Past Life Wounds –
Present Life Problems
Excerpt from “ Understanding Karmic
Complexes : Evolutionary Astrology and Regression Therapy’ (The
Wessex Astrologer, UK 2009) by Patricia L. Walsh
Past life issues that carry into the current life are often thought of as being the result of karma. The Western
notion of karma can sometimes be simplistic in this regard, implying that if something bad happens to you it is because you
did the same thing to someone else in the past. This idea of karma as a sort of Old Testament ‘eye for an eye’
justice is not the whole picture. The wounds and unhealed traumas that we have experienced in past lives contribute greatly
to our current life experience and constitute a large part of our karma. To understand how past life wounds impact us in the
present, we need to look at how trauma affects the psyche in the current life.
A traumatic event is any overwhelming experience (physical, emotional, mental or spiritual) that has caused an inability
in the psyche to integrate it fully and continue in the same manner as before the traumatic event was experienced. Thus trauma
leaves a lasting and damaging impression that manifests as a combination of symptoms, including but not limited to chronic
dissociation, anxiety, phobias, fears, hyper vigilance, inhibitions, paranoia, neurosis, avoidance, armoring or rigidity,
suppression of emotions, emotional or physical numbness, mental confusion and compulsions. In psychological language combinations
of these symptoms are classified as post traumatic stress disorder/syndrome (PTSD or PTSS). Dr Peter Levine,
author of ‘Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma’, explains that PTSD symptoms are caused by a ‘frozen
residue of energy’ that was not discharged or resolved when the person was threatened.
The natural “fight or flight” response is activated when an individual is faced with a threat.
If the person is overwhelmed or defeated (they can’t fight or escape) the natural response becomes a frozen impulse— – an action that was never completed. The potential to develop
PTSD varies from person
to person, but when it does take hold the physiology changes as does
the psychological state. People with PTSD cannot integrate the memory of the trauma properly. Psychologically unable to integrate
the trauma in conscious terms, a part of the psyche becomes ‘split-off’ and stays, in essence, frozen in time.
This is what shamans have described for ages as ‘soul loss’ or ‘soul fragmentation.’ This part of
the psyche separates from the ego structure and remains that way. When these soul fragments are encountered in past or present
life regression or through inner journeying, they seem to have a life of their own. The fragments appear to be the same age
they were when they split off. Often they don’t have an awareness that life has moved on, or if they are aware of the
present day personality, they are reluctant to be a part of it. The difference between conscious and subconscious memories
is a matter of the perception of chronological time. The conscious mind perceives time as changing, moving from the past through
the present, to the future. To the subconscious mind, memories (especially traumatic ones) retained there, are happening in
An example of this comes from a client who was abused repeatedly as a young child. Her first soul fragment to emerge
was a four-year-old self. This soul fragment (the part of her that dissociated) was found to be hiding in a corner of Grandma’s
old kitchen. This was where that piece of her went away (into a happy, warm and safe space) when her father started abusing
her at four years old. This little girl self was unaware that there was an adult self now. All she was aware of was how nice
and safe Grandma’s kitchen was. Because she was too young and small to fight off, or escape her father, the inability
to complete the “fight or flight” response caused her to fragment. After some work the child fragment did reintegrate
with the present day adult self of the client. When that fragment came back, she brought with her the ability to remember
safety and to experience nurturing, thus returning new potential energy to be used in the present.
when the soul fragments, the conscious memory of the traumatic event goes away with it or becomes buried with the split-off
part. This inability to remember a trauma is commonly called a repressed/suppressed memory. Split-off parts of the psyche
do not always leave the energy field of the person to ‘go off’ somewhere. They also can be buried deep in the
interior world of the psyche, making them inaccessible to the conscious mind.
