The powerful bonds we find in our families often have a history beyond this lifetime. In his excellent book The Secret Spiritual World of Children, Tobin Hart, an associate professor of psychology at the University of West Georgia, quotes this report of a mother’s conversation with her three-year-old daughter Nicole:

The other day, Nicole and I were eating breakfast and out of the blue she said, ‘A long, long time ago when I was a little boy I could turn the light switch on and off all by myself.’ I asked her what her name was then and she said, ‘I don’t remember right now’, but that she was eleven years old then and I was her mommy. After a few bites of toast she continued, ‘And a long, long time ago when you were a little boy, I was your mommy, and Grammy and Papa and my aunt and uncle were there then.’ I was just listening at that point and said something like, ‘Oh, they were?’ and she said, ‘Yes, Mommy, we all take turns. Everybody takes turns.’

This ‘taking turns’ can be seen as the working of the laws of karma. Put simply karma can be understood as a way of ensuring that we all have an opportunity to discover what it is like to be both giver and receiver, the one who does and the one who is done to. In this way we discover for real the consequences of our actions. Often we act wisely and kindly and those consequences are very happy, as suggested by this contented breakfast scene.

But sometimes ‘taking turns’ can lead to puzzling or troublesome experiences. Have you wondered about those strange, apparently unfounded feelings of fierce antipathy that can occur between us, sometimes the instant we meet? In her book Mind Probe – Hypnosis, Irene Hickman quotes a client in regression recalling herself as newborn baby thinking, ‘Here we go all over again. Only now my father is drinking and my mother is nagging’.

In my own work with clients I find that the painful mysteries which people wrestle with in their family relationships can often have their roots long before this lifetime. Here’s a fictional, but typical, example of troubled relationships within a family. A woman experiences feelings of hatred for her own mother. As a child she found her father extremely frightening. Nothing particularly unusual in this, except that her childhood and upbringing offer little or nothing to explain why such deeply rooted feelings should exist; the relationship with her parents has not been easy, but they have been fundamentally kind and have not mistreated her. She herself considers her own feelings irrational.

As she explores memories stored away in her unconscious she discovers a lifetime in which she was persecuted and killed for being a witch. The man who killed her in that lifetime is now her father. The person who betrayed her is now her mother.

Discovering such memories can be very helpful. They explain feelings, such as anger or fear, that have previously given rise to a sense of inadequacy and thoughts like ‘there must be something wrong with me’. They also help the person to distinguish more readily between what is happening now, difficult perhaps but not life-threatening, and what happened then – terrifying, painful and heart-breaking. There can be a moment of realisation, an epiphany, as a long-held torment dissolves with a sense of, ‘ah, so that was it’. In uncovering these kind of memories, the client may choose to see that each member of the family is being given a fresh chance in this lifetime; the past doesn’t have to repeat itself.

My own belief is that parents and children choose each other. These choices are freely made, but at a higher level than we are normally aware of; though we can become more conscious of the nature and reasons for these choices. I sense that many beings are involved in these choices, advising, guiding and demonstrating the possible outcomes of each one. But it is the mother, father and child who ultimately make the choice to embody this relationship with each other.

In the book by Tobin Hart I have already quoted from, is this fascinating child’s-eye view of the process:

Jim and Krista had an unexpected introduction to a surprising dimension of their own contract [with their child] when they heard their three-year-old explain the roots of their marriage through his eyes. At the dinner table one evening, their son announced out of the blue, ‘Heaven was a really fun place.’ After a few moments of silence, he went on, ‘You know I’m glad I’m here.’ His parents replied, ‘We’re so glad you’re here, too.’ He continued, ‘Yeah when I was in Heaven I asked God for a telescope, and I looked down here. And I said I like her and I like him.’ Krista said, ‘Oh, really, that’s nice. Daddy and I knew we were going to have you.’ He said, ‘Yeah, but this was before you knew Daddy. I helped to bring you guys together. I thought you guys would be really nice to me.’

This revelation struck a very deep chord in both parents. Krista explained, ‘When Jim and I were dating, we had this uncanny sense of our son, who was not even conceived yet. We would talk about him all the time and even toasted him in our wedding video. I guess it was pretty weird and not the kind of thing we might be likely to do. But we just had this incredibly vivid sense of him being around us throughout the time we were dating. What he told us that night at dinner made perfect sense.’

In this account it’s easy to see why such a mutually loving relationship might be chosen by all concerned. But why might beings choose difficult relationships? Why choose to be the child of someone who once, albeit long ago, killed you? The answer I believe is essentially simple: it is our purpose as beings to come together in a state of blissful oneness. To get there we must make peace with all that disturbs our peace.

The workings of the laws of karma are subtle and complex, very far from a simple ‘tit for tat’ system. As beings we have a great deal of choice in how we use these laws in our lives. In the case of the woman who was killed for being a witch, she may have chosen, for instance, to be born to these particular parents to teach them that the psychic gifts she displayed in the earlier life are nothing to be frightened of, that the hidden guilt they experienced because of how they acted in that former life, can be released because, ‘Look, I have not died, I’m here again’. At the same time she may be letting herself experience feelings of fear or bitterness that she once instigated in others long ago.

As groups of souls who love each other deeply we have created earthly dramas in which we have helped one another to act out whatever each of us finds most challenging, so that we may learn how to make our peace with it, whatever it is. That’s not all that Earth life is about, but it is an important feature of it. By reincarnating with those who’ve done us wrong, or to whom we’ve done wrong, we give ourselves the opportunity to make peace with one another and ourselves, to see the love hidden behind the mistreatment that masked it.

