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We reap what we sow, but we also reap what others before us have sown. If we do this unconsciously, we find ourselves victims of unfortunate circumstances, but if we are conscious of what we have taken on from our family legacy, we can turn it around.
Doctors Bedi and Matthews have worked with people who have carried the burden of their families' best achievements, worst failures, and unrealized dreams. With their experience, we learn to recognize our karmic inheritance and settle our family's karmic accounts so we can redirect our energies in accord with our own true path and passion, our soul's calling. Bedi and Matthews explain how ancestral karma gets energetically encoded in the chakras of our subtle body and manifests as chakra blockages or overactivity. They provide case histories from their patients, an analysis of the Kennedy family history, as well as the archetypal example of the history of the House of Atreus--the Greek legacy of family betrayal stemming from Tantalus to Atreus and Thyestes, to Agamemnon and finally, Orestes. In addition to these examples and illuminating case studies, the authors teach us how to use dreamwork, journaling, and diagramming our family tree as tools for identifying and overcoming inherited karma.
To totally comprehend our roots and to realize our destiny, we must look beyond our individual life and understand our ancestral context in order to make sense of our journey. Once we have identified the blessings and the curses we have inherited, we have the possibility of choice. The best way to break old patterns is to work on establishing new ones.
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About the Author
Dr. Ashok Bedi is a Jungian psychoanalyst and a board-certified psychiatrist. He is a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists of Great Britain, a Diplomat in Psychological Medicine at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of England, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He is a Clinical Professor in Psychiatry at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and president-elect, training analyst, and faculty member at the Analyst Training Program of the Carl G. Jung Institute of Chicago. He practices psychiatry at the Aurora Psychiatric Hospital and the Aurora Health Care Networks. He is author of
Path to the Soul (Weiser Books, 2000) and and the co-author of
Retire Your Family Karma (Nicholas-Hays, Inc., 2003). His website is pathtothesoul.com.
Read an Excerpt
RETIRE YOUR FAMILY KARMA
Decode Your Family Pattern and Find Your Soul Path
By Ashok Bedi, Boris Matthews
NICOLAS-HAYS, INC.Copyright © 2003 Ashok Bedi and Boris Matthews
All rights reserved.
BEGINNING THE WORK OF RETIRING YOUR FAMILY KARMA
One of the major tenets of modern psychotherapy is that each of us is responsible for our behavior and destiny. All too often our patients tell us, "I did it to myself; I'm responsible." This is true for the consequences of our actions; but, as you will see in the following chapters, all of us inherit burdens and blessings that we did not create, not to mention that life, even under the best of conditions, is difficult.
Taking personal responsibility for our life coincides well with the Western ethos of individual freedom, initiative, accountability, and authority This formula generally works well in dealing with the conscious aspects of our personality and relationships, and with the consequences of our actions. But how can a person choose, control, and regulate what is beyond individual consciousness? What happened before we were born? The effects of choices our ancestors made?
The dogged insistence on personal responsibility for choices and consequences is admirable; however, this insistence can also obstruct investigation and reflection upon causes beyond our personal choice. Although there are ways we can gain access to what is outside our immediate consciousness (that is, the "unconscious"), how are we to deal with issues that come from beyond our personal experience in this lifetime?
Each of us has the opportunity and the challenge of working on ourselves as well as our ancestors' unfinished tasks, all the while perpetuating their worthy achievements. We can either carry forward an evolutionary trajectory that improves life, or we can repeat family patterns that constrict us and coerce our descendants. Ideally, our goal as conscious adults is to resolve the problems with which our ancestors struggled—virulent complexes, relationship problems, chakra imbalances, medical and psychiatric conditions—and develop and express our innate potentials and gifts to the extent we are capable, given the circumstances into which we are born, grow up, and live our lives. Our task is to retain from the legacy of our family what furthers the expression of our innate talent and reject what thwarts progress on our soul's journey.
When we are not able to continue the family line in a personally authentic manner, the psyche and/or body can rebel in the form of medical and psychiatric problems, relationship difficulties, various sorts of under-performance or failure, and lowered physical and emotional vitality. However, when we choose the evolutionary path, we have the opportunity to retire the curse and the suffering of our ancestors, perpetuate their spiritual and creative legacy, and become our authentic selves: individuals who have realized as far as possible our innate predisposition and particular mix of talents and gifts.
To the extent we succeed in taking the evolutionary path, we rid collective consciousness and the unconscious of the cumulative psychic toxicity of our ancestors' problems, further their laudable accomplishments (their "good" karma), and leave the planet a more conscious, better informed, and safer place to live. In order to retire family karma, however, we have to be able to recognize its manifestations in our lives and find ways of retiring it.
