Aren’t we all used to hearing words like ‘Live in the present; don’t think about the past’ and ‘The past is past. Forget it. The present is all that matters.’ That’s what friends, family well-wishers, counsellors all advise people who are disturbed about something that happened in the past. But in medical science, especially psychiatry and psychology, the past plays an important role in the present bearing of an individual. Usually, this past is limited to childhood and infancy.
Some psychotherapists go a step further — or backward, so to speak — to life in the womb, and even the past life of a person, to understand their present problem.
Shades of Reincarnation and Karma
With awareness about mental wellness gaining traction during the pandemic, Past Life Regression Therapy (PLRT) or Regression Hypnotherapy is attracting attention as a way of addressing mental health issues.
According to PLR therapists, many mental health issues that patients experience may have their origins in traumatic experiences of past/early lives. Such memories and experiences are usually hidden in the subconscious mind. PLRT is a technique based on the Theory of Reincarnation and the Law of Karma in which the therapist attempts to use hypnosis to recover memories and traumas from the distant past and address the negative issues (bad memories) to clear up the energy blockages within the body.
Though some spiritual healers and psychology counsellors uphold this therapy, mainstream psychiatry is sceptical about PLRT. That said, one of the greatest proponents of PLRT is US psychiatrist and hypnotherapist Dr Brian Weiss. He has authored several books on the subject including ‘Many Lives, Many masters,’ and ‘Same soul, many bodies,’ and he had experience of PLR through a patient of his.
Elaborating on PLRT, renowned clinical psychologist and past life therapist Trupti Jayin says, “PLR is an ancient spiritual science and in Patañjali Yoga Sutras they speak of Prati Prasav Kriya — going back in time. The mind is a mystery and there are innumerable memories out of which only a tiny fragment can be consciously experienced. The rest is waiting to be explored. The therapy is based on hypnotically evoking memories from early life (early infancy, womb and past life) and is linked to the Law of Karma and Reincarnation of the Soul. The process takes 18 steps including case study, identifying the core issue, basic understanding and explaining the process of hypnosis, induction and identification, experience of the lifetime and moving back and forth in the lifetime, death time, transformation, closure, dis-identification, astral realm, review the learning, meeting the wise ones, preparing for the next life, entering the womb of the current life mother, being re-born.”
According to PLR therapists, health issues that can be addressed using this technique include psychosomatic illness like asthma, migraines and certain conditions like idiopathic aches and pain, fertility issues, PCOS and even a condition called pressure hives. Relationship problems and anxiety, neurotic depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and phobias can also be treated through PLR.
“The pandemic has brought a change of outlook among people regarding awareness of mental health and more people are attending PLRT sessions these days. Online counselling makes it is easier for patients to reach out to us from any part of the country.” shares Jayin.
Highlighting the advantages of PLRT over other healing therapies and modes of counselling, she says, “Psychological therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT) appeal to the conscious mind and most clients with deep-seated issues coming from childhood do not respond well to it. Narrative therapy is good for cognitive reframing but when the problems are psychosomatic, like migraine, asthma, arthritis, fibromyalgia etc., it does not show much result. Psychoanalysis may take years to work. Past life therapy is cathartic, insightful and personalised and works faster.”
Contraindications for PLRT include schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, bipolar and dissociative disorders, Jayin explains.
Based on the type of mental health issue, the number of sessions and their durations will vary. Three-four sessions of two-three hours per session are the norm.
Dealing with challenges
The technique has its quota of challenges. “Under hypnosis, current life memories come up and the facilitator has to fine-tune the questions and statements that motivate the client’s mind to move to the core issue. During the process, the client’s mind can throw up images which are irrelevant or illogical but it can still be used to take the client deeper,” she says.
l Helps to clear emotional baggage and blockages from the past
l Breaks repetitive past life karmic patterns
l Can rid the mind of traumas and guilt
l The therapy can help to treat relationship problems and anxiety, neurotic depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, migraine, certain idiopathic aches and pain.
Limitations of Hypnosis
It is not a medical treatment. Not all psychological or medical problem can be treated with hypnosis. Apart from hypnosis and counselling, neurotic psychological issues may also need medication, which only psychiatrists can prescribe, as hypnotherapists are not permitted to prescribe medicines.
Regressive Hypnotherapy: A grey area in psychiatry
Mainstream psychiatry considers hypnotherapy and PLRT a grey area, not supported scientifically. While neither negating nor advocating PLRT, Dr N N Raju, national president of Indian Psychiatric Society, says, “The clinical value of such therapies is almost zero, as these methods are not backed by science but by faith. Even though we refer patients to psychologists for counselling, we rarely recommend hypnotherapy. But we don’t stop patients if they believe in PLR and want to try it out. It is just like trying alternative medicines while getting treated with allopathic drugs. In certain criminal cases, just for assisting the police, narco-analysis have been tried by doctors, which is again a technique of hypnotherapy, done by administering a chemical drug to put a person in a semi-conscious state and elicit responses from him/her when the person’s brain is not alert. It is surmised that the answers given in this state are likely to be true. This method may provide some clues to the police but it is not accepted in a court of law.” While agreeing that obscured memories of childhood trauma or experiences can have a bearing on adult behaviour or distorted cognition, (CBT is used in such cases), linking it to past life memories, karma and reincarnation is too far-fetched and there is no biological basis to it, feels Dr. Raju.
The legality of hypnotherapy
Past life regression therapy is not a separate modality in psychology but an offshoot of the technique of hypnosis, used for accessing deep-seated memories. In the UK and US, hypnosis is considered legal therapy in psychology. In 1983, the World Health Organisation (WHO) accepted hypnosis as a therapeutic process worldwide. On November 23, 2003, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recommended the use of hypnosis in counselling procedures. Therefore, hypnosis is legal in India....