The Nine Essentials To Mastering Age Regression Therapy
Calvin D. Banyan, MA, BCH, CI
Hypnotic Age Regression Therapy is one of them most powerful techniques available to the hypnotherapist. Becoming a master of hypnotic age regression therapy requires a firm understanding of the fundamental building blocks of the procedure. In this article I am going to point out nine of the most important parts of the process which will aid you in mastering this process and I will point out some minor points that can make the difference between success and failure. Specifically, I will discuss the use of the Affect Bridge Technique and the Informed Child Technique, as well as give you a list of nine things that you can check for to verify an Initial Sensitizing Event (ISE). This is the point where your client's problem started.
I. You must be able to work with clients when they are experiencing and expressing strong emotions.
First off, let me say that using Affect Bridge Age Regression Therapy is not for every hypnotherapist. But if you choose to learn and master this technique you can become a much more effective hypnotherapist.
If you are unable to work with people who are experiencing strong emotions such as anger, sadness and fear, you will never be able to master the Affect Bridge Technique. After all affect is emotion.
In doing this kind of work, your hypnotized clients must revivify (re-experience) the event that caused the problem right along with the emotions that are related to the problem that brought them into your office.
The most common examples of this kind are persistent fears and phobias, but also extend into most of the problems that brings clients into your office, including: bad habits, addictions, compulsions, sleep problems and psychosomatic illnesses and more.
The most common of these are the "bad habits" and "addiction" types of problems. What we have found is that when these individuals are unable to overcome these problems on their own, there is an underlying emotion involved, and these habits and addictions perform the function of working as either a distractor, which helps them to divert their attention away for the painful emotion, or as a self-medication used to chemically alter how they feel emotionally (or both).
Truly understanding and being able to work with emotion is a priceless ability in any kind of therapy, and especially important when doing age regression using the affect bridge.
II. You must deepen your client to somnambulism.
In order to conduct real age regressions, you must be able to guide your clients into the state of hypnosis that we call somnambulism. Somnambulism enables your client to experience amnesia by suggestion and most importantly to be able to hallucinate. A true age regression is a vivid hallucination of a past event, so real to your client that the event is re-experienced with all of the emotional impact and clarity of the original event. It is a revivification. For those of you who have not ever had this experience, it most closely resembles the experience of having a dream that is so real that you may be left feeling like it had actually happened.
I recommend that you do not attempt to age regress a client unless you have already tested for at least the threshold of somnambulism. A valid test would be your client demonstrating that she can experience amnesia by suggestion. Then deepen your client sufficiently to hold that level of hypnosis throughout the session. This is the genius of the Dave Elman type inductions. In the Elman induction there is a part where the client is asked to count and with each number relax the mind until the numbers have disappeared and/or they are gone. When that occurs your client has reached what I call the threshold of somnambulism, which should be deepened further so that your client is below the threshold and can maintain the somnambulistic state. Dave Elman's book, Hypnotherapy is a "must have" book on hypnosis. Other sources which are modernized are to be found in Gerald Kein's videotape, How to Do the Dave Elman Induction. I also offer a version of it in the book I coauthored with Gerald Kein, Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy: Basic To Advanced Techniques for the Professional.
Which ever induction or deepening technique you use, the most important thing is not to attempt the age regression without a sufficient level of hypnosis. Light and medium states are sufficient for improving memory (hypermnesia) but are not sufficient for true age regression therapy.
III. Your client must experience a sufficient level of emotion to use for the affect bridge.
Once your client has crossed the threshold of somnambulism, it is time to get to work. It is time to build the bridge that will take your client back to the cause of the problem.
When you get to this stage of the age regression, you are like a treasure hunter and detective all rolled into one! You need to get out your hypno-map and shovel and go to work. But you must first build a strong bridge that will support the age regression and that bridge is constructed wholly from the emotion that you suggest that they experience during the first part of the technique. The stronger the emotion experienced by the client, the stronger the bridge will be and the more effective the technique will be.
Begin Affect Bridge Technique in the following way; suggest to your client that now her attention goes to the feeling inside of her that she doesn't like and has to do with the problem. Continue with, "and as I talk about it your attention goes to it and it grows inside of you." Watch for any signs that your client is responding to the suggestion, such as an increase in respiration or any other sign of emotional pain (i.e., sadness, anger or fear), and when you see the signs, then tell your client, "I can see that you have connected with it either consciously or unconsciously because you are _________"(and point out what you see that shows that she is experiencing the emotion, such as breathing faster, muscle tightness, her face turning red or tears).
Drawing your client's attention to the physical expression or experience of the emotion causes her to experience it more powerfully. Then suggest that as you count from 1 to 5 the feeling will become as strong and as real as she has ever experienced it.
When the emotion is being fully experienced, suggest that this feeling is a bridge that is connected to the very first time that she felt this way. Then as you now count back from 5 to 1, that feeling will take her back to an earlier time when she felt that way. Now you are riding that bridge back to where it all started so that it can be undone and neutralized.