When I’m working with a client who is dealing with these kind of issues, Sananda (with whom I always work in such cases) has as his purpose to help this person discover more and more of the love that he or she is, and to apply that love to these painful areas which have felt so starved of love. And in the end love always dissolves the pain.

You might assume from what I’ve written that a belief in reincarnation is necessary before such healing can take place. Observing the energy field at a more fundamental level, we see that all that is happening is the application of love to pain. Those painful memories that clients uncover and heal to can be seen in their energy fields as dark patches – compressed or entangled energy. As they are examined they yield up images which are usually, and reasonably, interpreted as memories, a sort of compressed photo album such as you might store on a computer. It is a convenient and often very effective way of working to treat these images as pictures of past events which can then be made peace with.

But the pain that they cause is not in the past, it’s right here and now. The pain exists simply because that person’s energy is not flowing freely in a particular part of the energy field. The natural state of love which is our birthright – an open, flowing relationship of mutual appreciation with the Universe – is stalled or blocked or squeezed; and that block, whether we are conscious of it or not, keeps on drawing our attention like a splinter or toothache. By sensing these blocks, whether in ourselves or in another, and applying love to them we help to bring about healing.

Just as there can be blocks – dark patches in the energy field – so there can be areas of superconductivity – areas or aspects of the energy field which are especially highly evolved. We come into one another’s lives not just to heal pain, but to create win-win relationships, vortices of light in which our love for one another brings out the best in us. And, of course this too is what we often find in families. It tends to draw less attention because there’s nothing that needs fixing. I’m sure I chose my father in part because he is a fine artist and a great teacher, and these are two aspects of myself I wanted to develop in this lifetime. I remember as a child how when he was teaching me about perspective, say, I’d find myself grinning from ear to ear in a way that I know he found puzzling, for I was quite unable to explain my delight in being taught by him.

The relationships we have with each other are ultimately made up of the innumerable subtle interactions between our individual energy fields. In families there can be patterns of energy, both fixed and flowing, that present special challenges and joys.

You and your Child

How can you best respond to these interplays of energy between yourself and your child?

First I suggest that you give yourself time to contemplate the relationship in all its intricacy. Look at its uniqueness, its beauty and its difficulties. Look as much as you can without any kind of judgement.

Then you may find your understanding is deepened by posing yourself questions like these: What has brought you together? Why might you have chosen each other? You may not ‘know’ in the way that you know two and two makes four or where the post office is, but you may find that after all, you sense or feel more of an answer than you thought you knew. Perhaps, if it feels appropriate, you might like to ask your child the same questions.

What are the special areas of light and love that illuminate your relationship? What do you both love doing? What qualities do you love in yourself and see in your child also? What have you learnt from your child, and what do you feel she or he is learning from you?

Explore whether you might be able to sense areas, your heart centre for instance, where there is a powerful feeling of resonance between you. Sometimes such areas might be quite subtle or abstract, as if there is a particular pitch of feeling, a mood or state of consciousness, where you connect especially easily or strongly. Or you may recognise that there are qualities like peacefulness or honesty that matter to you both. As you focus on such resonances, so these qualities tend to increase in the lives of each of you.

Then, are you aware of hidden (or not-so-hidden) antipathies? Does your child have some behaviour pattern, or even mannerism (for these things too can be subtle), that instantly pushes your buttons? Is there something that you do, feeling it to be entirely reasonable, that seems to deeply upset your child?

If there is anything like this in your relationship, accept that it is so. There is no need to judge yourself or your child. You could think of it being as if you each have many magnets around the boundaries of your energy field. Where the magnets meet one way round, they attract, energy flows and love is expressed easily. Meeting the other way round they repel; energy doesn’t flow easily, love is harder to express.

You can’t turn someone else’s magnet round (though you may be able to help them), but you can turn your own. Begin by loving yourself for experiencing this difficulty. Take time to ponder, contemplate or meditate on the source of the difficulty. It may be that no sense of some event in another lifetime arises for you at all, but you can notice things like where you feel this difficulty most – your abdomen or forehead, for example; what kind of feeling it produces in you – sharp or heavy, for example; or when it’s at its strongest – first thing in the morning or bedtime, for example. Continue to study it in this abstract way, free of associations such as ‘He’s only four, but he’s so bossy it drives me wild’.

Determine that you are choosing to turn this ‘magnet’ around. Welcome in your guides, angels, higher self or soul to help you. Send love to this area of your body, these feelings, this time of day etc. Imagine smoothing out tangled feelings, turning around those magnetic poles, dissolving that block to love – use whatever kind of image works for you. Know that beneath whatever difficulty you might be experiences there is love. The love is the truth, the difficulty in the relationship a temporary illusion.

It may be that you do find images come up suggestive of some past life encounter with your child. If so, recognise that the past has gone. It longer exists. Recognise that whatever happened, you, and every one else involved, was doing the best that they could at the time. Then diligently apply forgiveness to the whole situation, including to yourself and everyone else there.

Finally, ask yourself, ‘What has this difficulty in our relationship been teaching me? What does it reveal to me about myself?’ Thank yourself and your child for your willingness to be teachers for each other.

Processes like these may take time. If you are drawn to them, be gently persistent and patient with yourself and the situation.