Discovering past lives isn’t all fun and games. Often, it’s a painful process and it isn’t unusual to go through all 5 stages of grief described by Kübler-Ross, especially if it’s a life that ended abruptly or with some lingering regrets.
Chiefly, John and Phil’s lives are the ones I went through this process the most acutely with; Count William’s life just seems too remote and complete to feel too sad about.
Here’s how the stages played out in my case:
In the case of John, it was something along the lines of “No! It can’t be! This must be just a thick string of coincidences! I couldn’t possibly have remembered being killed in 1915, it’s not possible! I’m just psychotic or pitying myself or something.”
In the case of Phil, it was more like “Damn it, you’ve let your imagination run away with you and it didn’t come back. You’re crazier than Philip K. Dick if you think you were actually him! You don’t really believe something so preposterous, do you?”
In the case of John, I was extremely angry at myself for getting involved in the war and inflicting nearly a hundred years of pain on myself. I wondered if I was still just as gullible and idealistic in this life, and I began to doubt my ability to make good decisions when it came to backing causes.
In the case of Phil, I was angry that of all people, it had to be me, because I knew having a past life like his would be problematic from the get-go and I really had to learn how to talk about it and who to talk about it with. I was lucky enough to find people who were famous in previous lives and were open about it to various degrees but it felt like a burden I didn’t need all the same.
In the case of John, the bargaining phase actually led to positive developments. Inititally, it simply became a mad scramble to become less angry, violent, and politically involved in hopes that I wouldn’t have to go through the same thing again but in hindsight, I think it may have actually made me a more mindful person with healthier priorities.
In the case of Phil, it’s harder to say what constitutes bargaining because I wasn’t really trying to avoid anything that hadn’t already happened. I guess the spike in my writing activity that marked the first year after I discovered my past life as Phil (3 novels completed) might have something to do with it, but ultimately that was a positive development too.
In John’s case, there was a lot of this. Mostly listening to WWI-themed songs and crying my eyes out, or wandering aimlessly trying to tune out all the little things that reminded me of that life. It meant creative doldrums and a lot of wasted evenings.
In the case of Phil, it led to an immense feeling of helplessness. I remember standing by the Pacific with my fiance about a year ago, looking at sand castles destroyed by the incoming tide, and saying how I felt like everything I did in that life was just a sand sculpture, washed away by circumstances I couldn’t control. The only response either of us could think of was to build it all again but it seemed so futile. I felt frustrated too that I could have had the career I always wanted as a writer but died before I could reap the benefits of a hard life, and I wondered (still wonder) if that fate is what awaits me this time around.
In the case of John, the acceptance was just sort of a mellowing of feelings. Yes, I probably was an unlucky Tommy who met a bad end. At least that wasn’t the end of the adventure, right?
In Phil’s case, I’m not sure I’ve reached full acceptance yet. There’s still a part of me that is bargaining, wondering if I should start a religious or social movement to better my chances of having a life worth remembering next time, still pushing my writing hard because it’s the strongest and most consistent thread that ties the last 85 years together for me, and still hoping that I can re-capture a bit of the person I was without sacrificing the person I am. But I don’t feel like his life is integrated into the story of how I became who I am yet; I feel like he’s an external model that I’m trying to live up to and I’m not always comfortable with the comparison even if I am better at important things… like relationships.