The respect of individuals of other conditions. Evelyn’s evidence.
This case of Dr. Brian Weiss refers to a patient that we shall call Evelyn, where the need to learn to respect the persons belonging to an unfamiliar group becomes evident.
According to Dr. Weiss, it happens often that people, who have hated persons of a different condition, reincarnate later in people belonging precisely to that condition.
It is the therapist’s job in this case to help and find out, through the technique of regression, the origin of the conflict which was discovered in a past life. Further on he suggests carrying out progressions to hypothetical future incarnations, whose results will vary depending on the frame of mind of the patient in the face of the proposed challenge.
Evelyn worked in mergers and acquisitions, meaning that she helped effectuate the merging of two companies or the sale of one to another. When the companies were large, there were often hundreds of millions of dollars involved, and the fees paid to the company that Evelyn worked for routinely came to seven figures. Evelyn was paid a substantial salary, which was often doubled or tripled by her year-end bonus, a reward for bringing in new business.
She was in her mid-thirties, slim, physically attractive, with black hair cropped short, almost a prototype of the young woman executive. Her clothes reflected her success: a Chanel suit and handbag, a Hermes scarf, shoes by Gucci, a Rolex watch, and a diamond necklace. Yet when I looked into her eyes –not easy since they darted away from me when she became conscious of my gaze– I could see sadness. The light was in the diamonds at her neck, not in her expression.
«I need help,» she said the moment we shook hands. While she sat, agitated hands twisted and untwisted on her lap. I quickly learned that she was given to simple declarative sentences spoken in an unnaturally loud voice.
There was silence. «Go on,» I prompted.
«I have of late lost all my mirth.»
The phrase seemed oddly formal. Then I remembered it was a quote from Hamlet. Patients sometimes use someone else’s words so they don’t have to use their own. It’s a defense, a way of masking their feelings. I waited for her to continue. It took a while.
«I used to love my job. Now I hate it. I used to love my husband. Now we’re divorced. When I have to see him, I can barely look at him.»
«When did the change come?» I asked.
«With the suicide bombings.»
The totally unexpected answer stopped me short. Sometimes mood swings from happy to depressed are caused by the death of a parent (Evelyn’s father, I learned later, died when she was a child), the loss of a job (clearly not Evelyn’s problem), or the effects of a long illness (Evelyn was in excellent health). Suicide bombings, unless one was directly attacked, were, to say the least, an unusual impetus.
She began to weep. «The poor Jews. The poor Jews.» She took a deep breath. The tears stopped. «Those damned Arabs!»
The swear word seemed out of character, an indication of the rage beneath it. «You’re Jewish, then?» I asked.
«With all my heart and soul.»
«Your parents, were they as passionate as you?»
«No. They weren’t very religious. Neither am I. And they didn’t care about Israel. To me it’s the only country that matters. The Arabs are out to destroy it.»
«And your husband?»
«He claims he’s Jewish, but he doesn’t care about Israel, either. It’s one of the reasons I hate him.»
She stared at me antagonistically, perhaps because I remained calm in the force of her passion. «Look. I’ve lost my appetite for food, for sex, for love, for business. I’m frustrated and unsatisfied. I can’t sleep. I know I need psychotherapy. You have a good reputation. Help me.»
«So you can find out where the anger and anxiety come from?»
«I want my happiness back.» She hung her head. «I go to the movies. I go shopping. I go to bed. And I think about how much I hate the Arabs. I hate the UN. I know they’ve done good, but they’re dominated by anti-Semites. Every vote goes against Israel. I know I’m overreacting. I know I should care about something else. But those damned Arabs. How can they kill Jewish babies? How can I care about anything else?»
We tried conventional psychotherapy, exploring her childhood in this life, but the causes of her anger and her anxiety did not seem to reside there. She agreed to a regression.
«Go back to the time and place where your anger first began,» I instructed her when she was in a deep hypnotic state. This was as far as I would lead her. She would pick wherever and whenever that was.
«It’s World War Two,» she said in a deep masculine voice, sitting up straight with an expression of disbelief. «I’m a Nazi officer, a member of the SS. I have a good job. It is to supervise the loading of Jews into the cattle cars that will take them to Dachau. There they will die. If any of them tries to escape, I shoot them. I don’t like to do that. It’s not that I care that the vermin dies. It’s that I hate to lose a bullet. Bullets are expensive. We’ve been told to save ammunition whenever possible.» Her cold-blooded recitation was belied by the horror in her tone and a slight trembling that possessed her body. As a German she might have felt nothing for the people she killed; as Evelyn, remembering, she was in agony.
I’ve discovered that the surest way to be reincarnated into a particular group of people, defined by religion, race, nationality, or culture, is to hate those people in a previous life, to be prejudiced or violent against that group. It did not surprise me that Evelyn had been a Nazi. Her intense pro-Israel stance in this life was a compensation for her anti-Semitism in her German one. But she had overcompensated. The hatred she had felt for the Jews had been transformed into an equal hatred for Arabs. No wonder she felt anxious, frustrated, and depressed. She had not moved very far on her journey towards health.
Evelyn went to another part of her German life. The allied army had entered Poland, and she had been killed at the front during a fierce battle. In her life review, after the death in that life, she felt remorse and enormous guilt, but she still needed to return now to confirm that she had learned her lesson and to make up to those she had hurt in her German life.