In essence a trauma is a scar that won’t seem to heal. This scar then becomes a weak or vulnerable
spot in the psyche, seeming to attract to it similar experiences over and over. Traumatized people find themselves re-enacting the whole trauma or aspects of it without conscious awareness
that they are doing so. This often happens on anniversaries of events or can be a chronic recreation, such as an abused woman
who continually, subconsciously, chooses abusive
partners. This is what Freud described as ‘Repetition Compulsion’. Freud initially theorized that this is the
psyche’s attempt to heal. By recreating the event, symbolically or in actuality, the psyche is attempting to gain mastery
and completion. This idea of ‘Repetition Compulsion’ that applies to a trauma experienced during a single lifetime
also makes sense in a longer timeline— – over
the many lives of the soul. It would seem that the soul over the course of many lifetimes attempts to heal by recreating in
essence or in actuality, traumas experienced in its past. This also needs to be understood in the context of karma.
Eastern traditions that have reincarnation and karma central to their belief system teach about an aspect
of karma called Samskara. Karma literally means actions, and many of those actions come
from the deep impressions of habit that are called samskaras. Samskara then is intrinsically tied into the laws of karma that
govern the cycle of rebirth. Keeping in mind the nature of traumatic imprints and how they cause continual recreation of the
original traumatic event, one can also look at samskaras as trauma
imprints re-manifested from life to life. It is the essence of karma to bring forth the actions of the past to the present.
The inability to complete even the simple action of ‘fight or flight’ as a result of trauma in past lives is also
carried into the present as the soul continues to create from its own wounded place in an ongoing effort to heal. Because
of this, the reality is that most of us are born already with some degree of PTSD. Sri Swami Chidananda
states that “Each Samskara has inherent in it the capacity to once again recreate that very experience which originally
caused it”. Our past life physical, emotional and mental bodies are not wiped clean in-between lives, but continue
to recreate themselves in each incarnation through the subtle bodies. This transmission of past physical, emotional and mental wounds constitute a large part of what we are meant to heal in our present lives.
Beside the repetitive nature of trauma, the thoughts, feelings and attitudes we have formed, also dictate
how our future is created from the present and past. It would seem that the circumstances of past lives are less important
to the soul than the attitudes we have formed because of them. These are the imprints we carry, that are in need
of change and healing. What is true for the individual is also true for the collective. Thus the adage, History repeats itself!
In fact, look back at history and look at the present. Most of the recorded history of humanity has been one of dominance
and war, violence, suppression and exploitation of the weak— – you were either the victim or the perpetrator or both.! Man’s inhumanity to man has known no bounds, especially in
the last few thousand years. If we take reincarnation literally, then by just looking at history we know that each of us carries
these imprints as unresolved traumas. It is a part of our collective and individual psychic inheritance that we are here to
The Dynamics of Past
healing of samskaras and imprints is the aim of Past Life Therapy (PLT)....
past life selves are not only characters in past dramas, but they also live within us today as sub-personalities. We feel
their emotions; manifest their talents; think their thoughts; are limited by their fears and perpetuate their quandaries.
We often act this out without consciously knowing we are doing so, simply because we are unaware they exist within us. The
most problematic past lives for us today, are the ones that have unresolved trauma or ‘unfinished business.’
In PLT these problematic inner characters are brought to the forefront of consciousness and worked with to bring resolution
and healing to their complexes, so that they cease to affect the current life.
Usually during a regression session one past life story is worked with. This is not always the case,
because resonant stories with a similar theme may also arise in the course of one session, and almost certainly do in successive
sessions. In past life work it seems that ‘clusters’ of similar past lives emerge from the soul’s history.
They are connected by the same theme yet each may reflect a different facet or aspect. For example, a man may find himself
a slave in a past life, where the theme or personal imprint is one of hopelessness. If we are exploring the personal theme
of hopelessness, several past life stories may arise that carry different aspects of how this was imprinted. The circumstances
may change through lifetimes in which hopelessness became a part of each life. In one life it may be because of slavery, in
another life it may be because of feeling trapped in an arranged, loveless marriage where he feels like a slave; or in another
instance he may be a hardworking farmer and sole provider of a large family or community and blight comes that kills the crops.
