About Past Life Therapy
How Past Lifetimes Affect Us Now
Most of us have had the experience of meeting someone for the first time, and falling immediately into a comfortable relationship "just like old friends." Or visiting a new part of the world, only to find it feels very familiar somehow. These are often instances of re-encountering people and places we have known in prior lifetimes.
We unconsciously carry forward experiences, attitudes, and relationship dynamics from prior lives into our current lifetime. Many times this is beneficial, as in cases where we just have a "knack" for numbers, or seem to master a new skill or area of study as if we already knew it. Other times, traumatic experiences -- like a violent death or loss of a loved one -- are left unresolved. Troubled relationships may be left in a state of conflict. Attitudes and decisions that resulted from or worked well in a prior lifetime may be carried forward into the current life in ways that are detrimental. That is where regression therapy was first applied, in resolving these experiences from the past that are blocking our progress and happiness now. In addition, past-life therapy is now also used to uncover and reinforce the strengths and positive experiences we are carrying forward with us.
Trauma and issues from the past can be reactivated by events in our current lifetime without our conscious awareness. We might react to people and situations in ways that seem counter-productive, or we have a "gridlock" problem that we can’t seem to resolve no matter what we try. It may be because the problem is actually rooted in dynamics set up in prior personalities/lifetimes.
How the Process of Past Life Therapy Works
In past-life therapy we regress clients (to regress means to go or move backward) to the time and place where the original activating event occurred. This can be achieved through hypnosis, guided imagery, or other states of deep relaxation where memories that are normally unconscious can be accessed. Similar techniques are often used to access early childhood memories from the current lifetime that may be underlying present-day problems and issues. By bringing these memories into conscious awareness, we can release or diffuse the energy and emotional blockages that keep us stuck. Typically, the therapist guides the client through the significant events of the lifetime, through the death experience, and then a "life review." This is where the purpose of that lifetime, the lessons learned, and decisions made are examined from a higher, spiritual perspective. We particularly look at what is most important about that prior life in terms of the client’s current personality and situation.
Re-experiencing the key events of a past-life and reprocessing the impact helps to bring closure to the events of that lifetime. This enables us to move forward more freely in the present. The process is similar to conventional therapy: we trace issues to their origin, reprocess the experience, emotions, and decisions made, and find completion. Past-life regression work merely extends the time frame further into the past for the deeper origins of issues. Even if one believes these "memories" are not true past-life experiences, they function as symbolic stories and are equally as effective in resolving current issues.
Even When You Don't Need 'Therapy'
Many people who would not typically consider themselves in need of traditional counseling or therapy seek out past life work. They find that it is a marvelous way to explore other dimensions of their existence, deepen their spiritual connection, and find higher guidance for many areas of their life. It can enhance our understanding of what it means to be human, and what we are all about with this earth adventure
Problems We Can Address with Past Life Therapy
Of course, not all problems and issues are rooted in experiences from prior lifetimes. It is important to distinguish when we have a current life issue that needs to be addressed through other means. Some of the more significant areas in which past-life therapy has traditionally been used are:
- Troubling behavior and attitude patterns that have persisted over time, despite attempts to change
- Relationship dynamics that seem to have a life of their own (intense attraction/aversion to another person, deep-seated issues that defy resolution)
- Phobias – intense fears, such as fear of heights or fear of water, that seem unconnected to an experience in the current life
- Some chronic physical ailments, sensations and pains
- