There is no doubt that taking a client back to a “past life” can be therapeutic. But does that mean that the client is actually going back to a previous life, tens or hundreds of years ago? No. The journey is similar to believing that you have been abducted in a flying saucer and impregnated by aliens. Past life therapy is a tribute to the human imagination. And a metaphorical way of dealing with current problems. After all, it’s patently absurd to think that because you remember having an arrow stuck in your neck under hypnosis when you were with Robin Hood, that it can cure you of a mysterious neck pain today. However, this metaphorical time travel may have beneficial results (relief from neck pain, for example), but unfortunately, “The use of past life therapy among practitioners…may undermine the credibility of licensed practitioners.” *

This is the conclusion of two South Korean researchers whose experiments, published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis,show how strongly hypnotic subjects are influenced by their culture and belief systems when they are hypnotized to return to a supposed “past life”.

While there isn’t a shred of evidence that people actually go back to a past life (and plenty of evidence that they do No — see, for example, the famous story of Bridey Murphy**), there is no doubt that many people who have experienced hypnotic regression firmly believe that they have actually returned to a previous life.

The researchers found that the “previous life” is strongly influenced by culture and religion. For example, some of the Korean study subjects reported having been animals in previous lives, while none of the 110 subjects in a Canadian study*** reported having been animals in a previous life.

I was surprised by the finding that a prior belief in past lives was not correlated with greater production of past life memories. Non-believers produced “memories” of past lives at the same rate.

Much of what is seen or thought in a client’s mind comes from the hypnotist’s suggestions, along with the hypnotized person’s background and nationality.

Past life hypnotic therapy creates fantasies. And that’s why it can be effective in treating a current problem. Once the human imagination (ie hypnosis) is activated, the possibilities are endless. If you believe that something in a past life affects you in your current life, then “visiting” that past life (in your imagination, of course), may provide the metaphorical basis for a real solution. Hypnotherapy is based on the concentrated use of the imagination.

So fantasy can and does affect reality.


*Pyun, YD and Kim, YJ, (2009). Experimental production of memories of past lives in hypnosis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 57, 269-276.
** Direct drug

***Spanos, NP and others (1991). Secondary identity performances during hypnotic past life regression: a sociocognitive perspective.Journal of personality and social psychology61, 308-320.

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