Woolger, Dr Roger - Other lives, Past Selves – Elizabeth’s story
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Other lives, past selves [A Jungian Psychotherapist discovers Past Lives] – Dr Roger Woolger
As I sit and listen to each client's elaboration of worries about career, money, relationships, sex, family, or whatever, I have trained my awareness to listen for the other stories-the stories behind or beneath the story presented. By letting my intuitive imagination cast a wider net, I have learned that behind every personal complaint --compulsive eating, fear of flying, impotence, money worries, depression, and so on-there lurk older, fuller stories with events often far more devastating and cataclysmic than the surface fears my clients find themselves enumerating.
Nothing illustrates the power of this approach more than the ease of a professional woman in her early forties, whom I shall call Elizabeth.
A major issue in Elizabeth's life was her anxiety about the three cats who lived with her in her city apartment.
What she felt was that she could never leave them for very long - so much so that she was virtually unable to take vacations. Once she had asked an acquaintance to feed them so she could get away, and one of the cats somehow got stuck in a closet for nearly a week and almost died. This, of course, confirmed her worst fears.
The more I probed, there seemed to be all sorts of relationships with animals in her life that were surrounded by disasters of one sort or another: a dog that was killed when she was a child, a cat she had rescued that was later killed, and more.
What was it that made her certain of further disasters to her pets? As our interview proceeded I became aware of two strongly related thoughts running through the various animal sagas she related: "I can't leave them, because something will happen to them" and "It's all my fault, I didn't do enough for them."
As soon as we had passed through the preliminary focusing that put her in touch with the past life level of her unconscious, she began, with tears in her eyes, to tell the following story:
I'm an old, woman living in a large bleak stone house. It’s northern, maybe Scotland, There's a storm outside, I've been fighting with my husband. He says I don't care about the children. Perhaps he's right. I swore I'd never have children because I don't want to take care of them. But we've got two now, three and four years. He's outside screaming. I'm not letting him in. Let him take them if he knows better. I'm not letting them in.
The storm's getting worse but he has stopped screaming now. It's quiet for a while, an hour or so. Now it's knocking, it sounds like my little boy. Oh, no he won't, he's not doing that one. He's just sent the boy because he thinks I'll relent. Well I'll show him. They're not coming in.
Now it's morning. The storm's over. They didn't come back I'll bet they went to the inn, But I don't want to go to the door.
I go to the door finally; it won't open. Oh, my dear lord. It’s the children blocking it! My little girl is dead. My boy is unconscious, my husband's nowhere to be seen. (She weeps bitterly.)
It's all my fault! It's all my fault! They must have been so scared out there, so weak and helpless! (deep sobbing and remorse).
The rest of the story emerged slowly and painfully; the little boy died within hours. The poor woman in Elizabeth's unconscious was later to learn that her husband had loaded the children onto a handcart and while heading for the inn at the height of the storm had collapsed and died of a heart attack. The children had come back to the house to tell their mother, only to be shut out by her. In the extremity of her shame and remorse, the woman never tells her neighbours, letting them think that her husband was responsible. Her guilt torments her for the rest of her life and she dies with the thought, "I don't trust myself to take care of anyone."
This, then, was the appalling story that lay behind the fear of leaving her cats. The catharsis and insight gained brought her enormous relief. Most encouraging of all was that shortly after the session Elizabeth took a two-week vacation, leaving a friend to feed her cats. She sent me a card afterward. "I had a wonderful time," she wrote. "I never thought once about the cats."