My previous two articles were devoted to one of the most controversial techniques in hypnosis: past life regressions (abbreviated as PLR). The first one offered several possible explanations for therapist and client alike, along with ethical considerations regardless of the therapist's opinion regarding this controversial topic. The second article presented some techniques for guiding a client into a PLR.
Whether or not one believes in past lives, hypnotists experienced in regression therapy occasionally find a client who will spontaneously regress into an alleged past life. Also, there is the occasional client who will ask for a PLR, which a competent hypnotherapist can facilitate regardless of his/her personal beliefs about past lives. My opinion is that we should work within the client's belief system.
Let's now continue where my last article ended… You've honored your client's request to facilitate a PLR. After proper preparation (described in my 2nd article on this topic), the client is now in an alleged past life. What do we do next?
Avoid Inappropriate Leading
Anyone competently trained in regression therapy knows that false memories are among the consequences of inappropriate leading. Unfortunately, since some hypnotists think that all PLR's are already false memories, some seem to be careless in facilitating a PLR. In my professional opinion, we need to set aside our own pre-conceived opinion about the possible explanation of our client's experience, and ask the "W" questions just as we would in a present life regression.
What do you see, hear, or feel?
Where are you?
What are you doing?
How are you doing that?
Why are you there…(doing that, etc.)?
(If client indicates others are present…) Who is with you?
How does that make you feel?(Note: this question may cause an abreaction.)
What happens next?
We may continue with similar questions to help the client get into the experience, having the client answer in present tense. (Past tense responses may result in the client getting into the left brain and/or emerging from hypnosis.) When the client starts talking, the therapist needs to do more listening and less talking.
Questions to Avoid
Inappropriate questions that I have actually heard facilitators ask over the years are questions such as:
Do you go home now? (This implies the client is close to his/her home.)
Are your parents nearby? (How do we know they are still living?)
Does he hit you? (This leads the client to a possible false conclusion and false memory.)
Are you married to …? (Maybe they are siblings. It's better to ask: What is your relationship to this person?)
Guide Client through an Important Event
If the client starts the PLR in a somewhat insignificant event, we may give an appropriate leading suggestion:
As I count from three to one, move forward or backward in time to a very significant event…a very significant event…
The reason this is appropriate leading is because the suggestion allows the client to go to whatever his/her own subconscious decides is important. Once the client is there, we may then ask the "W" questions again. Be prepared for a possible abreaction. If that occurs, then we may allow the abreaction while neither forcing it nor inhibiting it. Depending on the circumstances, I may temporarily take the client to his/her peaceful place and then take him/her back and do Gestalt role play therapy with the person(s) causing the past pain. This may be done either at the time, or after completing the PLR.
Depending on the client's motive for requesting a PLR, we may move the client forward or backward to other events, such as: the happiest day of that life, the most important thing you learned, be with the person who taught you the most, be with the person you loved most dearly, the day when you had the most fun during that life, etc.
Concluding the PLR
When the client seems to have enough for a successful PLR, I give the following suggestion:
Now, move forward in time to the first moment of total peace after the transition…the first moment of peace after that body died…BE there!
From this perspective I then ask about the client's purpose for that life. I also ask whether there is anything that needs to be released. If the client had an emotional experience that has not yet been released, I take him/her to a Sacred Place and have the client do Gestalt role play with the soul of the other person(s). Once I confirm that the client has released any real or perceived karma from that life, I ask a very important question:
As a result of what was glimpsed at and released, how will you benefit in your current life?
The client will almost always say something positive at this point, and I listen until he or she quits talking. Then I paraphrase what the client said, giving post-hypnotic suggestions and imagery as appropriate, and then it's time to awaken the client.
After the PLR
If the client totally believes in past lives, you can decide whether or not to risk sharing your opinion on this topic with the client. If the client's PLR was that of a famous person, then I mention the possible explanations so that the client does not leave my office believing that I think he/she actually was that famous person in a former life…but rather, that there are several possible explanations.
If the client had a spontaneous PLR, then it's wise to avoid sharing your opinion one way or the other. Let me explain with a case history:
Some years ago a Sunday school teacher saw me for fear of flying. When I used the affect bridge technique to take her back to the initial sensitizing event, she emerged inside a storage compartment where she was hiding from someone. I asked her to more forward in time to when she got out of the locked compartment, and she said, "My soul is out, but my body is still inside." She went on to explain that her fear of flying was not because of heights, but because of fear of suffocating to death like before.
After the session she said, "Where did that come from? I didn't know I believed in that past life stuff." I gave her the possible explanations, and told her it was possible that during childhood she could have seen a movie or heard a story about someone suffocating in that manner and internalized it for some reason. She said, "Well, I don't know, because that regression was pretty real! What do YOU think? Do you think I could have lived that life?"
That is a NO-WIN question! A "yes" answer could have shaken her faith and/or caused stress in her marriage or other areas of her life; but a "no" answer could have invalidated her release from the fear of flying. My response was, "It's not my place to determine which explanation best fits your experience. What is important is that your subconscious found a way for you to release the fear of flying so that you may be comfortable on your next flight." Even if she shared this response with her husband or minister, they would have been far less likely to criticize the session than if I'd have stated my opinion.
Several years later this same woman got behind me in line at the Super Safeway and recognized me. She said, "I saw you for fear of flying several years ago, and went into a past life. I just want to let you know that I've flown over a quarter-million miles since, and have read every Edgar Cayce book I can get my hands on!"
We might sometimes be tempted to interfere, but our role is to assist. It was far better for my client to explore her spiritual journey on her own initiative rather than because of a premature push from me.
Client-centered hypnosis includes more than fitting the technique to the client. It also means doing for the client what we would want done if the roles were reversed, and this is both before and after the actual time the client spends in hypnosis. There was a time when my beliefs resembled that of the Sunday school teacher, and my sister and I argued over the concept of past lives. My mind was opened when I visited a lake in the mountains and had a spontaneous PLR at that location without anyone hypnotizing me. I can sum up the experience with one word: profound!
Life is full of surprises; but we must allow our clients to deal with them in their own way. I for one believe that there is a hidden wisdom inside the inner mind that has more answers than the sum of the conscious minds of both client and therapist alike. If you work with this same belief, you will also be amazed at the wisdom that can emerge from the inner mind of a deeply hypnotized client.
Over the years (upon advance request from the client) I have often used a spiritual approach to hypnosis, where I call out that part of the subconscious that is most closely connected to God or the client's perception of Higher Power. The results can be profound! I call this spiritual hypnosis.
Upon request, I am happy to come to your area and teach a weekend workshop on spiritual hypnosis and/or past life regressions, as both can happen in the same session. If you wish to promote or sponsor such a workshop, please contact me privately.
Thank you for reading my articles.
Roy Hunter, M.S., FAPHP, CHI,
practices hypnotherapy near Seattle, in the Pacific Northwest region of the USA, and trains parts therapy to professionals around the world. He also works part time for the Franciscan Hospice facilitating hypnotherapy for terminal patients, and teaches a 9-month professional hypnotherapy training course based on the teachings of Charles Tebbetts. Roy is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Order of Braid (NGH) for lifetime achievement in the hypnosis profession. Roy also was awarded an honorary PhD from St. John's University for lifetime achievement in hypnotherapy.