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  • Jesse Williams, LPC-MHSP

Don't I Know You from Somewhere? A Look at Past-Life Regressions in Therapy

Updated: Sep 20, 2020

Have you ever had a recurring dream that seemed meaningful and yet has no reasonable explanation? How about a connection to someone that you cannot explain? What about an irrational fear that you've had since birth? Or a love/passion with which you seem incredibly connected? Do you remember traumatic memories that you are unsure where they came from?

Past-life regression through hypnotherapy could help you unearth some meanings around such instances. And yet, like tarot, the topic of past-life regressions tends to bring up strong opinions, discussions, and debate. But what exactly is past-life regression?

Past-life regression refers to the use of a technique (such as hypnotherapy) to either intentionally or unintentionally explore memories/narratives that are not associated with your current life story. And the easiest, most expected answer would be to say that past-life regression is simply an exploratory process for the past memories from a previous life time. But to say that that's all it is would be far too limiting. Additionally, limiting it to this singular explanation doesn't honor the spiritual/religious paths of all people, which then results in many people feeling like past-life regressions wouldn't be for them.

When I think of past-life regressions, I typically don't lean on one singular definition. I liken past-life regressions to dreams.

Could it possibly be an actual memory from a previous lifetime? Maybe. Could it be epigenetic memory that has been passed down from your ancestors? Maybe. Could it be tapping into memories that are stored in some collective unconscious? Maybe. Could it be divine vision gifted to you from a higher power? Maybe. Could it be a complete fabrication constructed by your mind to help solve the current issues you are facing? Maybe.

I don't believe there is any singular explanation that works for every individual, nor do I believe that getting hung up on the "truth" of the memory is entirely relevant.

In his book The Truth about Stories, Thomas King explores the idea that the importance of stories lies within the meaning that they bring to our lives--not necessarily the definitive truth found within the story. Similarly, Daniel Wallace explores a similar theme in his book, Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions, showing where the truth of stories sometimes pales in comparison with the meaning they give to life. King states in his book, "Don't say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story. You've heard it now."

This perspective certainly holds true in the discussion of past-life regressions.

I firmly believe that the power and significance of a past-life regression lies in how the individual interprets and draws meaning from it-- not from the legitimacy or truth of the actual narrative.

So, what are some ways that people draw meaning, explain, or conceptualize past-life regressions? What are some explanations of the occurrence that brings purpose and change to an individual? Here's a list of a few perspectives that people might take in regards to past-life regressions:

1. Past-life regressions uncover memories from a previous lifetime. For people that follow this train of thought and belief, past-life regression provides a glimpses into a previous lifetime through recalled memories. This can provide insight into life-lessons and recurring energies/themes that need to be healed/worked on during in this current lifetime.

2. Past-life regression is a method for resolution of memories that were passed down from ancestors. Research actually provides some insight into this view, as studies have shown that survivors of traumatic experiences (Holocaust victims, for example) pass on trauma responses to their children. According to this view, the trauma is stored within the genes (epigenetic trauma) and is passed on down the lineage. People who ascribe to this view tend to see past-life regression as a meaningful activity to resolve this epigenetic trauma.

3. Past-life regression provides a means for tapping into memories that are held within the collective unconscious. With this Jungian-philosophy perspective, individuals see the process as a way of tapping into and healing memories/narratives that are held within the collective unconscious. From this view, the individual has the opportunity to heal pieces of themselves and push themselves towards deeper enlightenment through working with the greater collective narrative, similar to the process of working with archetypes.

4. Past-life regression is a spiritual process guided by a higher power. Some people view past-life regression with a spiritual reverence, feeling that it is a ritual that taps into the divine and provides meaningful messages and visions. In this perspective, it can be likened to shamanic journeying or vision quests. Through this perspective, past-life regression provides opportunities for people to deal with repeated problems, patterns, and life-lessons.

5. Past-life regression is essentially a story fabricated by your subconscious in order to objectively solve issues that you are currently facing. From this perspective, past-life regression is seen as an activity of the mind to provide the individual with an opportunity to solve current issues from more of an observer standpoint. From this view, past-life regressions are similar to allowing your friend to tell you a story that you help solve, and then that story/solution is able to mirrored within your own problems you are currently facing to provide resolution. This provides individuals with the opportunity to solve an issue in a more creative and efficient manner.

Regardless of the viewpoint or perspective the individual takes, past-life regressions can be used to provide meaning, explore life-lessons, dig deeper spiritually, find empowerment, and solve problems. It's a process that provides a creative solution to problems that might otherwise be difficult to pinpoint or navigate. So, next time you question an unsolved pattern in your life or mysterious connection that you are feeling, consider how a past-life regression could provide insight, empowerment, or meaning. You might be surprised by what story you uncover for yourself. And after all, the power of a story is that it gives meaning. The power of a story is that you heard it.


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