Every hypnotherapist learns about and how to do past life regressions (PLR) with clients.  The technique is quite simple and there are tapes and videos available online to help you make the step into your past.  The big questions that come up are about the validity of the technique and the usefulness.

Any Google search for past life regression will being up stories of past lives.  Attempts to validate the reality of the individual experience have been unsuccessful.  In the late 1970’s Helen Wambaugh, PhD, tried to show through internal consistency that the experience/memory was actual.  She did a series of regressions with many different people then had them report in detail about the experience.  She was particularly interested in simple things like dress, eating utensils, practices around death, and relationships.  While her research was interesting, and it started me on my graduate thesis, she fell short of proving that PLR is actually accessing memories of the past.  Other attempts have been made to locate validating documentation about an individual in the past.  To date these searches have also been disappointing.

Some have suggested that PLR is really false memories implanted by the hypnotherapist.  Given the protocol for most PLR sessions that seems unlikely since there are rarely suggestions given beyond the ones to regress.  The person undergoing regression may want to please the hypnotist (a common phenomenon with stage hypnosis) and will “create” memories to that end.  These issues of course speak both to the validity of the regression as “historical” and to a possible deeper meaning.

The other question is actually more difficult.  Is PLR useful?  This is of course a subjective question that only the person who is regressing can answer fully.  Setting aside the question of PLR as actual memories and instead looking at it as a subjective and meaningful experience the question becomes how to incorporate it into self growth or therapy.

When I began my Master’s program I needed a project for my eventual thesis.  At this time the AIDS epidemic was very much a concern and I was doing support groups for people living with AIDS and their significant others.  One thing that was always in the background of every interaction was that these people were dying and most were afraid.  We know that stress weakens the immune system making our bodies more susceptible to infection.  I wondered if this might be true of people living with AIDS.  About this time I also discovered Dr. Wambaugh’s book Reliving Past Lives .  The thing that jumped out at me was that in each regression she would have her subjects experience death and the descriptions that she obtained from this was remarkably consistent with the descriptions that people who have had a near death experience have given.  Those experiencing the near death experience found their lives altered.  They were much less concerned about dying, experienced a more positive outlook, and had fewer physical complaints.  I began doing regressions with volunteers (and also clients) and took them through the death experience.  In looking at fear of death after the regression, they all had a much lower fear after the regression and at 6 months after (as long as my pilot study went) it was still significantly reduced.  The subjective reports were also in favor of feeling better and having fewer doctor visits for new conditions.  Useful?  I would have to say yes.

Still, is it useful in other areas?  My experience has been that most regressions in some way play out issues that the individual is experiencing in daily life.  This leads me to believe that in some way the regressions are symbolic and by looking at the issue from a “distance” it is possible to begin to understand it and make changes in how we address it today.  For example, say you are having relationship difficulties and it is a pattern that you have had throughout your adult life.  In regression you are likely to have the same relationship issues.  I have had several clients that found this perspective useful.

Is PLR for everyone and for every problem?  Nothing is but you can certainly talk with your therapist about using past life regression as a visualization exercise in meditation or in hypnosis and one more tool in understanding yourself.