Past Life "Regression"- Real Recovery or Entertainment?
Updated: Jun 25
It has become as fashionable as having a personal trainer for an accomplished, well-rounded, or successful person to find out his or her past lives. What once was the province of maverick psychiatrists and clinical psychologists has become a cottage industry for the Great Under-educated, wanting to play doctor.
I could site a person of acquaintance, buoyed by a high-six-figure husband's income, a man who clearly feared that if he did not indulge every fantasy, the wife might take an untoward interest in the gardeners or pool maintenance men. She did not get past fifth grade, dropped out early and became a teen-aged mom, worked only as a waitress until marrying, in her forties, a man of means .Then she became a beautician. Then she became a massage therapist. Each time (real names not used) Donna Jo wanted a shop, Billy Roy was happy to fund it. When she got bored of one thing, he bought her another. After several such ventures came and went, she took a six month on-line course and attended a couple of weekend seminars or conventions to become a practitioner of past life regressions. She, of course, has good web backing and a Facebook page that, after promising great insights and results, refers anyone interested to a local "practitioner."
Another 'practitioner,' "Surferguy" is a competent yoga instructor, but he wanted to make some money on the side. He also had gotten training as a "clinical hypnotist" (certification of which varies from state to state). He went as a patient, I later learned from a grown offspring, to several real therapists who do this to get a feel for it and read Ivan Sanderson and others about past life research in general, arguably more due diligence than most. I ran across one of his clients in my shamanic practice recently.
He had opened up through hypnosis a past life memory. His client's recovered experience was that of being harmed in perhaps a Civil War era draft riot, although the time and place were not clear. when. In this past life, he was in some sort of insurrection and was butt-stroked and left for dead on the street, later being carried off by friends. He suffered a life of rejection as a shirker and debilitation as a person haunted by debilitating headaches and blackouts. Worse, he lost his fiance, who lived nearby as he lost the status of an able-bodied man. As he described it, the client, "Steve" had the sense that it was in 19th Century America.
Ever since the regression, Steve suffered headaches that had no precedent in this life and began after the regression and, despite many subsequent sessions with, had persisted. No cause(s) in this healthy, active 54 year old could be found after multiple medical exams and tests.
I asked him if he would like to revisit the past life memory in case this had somehow triggered it. Together, if it did, we could seek a shamanic resolution. Firstly, I explored how Surferguy had managed the session.
Steve related that his "hypnotherapist" had used his "psychic powers" to see every detail of Steve's prior life and told him the details. Steve found the story riveting, as he heard it told to him by Surfer and said it "resonated."
When I encouraged him to relax and drew upon the Watcher's memories of the soul's history over prior lifetimes, I did as Tietaja are trained to do and asked Steve to describe where he was, what he was doing, to look around for cues, and, if at all possible, hear a "narration" of the play before him. We agreed that he could pull out at will, if he began to have a first-party experience any unpleasant or threatening episode.
As I did today with a very different patient and set of circumstances, I let Steve know that the story of that prior life, if it is the key to the headaches, must come from him, not from what I could tell him; he does the talking. I will encourage the person to question what is being seen, to try to put it into perspective while observing / experiencing it, but the narrative is his, not mine. I do not have a chance to let my imagination run wild or invent things for the patient's entertainment: that would neither be honorable nor useful in the long run.
What emerged was similar, but had a few different details. No doubt, the therapist was reading something, but it is always more accurate coming from the patient himself.
As it emerged from the person's own Mannsfylgja, Steve's prior incarnation felt at odds with the draft, as he had a well-to-do cousin pay a replacement to serve in his stead. After the session, I looked this up and, yes, it was done here in US at that time. He joined a group of friends, other young men, who did not want to be pressed into service, receiving a blow to the head that nearly ended his life.
Since my purpose was to help him find resolution, I encouraged him to go deeper into the character of this former self. He was what today we would call a punk, had lived off his aunt and uncle, working as little as possible and engaging in petty thievery. 'Henry', the name Steve heard, had no fiance. He was a sad orphan, a marginal child who lost parents to a typhoid epidemic and had been taken in by relatives who treated him as a drain on the household. He felt all alone in the world.
