Thursday, April 19, 2007

Past-Life Regressions

The Changing Role of A Student, part 7

The other topic that really changed me during the formal hypnosis study was so-called past life regressions (PLR's).

Now the school I was in, I chose in part because it matched my own mental model, generally; medical, extremely skeptical. The founder had been a stage hypnotist most his life who 'went straight', got an MD/PhD and changed to "hypnotherapy" (vs. scandalously entertaining stage hypnosis).

So their take on past life regressions was very clinical and not remotely esoteric. "Doctor, my friend has this problem..." where the friend is the invented personality in an alleged past life, who despite a radically different environment, amazingly enough has similar "issues" to something in the subject's present life... hence the way the past lives always seem to relate to the present.

It's a real irony that I'd had a few experiences on this subject myself, because for whatever reason, these were completely dismissed and unthought of by me consciously; I do believe that subconsciously they drove me to study this subject, but consciously, I was on the verge of being a scoffer about most everything in those days. This is not unique as it turns out; I was completely skeptical regarding UFOs and aliens later in life, even during periods when I was having active 'experiences' with both.

I sometimes think of my mind like the moon -- there is a dark side, and god only knows what is going on there, and the side that other people see, which the authority of my personality works hard to make seem like it is a perfectly normal, uninteresting landscape that fits in with what everyone expects. ;-)

The school was building a videotape library of sessions, for case study work. They had a ton, going back at least a couple years, on PLRs. These were popular you see, in the public sessions that were often offered free. I gradually checked out every one of them, and watched them intently, taking notes, watching many of them several times. There were many different hypnotists for these and many different subjects, so you could see a lot of the different styles of the therapists, a lot of the different experiences of the subjects.

Most of them led me to agree with the school's official policy: that a time regression done under hypnosis generally seemed to produce a psychological projection from the subject of some current deep issue or fear onto some creative canvas of probably freshly invented past.

But not all of them. Some of them hooked me, and hard. It wasn't just the tape. It was my gut-feeling, my response to it. It was like somewhere in my gut, it said, "This one is true."

I tried to fight this. I would watch many others and then come back to that one another time, figuring the mood would have passed. But it didn't change.

While discussing this with others, I found that some people scoffed the whole subject. I found myself actually taking the devil's advocate role for once on the other side. "It's genetics," they would argue, a view I used to hold, until I found myself responding, "Then why is a death experience often the first thing? You're telling me they had a child after they died?"

Or they might say, "Yeah right, everybody is someone famous, Cleopatra, hahaha, it's always exciting." I found myself responding, "That's so not true -- it's almost the opposite. It's the drama queens nobody believes that say that sort of thing. Every PLR I've seen that had the ring of truth to it was, in fact, stupendously boring as its primary effect. The subject was so deep that getting them to answer anything took a long time, was ridiculously over-literal, the whole session was like pulling teeth, and they were usually some totally nobody peasant in the 1500s who died in the snow. Even their death was boring!"

You could tell by watching the subjects, how it affected them. Those that brought me the gut-feeling, they were quiet afterwards. They were pretty obviously blown away by the experience. The others couldn't shut up about how amazing it was. It was a fairly good marker of who'd revivified the experience vs. hadn't.

It was then I found the early works of (the now-late) Dr. Ian Stevenson, a psychologist who decided to make a whole new career out of studying past-life memories of children. His stuff is well worth reading if you haven't.

In the end, I didn't have an answer to the PLR question. I had come to a few tentative conclusions though, such as:

1. I felt it was criminally irresponsible for anybody claiming to be a therapist to take someone off the street who is cheerfully volunteering, and cause them to have an experience that they believed to be (whether it was or not) a 'past-life'. Most people in our culture are raised in a judeo-christian framework, and that just kicks a huge prop out of peoples' belief systems and religious convictions. For what? It isn't replaced with anything except a question mark and self-doubt, usually. I felt it was actively harmful, and that PLRs really should not be done outside a private, therapeutic environment -- and with subjects who already had a pretty firmly established belief in multiple lifetimes.

2. I felt the past-life remembered might be some kind of energetic construct that people could tune into like a 'library book'. In other words, maybe it is your past life when you remember it, but maybe it wasn't until then. Maybe it draws similar energies and issues because one tends to draw, or tune into, what they resonate with.

The problem with this belief system is that it had to hypothesize some nebulous "energetic construct" -- something that amounted to a duct-tape version of The Matrix my logic tried to manufacture to support things I could feel but not explain.

next up: part 8

The Mesmer Society (Mez)

No comments: