Woolger, Dr Roger - Other Lives, Past selves – Eliza and the baby with the deformed heart
Type of spiritual experience
A description of the experience
Other Lives, Other selves, A Jungian Psychotherapist. Discovers Past Lives – Dr Roger Woolger
The Case of Eliza
Perhaps because it resonates with my own memories of past life as a woman I find I can imagine no more painful event than for a woman to lose a child she has carried close to her heart for nine months. In offering comfort to the few women clients whose karma it was to suffer such a loss, I have on those occasions wished I were a psychic who could bring solace from "the other side." But I am no such thing and must therefore stick to the particular lathe I have built: past life work with the unconscious. The case of Eliza was, however, one occasion where my work was able to bring some measure of relief and understanding to a bereaved young mother.
Eliza was happily married and in her mid-twenties when she became pregnant for the first time. The pregnancy was uncomplicated until at six months or so she developed severe pain in one of her ovaries. A cyst was discovered and the affected ovary was surgically removed. (Earlier she had had a cyst removed from her left breast.) When the baby, a little girl, was born she was found to have a deformed heart and she died in the hospital after several weeks of intensive care.
Although it was uncertain whether the ovariectomy had directly contributed to the baby's heart condition, for Eliza the trauma of the surgery followed by the eventual loss of her baby had understandably become strongly associated emotionally. Psychologically speaking, the impact of these events had all become assimilated into the same complex. Whatever feelings Eliza had previously had about having children and being a mother, it was now impossible to separate them from the unhappy experiences of the previous year.
In accordance with my practice of trusting the unconscious to take the client to wherever he or she needs to go, using little more than images or phrases, I have Eliza lie down and close her eyes. She has just told me her story in detail and one of her asides was that she has always had a horror of knives. I make a note of this phobia, wondering silently what past life story might belong to this, but I encourage her mostly to focus on her recent experience.
It seems obvious to me that pregnancy and the loss of her baby is where the strongest emotional charge lies; no point in digging for further traumas until what is conscious has been approached.
As it happens, Eliza is familiar with the technique of rebirthing breathing which I have used myself a great deal in my practice. Since this technique is so powerful in releasing trauma of all kinds, I have Eliza breathe in the way she has learned and instruct her to allow anything at all to come to the surface. Before long she begins to turn her head from side to side as if struggling in some way and the following words emerge:
"There's blood. Blood. He's dressed in yellow. It’s the doctor. No, I don't want to. Please don't cut me. Please don't cut me. It hurts. I can't move. DON'T CUT ME. PLEASE DON'T CUT ME. I can't move, There's nothing I can do. He’s cutting me."
Hypnotherapists have long known that anaesthesia does not affect the unconscious mind. Although the conscious mind "goes to sleep" or floats off into some pleasant disembodied fantasy, the unconscious nevertheless records every detail of surgery - including, I regret to say, the asides, bad jokes, and dire predictions of many surgeons.
So, I am not altogether surprised to hear Eliza's unconscious self reliving the trauma of her ovariectomy. But what I am listening for is the particular way her unconscious self is reacting to the events:
"He’s cutting me. It's downward, My baby's in there. DON'T HURT MY BABY! PLEASE DON'T HURT MY BABY! He's asking the nurses something. He's cutting again. Oh, my ovary! He says it's exploded-ruptured. He's cutting it out. He's cleaning my other ovary, I've lost my ovary. I can't move. There's nothing I can do. What's happened to me? I’m neutered. I can't have a baby, I'm not a woman anymore, Nurse, tell me it’s okay."
There is no question that all surgery is traumatic at the unconscious level at which the body records impressions; Eliza's reaction to being cut, losing her ovary, and the possible threat to her baby are what we might predict for any woman undergoing such an operation. Yet in certain ways Eliza's unconscious self is overreacting: "Don't cut me" immediately reminds me of her phobia of knives, while her helplessness and the fear that she will no longer be a woman all seem to run deeper.
We spend much of our session reliving the operation to allow Eliza to consciously experience the trauma her body went through and let go of it with full catharsis, full emotional expression. But the terror of the knife and her feelings about herself as a woman remain unresolved. I have her repeat the phrases that strike me as still heavily charged and I add the instruction: "Let your unconscious take you to any other story when something like this happened. Repeat the phrase 'Please don't cut me.' " This is an abbreviated transcript of what followed:
"Please don't cut me. Please don't cut me. PLEASE DON’T CUT ME! I can't move. They’ve drugged me. There's nothing l can do . . . It’s a barn, a haystack, He’s cutting me. It's a man in pants. Blue lace. There's another man. I'm pregnant. I don't want to die. It seems to be the seventeenth century. They're trying to help me. It’s a terrible birth. They're doing a caesarean . . . My arms are tied above me to part of the barn I'm partly dressed. There’s nothing I can do. There's blood, lots of blood from my abdomen The baby, it’s dead.
(She weeps.) I'm dying. I don't want to die, I'm slipping out of existence. I'm leaving . . . I see my body from outside. I'm not there anymore. It’s a young woman. The man was my brother. He tried to save me. The baby's dead. It was stillborn. There was nothing I could do. It's not safe to have a child. It's not safe."
………….. Her subsequent work focused more on relationships and unresolved issues about her own birth. But the painful exorcism of these ancient samskaras that had embedded themselves in her reproductive organs was over and the sad death of her child could not be handled from a whole new perspective.
The source of the experience
Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image
Observation contributed by: Margaret Booth