Reincarnation as a concept has been around for thousands of years. In various forms, it is a central tenant in Hinduism, Buddhism, and many other religions worldwide, including many Native American and Inuit beliefs. Specifics vary, but the common thread is that after death a person is able to re-enter the world of the living in a new body, usually beginning their new life starting back at birth.
My preschooler has become absolutely convinced that this has happened to her. She doesn’t know the word, but for several months now has been talking about different things that had happened “when she used to be a grown up.” Her imagination has always been pretty vivid, as described Here, but the vehemence that she displays in sticking with this story has occasionally given me pause.
She can’t read a clock and still confuses her units of time measurement, but Alaina understands the concept. She knows how ageing works and has accepted the fact that she is never going to “catch up” to her older sister. Somehow, however, she has come to the belief that when she used to be “grown up”, she took care of her mom and I when we were “little”. We’ve explained to her multiple times that this isn’t how it works. Her grandmothers have both explained to her that this isn’t how it works. She remains convinced.
According to a 2005 Gallup poll, 25% of US adults believe in reincarnation. There is a strong Lithuanian genetic influence in my daughter, and the number of believers in that country is 44%, the highest in all of Europe. Carl Jung postulated the theory of “racial memory”, where memories, feelings, and ideas are inherited from ancestors. He called this “collective unconscious.” Could this be the answer?
Genetic memory has largely been dismissed as an explanation for past life regression because the subjects usually have no genetic link with the people they claim to have existed as. Alaina’s narrative seems to close this parapsychology loophole.
I’ve often said that the psychological and social development of my daughter absolutely fascinates me to watch. She is of the age now where she is really starting to develop a sense of self and sense of personal identity. I think that she is just incapable of comprehending the fact that she wasn’t always “here.” Trying to explain it to her is an exhausting array of questions about how babies are made, where we come from, and how she died before if she wasn’t always alive. Philosophical debates with a four year old are surprisingly difficult.
I’m assuming this is a result of toddler narcissism and that my daughter is not the new Buddha or Dalai Lama. I have always figured that she would one day rule the world, but wouldn’t guess that it will be as a spiritual leader.