In the slave scenario, he may die with the idea that ‘there’s no way out,’ and quite literally this may
be true, in the marriage he may simply feel trapped and may commit suicide out of depression. The farmer may come to the end
of that life feeling that “no matter what I do, the odds are against me, it’s hopeless.” All these different
lives will be connected and recalled by an exploration of what is called the ‘core theme.’ These core
themes are present in our current life and are noticed by examining recurring patterns of behavior. This is one way that karmic
imprints and samskaras reveal themselves in our current lives.
A few simple questions will open the door to streams of past life imprints.. Just finish the
sentence “ I always…..” or “I never…” One could answer “I always
have to do it all alone” or “ I never have enough money.” Sometimes we even make casual
comments when describing our feelings that are loaded with past life imagery, such as, “I feel like a slave”;
“My hands are tied”; “I’ve been stabbed in the back’; “There’s no way out.”
These repetitive themes, that we take as actual truth and that shape our reality, are most likely core themes that past life
characters are still unresolved with. They are changeable, but they are also so darn familiar, that one can’t even conceive
that it might be possible.
Inducing Past Life Memories
The first stage of PLT is the induction of the past life memory. This is the method used to recall
the past life. Following is a brief outline of some of the methods;
Exploration of Current Life Themes – This is like doing a Google
search by typing in keywords and pulling up relevant content. In PLT thoughts and emotions, at the center of any particular
complex are uncovered and then used to follow backwards through time to find relevant present and past life formative experiences.
This happens through an interview process with a client, when discussing issues or doing a review of different areas of their
life such as the history of relationships, upbringing or work. This also serves to identify core themes together before starting
Fragments and Imagery – Past life memories can arise within the dream state, often this imagery is fragmentary,
but a particularly charged scene in a dream can be explored for past life content. An example of this could be a dream of
being chased by wolves, exploration of this may lead to a literal past life where that happened or it may be a metaphoric
image that leads to a different past life memory of being a child in the forest running from invaders.
Fear / Phobias – Present life fears, such as those that seem to not be connected with any current
life cause. When these fears are explored they are often found to have their root in past life traumatic deaths. Fear of water
or heights for example, is often caused by past life drowning or death by falling.
Womb Regression – Going back to the womb can happen during regression either by direction or
spontaneously. Sometimes during a session all of the work will happen in the womb but quite frequently while in this state
of memory, past life content arises also.
Spontaneous Memory or Imagery – People, places and charged events in one’s life can often ‘shake
to the surface’ deeper associative past life memories. This can happen spontaneously, and the amount of detail recalled
in such an event varies from person to person. Some people recall the whole past life, some only fragments of it. When a client
comes to therapy with such memories, these can be explored in PLT to go deeper into the story.
Body/Somatic Memory – The mind is not located in the brain but permeates
our entire being, including the body. The principle at play is that our current life bodies are recreated from a subtle energy
body that is a part of the soul’s memory. ‘Cellular Memory’ is the term often used to describe subconscious
body imprints. Thus a chronic neck pain may come from a past life hanging or beheading that has been traumatically imprinted
and carried into the current life body. Exploration of current life somatic pains, repeated injuries to a part of the body,
illnesses, deformities or even birth marks may reveal past life content.
Guided Imagery – This is a directive process that allows a past life
memory to arise spontaneously, where a scene is set in the imagination intending to lead to a past life. This could be the
suggestion of imagining crossing a bridge and coming into a past life scene, or walking down a hallway with many closed doors
and choosing one, opening it and walking into a past life scene. There are myriad variations of the initial imagery used to
get to the past life. This is the induction that most people think of when they think of past life work. It is most commonly
used in hypnotherapy and used less frequently in the style of regression that I work with.
All of these methods and combinations of each are used in the cases in this book. No matter how the
past life memory was accessed or who performed the regression, the stories stil relate to the karmic axis within the birth
Reliving the Past Life
Because we find imprints and samskaras at the heart of our core themes, the emotions and thoughts of the past life
character must be explored in depth to reveal what is being carried from life to life. In the form of regression therapy that
I teach and practice (Deep Memory Process) it is essential to relive the past life as fully as possible during the
session. There are many reasons why this is a part of the therapy, but there are two main points
to be made. First, trauma causes freezing and dissociation. Second, one needs to uncover the depth of the past life
characters experience to actually heal it. Regarding the first point, reliving the past life helps in the ‘unfreezing
process.’ In essence, unfreezing wakes up that soul fragment that may still be stuck or split off from the whole psyche.