IV. You must determine that you have found your client's Initial Sensitizing Event.
Once the affect bridge has been constructed and you are moving your client back through time you have one major goal, to uncover the Initial Sensitizing Event (ISE), which is the event that started the problem or issue.
This process may occur instantly with the first suggestion to "go back to an earlier time that you felt this way," where your client immediately returns to the first time that she ever felt that feeling, but more likely you will move her through a few Subsequent Sensitizing Events (SSEs) which are situations which occurred after the ISE but involve the same emotions and reinforced the problem.
How did the problem begin? The ISE is the first time in which your client experienced the fear or when an erroneous belief was established about herself or the world. Usually, it is an incident in which the child is made to feel an emotion such as fear (but could also be sadness or anger) and usually there is some misunderstanding or misconception of the situation. This fear or erroneous belief has caused the problem, and then it became a self-fulfilling prophesy that was reinforced over and over during your client's life. When the feeling or belief is reinforced in an event in your client's life, those events are called Subsequent Sensitizing Events (SSEs).
As you move your client through the ISE and SSEs the stories of each are told as they are re-experienced, and the fallacies associated with each one is disclosed, if they exist, and they usually do.
In order to greatly simplify this process so that I can stay within the confines of this article, let me explain it this way. Your client is directed to follow the feeling back to an earlier time, and then the therapist, being very careful not to lead the client, encourages her to tell you everything that is happening as it happens. Then you ask, "Is that feeling familiar like, oh boy, here we go again, or is it new?" So long as the feeling is familiar, you continue to direct the client to follow the feeling back "to an earlier"time? that she felt that way. When it is "new" you have evidence that you have found it.
But there is more you can do to assure yourself that you have indeed found the ISE. Here are some things that you can look for to verify an ISE:
The ISE should not conflict with the known history of the client. If the problem was known to exist previous to the time that you have regressed your client to, then you have not found the ISE. But, it does not work the other way around, you will often find that the ISE occurred long before either your client was aware of a problem or before conscious memory of the event which started the problem.
When asked, your client will report the feeling as being new. This is as I explained above. If the feeling is "famliar" then it has most probably been felt before.
If you attempt to regress on the feeling again, even though it was reported as feeling "new" then sometimes you will find that your client will regress further. So I always recommend that you regress again, even when the feeling is reported as being new. If the feeling is really new, then your client will find herself right back at the time where she reported the feeling to be new. There is essentially no where to go. The suggestion is given this way, after the feeling is reported as being "new," suggest, "Now focus on that feeling, and as I count from 5 back to 1 it takes you back to the first time that you felt that way."
After finding this suspected ISE, instruct your client to go back before that event, perhaps minutes, hours or days. When your client is regressed before the event, the feeling associated with the problem should not exist. This further verifies that the feeling was new.
If you ask a client how she feels when she is in the pre-ISE state, she should report feelings of calm, or safety, or being loved, in any case she should feel free from the feeling associated with the ISE and the problem/issue that brought the client in to see you. For example, a client who, as an adult has an extreme fear of spiders, may only experience curiosity about them before the ISE.
You need to ensure that you have age regressed your client to a point in time that occurred before the ISE. If you attempt to give your client suggestions that contradict the fear or erroneous belief picked up in the ISE, at a time after the ISE, she will find them difficult to accept. This is why the skillful hypnotherapist always performs the Informed Child Technique (giving the client the information needed to go through the ISE without being affected by it) with the client regressed to a point before the ISE. Before the ISE she will easily accept suggestions that will enable her to move through the ISE without being negatively affected by it.
So, if your client rejects suggestions needed to overcome the issues, then you have probably not regressed your client to a point before the ISE. In the example above with the spider, the pre-ISE client will readily accept suggestions that spiders are interesting creatures and only become more interesting when you examine them more closely. The post-ISE client will completely and emotionally reject that suggestion.
Generally, ISE's occur before the age of 5. The exception occurs when some kind of trauma occurs later in your client's life that explains the problem, such as when someone becomes afraid of horses after being bucked off of one.
After you have used the applied the Informed Child Technique and moved your client through the ISE, check to make sure that the feeling or erroneous belief no longer exists. If it continues to exist, either you were not at a time before the ISE when you applied the Informed Child Technique, or your application of the technique was not done properly.
The first 8 above are all factors that you can consider while conducting the age regression. But keep in mind that if after you have completed an age regression and you have sufficient evidence that more work needs to be done then you can continue the age regression work in subsequent sessions, until you have located and neutralized the ISE. This is important because, if after the session is over you find that the problem comes back after a short period of time, then additional age regression work is indicated. Proper application of the Informed Child Technique done before the ISE should completely remove the cause of the problem.