Most importantly, when details were recovered and I asked Steve to return to normal consciousness, I asked him to fantasize being Henry and feel what this prior self felt, then experience his attacker's perspective. He Saw this nervous young man not as a hardened combat veteran, but rather as a recent conscript, fearful of the crowd's clubs, broomsticks, and bottles. As "Henry" taunted the young man and raised a long club as if to attack with it, the soldier countered with the butt of his rifle.
Steve is not a highly educated or well-read fellow, although he married well and had a successful spin in real estate. He has a quick mind and felt the soldier's temperament to jump at shadows, just the type to lack fire or attack discipline and with no training in crowd control such as today's troops receive. Both were victims of their times, as was the lieutenant whom Steve Saw and Heard being threatened with a courts-martial should the draft riot break out of the slums where it started.
The net result of our explorations, perhaps best thought of together as cognitive therapy, was that by trying to grasp the historical context, personal motivations and factors in the lives of each actor in the 'play' that was this man's prior life, and put Henry's role in that life into proper perspective, Steve no longer felt like the 'victim', which status he had assumed after Surferguy's regression.
He understood the progression of errors and the set of circumstances leading to a life cut short, its few remaining years lived out in pain and poverty. Above all, confirmed in a call a month later, the "nagging headache" described at intake was gone. He'd seen Surferguy for some psuedotherapy by his estimation 12 times in the last year and a half and still suffered the debilitating pain for which no neurological cause could be found. He had two sessions here and resolved it. I could tell he was somewhat addicted to a reader's attention and paid friendship when he asked, "So, when do I need to come back." I replied that there was no need, unless he had some other issue with which I could help him.
(Note: since humans are a conflict prone species, that this kind of past life memory, often linked to a birthmark reflecting the nature of the prior death, or an apparently causeless phobia from such a prior life, should not surprise us. Psychic writer Gordon Michael Scallion observed this, but many other authors on past lives have also. I suspect that Seve tended to forget other less traumatic lives, and this may be a common theme, remembering what is yet-to-be-resolved.)
Another case of this "regression," which, together with the foregoing, prompted this article, was that of a young woman, let's think of her as Carol, who moved here from another city. She just wanted to find out about past life recovery and, since she was seeing me for another matter, asked if we did that kind of work.
Affirming, I, in turn, asked what her experience had been with it. She talked working with "Vickie" this very personable alternative practitioner whom she saw. The woman, who runs a magic shop in a large metropolitan area, had told Carol that she had been, an Indian "princess," (of course), an extraterrestrial "royal" visitor to the earth at "Atlantis" who wore a special crown, a locally famous musician, who, due to lack of recognition of female impressarios, had been unsung in history, etc. In each story, Carol was either a royal, a dispossessed minority, an unsung heroine, or an undiscovered talent.
As I compared these themes with Carol's real contemporary life, there were not parallels. She is an intelligent, accomplished woman who lives well and successfully and in no way considers herself a victim. To be certain, throughout history, most of us were underlings, not leaders. If we were Amerindians, we were not chiefs or princesses. Long before reincarnation and past lives became the subject of a cottage industry, as they have today, past life experiencers would have conventions where there were many "Cleopatras" and "Napoleons," but very few peasants or indentured servants. I asked her if what themes emerged in the "past life" memories hawked by Vickie. Vickie's "hook" for the unwary was self-absorption and unearned self-importance, projected onto an imagined 'past.'
Carol's quick mind grasped what I was going after in almost an 'ah ha' moment. In each of the scenarios, which, as with Surferguy, SHE narrated to Carol, while Carol just relaxed and took in the story, she was special. The appeal was to the Power of the Victim, to her being a noble soul, tragically out of time, and the biggest part of her past life specialness being that she wasn't fully appreciated- hell, the world should have celebrated her being in it...
