by Peace Roan, Ph.D.
The deepest pain in my life sprang from the loss of my daughter Rebecca, whom I surrendered for adoption at birth. I saw her for only a few moments and then let her go because I distrusted my ability to care for her. In order to find peace of mind about this currently, I have struggled to understand why I became pregnant and why I allowed myself to get into a position in which adoption seemed the only option. And why did this happen to Rebecca? In the 20 years since her birth, the pain and sadness of this experience, far from diminishing, increased so that at times I felt debilitated. In my need to resolve these feelings of grief and anger, I instituted a search for Rebecca when she was 15, and I found her. After that I yearned for some sort of understanding that would help me to form a meaningful relationship with her.
In this life, from the age of five and a half, I lived with my German-born mother and alcoholic stepfather in a family in which absolute and immediate obedience to all authority was demanded—and assured by strong corporal punishment and psychological abuse. In addition, I was sexually abused by my stepfather and his nephew for many years.
Because of this childhood, I decided when I was 10 that I would have no children; that I would not risk or take part in bringing children into such a world. Nor would I set myself up for the possibility of abusing children myself.
Nonetheless, at 32 years of age and divorced, and after having been “safe” several years with an IUD, I found myself pregnant. My plans, work, and safeguards had not worked, and I was furious with the Universe, which through this situation provided reinforcement for my underlying conviction that, regardless of my plans and work, I would never be able to outgrow my family influences and have a normal life. Moreover, my decisions and beliefs regarding having children were thrown into turmoil.
Although independent, financially secure, and with the means to keep my child, I acquiesced to the push of a social worker, an authority figure, who spoke of my duty to my child in surrendering her for adoption, appealed to my intellect and knowledge of what was right for children and families, and said, “You know what you have to do!”
In December of 1987 I regressed to a lifetime in which my actions paralleled my experiences with my daughter in this lifetime with surprising accuracy and pointed out a behavior pattern that governed both this life and that past one.
On the day of the regression a call from a friend, praising my dissertation on searching birthmothers (women who have surrendered children for adoption and later tried to locate them) brought up a feeling of sadness, for myself and also for all those who had participated in my study. As I drove to my therapist’s office I played some emotional music on the radio which reawakened my awareness of how I had loved to dance. I thought of Rebecca, then 20 and continuing her long training to be a dancer as well as dancing professionally, and the loss of her welled up until tears dripped down my face as I drove along. Undoubtedly I was in a trance state when I arrived.
As my therapist and I once more discussed Rebecca and the circumstances of her loss, rage toward Katherine, the social worker who had pushed for placement in adoption, finally broke through. When my therapist asked what I would like to do to Katherine, it was difficult for me to express what I felt were evil thoughts, but I was finally able to say that I would like her to feel my pain through every moment of the day and dream of it every moment of the night. I would like her to have to surrender a child of hers each day of eternity. I was able to image, also, that while I was telling her these things I was beating her into the ground with a club.
As I visualized this, the scene changed from the present to another time and place. I found myself as a man in a turquoise silk garment, kneeling on a grassy knoll and pounding an elaborately carved wooden stake, a funeral stele, into the ground. As the stake moved slowly down into the soft earth, I crumpled to the ground, my crisp and heavy turquoise kimono crackling about me. I collapsed cross-legged on the soft, damp earth, and I wept as I had wept for Rebecca, shedding hopeless, pain-filled, and self-condemning tears.
The developing emotion grew so strong that it seemed unendurable. But as in this life, no matter how bad the pain, I did not have the escape of dying or even of committing suicide. I thought that I would burst from the sadness and suffering. (Later I realized that these were the same seemingly unendurable emotional and physical feelings that I had experienced when I surrendered Rebecca.)
In exploring the scene I found myself as a lord in medieval Japan. I lived in a great wooden castle. I had been married to a woman whom I greatly loved, unusual in that time because marriages were arranged to consolidate power, and love was not important: only the political implications of marriage were important. A wife of that time was a beautiful object kept for her husband, and was expected to know and do nothing but to exist for him. She was supposed to have no association with anyone but her servants and her husband; she was assumed to have no other needs or desires. I had the fortune—or, in this case, the misfortune—to love my wife. This idiosyncrasy became compounded by the fact that my wife had a strong urge to learn, and it was her acting upon that need that precipitated our disaster.
