Why You Should Not Do Past Life Regression Therapy (On Purpose)

Calvin D. Banyan, MA, BCH, CI

Do you believe that there are such things as past lives? Do you think that you may have lived before? Is it part of your religion, or completely against it? What I believe is not important in this article, and of course it is up to you to think whatever you want to think or believe with regard to the existence of past lives.

I will not do past life regression as a kind of therapy, on purpose. By this I mean that I will not conduct a past life regression simply because a potential client requests the therapy. From time to time, I will have someone call our office wanting to receive Past Life Regression Therapy (PLRT) for a fear of snakes, a relationship problem or some other issue. When I meet with them I will ask these potential clients how they know that the problem was caused by something in a past life. Usually the answer goes like this, "well I cannot imagine what else could have caused it. I do not remember anything in this life that could have caused it. So it must have been something that happened in a past life."

Proceed with caution if you run into such a situation. Our client is simply doing the best she can to try and understand what might be causing her problem. And who can fault her? She is unaware of anything in her personal history that would indicate where the problem came from, nothing she can consciously remember anyway. On the other hand, any hypnotherapist who has experience using hypnotic age regression techniques can tell you that it is common for the client to uncover material of which she was not consciously aware, but which is important to the origin of a particular issue or problem.

The National Guild of Hypnotist training covers the concept of hypermnesia and the process of hypnotic age regression in their certification training materials. It has been well documented that by merely taking a client into the state of hypnosis, that an individual can experience an improvement in the ability to recall events from her past. Furthermore, in the somnambulistic state an individual can experience a hypnotic age regression, and can relive past events. This reliving of a past event is called revivification. This revivification is a "true age regression" and is a re-experiencing of the event, including all of the associated sensations: touch, taste, sight, smells and hearing. In an age regression, all (or nearly all) of the information associated with the event can be uncovered (recalled). Age regression is the "Royal High Road of Therapy" because it can quickly uncover the cause of a problem and provide powerful insights leading to rapid healing of old issues and problems.

When a client attempts to understand or to deal with a problem without hypnosis, she is using only the conscious mind. Because the conscious mind tries to come up with a reason for the problem based on incomplete information, it is likely that the conclusions are often wrong, especially if the problem has been a difficult, long-standing issue in your client's life.

This brings us back to the client who thinks that her problem comes from an event in a past life. Unless this individual has an ability that most of us seem unable to exhibit (the ability to have knowledge about our past lives while in the conscious state), then such conclusions are likely flawed. So, it is important that you as a therapist not be misled by it too.

Few if any hypnotherapists have the ability to look at someone and know that a particular problem came from a past life. So it would be in error to engage in PLRT or any kind of therapy based on a guesswork. Furthermore, it would be inadvisable to suggest a kind of therapy because the therapist or client may find it enjoyable or interesting to do that kind of work. Unfortunately, many PLRT sessions are conducted for just such reasons.

In my opinion doing PLRT under those conditions is unethical. I believe that it is unethical because you must certainly avoid leading your client when doing hypnotherapy. Hypnosis by definition is a state of heightened suggestibility, and if you suggest to a client that she regress to a past life "where this problem began," you are leading your client, which can result in a confabulation. A confabulation occurs when the subconscious mind makes things up, or "fills in the blanks" where information is not available based on real life experience.

Here is another reason that I suggest that you do not do PLRT (on purpose). Within the philosophies associated with the different faiths that include the concept of having lived more than one life, is the concept of karma. For these people, it is believed that we have a karmic debt that needs to be repaid. Or, at least that we have something to learn which requires more than one existence, and that it is for that reason that we enter into life after life.

From this point of view, we came into this life because we have issues that we need to work on. Most of the clients that I work with are adults over the age of thirty. Logic suggests that if someone came into this life in order to work on some issue left over from a previous existence, then the experiences needed to be able to do that work would come up in this life. The fact that your client has sought out your services to work on a particular issue indicates that the issue has probably come up. Thus, it makes sense that you would most likely not need to conduct a hypnotic age regression to a past life in order to work on this issue.

