Past Life Regression Therapy

Past Life Regression Therapy

Past life regression is a method that uses hypnosis to recover what practitioners believe are memories of past lives or incarnations. The practice is widely considered discredited and unscientific by medical practitioners, and experts generally regard claims of recovered memories of past lives as fantasies or delusions or a type of confabulation. Past-life regression is typically undertaken either in pursuit of a spiritual experience or in a psychotherapeutic setting. Most advocates loosely adhere to beliefs about reincarnation, though religious traditions that incorporate reincarnation generally do not include the idea of repressed memories of past lives.

The technique used during past-life regression involves the subject answering a series of questions while hypnotized to reveal identity and events of alleged past lives, a method similar to that used in recovered memory therapy and one that, similarly, often misrepresents memory as a faithful recording of previous events rather than a constructed set of recollections. The use of hypnosis and suggestive questions can tend to leave the subject particularly likely to hold distorted or false memories. The source of the memories is more likely cryptomnesia and confabulations that combine experiences, knowledge, imagination, and suggestion or guidance from the hypnotist than recall of a previous existence. Once created, those memories are indistinguishable from memories based on events that occurred during the subject's life. Investigations of memories reported during past-life regression have revealed that they contain historical inaccuracies which originate from common beliefs about history, modern popular culture, or books that discuss historical events. 

Experiments with subjects undergoing past-life regression indicate that a belief in reincarnation and suggestions by the hypnotist are the two most important factors regarding the contents of memories reported. 

In the West, past-life regression practitioners use hypnosis and suggestion to promote recall in their patients, using a series of questions designed to elicit statements and memories about the past life's history and identity. Some practitioners also use bridging techniques from a client's current-life problem to bring "past-life stories" to conscious awareness. Practitioners believe that unresolved issues from alleged past lives may be the cause of their patients' problems. One technique for accessing memories from a past life is detailed in a study by Nicholas P. Spanos from Carleton University, Ontario, Canada. Subjects of a study were at first told that they would be undergoing hypnosis and afterward told, “You are now in a different life, living in another life that you have lived before in another time. You are now reliving that other life that you lived once before in a different time.” Next, after the administer asks “What name can I call you by? I want you to look down and tell me what you are wearing. Describe everything you are wearing in detail. Where are you?” Afterward, the subjects were to chronicle the information that they could remember after regression in a past life. Past life regression can be achieved in as little as 15 minutes, but to recall past a point of death, and into "soul memories", it takes upwards of 45 minutes of trance induction. However, with psychotherapy clients who believe in past lives, irrespective of whether or not past lives exist, the use of past lives as a tool has been suggested. 

Sources of memories

The "memories" recovered by techniques like past-life regression are the result of cryptomnesia: narratives created by the subconscious mind using imagination, forgotten information, and suggestions from the therapist. Memories created under hypnosis are indistinguishable from actual memories and can be more vivid than factual memories.[3][26] The greatest predictor of individuals reporting memories of past lives appears to be their beliefs—individuals who believe in reincarnation are more likely to report such memories, while skeptics or disbelievers are less so. 

Studies

A 1976 study found that 40% of hypnotizable subjects described new identities and used different names when suggested to regress past their birth.[5] In the 1990s, a series of experiments undertaken by Nicholas Spanos examined the nature of past life memories. Descriptions of alleged past lives were found to be extremely elaborate, with vivid, detailed descriptions. This, however, is not indicative of the validity of this therapeutic method. Subjects who reported memories of past lives exhibited high hypnotizability, and patients demonstrated that the expectations conveyed by the experimenter were most important in determining the characteristics of the reported memories. The degree to which the memories were considered credible by the experimental subjects was correlated most significantly to the subjects' beliefs about reincarnation and their expectation to remember a past life rather than hypnotizability. Spanos' research leads him to the conclusion that past lives are not memories, but social constructions based on patients acting "as if" they were someone else, but with significant flaws that would not be expected of actual memories. To create these memories, Spanos' subjects drew upon the expectations established by authority figures and information outside of the experiment such as television, novels, life experiences, and their desires.[5] In sum, it is therefore suggested that past lives are likely false memories, implanted through the susceptibility of the hypnotic method

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