She pressed me to do the same. I told her I would but only if she had no expectation as to what would emerge. The two lives Carol visited were ordinary enough, quiet lives with no historically notable moments. She, Carol, Saw in her inner vision, what she was and had been back then, and she narrated with only an occasional question from me to help her better recover the history.
There were no great lessons to be learned, no momentous discoveries. She had as a soul in prior incarnations always sought a balanced, fulfilled, quite life of purpose, and that, to me, seemed worthy of appreciation and added to Carol's sense of quiet self-assurance. In the end she was not disappointed that I did not blow smoke her way and sell her a story or project a fantasy I might have had about myself, but rather helped her uncover real material.
Not everyone has a good imagination for picturing a prior life.
Not everyone can enter into a state of relaxed awareness or use our non-hypnotic model. In such a case, I simply do not charge for the attempt. My concern is the recovery of real material and authentic soul memory. With the assistance of the Goddesses of Fate, Saga, the Goddess of History, and Bragi, the God of Communication, or with another Deity, Who offers to help this particular person, we seek, as healing priests / priestesses, not entertainment, not a fancy story about how pretty she was and ancient Egyptian, other other Hollywood meme, but the simple, unvarnished truth, which that soul experienced, whatever that might have been. Moreover, we seek to help the seeker to put it into perspective, to resolve any issues in the current life which appear to be connected to it, and to move in, with as little intervention from us as possible, with being the best, most effective version of themselves.
I knew a little about Surferguy. He got married at an early age and by age forty had several kids and was a very active father. All of that is good, but everything is a tradeoff. For a guy who could not live abroad, study intensely in a dedicated space, learning from master healers, he had done what he could, taking online classes and attending seminars, occasionally getting to work with other, more advanced Yoga teacher, some of whom supplemented their yoga class incomes with energetic healing.
For him or Donna Jo, discussed at first, the twenties and thirties were all about raising and supporting kids. It is very rewarding for such folks- Surfer's oldest daughter, who still lives with him, is 28- to think of having cut, adoring and adorable grandchildren to know in their fifties or sixties. By contrast, I was already well past forty when my daughter was born. I had spent my twenties and part of my thirties traveling and learning, which is how I was able to study and then be tutored, supervised sessions, with senior tietajar. I gave up having a family in order to gain access to a wisdom tradition, so my approach to such a subject as this is, as my teachers incouraged it to be, both broad and deep.
There's no right or wrong in choosing a lifepath. I'm sure Donna Jo made a great waitress and Surfer has the personality to schmooze with influential people and make things happen with his connections, but studying the Way, the path, the inner quest, set apart from the world is where one gets to the Power, and training under harsh teachers with a demanding discipline forces one to become both radically open to what works and inventive.
There will always be gifted amateurs who can provide an entertaining narrative that makes a person feel important, and as if he or she were always "special" or important, even in a prior existence, but to become a seasoned professional, one must pass through the 'fire' of harsh training, of privation and even sacrificing a crucial ten years when I could have developed a good resume as a technical person in order to become a shaman. Such persons as Surfer and Donna Jo want to do what the psychiatrist or psychologist a classically trained real shaman does, but without the work, the separation from normal life and society, without, in short, the sacrifice needed to acquire the skills. As with much else in American culture, this is the typical case of seeking something for nothing.
We were told that, to do this work well required a lifetime of continual self education on top of the years spent in shamanic training, as the scope of knowledge must be as wide as discerning entertainment or fantasy from real material, helping figure out what purpose in the life of the patient the memory serves, and a skilled observation of the patient's relaying information. We were expected to know enough history to be able to help put things into perspective and enough psychology to understand how themes that develop might or might not have relevance in the present incarnation. Above all, where a person does not "get anything" and at some deep level does not really want to pursue it, but is only trying to add it to his bucket list or satisfy a significant other's curiosity, be honest and state that it is not working for that person, rather than invent a narrative. We were expected to have enough psychodynamic tools to help the patient to process whatever emerges in a helpful way, to reach resolution. If you go for "past life regression" with anyone, don't settle for less. It's not a movie. What you recover at another's direction, whether real or make-believe, can have real consequences.