The ghost inside

ghost insideFreud and others have taught us to see many of our psychological and emotional hang-ups as effects of childhood traumas or other past experiences. Meditation guidance in Acem also sometimes brings in associations to present or past issues that seem to be connected to our problems. Metaphorically speaking, the ghost lies within ourselves.

Alien force
In some cultures, though, the ghost inside is not a metaphor, but something that is firmly believed in. In contrast to much of Western society, these cultures never let modernity wipe away the belief in spiritual beings that may possess us and do us harm. When a person reacts completely out of character, or is overwhelmed by uncontrollable and incomprehensible emotions, or somehow loses touch, this is typically seen as the effect of some intrusive alien force. What is needed is not therapy or guidance, but exorcism.

Past lives
ghost spattersA slightly different case is the common new age view of our various hang-ups being the effects not of past experiences in this life, but of earlier incarnations. In such cases, there may not be a ghost or a spiritual being, but the key to our problems is seen as lying in semi-hypnotic fantasy travels to previous lives (in which most of us for some reason seemed to be kings or queens) rather than memories from our present life-time.

For all I know, ghosts may very well exist, and reincarnation may be a reality (though the opposite may also be true). As an approach to human conundrums, however, bringing in such external forces may also be alienating and take away some of our motivation for exploring the various lines running through our lives, reducing rather than increasing our sense of responsibility and ownership.

Person in charge
Not that a purely psychological approach necessarily solves the problem. Looking at events and experiences that led to emotional bondage may be useful, but if the focus on our misfortunes becomes too strong, we easily end up in the position of a helpless victim rather than a person in charge. Reflecting on situations where we have failed in relation to others may be more important than cases where others have failed in relation to us. Guilt is not always an irrational feeling. As a good friend told me: “St. Peter is going to be less concerned with what others did to you than with what you did (or failed to do) to others.” Metaphorically speaking, of course.


  1. Kaif


    I suppose when modern man looks at ancient man, he sees in his ghosts and angels (lets not forget the angels!) projections of his inner states. If ancient man could look at modern man, he would see in his moments of fear and tranquility unconscious introjections of the ghosts and angels.

    I agree that the sense of responsibility is an inevitable consequence of taking the introspective position, even though we may evade this sense.

    It is interesting to note that in those pre-modern cultures, there do exist some very subtle and sophisticated systems of what we may now call ‘psychology’, for instance in the Hindu Yoga texts or the Buddhist description of the 12-fold Dependent Origination. But I suppose these were meant for a spiritual elite, rather than for the masses.

  2. Per S.P.

    The new age reincarnation hypnosis approach to ones former royal lives differs a lot from the karma\reincarnation doctrine which I have read about, and conceive to be a very integrated part of eastern culture. Especially when it comes to accepting life in all it’s suffering and joy. Perhaps, too much in some cases, I’m thinking about India which I have vistited multiple timed where acceptance of social injustice have gone to far, in my opinion.

    I’m also thinking about your statement that sometimes guilt is real and necessary. Needless to say, sometimes it is the other way around, innocence is real, still we cling to guilt. Sometimes events are so strong that we feel they define us, perhaps we were in search of something define us also. It can perhaps provide a role to cling on to in the sea of life. On the Norwegian public broadcasting news show just recently, there were a professor in psychology stating that the victims of Utøya, 22. july should not be given treatment with too much focus on the horrors of the incident. Actually, it was a little provoking and I did not agree on most of his statements, but I interpreted his intentions that one should be aware of the dangers of victims building their identities around what happened to them. Intuitively, I can relate to this point.

  3. I agee with this.
    Each person is a unique combination of experiences past and present. The energy from those experiences of a person’s past, whether it be in the current life or past life, can be seen as ghostly power.
    Regardless of how a person views those energies it is freeing for a person to bring those past experiences into the light and then simply toss away if not positive.
    Meditation is one of the safest ways to journey back in time, open the closet door, pull the ghosts out into the light and then embrace or toss.

  4. Karan Sewani

    I relate to this in the sense that i have concentrated or focused upon misfortune more and felt like a victim instead of being in charge and regular meditation has made me realize the same, but it takes time to change these things.
    Meditation gives you a sense of responsibility and ownership in its own way through effortless yet aware repetition of sound, or at least it brings the ghosts to the surface to only show that they are not real and hence we are not the victim but we assumed ourselves to be, to blame situations and now that we know these ghosts ain’t real we don’t fear them anymore.

  5. I dont think it matters really whether we are inhabited by spirits or under the influence of events in past lives. Perhaps all these things are stored in some way in our genetic code. And if they are part of us then they are as much part of us as the food we eat. Similarly what we do to people and the emotions we feel also become part of us. Meditation helps me overcome (even if I dont understand) the immediate effects of past and present on my thoughts and emotions. Just acknowledging their existence as they come up in my meditation – regret, anger fear, etc leads to their dissipation and allows me later to view events in a much calmer light.

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