The following excerpt is taken from the book REPETITION: Past Lives, Life, and Rebirth by Doris Eliana Cohen, Ph.D. It is published by Hay House (November 1, 2009) and will be available at all bookstores or online at: www.hayhouse.com .
Preface and Introduction
Having been a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist in private practice, Reiki healer and teacher, psychic reader, past-life-regression hypnotherapist, and dream analyst for more than three decades, I felt compelled to write a book on repetition that is based on my broad-ranging experiences, along with the Divine inspiration I received while working with my clients. My intention here is to provide self-help tools for healing in the present lifetime and to give you, the reader, hope that healing can swiftly be achieved if these tools are carefully used.
The essence of Repetition: Past Lives, Life, and Rebirth is twofold: (1) God gave us the gift of free choice, which is the most important message in this book; and (2) we can change ourselves and our world by taking personal responsibility for our stories. The goal is to shift our consciousness: to move away from the mentality of the perpetrator and the victim, the accuser and the accused, the judge and the one who is being judged. The Divine doesn’t judge us, and we shouldn’t judge ourselves or each other. We must simply open our hearts, see with clarity, and accept that it’s up to us to tell our life stories in ways that promote our healing and growth. Only then can we begin the process of making lasting changes in our lives.
Unconsciously, we repeat the stories of our current life and our previous ones because we’re trying to heal from past traumas. We do this to reexperience our emotions, because this will give us a new chance to make a better choice. If we’re conscious of our repetitions, we can find the courage to stop avoiding those difficult emotions and continuing in the same way we’ve always operated. Rather than looking upon repetition as neurotic and self-destructive, we should recognize that it’s necessary, and its ultimate purpose is to offer us opportunities to finally work through the issues that we’ve struggled with again and again. Only when we change our reactions to our situations can we begin to let go of the patterns we’ve established and embrace healthier ones.
Acceptance without judgment is vital not only for owning our story, but also for healing ourselves. There are many forms of judgment, including self-criticism, diagnoses that are handed down or imposed upon us by ourselves or others, and self-punishment and denigration. No matter how crazy or self-destructive our behavior may seem, we should let go of our negative judgments and look at its potential to help us heal ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Blame is distorting. Karma isn’t punishment—it is consequence. It functions to help us advance to the next level of consciousness.
We need to stop thinking of ourselves as victims, because then we keep seeing the world through the eyes of our child self—the self that is fearful, unhealed, and incapable of making new choices that will lead to healing. The victim stance prevents us from exploring our spirituality and our relationship to God, the Angels, and our loved ones.
This isn’t just a self-help book; it’s a guide to understanding how to change. It’s about creating a shift in our individual consciousness, and by extension, in humanity at large. Our victim mentality causes us to point a finger at others when we should be looking to ourselves and saying, “What can I do to make changes for the better in my life and in the world?” Change can’t happen when we’re pointing our finger. Our job while we’re here in our human existence is to grow, evolve, unfold, become enlightened, and share our wisdom with others. For too long we’ve been perceiving ourselves to be victims, and as a result, we’ve become stuck in our patterns of repetition. It’s time for us to stop pointing fingers and begin to heal our own issues.
Repetition takes a unique approach to breaking destructive life patterns and releasing the guilt associated with them. This is the first book to explain why we repeat the stories of our present and relevant past lives and how inevitable and necessary these repetitions are for healing ourselves of the traumas that wounded us not just in our current lifetime, but in our previous ones. My goal is to inspire and guide you in changing your reactions to the repetitions you create so that you can at last heal yourself of these wounds that continue to cause you to suffer.
The Power of Past Traumas
Each of us experiences repeated traumas during our lifetime. All such events are fear producing. During a trauma, we experience tremendous stress and often, some sort of personal loss. Our traumas have a major effect on how we view and respond to life.
Traumatic experiences during early childhood are typically the most defining and have the deepest long-term effect, because as children we don’t have the maturity to even begin to process them. These events may be seemingly inconsequential from our adult perspective. It may seem that being teased at school, being chased by a dog, or getting temporarily lost in a store and not knowing where our parents are wouldn’t significantly influence us, but children may experience these events as terrifying and horrific.
On the other hand, some of our traumas may have been major, such as dealing with the death of a parent or sibling; overcoming a life-threatening disease; or being subjected to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Any event that children perceive as threatening their survival in any way leaves an indelible imprint on the brain and affects their behavior patterns, setting them up for repetition of the situation that caused the original wound.
The experience of trauma triggers the same physical reactions in the body and brain whether the threat is great or small; what matters is our perception that we’re being threatened. The brain secretes chemicals, adrenaline rushes through the body, the heart races, and the experience is stamped into the brain and memory as terrifying. The effects of trauma are so profound and pervasive that they hurt us both emotionally and physically. Stress hormones damage and kill brain cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain where memory is located, which is why we’re forgetful when under stress.
The story we tell about who we are and why we experience life the way we do locks us into our patterns, which we reinforce each time we tell it. The woman who keeps saying, “I always seem to pick the wrong man” is revealing a set of emotional patterns of fear and victimization. She believes this statement to be true about her past, present, and future, so she leaves herself no way out of the pattern. Lacking the belief that it can change, she continues to behave as she always has, yielding the same unhappy results. Her feelings of despair, disappointment, rejection, and abandonment at the end of each relationship reflect the essence of repetition.
