When I tell people that I am a Hypnotherapist, I am often asked about Past-Life Regression (PLR). PLR is a process in hypnosis that is a widely used plot mechanism in television and movies, and in my view is even more widely misunderstood.
I tend to downplay PLR as a therapeutic technique, because when it’s done well, it is almost never what a person thinks it’s going to be – which is curious, fun, and entertaining; and further, if a client is working with an “operator” who isn’t totally aware of what they are doing, it can be problematic at best, and deeply harmful at worst.
Recently I’ve had some conversations and interactions in various circles that have alarmed me and led to me writing this post. I’ve heard about some very shady practices, and individuals that take advantage of a person’s fears and desires, and worse- much worse- impose new fears and concerns in lives where there were none before.
Approach With Caution
Generally I approach PLR with a great deal of caution, and only after some therapeutic grounding in addressing issues in this lifetime with hypnotherapy. In this post, I’m going to walk through an understanding – my understanding – of PLR.
For the most part, clients seeking to explore PLR connect because they are experiencing a symptom - physical, mental, or emotional. Having wracked their brains and memory, the client is unable to recall or connect any experiences in their lives to this symptom; and because there seems to be no reason... the client assumes that it must be from a past-life!
Now, I can’t say with any certainty that it isn’t a past-life problem; but I can tell you that upwards of 90% of people can’t remember specific events in their lives that lead to symptoms they experience later in life – or even more importantly – they completely forget the significance that events had at the time they were experienced (often in our childhood), because we look back at those events consciously as an adult and dismiss them as “no big deal”.
To an adult, perhaps it is no big deal; but as a child, little things can be tremendously impactful, and that child continues to exist in our subconscious mind.
My own practice when using regression of any kind is to profoundly trust the client’s subconscious mind, and allow the client to lead. I always begin with the symptom that is being presented, and allow the client’s subconscious to guide the client to original cause, without suggesting where that cause might be.
If the subconscious leads us back to another time and another place, that’s where we work; but far more often than not, the issue is in the present lifetime, as is the solution; and I guide my clients to address it here and now.
Now, suggestion is a very important concept to talk about if you are interested in exploring PLR. It is important to understand that when a person is in even light hypnosis – or any other focused state of consciousness – your subconscious mind is as much as 200 times more suggestible than in a waking state (this includes watching TV or focusing on your devices, folks).
It is therefore extremely important that the hypnotherapist or “operator” is not making problematic or unwanted suggestions - because the subconscious mind will readily accept them, and create stories around those suggestions. Upon returning to waking consciousness, those vividly imagined stories can seem as real as any experience in your life.
I have read several books that transcribe PLR interactions, and have interviewed many people about their interactions with hypnotists, psychics, “intuitives”, and mediums with PLR; and I can say this much with certainty– if the “operator” is describing, creating, thematically structuring, or interpreting your past-life experience for you – you aren’t experiencing PLR, you are experiencing a creation of the “operator’s” belief system – their creation; not your memory.
In most such cases, it’s unlikely that there will be any lasting harm; your subconscious mind is first and foremost protective. However, in some cases deep emotional or physical trauma can be associated with and projected onto events and people that have nothing to do with the origin of the trauma. Simply put - the client arrives with a symptom or issue looking for a cause, and that cause is suggested by a well meaning, but careless, “operator”.
Spontaneous Past-Life Regression
There are rare times during the course of hypnotherapy, that a client will spontaneously regress to a very early point of their life - even experiences in-vitro; or may begin describing people, events, or environments that are clearly not within the client’s current life experience.
When this occurs, the hypnotherapeutic techniques used to understand, contextualize, address, and shift these experiences are no different than when a client revisits experiences from their childhood. The client’s subconscious leads and provides the content, and the hypnotherapist acts as a guide to process what is surfaced.
What is Happening in Past-Life Regression?
The truth is, nobody can really say with any degree of objective certainty that past-life experiences are “real”. There are many stories, but very little evidence that proves anything conclusively. Most often, strong proponents of past-life belief ground their assertions in specific personal spiritual beliefs, which are not the same as fact.
That said, it’s also difficult to say past-life experiences are not real without getting into a conversation about what “real” means – and that’s a much longer post... but in the end, that conversation also comes down to a set of specific and personal beliefs.
Personally, I am quite happy to say, “I don’t know”, but here are a few hypotheses I’ve heard about what is going on during past life regression expressed in my own words.
Soul Reincarnation – every being is endowed with a spiritual aspect that infuses the material body, but is somehow distinct from it. When the material body breaks apart and dies, the spiritual aspect (soul) moves on to different states of being, or may animate a new material body. While the body has completely changed, the spiritual aspect is marked or impacted by events from every physical manifestation, and those experiences can be accessed through different practices such as meditation, dreamwork, and hypnosis.
Atomic Memory – every molecule that makes up our body and mind has existed since the beginningless beginning. These molecules have shaped and reshaped into every manner of being; from mountains to oceans to insects to animals to human beings. Every molecule is able to receive impressions from every manifestation it has experienced. When enough molecules that share a manifestation are in one body, those shared experiences become accessible through meditation, dreamwork, and hypnosis.
Collective Consciousness - in the deepest depths of consciousness, there is no separation or individuation in all of the universe. Individual lifetimes and manifestations are like waves on an ocean, and all of it deep down is intimately connected. Therefore, what has happened to one of us, has happened to all of us in the depths of consciousness. In deep meditation, dreamwork, or hypnosis, we tap into that collective consciousness and experience things that are outside of the limits of time and individual identity.
Creative Subconscious Interpretation – the subconscious mind is profoundly creative and resourceful. When life experiences are deeply traumatic, confusing, or the result of disparate and repeated causes, the subconscious mind can create imaginary environments, relationships, and circumstances to allow these problematic thoughts and feelings to be processed in a creative and therapeutic way, much as we do in creative fantasy during guided meditation, in dreamwork, or in therapeutic visualization in hypnosis.
Which, if any is correct? Again, I don’t know. I’ll leave that for you to decide. As a hypnotherapist it is less relevant for me to know which I believe than it is to know what my client’s beliefs are, and to utilize those beliefs in a therapeutic way.
So, Do You Do Past-Life Regression?
I suppose the short answer is yes, under certain conditions.
If a client engages to address a symptom or issue with the conscious suspicion that it has arisen from a past-life, we approach the symptom through hypnotherapy, and allow the subconscious to guide the process to the cause without suggesting where that may be. If the origin is in this life (99%) we address it there.
If, during the course of hypnotherapy a client spontaneously regresses to a past-life experience (1%), we work to address what is uncovered there, to contextualize, and to connect it to what we’ve been working on in the course of therapy.
If a client approaches requesting PLR without a conscious agenda and as an environment for personal or spiritual growth and exploration. This usually involves multiple sessions to train and utilize subconscious resources.
In my experience and opinion, PLR can be emotionally challenging, and deeply transformative. Experiences in PLR can be profoundly impactful, and should not be approached frivolously or “just for fun”. Past-life experiences can run the full spectrum of sensations and emotions from the ecstatic to the torturous. A potential client needs to be aware of this before getting started.
If you have read this far, and still have questions about Past-Life Regression, please, book a free consultation and let’s explore what’s possible.