Reliving acts as a way to revive this ‘dead’ aspect of the soul. Recalling a past life story from the perspective
of an observer, instead of being fully in the story suggests that a dissociated part of the psyche is having the memory. A
dissociated memory is not an accurate account because, that part of the psyche split off as soon as things got difficult.
In present life traumatic recall, people often report watching themselves from ‘above’ or ‘off to the side’
while the traumatic event is happening. The dissociated part of the psyche can remember the details through observation from
the sidelines, but the memory will often not include the emotions, thoughts, and imprints that were present in the body, where
the actual event was taking place, simply because that part was not present while the trauma was happening. The second point follows the first one closely. As a therapist in past life work, it is essential to know the inner
life of the past life self to affect change and healing.
Death and the Afterlife
Every past life we have had ended in death. Each death is a decisive transition stage for the soul.
In therapy, this is where the most crucial part of the healing begins—finishing the unfinished business. Since we know
that consciousness survives death, it is possible to follow it in PLT through the death process into the afterlife. Deep
Memory Process work in this area, is based loosely on the Tibetan Buddhist understanding of the Bardos. Throughout this
book I use the terms Bardo, spirit world, and afterlife to mean the same thing. The Bardo is a transitional state; the term
is most commonly used for the state after death and before reincarnation although in the Buddhist view all states of existence
are Bardo states. The Bardo of dying is the transitional plane between life and death, when the elements of the body are breaking
down. Traditionally a Lama or priest would read the Bardo Thotrol or Thodol (The Tibetan Book of the Dead) to the
dying or recently deceased person. It tells them not to fear death, and explains to them the experiences they will have on
the other side so that they can safely navigate through these planes. It warns that once awareness is no longer in a body
it will continue to create a reality in the afterlife. The person is urged to turn from the living, to die with peace of mind
and heart so that they do not go further into the lower Bardos, and attachments are not recreated and experienced as reality
on the other side.
describe the light that is perceived immediately after death, and say we must recognize this light as our own true
“Buddha’ nature to merge with it. But they also warn there are other lights, one is the light of your own individuated
mind. If you fail to see through the illusions and merge with the true light, you will journey further into the lower Bardos
which eventually lead to rebirth. Many souls obviously do not achieve this recognition upon dying. They bathe temporarily
in the light, or miss it altogether, and the weight of the unresolved issues causes them to wander confused, getting lost
in the lower Bardos where ‘karmic gravity’ pulls them back into incarnation. Yes, that’s why we are all
here! Some confusion as to what the afterlife of the soul is like exists today because of the information that is gathered
from Near Death Experiences. Many NDE cases document going into a supernal light (although some do describe hellish states
as well); meeting loved ones or higher beings, and then being directed or feeling pulled back into their body on the earth
plane. Because this is not a full death experience, it is possibly, only this first stage of the Bardo that is temporarily
encountered. This can lead to the misconception that we all go ‘to the light’ after death and remain there. With
NDE, the death process and entry into the Bardos can be like visiting a place as opposed to moving there permanently. When
you visit somewhere it can be fresh and exciting, you may think “Gee this would be a great place to live.” When
you finally move to that place a different reality sets in. There may be difficulties and complications that arise that never
experienced when just visiting there.
with many cases over the years it is apparent to me that it is only a part of the soul that remains in the lower Bardos. I
think of these parts of the soul as ‘split-off psychological complexes’ frozen in time. This is the fragmenting
effect that trauma has on the psyche. In Shamanic terms this is a soul fragment that is split off and stuck in a kind of tape
loop, replaying its worries, fears, and unresolved complexes. It is not the entire energy of the soul,
but is an earthbound fragment. Thus, a dying thought of “ I can’t leave them” may play over and over immediately
after death at such an increased rate that it fixes the attention of the newly departed soul on the earth plane, causing it
to miss its opportunity to fully ascend to higher planes. Such a dying thought can take over the awareness of the departing
consciousness, causing it to remain partially earthbound, obsessively focused on its single objective. Consciousness not anchored
in physical matter creates reality faster than the speed of light. Songyol Rimpoche writes in the ‘Tibetan Book
of Living and Dying’ that once awareness or mind is free of the body at death, it vibrates hundreds of times faster.