In the vast majority of the cases that I have seen where my client wanted PLRT, hypnotic age regression successfully uncovered an Initial Sensitizing Event (ISE) in this life. (The ISE is the event which is the genesis of the problem.) A thorough examination of an ISE involves uncovering compelling evidence that before the event, the problem did not exist. For example, before the event, the child (client in the regressed state) was a normal happy child, and after the event she was sad or frightened, insecure or whatever the emotion or belief that was associated with the issue.

Now, on the other hand:

I will, and have purposely conducted past life regression sessions for reasons other than therapeutic ones. For example, if a client comes in to my office and requests that I conduct a past life regression session for her because she just wants to have the experience or for spiritual development, I am happy to do so. These kinds of past life regression sessions can often be very fruitful and beneficial for my clients, often providing inspiration, self-understanding, insight and spiritual renewal. The key here is that we are not conducting therapy based on the assumption that a problem or issue started in an unknown past life.

I never conduct Past Life Regression Therapy sessions (on purpose). However, you might be surprised after reading this far to learn that I also believe that there is a time in which I consider conducting a past life regression for therapy appropriate. This happens when the past life regression occurs spontaneously, without any suggestion from the Hypnotherapist that the client regress to a past life. I have conducted approximately a thousand hypnotic age regression sessions, and I have encountered cases where, without suggestion from me, some of those clients have regressed to a "past life" or had an experience which can only be described as a past life regression. The percentage is low, averaging about one to two percent among the hypnotherapists working at our Center.

During these spontaneously occurring past life regressions, your client may experience being a different gender or race. It will be obvious that she is not the same person who came into your office. Interestingly, the event that she is experiencing in the past life will be associated with the problem she came into see me for. For example, a client may seek services to overcome a fear of water, and in the past life regression she may relive an experience of drowning at sea. (Since this is not an article on how to conduct a past life regression or how do PLRT, I will not go into the process of how to do PLRT. That would require a series of articles or a book dedicated to the topic.)

As a professional Hypnotherapist, you need to be aware that if you conduct more age regression sessions, it becomes increasingly more likely that you will encounter a spontaneous past life regression. It does not matter what your view on the issue is. So, it is the responsibility for each hypnotherapist to establish in his or her mind, how the situation will be handled in advance.

If you are trained in doing past life regression work, then when a spontaneous past life regression occurs, it will be no problem for you. However, if you are not trained in conducting PLRT, be cautious. Our first concern for our clients is that we do not harm them in any way. Handling a spontaneous past life regression unprofessionally could certainly do so. This is why I recommend that you decide (based on your beliefs and principles) whether or not you will conduct a PLRT session if one occurs spontaneously.

If you decide that you would like to be able to provide PLRT to your clients, then seek out appropriate training. If you decide that you will not provide PLRT, then you owe it to your clients to respect their beliefs and what they may have experienced in the hypnosis session. Find someone that you can trust and feel good about using as a referral source in such cases.

I know of a hypnotherapist who informed his client that she was mentally ill because she spontaneously experienced a past life regression during her hypnosis session with him. In this case the hypnotherapist was a psychiatrist in Sweden. In my view, how he handled his patient was unethical and careless. His patient is a family member of mine. Years later, she related to me how fearful this made her feel. Because of what he had said to her, she believed that she was "going crazy." She was particularly vulnerable to this psychiatrist's suggestion of mental illness because of his credentials and because of the emotional problems that she was experiencing at the time, which led to her seeing the psychiatrist. The diagnostic manuals that I know of (i.e., DMS-IV) do not have a criterion for diagnosing mental illness because of an individual's belief in past lives, or because such an experience was produced during hypnosis.

In the event that you have a client experience a spontaneous past life regression and you have decided that you will not conduct PLRT, I suggest that you need to emerge your client and inform her that she has had an experience in which you have had no training, but you know someone that is trained in that area and you can refer her to that therapist if she wishes.

So, I do not conduct PLRT sessions on purpose, but I do them from time to time. I conduct PLRT when a past life experience spontaneously occurs during the course of hypnotic age regression therapy. Such spontaneously occurring past life regressions are rare in my experience. However, as you continue to practice the "Royal High Road of Therapies" you increase the probability that eventually one will occur during one of your age regression sessions. Be prepared so that you can make use of it if you wish to conduct PLRT, and have a referral source at hand if you do not intend to offer this service. This way you can always be respectful of your client's beliefs and experiences.

© 2001 Calvin D. Banyan. All Rights Reserved.