In this book, we will first explore the concept of karma, how it generally works, and we'll provide examples from myth and real life that illustrate the effects of family karma. We will then explain the sources of family karma, how it manifests psychologically in our lives and its link to our physiological make-up through our chakras. Throughout, we provide stories from our clients who have worked through their family karma issues. It is our hope that their examples will help you identify your own family karma and take the necessary action to lift the curses and harvest the blessings you have inherited.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
As you read this book, you will find journal exercises to help you apply what you're learning to your own situation. Our clients' stories may give you some important insights into your life patterns and story. Therefore, we suggest that you get yourself a good-sized notebook and dedicate it to your family karma exploration.
Journal Exercise: Are You Locked into Your Family Karma?
In exploring your family karma, begin with yourself. At this point, we invite you to answer the following ten questions, each on a separate page in your journal, before you continue with the rest of the book. These questions point to some of the damaging effects of family patterns that can and do extend over more than two generations. Answer these questions now to the best of your ability. After you have read the rest of the book, we would like you to answer these ten questions again and compare your new answers with your first responses.
1. Describe your grandparents' relationship. What similarities and/or differences do you recognize between their relationship and your intimate relationship(s)?
2. How do/did each of your grandparents react emotionally to various situations? Do you find yourself reacting in similar ways, even though your reactions don't make any sense to you?
3. Recall and write down any dreams in which your father or mother, or grandfather or grandmother, does something noticeably out of character (i.e., differently than they act in waking life). This question will make more sense later when we discuss dreams and the information they can provide.
4. What physical ailments do you have that "run in the family" for which there appears to be no medical treatment?
5. What sort of work do you do? Who among your older relatives (parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles) does/did the same sort of work you do? What do/did your older relatives say about the line of work you are in?
6. If you are an adopted child, what attitudes and behaviors do you have that have no precedent in your adoptive family?
7. What are the "ancestral dramas" in your family line? (For example, "Men in this family always/never ..." "Our family does ..." "The women in our family ..." "Children are supposed to ...")
8. How do you relate to, or what do you feel about, your family traditions? (For example, you like them; you rebel against them; they give you a sense of security; they stifle you; you believe you have to uphold them; etc.)
9. What functional as well as dysfunctional coping strategies do you share with other members of your (extended) family?
Functional coping strategies, for example, would be anticipating situations or consequences of actions; observing your emotions and behavior; being able to laugh rather than throw a tantrum. Dysfunctional coping strategies, for example, would be denial; blaming others; resorting to temper tantrums, excessive drinking, or gambling to manage stress.
10. If you have been in counseling or psychotherapy, what issues have you worked on? How effective has your counseling or psychotherapy been in resolving your issues of concern?
* * *
In the following chapters, we provide you with tools for searching out the elements of your family blessings and curses—your clan karma—as well as numerous journal exercises to help you dig deeper into your family legacy and the effect it has had on you.
Welcome to the journey!
WHAT IS KARMA?
Erol is a proud, driven, successful man. He was raised in a lower middle-class family, and success was of primary importance to his parents and to him—more than anything else. Consequently, his work became increasingly important to him. Erol enjoyed the acclaim and power he gained on the job. As his son and his daughter entered their teen years, Erol found it more comfortable to retreat into his work than to deal with his energetic teenage children. Evelyn, Erol's wife, took on more and more responsibilities for rearing and disciplining the children as Erol spent ever-longer hours at work. Rumor had it that he might have been getting too close to one of the younger women work associates.
Evelyn pleaded repeatedly for Erol to take more interest in their children and in their marriage, but to no avail. The harder she tried, the more he thought of her as a nag, and retreated deeper into his financially rewarding work. His son, at age 14, started doing drugs. His daughter got pregnant when she was 16 and had an abortion. Evelyn became depressed and sought psychiatric treatment. Finally, she filed divorce papers, and asked Erol to move out. Two weeks later, Erol had a major heart attack.
While Erol was in cardiac rehab, his cardiologist insisted he see someone for psychotherapy. In his therapy, Erol explored the consequences of his choice to pursue professional growth at the expense of his personal life and relationships. He admitted there were many possibilities in life he had not taken time to cultivate. He recognized that his parents' distress at their very modest circumstances had contributed to the high value they placed on material success. He remembered how his father's sense of failure as a provider and his hopes that Erol would have a financially more rewarding life had driven him since he was in high school. As Erol learned more about his father's childhood and youth, he saw that his father's parents had worked hard but had always lived hand-to-mouth. His relentless success drive, he realized, was part of a family pattern extending back at least two generations.
