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Possibilities Of Past Life Regression
Past Life Regression (PLR), is a therapy in which an individual is hypnotized and regressed to past lives in order to heal and resolve current life problems. The concept of regression is by no means new. Case accounts which were written around the 4th century BC have been discovered.
In 1952, Virginia Tighe of Pueblo, Colorado, was hypnotized by amateur hypnotist Morey Bernstein. Supposedly, Virginia spoke in an Irish brogue and claimed she was Bridey Murphy, a 19th-century woman from Cork, Ireland. He hypnotized Tighe many times. While hypnotized, she sang Irish songs and told Irish stories. She gave a birth date as1798, told of her childhood in a Protestant family, her marriage and burial in Belfast in 1864. Bernstein wrote a book, “The Search for Bridey Murphy” in 1956which quickly became a best-seller. Recordings of the hypnotic sessions were also made, translated and sold in more than a dozen languages.
Was there any truth to the account of a Bridey Murphy who lived in Ireland during the 1800’s? Newspapers sent reporters to Ireland to find out. The use of hypnosis and suggestive questions makes the subject particularly likely to hold distorted or false memories.
No records were found to substantiate Tighe's claims for any birth, marriage, or death of anyone by that name. However, the Chicago American newspaper did find her…but not in the 10th century. Bridie Murphey Corkell lived in the house across the street from where Virginia Tighe grew up. Apparently what Virginia reported were not memories of a previous life but her early childhood. The use of hypnosis and suggestive questions makes the subject particularly susceptible to holding distorted or false memories.
While it is true that many patients recall past lives, it is highly probable that these memories are not real. The memories are usually experiences in this life, pure imagination or suggestions from the hypnotist. It also becomes apparent these subjects interject bits and pieces of their own memories with those of their so called past identity. Tighe's remarks may have been an example of this. The memories don’t have to be actual events. Usually they are things people have read, heard or seen in a movie.
There are many reasons people seek past-life regression. Some are curious; others seek specific answers to personal problems. When it comes to the possibility of having past lives, some believe, others don’t. Regardless, books which document past-life memories abound. In “Many Lives, Many Masters”, author Brian Weiss documents his own transformation from a psychiatrist to a firm believer in past lives.
Skeptics often discount past-life regression therapy as mere fantasy. The concept of reincarnation is a big stretch of the imagination for many people and plain heresy to others. But there is agreement it’s not necessarily a requirement to believe one has lived before in order past-life therapy to work.
There may be no harm in people recalling what probably amounts to false memories but as a method of healing, it could present problems.
Some therapists believe hypnosis opens the unconscious mind where memories of past lives are supposedly stored. How they get there they don’t know. The technique used involves answering a series of questions while hypnotized to reveal identity and events of alleged past lives.
One psychologist demonstrated belief in reincarnation is the greatest predictor of whether a subject would have a past-life memory while under hypnotherapy. His theory proved a subject's expectations significantly affected the past-life regressive session.
To prove his theory he divided a group of 60 students into three groups. He told the first group they would undergo a new therapy to help uncover their past lives. 85% in this group remembered a past life. The second group was informed the therapy may or may not work. 60% had one. The third group was told the therapy they were about to have was crazy and normal people didn’t have any experiences. Only 10% of this group had a past-life "memory."
Memories induced during past life regression have been researched, and exposed historical mistakes easily explained through a fundamental knowledge of history. Experiments indicated belief in reincarnation and suggestions by the hypnotist are the most important factors regarding past life memories. Memories experienced by the subjects were as vivid as actual events and impossible to differentiate from true memories of actual events.
Investigations by experts in language and history of historical periods described in their studies have shown inaccuracies. There were speech patterns used by movie makers and writers to convey 16th century English. Another subject stated an inaccurate date recognized as a printing error in a historical pamphlet. Other details cited were common knowledge therefore could not be used as evidence for past life regression. Subjects asked for historical information which could be investigated provided only vague responses.
A 1976 study revealed 40% of subjects described new identities when given a suggestion to regress past their birth. Descriptions were found to be extremely detailed. The degree to which memories were thought real by subjects was paralleled with the subjects' beliefs about reincarnation and their expectation to remember a past life
Most therapists charge by the hour, so exploring centuries instead of years will greatly increase the cost of therapy. The therapist and patient can speculate without much fear of being contradicted by the facts. However, someone just might bother to investigate the matter, as in the case of Bridey Murphy.