She may believe that the “problem”—the source of her pattern—lies in the men she dates, but other people are merely the instruments that push her emotional buttons, which, in turn, trigger reactions and responses that are rooted in her unconscious. Although she probably doesn’t realize it, the pattern of behavior is within her, and she’s drawn to men who fit into it, so she’s not attracted to those who don’t match up with it.
Without realizing it, we repeat events and situations again and again because that’s what we know. Our behaviors, even when seemingly destructive or self-defeating, feel not just familiar but comfortable in a way, and we’re lulled back into that feeling of familiarity and the behaviors attached to it.
Your pattern may be the same as that of your parents, grandparents, and siblings. As you become acquainted with your personal life story, you’ll begin to notice recurring themes in other people’s lives as well, and even in world events.
The essence of repetition is a profound universal law. It is one of several that guides our human experience.
The Universal Laws
The more I learn, the more I’m amazed by how simple the laws of the universe are; how profound they are; and how applicable they are to the leaves of the trees, to the heart of the deer that runs through the forest, to the thoughts of my clients and their feelings, to my own story and theirs, and to all of us. These same principles apply to everything in us and in the universe.
God’s laws are the same everywhere, and the Divine teaches us about them in myriad ways. This redundancy exists because the Creator knows that we humans often do not learn what we’re meant to learn the first time we hear it. The laws of the universe are expressed in mathematics, nature, biology, and physiology . . . as well as through spirituality, religion, food, our skin, our mind, our heart—everything. The universal laws are evident in our bodies as well as in our lives, and it’s important to understand them if we’re to truly get the message of what it is we’re supposed to learn.
The Universal Law of Repetition
The body and its functions follow the same laws of repetition that affect human behavior. For instance, when we experience a reaction of pain or phantom pain, our bodies have been conditioned to react in a particular way, whether the physical cells are there or not, because the conditioning has taken place in the brain. The brain engages in certain biochemical-electrical responses that are repeatable and become habitual. Long after a finger has been lost in an accident, the nervous system continues to feel pain in that missing digit because it’s repeating the pattern of responding to stimulus that is no longer there.
Similarly, many postmenopausal women experience mood and hormonal changes that are comparable to those they had during their menses years before. The brain, through repetition and habit, continues to reexperience the mood and hormonal changes that affected the body long ago, even though its physical state is different.
In our own lives, we continue to react in the way we’ve been conditioned to react. As a result, we have “core issues,” or themes of repetition, in our lives.
Common Themes of Repetition
We typically have at least three themes that become core issues in our lives, repeating themselves in our relationships with others at home, at work, at school, and in myriad situations. Here are some common ones:
• Feeling inadequate or “not good enough”
• Choosing what seems to be the wrong romantic partner
• Being abused emotionally, physically, and/or sexually
• Feeling victimized
• Feeling helpless and powerless
• Fear of loss, commitment, intimacy, or being alone
• Feeling abandoned
• Lacking money, health, love, or friendship
• Being unacknowledged for one’s gifts or contributions
• Feeling misunderstood by everyone
• Feeling unworthy; experiencing low self-esteem
• Being overlooked for advancement
• Being unheard and ignored
• Having personal boundaries violated and disrespected
• Not fitting in
• Being angry; having difficulty managing anger
Exercise: Identifying Repetitive Themes That Form a Pattern
What are the recurring themes in your life? What patterns are you continually repeating? The following questions will help you identify repetitive themes that form patterns for you:
• Keeping in mind that your feelings may not be rational but always make sense, in what situations do you experience each of the preceding common themes of repetition?
• Which themes seem to appear in your life frequently?
• In what situations have you felt, This seems familiar to me? Which of the common themes of repetition were at play in those circumstances?
• In what situations do you feel victimized and powerless?
• How do you respond to situations in which you feel victimized and powerless—do you do so quickly and automatically? Do you overreact? Do you manifest physical symptoms of stress, such as a headache, racing pulse, or stomachache? Do you feel anxious and angry?
• Do you find yourself obsessing and having trouble moving beyond certain types of distressing situations? What themes are at play in these situations?
• Are you unable to distance yourself from particular events and gain perspective on them? What themes are at play in these situations?
Just as our nervous system becomes conditioned to experience physical sensations, we also become conditioned to experience particular emotions. We grow so accustomed to our feelings of unhappiness or anger that we become addicted to them. Our daily outburst of rage or sense of despair is so familiar and comforting that we start to crave it and indulge in that emotion. Whether it’s a large battle or just a small conflict, we react with the same old emotion. Our anger might be directed at a child, our spouse, the world, the government, terrorists, or others—if there’s no one or nothing to be angry at, we’ll find a target to justify our anger so that we can feel that familiar feeling.
Why are we designed to continue to cause suffering for ourselves? On average, every seven years each cell in the body has been replaced with a new one. Why is it that even though we refresh and renew our physical selves every seven years, we’re not completely youthful? Why don’t we program the new cells to work with each other in a different way so that we can break the old patterns—so that arthritic joints and angry reactions can be left behind in the past?
The answer is: Because we’re meant to repeat our patterns, reexperiencing our traumas so that we can learn their lessons at last by working through our emotional and psychological issues. Our bodies will continue creating symptoms, and worsen them, in order to draw the conscious mind’s attention to what our unconscious mind knows.We repeat the stories of our current life and our relevant past lives because we’re trying to heal from past trauma—trauma that leads to anger, fear, rage, or avoidance. Just as the cells in our brain are replicated, so do we repeat the stories of our life. The continual reenactment of the same emotions makes our behavior patterns more dramatic. The drama, like a nightmare, tugs at us strongly enough to make us pay attention and choose to change our reaction