V. You must age regress your client to before the ISE.
There are two reasons to go before the ISE. The first is to verify the ISE as I listed above. The other reason is because, that is where the most effective work is done. It is at this stage that the problem does not yet exist, and so your client is willing and able to accept what you have to offer, specifically information from you and the "adult" client, that will get her through the ISE being unaffected by it, at least not negatively so, and perhaps there may even be an opportunity to benefit from it.
This is the Informed Child Technique. So many times we have said to ourselves, "I wish I would have known then what I know now!" This technique allows your client to know then what they know now and it can change everything. Imagine what it would have been like if you could have gone through your most trying times, knowing then what you know now. Would you have been as afraid? Would you have understood things better? Of course you would.
In this process the age regressed client, is taken before the ISE, informed by both the hypnotherapist and the "adult" (the unregressed aspect of the) client whatever she needs to hear, so that she can get through it without being filled with unnecessary fears and erroneous beliefs.
VI. You must work with your client in order to undo the negative effects of the ISE.
This process is amazing to watch and learn. It is astonishing how the hypnotized client is able to switch between the state of being a "child" or "infant," and the "adult." It is simply done by the therapist saying, "Now be the adult" and "Now be the child" If you have not seen this process in action, you would benefit from seeing a demonstration.
When this process is conducted properly and completely the issue is literally undone. The pre-ISE client is strengthened and prepared for what is to happen in the ISE, and then taken through it as it really happened. But, the client is left unchanged by it in any negative way. The fear is gone. She feels safe, secure and whole. Her self-esteem is in tact, and so on. If there was loss involved in the ISE then there may be sadness, but from sadness she will recover.
VII. You must transfer the changes made in the regression to the "adult" client.
When this all happens, the "adult" client is right there supporting the "child" as she goes through the process, healing and becoming stronger for it. As the child changes, so does the adult. I will often ensure that the change stated in words by having the "child" say to the "adult", "As I change, you change, because I am you. I live inside of you where all of your feelings come from." This is usually a profound and emotional experience for the client. I will then guide my client through one or two SSEs so that the insights, feelings and behavior changes can be reinforced as she goes through them knowing what she knows now. This can even be extended into what I call a pre-vivification. Whereas a revivification is a reliving of a past event, a pre-vivification is a very real pre-living of a probable future event, a hallucination that carries all of the power of a revivification, but conducted in the projected future. And, instead of doing the Informed Child Technique, I conduct what I call the Informed Adult Technique, where the "future-self" tells the "adult" client whatever he needs to know to ensure the change into the future.
VIII. You must tie the AR experience with the goals of the client.
Because I do a lot of training in this area and follow up on my student's success, I have the opportunity to learn about some of the pit-falls that some of those new to using this therapy find themselves in. If this process is not done right, there is a good chance that you client will not come back for subsequent sessions needed to complete the work (i.e., forgiveness therapy).
If your client is left feeling upset after the session then you have ended the session too soon. Insufficient work was done at the Informed Child stage of the work. When this is done correctly and thoroughly, your client will feel a great sense of relief, and want to do more work with you.
Another common mistake is to not tie what was done in the age regression directly to the reason that your client came in to your office. Some clients will easily see the connection in what was done in the age regression and the issue that brought her in. After all this is an insight technique. But some clients are more insightful than others, so it is good procedure to tie it all together before emerging the client. For example, you might say something like this to the client, in the case of working with weight loss, "Now you see how that feeling that you have been carrying around inside of you is not physical hunger at all. That is why you always thought that you felt "hungry." You were trying to feed the fear. But there is nothing you could eat that could take that fear away. But, because of what you experienced today, that feeling has been completely resolved and now you feel safe and calm inside. That old feeling is gone forever and you find that now you have control over your food intake (and so on)."
IX. You must drive the change home.
Always end each session with suggestions that really drive things home. This is especially true when conducting sessions in which you use insight techniques like age regression, forgiveness therapy and Parts Mediation Therapy. Use the insights gained during the age regression along with other suggestions to construct meaningful suggestions that are short, a sentence or so in length and then just drive them in.
I believe that insight techniques cause the subconscious mind to go into a state of reorganization as it accepts the new information that it has gained, and for a short period afterward it is much more highly suggestible than at any other time for suggestions that are consistent with the insights just gained. But this highly suggestible state is only temporary and you want to keep sending in suggestions and it re-solidifies. In this way you can really seat these suggestions in where they can last a life time.
Focus on these fundamentals and you will build a solid foundation. Mastering age regression procedures are not for everyone, especially when it comes to using therapeutic techniques such as the affect bridge, because for one reason or another, you may feel uncomfortable with a client in a highly emotional state. But those who do master them enter the ranks of some of the best hypnotherapists. Also, be aware that some states or countries may have restrictions on who may use age regression and/or in what kind of cases it may be used. It is up to the practitioner to know the laws where he or she practices.