A Nightmare CaseThis short case is from Dr. Roger Woolger's book, Other Lives, Other Selves. It shows the danger of dismissing children's nightmares too casually. Dreams, rather than being symbolic expressions of emotions or the result of childish fear, can have a very literal past life origin. We initially included this case in an early draft of Children's Past Lives as an example of how a childhood past life dream can disrupt the mental health of a person well into adulthood. It also shows how remembering a past life can lead to a healing. Warning: This case is gory. This level of terror is extremely rare in children's past life memories or dreams. This extreme case is useful to illustrate an important lesson.
Cindy, an adult therapy patient of Dr. Roger Woolger, came to him to relieve chronic emotional problems. During one therapy session she revealed she had been tormented as a child by a severe recurring nightmare. She was terrorized night after night by flashing eyes and teeth lurking in a dark corner of her childhood bedroom. The nightmare was so severe, her parents took her for professional help. She said that one well-meaning therapist had urged her to image a monster in the dark and then to befriend it, but this ploy did nothing to ease her terror.
Working on the assumption that this childhood nightmare might be a past life flashback, Dr. Woolger suggested she find herself back in her bed as that terrified child:
I'm standing in my bed, clinging to the railing. There are horrible yellow eyes in the corner and it looks like teeth. Mommy! Mommy! Please help me! They're trying to tear me up! Help me! Help me!
Her Mother comes and hugs her, saying, "It's only a dream, go back to sleep." She lies down, but still the eyes are there in the corner. Still the terror is in her child's body—especially in her belly.
I direct her to look closely at the eyes and teeth and to stay with her feelings of terror, reminding her that her body as Cindy is safe and sound here in my office. I get her to repeat one phrase she had been dwelling on, "They're going to tear me up!" as she looks into the darkness:
"They're going to tear me up! They're going to tear me up! Oh, help! I'm running, I'm in a forest, it's almost dark. They're coming after me! I'm a boy, about six years old. They've caught me--it's a pack of wolfhounds! Help! HELP! Their teeth . . . " (She screams.) "They're tearing me up . . . Help me! Help me!"
After a five more minutes of screaming and writhing, Cindy suddenly goes completely limp. "It's all over. I'm above the body. The wolfhounds are all eating it. Ugh! They ripped out my guts, my neck, my chest. Oh, it's awful! But I'm dead now, I don't feel anything.
After weeping for a while, the full story from that life came out. The severe emotional problems that had brought her into therapy were explained, in part, by a series of betrayals in this past life that led up to her being hunted and killed by the wolfhounds. Because she was an adult by the time she had this session, she needed Dr. Woolger's professional help to untangle the past life memory from other issues that had accrued since she was a child.
But, what if Cindy's parents had recognized and acknowledged her nightmares as a past life story? It's likely the trauma could have been cleared then, and Cindy may have never been plagued by emotional disturbances as an adult.
Copyright 1987 by Roger J. Woolger, Ph.D.