Thus thought manifests instantly in the Bardo, much like it does in our dream states. We create our reality in the afterlife
and other traditions such as Hinduism teach that one of the main objectives of life is to be able to die well, thus to achieve
eternal freedom from the earth plane or cycle of rebirth. Traditions that have a place for reincarnation in their beliefs
all have similar teachings – it is of utmost importance to the evolutionary well being of the soul to die as consciously
and untroubled as possible. They explain that the intensity and weight of unfinished desires, emotions, and thoughts in life
slow and even retard the soul’s progress after death, like taking too much baggage with you on a long journey. Thus
they teach that by limiting desires and purifying thoughts and emotions during life, the afterlife passage to higher planes
will be easier to complete. It also is taught that meditation on or invocation of the divine or a divine being at the moment
of death, as a continuation of a lifelong spiritual practice, will also result in clear passage through the Bardos.
uttering “Oh My God” at that last moment doesn’t seem to work!!
who works in the style of PLT that follows the consciousness into the afterlife, will report that many do not perceive the
light after death. They are still caught in their emotions and dying thoughts, they are still looking for their loved ones,
or they are still angry at the ones who killed them. There are so many variations of the kinds of imprints held at death.
That is why in PLT, the state of mind and emotions at death are most important to capture and bring to consciousness because
these lead to the lost parts of the soul. A main principle of the Bardos is that recognition and liberation are instantaneous.
In other words, we only need to see beyond the illusion to be liberated from it. This is useful to know when working with
past life characters that are stuck after death. Often the work that happens in the Bardo involves getting the soul to give
up its obsessive thoughts and leave its complexes behind. You will see in the case studies the different kinds of resolution
that happen in these Bardo states. They can include the healing of physical traumas carried in the subtle body, reunion with
lost loved ones, dialogue with perpetrators, seeking forgiveness from those one has hurt; the finishing of unfinished desires/impulses,
or just having a good old catharsis. The reworking of all these imprints in the Bardo, allows this part of the soul to complete
its unfinished business and more fully ascend to higher planes.
happens in the lower Bardos, it is as if the consciousness becomes lighter. It is possible then to ascend to the higher Bardos
and this often happens spontaneously. These realms are more like the natural domain of spirit that is unfettered by earthly
existence. This is the original light the Tibetans describe that consists of unconditional love and grace. Wise beings and
images of the divine are often met here. It is a place of clear, pure supernal light where overview of the past life happens;
inspired connections to current life people and places are made, or whole patterns of past lives and the reason for them are
revealed, often spontaneously and without direction. It is the place of higher view. Communication here is often direct and
intuitive without words. Questions are answered by higher beings concerning the meaning and lessons of the life that was just
re-experienced. Often new current life directions and potentials are pointed out. The soul fragment that is resurrected and
brought to this plane is often overjoyed to finally come to this place of peace.
After bringing the client fully back into present day consciousness, we work together to recap how
this experience fits into the current life context. Often further insight happens this way, but in the following hours and
days after a session, clients often report that the insights occur like dominos falling into one another, as they go about
their day to day business. After time, the changes that have occurred as a result of the session also become more noticeable,
so in some of the cases in this book, the afterthoughts of clients are included.
The stages that occur in regression illuminate much about the psychology of the soul. Even though a lifetime may be
in the distant past, it can be very present in the current life psyche. These circumstances from the past shape who we are
today. The past and the future are tied together by the present, and the choices we make now affect both. Self knowledge of
where we have been, and resolution of any limitations from the past allows us greater freedom in the present and subsequently