10 Jul 2024



Sun, clouds and sea, Isle of Barra

In the book Bittersweet – how sorrow and longing make us whole by Susan Cain, the author explores something you might recognise immediately, just by reading the title, especially if you’re the kind of person who’s drawn to what is poignant in life. This set me thinking astrologically about which planet or planets might be associated with what is bittersweet in life, and I came up with strong possibilities for these being Moon, Venus and Neptune, but of course it doesn't stop there and readers may have their own ideas - if so, please share/comment.

In astrological psychology, the Moon represents the sense of self we gain through our feelings and emotions, and in the natal chart it can indicate how we might go about getting our emotional needs met. The Moon is also an indicator of the inner child. It can signify our spontaneous and fun-loving child-like responses, and it also acts like a mirror, reflecting what's going on around us because it can sense and pick up on atmospheres and feelings very easily. It's an important sensing tool, the part of us that feels.

Venus represents the drive to be selective and choose, using discrimination. Venus is associated with our ability to form relationships, to develop and express our aestheic tastes and preferences, to pursue what is harmonious and beautiful and, as a sensory organ, to use our physical sense of taste. The energies of Venus will be as fully engaged when you're eating a meal, as when you're visiting an art gallery, deciding on a colour scheme, listening to a piece of music or forming a new friendship. And, of course, falling in love.

Neptune notches things up to a higher and often far more inclusive level. Neptune is most likely to be the source of kindness, unconditional acceptance and non-judgemental love at its highest level - the level of mind - where "there is a desire for universal love as the highest ideal"  to quote from their book, The Planets, by Bruno and Louise Huber. 

On Neptune, they continue, "There is a heightened sensitivity and a refined awareness of communication (empathy) that breaks through all walls and flows from heart to heart.This is what Assagioli called loving understanding".

Could this be you, or me, putting this loving understanding into action and remembering to do and be this in our everyday lives? Of course, we all lapse, but if we forget about being kind, pleasant, helpful, inclusive and positive towards others, we stand in line to get an unpleasant reminder if the vitriol comes out in response! 
So how does this fit in with the idea of bittersweet?

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines Bittersweetness as

a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time; and a curiously piercing joy at the beauty of the world.”

To that I’d add yearning, the desire to be reunited with something or someone who is no longer there, or to search after an elusive goal, place or state of mind which we seek in order to feel whole, fufilled or spirit-full. Bittersweet includes both the light and the dark, exploring how the combination and meeting of sadness and joy can trigger our own creativity and open a portal to something greater than our personal selves. It can be transformative, and can be recognised as something we already “knew” when we meet it (but had forgotten about).

Bittersweet is found in sad (often beautiful) music with minor key notes…..in browsing old family photographs…..in rainy days….in intense reactions to music, art, nature and beauty, and is often accompanied by goosebumps. I’d add, based on my own experience of bittersweet, that a flash of insight, or a sudden recognition of a half-remembered, dream-like something from the past could be bittersweet too.

The book contains a short quiz to help the reader identify whether or not they are a bittersweet type, and it’s also available on line, as is her curated list of bittersweet music. You may want to try that out.

Cain shares examples of bittersweet experiences in her own life and draws on the experiences of others she meets during her thorough research for this book. She shows how a bittersweet state of mind is the quiet force which helps us transcend our personal and collective pain, whether from a death or breakup, addiction or illness. She asserts that if we don’t acknowledge our own heartache we can end up inflicting it on others, maybe through abuse, domination, or neglect. Once we realise that all humans know—or will know—loss and suffering, we can turn toward one another, rather than turn away, and connect with joy as well as sadness in a bittersweet moment.

I’ll share a couple of quotes from the book. If you read it, I hope you gain as much from it as I did:

Most of all, bittersweetness shows us how to respond to pain: by acknowledging it, and attempting to turn it into art, the way musicians do, or healing, or innovation, or anything else that nourishes the soul.

The love you lost, or the love you wished for but never had: that love exists eternally. It shifts its shape, but it’s always there. The task is to recognise it in its new form.

For more info see Susan Cain’s website

1 comment:

Joyce Hopewell said...

I've just done the quiz and my score came out as 5.9

The scores are anaylsed - give the quiz a go and see if you're a poignant type or not - there's no right or wrong!