My minister, whom I disliked, was a skinny wretch who always dressed in black like a crow. The staff of the castle had informed him that they had seen my wife leave her quarters and go into a room in a remote part of the castle with another man. Relentlessly the minister urged me to do what was expected and have her slain for her obvious indiscretion. Whether the meeting between my wife and the man was romantic and sexual, or not, was unimportant, though I found later that it had been neither: her need to learn had been so great that she had risked meeting with this captain of the guard in order to learn from him about botany. However, her action was considered an indiscretion, regardless of the reason, and the penalty was the same.
I was wretched for days, afraid, furious, and sad, trying to find a way out of my dilemma. I stomped through my chambers ranting and trying to find a loophole from the demands of my minister. (I recognized him as Katherine in this life, and my feelings during this part of the regression were identical to those I had felt when Katherine continually pushed me to surrender to my “duty.”
After days passed with no solution or other option coming to the fore, I felt I did not dare to risk going against the mores and laws. Although my wife and I could have continued our life together, it would have been in poverty and disgrace and we would have been exiles. I would have lost my castle and our mode of living, which was all I knew. (Likewise, if I had dared to keep Rebecca it might have meant a similar economic disaster and social alienation.)
I felt so harassed that finally, when the minister pushed me once again to “do my duty,” I screamed at him to have it done and let me alone. I allowed the wife I loved to be put to death. I would never see or touch her again. (This decision was repeated in my experience with Rebecca).
My wife felt sad, but she knew the rules of the time, and knew that she was guilty of an indiscretion. The priest executed her and then dumped her body into a river as though she were a criminal. I had the funeral totem carved, but I could not stand to look at it and I pounded it into the earth. Subsequently I ordered that all those involved with tattling about my wife’s indiscretions be killed, the minister included. I then went on with my life, but nothing that I did helped me with my pain and the guilt over what I had allowed to happen.
As I died at 79 I still thought only of her. Although I lived, in essence I had given up my life. I had no children, and I bequeathed my estate to another lord with whom I had been allied and with whom I had warred and ruled. As I died, I repeatedly said, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry!” I felt then as I had felt with Rebecca in this lifetime, that I had been unable to find a way out, that I had capitulated to the will of outside authorities.
So shattering was this regression experience that for more than a week I was not able to shake off the sadness, guilt, and pain. The emotion remained with me, and in a clinical training session later on, I asked for another regression. It appeared clear to me that in this subsequent lifetime, as in the Japanese life, I had been afraid to risk. If I could not be 100% certain that a thing was possible, I would not do it. Just as I had yielded my beloved wife to a minister in the Japanese life, I had given in to Katherine in this life; all because I hadn’t been certain that I could keep Rebecca and be a good mother. If I had been willing to risk, I could have kept Rebecca and had a good life with her.
However, later in this life I did take a risk in marrying my husband within a week of our meeting. I didn’t let him go or procrastinate over marrying him, no matter how much safer that course might have seemed. In taking that risk, I won a great deal for myself. The issue of being willing to risk is some thing that I have partially worked through now, but after what a tragedy! For I recognize that Rebecca, my daughter in this life, was my wife in the Japanese regression. It is hard to believe that the same thing could happen twice with the same intensity with the same soul, that my guilt and lack of courage could force me to repeat the loss.
I am still not a gambler, but I have gradually resolved the guilt and forgiven the minister from that lifetime and Katherine in this one, and most of all, myself. From now on I will take more risks with less to go on. It has been a risk for me to search for and contact my daughter, who must have felt rejected by a mother who was willing to give her up. But having found her, I will now risk a reunion with her. So far, all has gone well, though it has been frightening at times. Meanwhile I meditate on “risking,” on following my own deepest impulses and needs in the face of external authority. The cost and pain of not doing so are something I do not wish to experience again.