Woolger, Dr Roger - Other Lives, Past selves – Burton - I'm trying to hold my dying body together, I am angry, it isn’t working
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 Burton
Quite different and more difficult to bring to any satisactory resolution were the past life memories of Burton. Burton was an architect in his thirties struggling to hold a small business together. He came to therapy with a very specific fear of dying. Various somatic symptoms had been troubling him, but the predominant and gnawing anxiety at the back of his mind was: "Life is passing me by. I'm going to die soon." I invited him to explore the anxiety by simply repeating the phrase "I'm going to die soon," with his eyes closed, lying on my couch. Almost immediately the nature of his unconscious conflict emerged with great vividness and anguish. Here he is as a young soldier of sixteen or so, lying mortally wounded on a battlefield during what seemed to be the Napoleonic Wars:
“I'm going to die soon. No, I won't let it happen, I've got to keep moving. I have to. I can’t stand it. I can't get out of it I’m gaining control . , . No, I'm not going to die. I can't die. I’m going to hold on. I won't die, I won't! They're trying to move me 'Don't move me! I'm going to fight. Leave me alone! Don't throw me on a heap. Leave me alone!' They're not listening. But I'm staying here. I'm a soldier. I'm terrified. I’m not going to die."
Burton continues this agonizing half-delirious, half-conscious monologue for some time. The young soldier now is in a state of total denial that he is in fact dying. He apparently lies, left for dead, for many hours before death finally ensues.
"I can't move my lower body. It's numb. It's gone. I might be more hurt than I think. That’s why they left me. There's no help. I can't die. I mustn't die. I don't know how to die. I don’t know how to let go. I know how to fight. It's a good quality. That's why people liked me. I don't want to die. It's harder and harder without a body. There's no pain now. Just numbness in the lower body. I'm angry. I'm much too young to die. There's no angels, no people, nothing I'm leaving now. It's so sad. Such a waste . . . I was so naive, so young."
"What's happening now?" I ask.
"I'm not in his body. I'm seeing him from the side. He has a white coat. Blond hair. His hip, belly, and guts are all blown away."
"What kind of person are you?"
"I'm a romantic. A good-natured fellow. I was all for Napoleon, freedom and all that. I had a sister I cared about a lot. It’s so sad." He weeps for a while.
"Does any part of your body still hurt?" I ask.
"Yes, my lower back."
"I want you to go back into your body as the young soldier and say what your back is feeling," I instruct him.
"I'm trying to hold my body together. I am angry, It isn’t working. I can't hold it together."
"Do you recognize those words in your current life as Burton?" I ask.
"Oh, yes. That's my struggle. I'm always afraid it’s all going to fall apart. That I'll fail."
"Be aware that these words belong to the soldier's life. Not yours, now. You can let them go when you are ready," I say to him. Then I give him some affirmations to help release the old negativity he has been carrying symptomatically in his lower body. He repeats as follows:
"I am letting go of that soldier’s pain and bitterness. I am letting go of his fear of dying, I am letting go of the need to control. My whole life is ahead of me, I have all the time I need."
The pain lessens and Burton feels greatly relieved, but there is still a lot of work to do. I have him let the unhappy frustrated soldier in him speak out some more so that his full script is clear:
"I'm dead, but I'm sad. It was so unfair, back there is my sister and mother and friends. They don't know where I am. I could fight forever. I feel cheated. I hate you [to God), you should have put me together."
All that could be done for the moment was to live with this past life figure now that his pain had been made conscious. It would take Burton some time. I encouraged him to start a journal and write dialogues with this inner figure. This would keep the soldier's bitterness and anxiety that had been dogging Burton in the foreground of consciousness now. Slowly it would start to lessen. As for Burton's deep fear of death, this was completely alleviated by this one session. It was absolutely clear to Burton how he had unconsciously been carrying the young soldier's anxieties from the life of being prematurely cut off into his daily life today. Whole new stores of energy were now available to him after our work.
The source of the experience
Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image
Observation contributed by: Margaret Booth