by Dree K. Miller, Ph.D.
It is commonplace for therapists to hear the variety of ways in which their clients are victims. Some clients are victims of child abuse or dysfunctional family backgrounds. Some are victims of abusive relationships with mates, friends, employers, family. Others are the victims of circumstances, never being able to succeed in school, find and hold a job, or have even an adequate living environment. Occasionally there seem to be those who are just “victims of life.” Or could it be that they are the victims of past life? Within the context of past-life therapy the concept of victimization shifts from an external experience to an internal design. Being a victim is no longer a case of being “done to” but rather becomes a method or attempt to achieve spiritual growth.
The active victim ran be angry, bitter, and resentful, frequently liberally spreading bitterness to others in the form of insensitive, sometimes even abusive behavior that is often a re-enactment of the victimization process. Passive victims can be apologetic for anything and everything, almost as though they are apologizing for existing. Nothing they do seems to be done “right,” or enough, or have value. They assume responsibility for the world, the weather, and everyone else’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
In the process of doing therapy, whether it is past-life therapy or more traditional forms of therapy, the feeling of guilt is often expressed by the client as a motivation, an explanation, or an inhibitor for behavior. I find it helpful to examine the definition of words that carry such weight in the therapeutic process. The word “guilt” is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as follows:
- Delinquency or failure in respect to one’s duty.
- Responsibility for an offense.
- Act of having committed a breach of conduct.
- State of deserving punishment.
The first three definitions refer to the commissions of an act and the fourth definition refers to the consequences of that act. It is within the nuances of these definitions that the keys to therapy lie. It is also of note that guilt is a response; therefore there is always a preceding event which gives rise to the feeling of guilt. When a person presents guilt without an appropriately immediate preceding event, it can be assumed that the guilt has become self-perpetuating.
The first step is to determine whether an offense has been committed. It is not unusual to find that people have been lugging around the heavy burden of guilt for an imagined or misinterpreted offense.
This was the case of Martha who came to therapy because of a poor relationship with her daughter. The dynamics of this relationship fluctuated between overindulgence and irritated resentment. Martha seemed unable to be consistent with her daughter; indeed, even her feelings toward her daughter were unpredictable.
While pursuing another issue with past-life therapy, Martha related that her daughter currently was her mother in a lifetime in the South in the 1800’s. Martha was the oldest child in the family with a younger brother and another child on the way. Her father was a physician whose office was in the front of their home. Martha was standing at the window of her father’s office watching her pregnant mother preparing to cross the street. Martha saw the carriage bearing down on her mother and tried to scream a warning. Unfortunately her mother was not able to hear her and was struck down by the carriage. The injuries were extensive and Martha watched in horror as her mother bled to death and her father frantically tried to save the life of the baby. After her mother’s death Martha mentally replayed the final scenes in her mind and assumed responsibility for not warning her mother soon enough to prevent the accident. Additionally, she stepped into the maternal role with her siblings and resented the loss of her childhood due to the loss of her mother.
In her present life Martha has been living in an emotionally and physically abusive marriage from which she could not extricate herself, even after a divorce. Her husband was her father in the previous life just related. Simply put, Martha judged herself to be guilty of not preventing her mother’s (now daughter’s) death and was punishing herself (via her abusive marriage) for “depriving” her father (now husband) of his beloved wife.
The therapeutic key in this instance was to assist the child (Martha) in understanding that she had not committed an offense. With the aid of her adult self-of-now the child-of-then was able to grasp that she had done as much as she could to prevent her mother being injured, that the mind can view an event that happens in a matter of seconds but perceive it as occurring over a much longer time. This can give the perception of “time to act” when actually the body does not move as quickly as the mind can perceive. Once Martha was able to acknowledge that she hadn’t done anything wrong, the link to guilt and punishment by being a victim was broken.
Offense with Extenuating Circumstances
When it has been determined that an offense has occurred, it is important to differentiate the situation involved, the ultimate purposes, or the conditions existing with others in order to evaluate the guilt a client experiences.
Jack’s job history reflected his pervasive passive behavior, which was accentuated by his tendency to be unwilling to make decisions and follow-through. His demeanor was always pleasant and agreeable but his behavior made him an unreliable employee. He felt himself to be a victim of “the system.”
When regressed to another lifetime, Jack was a young man of 17 with a younger brother age 14. His father had died several years earlier, leaving Jack as the “man of the house.” The Civil War was drawing young men to arms and Jack and his brother were no exception. Jack’s mother tearfully bid her Sons farewell, extracting a promise from Jack to “take care of his brother.”
The realities of war soon dimmed Jack’s enthusiasm and he decided to go home. Jack’s brother however, was not willing to leave and they argued. Angrily Jack stomped off, leaving his brother behind. He had only gone a short distance when he heard a shot. He ran back and found his brother wounded and dying. As he held his dying brother, he anguished with “it’s my fault, how can I tell Mother? I never should have made the decision to go home, I never should have fought with my brother.” These thoughts, representative of his guilt, became generalized into passive, non-decisive behavior in his current life.
Jack had indeed failed to keep his commitment to “take care of his brother” (an impossible task in the first place). But the key in this case was connecting with the spirit that was Jack’s brother. His death at that time was important both in timing and in preparation for future endeavors: it had nothing to do with Jack’s decision to leave. With this information Jack no longer needed to “never make a decision, never argue, always agree”—a stance which had left him a “victim of the system.”
One of the definitions of guilt is the state of deserving punishment. In the legal system punishment includes what, when, where, and how long. In the human system punishment is often undetermined, indefinite, and infinite. It is this lack of framework that interferes with the goal of spiritual growth through punishment.
Andy was a small, wiry man who described himself as someone who got “beaten-up in every relationship I have ever had.” He had no friends, little connection to his family, and had never had a close, intimate relationship. He defended his position by saying that he guessed he didn’t really like people. “After all, they just end up hurting you in the end.” Despite this description he also experienced intense loneliness and depression which led him occasionally to consider suicide.
During regression Andy reviewed lifetime after lifetime of isolation and loneliness. When we determined that this on-going loneliness was self-imposed punishment, we now had the password to the source of his misery. In a significant lifetime he was the son of the Chief Inquisitor. His only access to validation from his father was to follow in his footsteps. His father would instruct him how to administer beatings so as to create the most amount of pain with the least amount of effort. When his father died, he became Chief Inquisitor by default, a position he retained until his death. In spirit he was overwhelmed by guilt when he examined his use of that lifetime. He “sentenced” himself to isolation and removal from being “close enough to ever harm anyone again.” With the assistance of his Higher Self he was able to understand that he had long ago completed the punishment for the deed and now was just replaying an old theme like a record stuck in a groove. In concert with his Higher Self he began to design a spiritual direction for himself that allowed him to “rejoin the human race.”
The victim stance is often motivated and perpetuated by an underlying feeling of unresolved guilt. This guilt can be a response to an event or events from a previous lifetime, frequently reinforced by events in the current life. The feeling of guilt can be a reasonable and accurate response to one’s inappropriate behavior (or lack of it). However, guilt can also be an unreasonable response to a misinterpreted or immaturely perceived event. The treatment of guilt, when it is the primary impetus for victimization, becomes essential in interrupting the abuse cycle. The abuse cycle is an ongoing perpetuation of events which recreate and reinforce the guilt response.
Past-life therapy is a viable tool in assisting individuals to recover the origin of a feeling of guilt and examine the nature of the events which gave rise to the feeling. Transformation of feeling and interpretation of the events can give purpose, meaning, and growth to the clients and relieve them of a further burden of guilt and participation in the victim cycle.
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