Dialogue with Cancer
Ten years ago Ruth Larson became a participant in a research project designed to test the hypothesis that the mind can heal the body of illness. At that time she came because her entire body was covered with psoriasis. For three years preceding our contact she had tried every known remedy but with no relief. She had six sessions using altered states of consciousness to explore the reasons for the problem. By the end of that time her body was clear and the lesions did not return.
In May of 1986 she sat in my office and with a tremor in her voice said that her doctor had told her she had inoperable cancer and had three to six months to live. She had nine lumps, in the glands under both arms and in the lower groin, and dark spots on her lungs, in addition to a back problem that kept her in constant pain. The doctor told her that there was nothing that could be done about the back and she would have to find medication for relief, and he advised chemotherapy at once for the cancer. When he told her she would lose her hair and be ill, she told him that if she had to die, she would at least do so without putting her body through such discomfort. She made an appointment with me and said confidently, “With your kind of help, I know I can be well again.”
In our first session we talked about her situation. Ruth admitted that perhaps she was tired of life. She had an invalid daughter who was now in an institution and she felt she was no longer needed by anyone. She maintained a particularly acrimonious relationship with her step mother-inlaw. Her deepest subconscious self would have liked to be free, but consciously she had decided to get well for her husband and other children.
We discussed the obvious causes of her problem and the probability that hidden rage and resentment were connected with the cancer. She responded readily to the suggestion that she look for some event in the past that was directly connected with the cancer and its purpose in her Life.
In a regression she described herself as a young girl of 16 with a while cap to cover her hair as she cleaned a rough wooden table. She lived with her father and older brother in France. Her mother had died a number of
years before. The father and brother forced her to cook and take care of the house, and they often kicked and beat her. She described how she died at age 24 from a beating which broke some bones in her neck. I asked her to go through her death and recall her last conscious thoughts.
P: I’m glad it’s over. I’m still angry at them for what they did to me.
T: Can you see how that experience is connected to your present situation?
P: I feel a great deal of guilt. I’m surprised about that. I should have done better. though I was trying, but…
T: Go back to a lifetime before that one and see if you can find out why you attracted one with so much abuse and pain.
P: I am seeing a lifetime where I was a beautiful person with many jewels, a haughty person, not a nice person.
She described herself as a basically evil person, self-serving in every phase of her life, who used people because she had the power and money. She was killed with a knife by her jealous husband.
T: Re-live your death in that lifetime and tell me your last conscious thoughts. P: I am sorry, real sorry. My life was one of indulgence—I feel as though it was almost pushed on me. I had it all but I used it wrong. I can see that now.
T: Look at the connection between that experience and the present.
P: The woman did so many evil things that she had a lot to make up for and after she died she decided she had to make up for that and so in that next life she had nothing and was mistreated; she was a nothing.
T: If you paid for being evil in the miserable life as the young girl in France, why have you needed to hang onto the problem?
P: It was her attitude. She just built up more karma because her attitude was bad. If she had done it with the right attitude, her father and brother would have been different.
I asked what her cancer was expressing, and she said that it was expressing resentment and negative thoughts. I asked her whether she thought her anger at her stepmother-in-law had anything to do with the cancer, and she replied that the cause lay in the past, but the stepmother-in-law had triggered it in this life.
I asked her to image the two women she had been in these other lifetimes. She saw them clearly and I suggested that if she felt comfortable, she could approach them and tell them she was sorry for those past lives. They could not be changed at this point, but she needed to come to love those two aspects of herself unconditionally and leave the events in the past and forgive them. After she did this imaging, she reported that the wealthy woman was sad but responded to her embrace. The peasant girl responded to her love but was not ready to give up all her feelings of guilt, reiterating her feeling that she had been a “stinker and rebellious” and that it was her fault that her father and brother had mistreated her.
Following this session Ruth felt so pleased with her insights that she announced she would not need another session and knew her cancer would soon be gone. As I evaluated her session, it was obvious to me that she was far from ready to be on her own. She was a compulsive perfectionist, living in constant fear of not measuring up to her own standards, and her self image was low. But her determination to measure up to what she thought she ought to be and her courage were attributes that could lead to success. After a few days I called to inquire about her progress and she conceded that she needed more help. Thus began months of weekly sessions. The next sessions were spent discussing her frustrations over her stepmolher-in-law and a brother-in-law from the Middle West who had a history of dropping in unannounced for extended visits once or twice a year.
The man smoked incessantly, drank beer, and listened to hard rock on TV. I helped her identify with both her brother-in-law and her stepmother-in-law and become aware of their feelings and why they had behaved the way they had. This approach helped her change her attitude toward them. Deeper understanding of her anger at her stepmother-in-law unfolded through subsequent regressions. In one, where her stepmother-in-law from this life was her servant in the other, Ruth gave her away because of a rebellious attitude. This act angered the servant. In a subsequent life Ruth was a stepdaughter who at 12 was abandoned by her father and raised by this stepmother, who abused her constantly and called her stupid. Ruth cried as she re-lived the pain of that childhood in the former lifetime. She saw then that she and her stepmother-in-law had to work out this problem and had agreed to come back into this current lifetime together in order to do it. After years of being pleasant in this lifetime the stepmolherin- law had become ill and was confined to bed, and her entire attitude changed and she became a tyrant. At this point Ruth realized that the woman was terrified and helpless and afraid of dying. The realization made it possible for Ruth, while in an altered state, to let go of her resentful altitude, a release that she duplicated with her brother-in-law when she discovered his loneliness and feeling of worthlessness.
Meanwhile, the lumps had noticeably decreased in size and she became aware of a pulsing sensation which she attributed to positive activity as her body was recovering. I suggested that she investigate the past-life connection between herself and her invalid daughter.