Like many women of her generation, Evelyn came from a middle-class family where her father was the wage earner and mother, the homemaker. Evelyn's parents had met in college and married soon after graduation. Although Evelyn's mother had a fine college education, she worked only a couple of years after marriage. When her first child was born, she quit work. From then on, she devoted her energies to child rearing, homemaking, and, when her children got older, she volunteered her services in her church and community.
Evelyn did not want a life like the one her mother had. She recognized that her mother felt she had missed out on some areas of personal growth that a job outside the home, commensurate with her education, would have offered. Evelyn had often felt the sting of her mother's ambivalent comments about Evelyn's attempt to balance family and job. On the one hand, her mother was proud of Evelyn as a mother, wife, and working woman; but on the other, she criticized Evelyn for not being involved in church and community work as she had been, and hinted that some of the distress in Evelyn's marriage was the consequence of not being the kind of wife that Erol needed and deserved. About a year before she filed the divorce papers, Evelyn had entered psychotherapy to deal with her increasing depression.
After several months' hard work in individual psychotherapy, Erol asked Evelyn if she would be willing to go with him to a marriage counselor. He told her he had learned a lot about himself. He wanted to work with her on rebuilding their marriage.
In our clinical practice, we have seen many women and men like Evelyn and Erol who feel they have to make choices that lead to results they hadn't intended. As they discover more about their attitudes and values, they often identify family habits and patterns that had influenced them much more than they had realized.
Of course, your ancestors can and do leave behavioral and attitudinal legacies that help you actualize your innate potentials. But it is in the nature of our work as psychotherapists and psychoanalysts that, initially at least, our clients seek help with their immediate problems and struggles. As part of our work with our clients, however, we attempt to help them gain a differentiated view of their parents, grandparents, and other forebears. Mingled with ancestral legacies we discover blessings as well as curses. You can take a major step toward maturing when you can see and accept both the good and the bad in other important people in your life and lineage.
Life is a series of choices. Choices lead to actions. Actions carry consequences. Action plus consequence is what we call karma. The results of many of our actions affect not only us, but others as well. The consequences of many of our grandparents' and our parents' actions reverberate in our lives today. In this book we will use the term "karma" to refer to our ancestors' and our own actions and the consequences that necessarily follow. A lot of karma spans three or more generations. That is why we call it "family karma."
MEANS AND ENDS
When you choose a course of action, you have in mind some desired end or goal. You base your action on the information you perceive to be relevant to your chosen goal. Your goal appears to be some improvement, some enhancement in your life, some valued outcome. Whether or not your actions attain the desired results may be another question. Like wonder drugs that combat a specific illness but can have undesirable side effects, your actions can also have unintended consequences. Be that as it may, karma—choice, action, and consequence—is embedded in an interactive matrix of perceptions and values. Moreover, every sequence of perception and value-based, goal-oriented action creates an outcome that is itself a situation, resembling or differing from the earlier situation in which you took action. Thus, you can see how your life is an unending cycle of actions and outcomes, all based on what you value and what you perceive.
At one level, nobody questions this truth: If you kick a dog, it will yelp. If you treat people badly, you can expect them to respond in kind. But karma operates at many levels, and the consequences do not always immediately follow your actions. Karma can pass down through a family from generation to generation. That is to say, one generation after another may repeat a pattern of actions and suffer or enjoy the inevitable consequences that follow those actions. Indeed, we are responsible for much of our karma, but we can also inherit karma from our ancestors or from a past life.
THE THREE SOURCES OF KARMA
In our clinical experience working with hundreds of patients, we have found three sources of karma that each of us must address in order to reach our fullest and highest soul potential: individual, family, and past-life karma.
First, you must retire the karma you have generated in your present life. This is your personal karma. As you recognize conditions and situations you have created that are uncomfortable, that do not serve you well, that cause you distress, you must take the steps necessary to change those conditions and situations. Perhaps you find yourself in a line of work that does not really suit you. Maybe you have become obsessed in an activity, a cause, a relationship. You may have hurt others and only you can alleviate that pain through sincere words and actions. Whatever it is, wherever you see the undesirable fruits of your actions, it is up to you to retire your karma by taking remedial actions that will lead to more desirable outcomes.