We are all souls, all part of the One, all the same, whether we are Germans or Jews, Christians or Arabs. But apparently Evelyn had not learned this lesson. Her hatred had not disappeared.
«I want to try an experiment,» I told her after I had brought her back to the present. «Are you game for it?» She eagerly agreed.
She made herself comfortable; her hands stopped their anxious play. She looked at me expectantly.
«I believe that we are capable of influencing our future lives by what we do in this one,» I said. «Right now you are influencing your future life by your anger toward Arabs, just as you influenced the other one by your hatred for Jews. Now I want to take you to your next probable life, the life you will have if you stay on your present course and carry on your life unchanged from what you were when you came to me for help.»
I put her in a deep hypnotic state and directed her to a future life that would have connections to the German soldier’s life and to her present life’s anti-Arab bias. Her eyes were closed, but it was clear that what they were seeing was vivid. «I’m a Muslim girl. An Arab. A teenager. I’m in a hut made of tin, like the Bedouins use. I’ve lived there all my life.»
«Where is this hut?» I asked.
She frowned. «In the Palestinian territories or in Jordan. It’s not clear which. The boundaries have changed.»
«When did they change?»
«They are always changing. But everything else is the same. The war with the Jews goes on. Whenever there is a period of peace, the radicals destroy it. This means that we are poor. We will always be poor.» Her voice grew harsh. «It’s the Jews’ fault. They are rich, but they don’t help us. We are their victims.»
I asked her to go forward in her Arab life, but she died soon after «of an illness» and could add nothing further. Instead, she had a brief glimpse of the life after that one. She was a Christian man living in East Africa, angry at the rapidly growing Hindu population in his part of the world. (It’s amazing, I thought. Prejudice never ends.) In her life review she recognized that there were and would always be people to hate, but now at last there was an epiphany. «Compassion and love are the antidotes to hatred and rage,» she said, her voice full of wonder. «Violence only perpetuates the suffering.»
When I brought her back to the present, we discussed what she had learned. She knew she had to alter her assumptions about other peoples and cultures. She needed to replace hatred with understanding. These concepts are easy to understand in the brain, but not easy to assimilate as a way of behavior.
«It took you two possible lifetimes to come to this recognition,» I pointed out. «But what if you could speed the change now that you understand the concept in the present? What would your future lives look like then?»
In our next session I took Evelyn to a future life that connected the German soldier’s life and her present anger. «This time, though, you have to let go of all prejudice in your current life. You see all souls and people as equal, connected to each other by the spiritual energy of love.»
A calm came over her. Apparently, her future life changed completely. She did not find Arab or East African lifetimes but instead: «I’m the manager of a hotel in Hawaii. It’s a spa as well. A beautiful hotel and spa. There are flowers everywhere. The guests come from all over the world. From different countries and cultures. They come to find recuperative energy. It’s easy to find it because the spa is so well managed and its setting is so splendid.» She smiled at the vision. «I’m blessed. I get to enjoy the hotel all year round.»
It is, of course, a nice fantasy to imagine yourself as the manager of a great spa in a gorgeous setting surrounded by the smell of hibiscus. What Evelyn saw in this voyage into the future might indeed have been fantasy, projection, or wishful thinking. When I regress someone, it’s sometimes difficult to separate actual memory from metaphor, imagination, or symbol. In visualized past lives, however, if a person is speaking a foreign language he or she never learned in this one, that is a sign of authenticity. So is accurate historical detail. If the memory brings up intense emotion, that is also a sign. But while intense emotion often accompanies progressions, validation is much more difficult. I operate on the assumption that even though a progression can’t be checked out, it is still a powerful healing device. Yes, metaphor and fantasy are possible, but healing is the important part. In regression and progression, symptoms disappear, illnesses get better, and anxiety, depression, and fear are relieved.
No one has figured out a way to confirm that the imagined future is really going to happen. Those few who have joined me in this field are inevitably faced with that ambiguity. If a patient is made to progress to a future time in his present life, you can confirm it when the vision comes true. But even then it is possible for a patient who has seen her future to veer her life in that direction. Just because a vision is a fantasy doesn’t mean you can’t make it come true.
People sit in front of me with their eyes closed. Whatever comes into their minds, whether metaphor, imagination, symbol, fantasy, or actual memory, is all grist for the healing mill. This is the foundation of psychoanalysis, and it is the foundation of the work I do, though the scope of my work is broader, because it takes in the distant past and the future.
From my healer’s perspective, it does not matter whether Evelyn’s visions of what was past and what is to come are real. It is probable that her German life was real, for it was accompanied by intense emotion. And I know that her visions of her future lives influenced her in a powerful way because they said to her: If you don’t change, you’re just going to be repeating this destructive cycle of aggressor and victim, but if you do change, you can break the cycle. Her different visions of the future taught her that she had the free will to shape the future and that the time to start exercising that free will was now.
Evelyn decided not to wait until her next life to bring healing recuperation to herself and others. A few months after our final session, she left her firm and opened a bed-and-breakfast in Vermont. She regularly practices yoga and meditation. Outwardly and inwardly –profoundly– she has let go of her anger and her prejudices. Her progressions enabled her to attain the happiness she came to me to find. And in her I found a model for the power of progression and further confidence to use it as a therapeutic tool.
Doctor Brian Weiss. Same Soul, Many Bodies.
Correction: Loto Perrella.