We found that the daughter had in an earlier 17th century lifetime in England been her sister, a slut who was eventually killed in an alley at an early age. Ruth tried in vain to change her, but these efforts only alienated her sister more. Ruth was able to see that she was not at fault for her sister’s death in that Lifetime. She felt sure that she had come into this lifetime in order to help that soul, who was now her daughter, a commitment she felt she had not fulfilled. In further sessions she explored her back pain, which had persisted, and found that she was holding onto it because she wanted an excuse not to do her stepmother-in-law’s cleaning on her days off. We then returned to the origin of the guilt which cropped up in every experience, and we found it in the French life in which her father and brother had beaten her. She became aware that her father from the French life was also her present father, an alcoholic who, while he had not abused her, always made her afraid of him. This fear was a carryover of her fear of him in the French Life.
Ruth’s realization of this connection was followed by improvement in her back and lungs and decrease in the lumps in the lymph nodes. On the 8th of July her lumps were gone except for a slight swelling in one spot under the left arm, which the doctor said might be scar tissue. He had been so nonplussed when new X-rays revealed that her lungs were clear that he ordered the nurse to take pictures three times because he was certain there was some mistake.
We searched next for the reason she was holding onto that one last small lump under her arm. She described in detail a life in Korfu in which her small country was invaded in a war and she jumped off a high bridge to keep from being captured. She believed that suicide was a sin and that she would have to pay for it, a karmic debt which she felt she had not quite paid. As we talked about this, she faced that girl, forgave her, and said she could now let go of the guilt.
By September, the nth session, her lungs had cleared up, her back was improving markedly, but that one little lump remained. I confronted her with this physical evidence that she was delaying her recovery. In an altered state she confessed that she was not sure she wanted to stay because she felt there was nothing significant to live for and she was bored. Her life seemed to have no significance or purpose. I agreed that if she really wanted to leave and it was time for her to go, I would help her to do it with the minimum amount of discomfort, but I suggested we could look at her life from another point of view. It seemed to me that she could have an important destiny because of her experience and her compassion and sensitivity to people. She could be an inspiration to others who had cancer and perhaps help many toward recovery. This appealed to her but she protested that she was afraid to talk to groups of people. She could talk to one person, perhaps, but more than that was frightening. A dialogue with her Higher Self showed her standing before a small group talking about how cancer could be overcome. It was real and she believed she could do it. The next week there was no evidence of the lumps, and the doctor had declared her body free of cancer. She asked for a statement to that effect and he gave her a copy of his report but added, “Of course, you know it will come back,” to which she responded, “Well, if it does, I’ll get rid of it again.”
A week later her husband collapsed in intense pain and was diagnosed as having advanced cancer in the digestive tract and died a month later.
Ruth faced not only the responsibility of settling his estate but of providing for his father and her stepmother-in-law, but before she could work out arrangements, they both died.
I decided not to do the traditional sympathy routine with her. She had too much insight by this time for that, so I reminded her that the Universe was taking good care of her, that she no longer had to care for anyone and could get on with her life’s purpose from that point. She was relieved that she did not have to feel guilty about being glad her responsibilities were over, and she felt ready to look forward to helping anyone she could to understand that cancer need not be fatal. Dealing with the husband’s death was more difficult because she discovered she felt responsible, believing that he had contracted cancer because she had it. In an altered state she was able to see clearly that his departure was totally his responsibility and his desire, and from that time on the tears stopped.
On the third visit after his departure she reported that the lumps had returned, but she was optimistic in spite of this, just annoyed with herself for being so vulnerable. She had settled the two estates with her usual efficiency and recalled both the progress she had made over the preceding months and the power that she had demonstrated in controlling her life. We then spent half an hour dissolving the lumps with mind energy, knowing that she no longer needed to express her feelings in this manner. When she sat up at the end of the session, her hands went immediately to her armpits and her facial expression changed to one of amazement as she told me the lumps were gone. Now, seven years later, they have not returned and her back no longer gives her pain.
This report is a condensed version of her thirty-odd sessions, but it illustrates four major factors in regression therapy. First is the primary importance of education in assisting a client to gain a new perspective on life and its purpose. When the client responds to a carefully designed pattern of questions, he/she is led into remarkable insights and is capable of analyzing and evaluating his/her own situation.
Second, it is imperative that the therapist never lose sight of the goal, which is to find the activating cause of the problem. When the desired results are not forthcoming, something has been missed or avoided, and often it is necessary to return to the same past event a number of times, as well as to explore other events, before the core issue is revealed. At times, only two or three past lives are necessary, but often the client has carried a core issue through many personalities , and out of the review comes the realization of the futility of continuing the part. When an adequate review has been completed, a dramatic change occurs in the client. Simply stated, the client forgives the self. This is the bottom line and always brings relief. Third, if the complaint is a physical problem, it is important to recognize the physiological involvement and the interrelatedness of the psyche and the soma. Ruth’s case is a classic example of past traumas being retained in body tissue, and the importance of treating the symptoms as well as working on the remote causes. It also illustrates how tenaciously a symptom is retained in spite of medical intervention if the psychological cause is not found and resolved.
Finally, Ruth’s case illustrates the primary importance of recognizing the role that guilt plays in cases where repeated insights fail to accomplish the expected results. Where there has been a series of lives all contributing to guilt responses, it takes more than one or two insights to free the personality of this crippling emotion. Along with the relieving of guilt, there must be a restructuring of the personality in order for the client to achieve true autonomy. Ruth worked hard at this restructuring and now functions with an expanded freedom and acceptance of herself that in the beginning of her therapy she had not thought possible.
-Hazel M. Denning, Ph.D.
Excerpted from REGRESSION THERAPY: A HANDBOOK FOR PROFESSIONALS Volume I