Second, you have to work on the karma of your family—parents, grandparents, and other forebears—to free your soul from their unintended karma. Perhaps you are fulfilling the ambition of a grandparent rather than your own. It sometimes happens that you deal with situations in "family-typical" ways that you later recognize do not suit you, that may even be contrary to what you deep-down feel is authentically your way. Or you might engage in behaviors that you consciously recognize as self-defeating but that you feel powerless to overcome. Many of our patients have experienced great relief when they have been able to trace such patterns in their lives to their ancestors who had similar patterns, attitudes, complexes, illnesses, relationship styles, and so forth. But you cannot change what you haven't identified. Recognizing the blessings and curses of your ancestors—your family karma—is the first step and often a revelation.
Third, you have to retire the karma generated in previous lives, your past-life karma. In the last few years, researchers have compiled persuasive evidence that supports the idea of past lives and karma deriving from them. For some people, past lives are an article of belief; for other people, the idea of past lives is nonsense. But if the empirical evidence so far accumulated continues to be supported by future research, more people will have to take the possibility of past life karma seriously.
When you realize that your life is encumbered by the results of your and other peoples' choices, or the residue from a past life, you can begin to make different choices that heal wounds, right wrongs, and—we hope—lead you to experience a fuller reality in which you live with greater integrity and authenticity.
Jim is a recently retired businessman who had just sold his very successful company. He had amassed a large sum of money, and had hoped to enjoy life with his wife, children, grandchildren, and friends. In his heyday, he had been a ruthless entrepreneur who was focused on his work at the expense of all other aspects of his life. His wife—though loving and committed—had found other interests and friendships to fill the void that Jim's absence had created. His children had married and moved to the opposite coasts of the U.S. Jim really had no friends. At age 59, with his stash of money, good health, and a long life expectancy, Jim was the most lonely man on this planet. He was all dressed up with nowhere to go. At this point, he called to make an appointment for psychotherapy. He was caught in his own karmic trap.
Excerpted from RETIRE YOUR FAMILY KARMA by Ashok Bedi, Boris Matthews. Copyright © 2003 Ashok Bedi and Boris Matthews. Excerpted by permission of NICOLAS-HAYS, INC..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
List of Journal Exercises
Part I: Tracing Your Family Karma
Chapter 1. Beginning the Work of Retiring Your Family Karma
Chapter 2. What is Karma?
Chapter 3. Evidence for Family Karma in Ancient and Modern Legends
Chapter 4. Exploring the Family Dynamics and Our Relationships
Chapter 5. How We Inherit Family Karma
Part II: Working Out Your Family Karma
Chapter 6. Clues to Karma and How to Sort Them Out
Chapter 7. Mapping Your Family Karma
Chapter 8. Encouragement for Your Soul Journey
A. Additional Reading
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Doctor Bedi is a true artist. By this I imply more than the fact that he's an excellent writer. Just as the great artists of our time have made us look at life and see it in a way we were never able to imagine, so does doctor Bedi cause us to look at our patients with a fresh eye and a new perspective. Psychotherapy resembles teaching. A Therapist must have endless amounts of energy, hope, and enthusiasm that is communicated to one's patients. Hence the importance of a fresh look & perspective In this, his second little gem of a book, doctor Bedi teams with Dr Matthews to teach us how each of us has not only the opportunity, but also the challenge of working on our ancestors¿ unfinished tasks as well as our own. In other words they try to show us how we can resolve the problems with which our ancestors struggled , while actualizing our own innate potentials and gifts. With lucid clinical examples they define such basic themes as 'what is karma?' They illustrate how karma is basically a combination of action and consequence and demonstrate that in reality karma may span several generations- which is what they call family karma. Doctors Bedi and Matthews have outlined three sources of karma each of us must address to reach our true potential -- individual, family, and past- life karma. If we do this we can ' retire' the karma that we have generated or inherited. There is a chapter on the illustrations of family karma in ancient and modern legends. As Henry the Fifth put it in Shakespeare's play 'Not today my lord, oh not today, Think upon the sins my father did in encompassing the crown!' The authors quote examples that range from Greek mythology to the modern-day Kennedy Dynasty. They show how to explore family dynamics and relationships and describe in detail how exactly we inherit the family karma. At the end of every chapter there are journal exercises that illuminate, with great clarity, the questions and tasks that we need to ask ourselves and our patients. To make sense of our pathway to our souls and our life's journey we have to comprehend ultimately our own roots. They liken this to a river -- the only way to ultimately understand a river is to examine its source in the mountaintops and to follow it to the valleys and springs and marshes. This to me is the essence of the book. Our understanding of ourselves begins with the little rivulets that lie deep inside our psyche, and are fed by ancestral waters that have existed before we were born. We have to examine these streams as they gush forth into the open and become wider and ever more forceful cascades that ultimately shape the bedrock of our personalities and carve out the canyons and valleys of who we ultimately become. This book shows us how!