishna within and that love may be all-compelling.

The sceptic might frown at this love that soars beyond the human element, but it is actually a fact that the Divine alone can love. Humanity persists with its falsehoods and limitations and yet God pours constantly the Divine Grace and Compassion. As Tagore sang:
“Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life. 4).”

Fifth, it is a spiritual fact that friendships are sanctioned and broken by the Divine. Sri Aurobindo explains that this is necessary as there is a certain gap in life that cannot be fulfilled by human relations but only by the Divine presence. “The inner loneliness can only be cured by the inner experience of union with the Divine; no human association can fill the void (5).”

Seen in this context, severance of a relationship may actually free one from the attachment that hampers a progress in consciousness. At a certain point of spiritual progress, one has to be ready to sacrifice even one’s most beloved friend. Rumi sings:
“The moment you are drunk on yourself, the friend abandons you. …
Be passionate for the friend’s tyranny, not his tenderness…..’(6)
‘Wherever you find a lover on a bed of pain — You find the Beloved right by his bedside… (7)”

Thus instead of ruminating on a love that has been disrupted, the subject should seek to understand the meaning of the severance and the significance it has on the road forward.

Sixth and finally, the quintessence of true love springs from the soul-entity — the Psychic Being which is a representative of the Atman in the human being. The Psychic being is a delegate of the Divine and does not arise from Inconscience and as such it does not carry the vestiges of falsehood, suffering and ignorance. It alone is thus capable of pure love. The Psychic Being initially imparts a sense of oneness. Sri Aurobindo explains that being the individual soul, the Psychic Being “...must unify itself with the Divine before it can, through the Divine unify with others (8).” One can then experience the Divine in all and through that realisation, attain a universal oneness.


1. Sri Aurobindo. Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Volume 2. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 2009, pp. 124-5.

2. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 14. Cent. ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1980, p. 128.

3. De Chardin T. The Phenomenon of Man. New York: Harper Colophon; 1975, p. 267.

4. Tagore R. Gitanjali. Shantiniketan: UBS Publishers’ Distributors Ltd; 2003, p. 3.

5. Sri Aurobindo. Complete Works, Volume 31; 2014, p. 310.

6. Harvey A. The Way of Passion A Celebration of Rumi. UK: Souvenir Press; 1995, p. 309.

7. Ibid., p. 319.

8. Sri Aurobindo. Complete Works, Volume 31, p. 302.

Dr. Soumitra Basu, a practising psychiatrist and member of SAIIIHR, is the Director of a school of psychology, Integral Yoga Psychology. He is also one of the editors of NAMAH.

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Broken love




The Mother


Union with the Divine


Psychic being