The generally understood (Western) notion of karma is too simplistic: ‘do good deeds, and the universe will reward you in turn’ and if something bad happens to you it is because you did something bad in the past / a past life.
I have heard that Buddha said something like: “Intention, is karma. Intending, one does karma by way of body, speech, and intellect.” Thus the kind of intentions we consciously or subconsciously apply in our ordinary daily life are those that manifest. If your intention, motivation, words and actions are compassionate and loving, that is if you act with awareness and mindfulness, then you will drop your suffering. If, on the other hand, you are motivated by hatred or greed or your intention is otherwise less than loving, then you will invite suffering into your life. As my Guru says: ‘the universe does not happen to you; it happens for you’.
Any trauma experienced in a past life can leave a lasting negative impression. This negative imprint can then present itself as present day symptoms like blockages, phobias, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, feelings of unworthiness, anger, etc. Thus traumatic events can cause the mind and body to go into shock. As a result, the energy triggered by a traumatic ‘flight or fight’ event does not dissipate. The mind and body cannot then integrate the memory of the trauma properly which leaves a negative imprint on the soul.
Over the course of countless lifetimes, the soul attempts to heal itself by recreating the traumatic circumstances experienced in its past. This is because our problems are our greatest teachers in life and present opportunities for healing now and here. However, if the opportunity is missed and the lesson not learned then the suffering will continue in this lifetime and the next. This has been described as the wheel of karma.
Thus your past lives may be active in your own energy field right now. You may feel their emotions; you may dream their memories, you may find yourself limited by their fears.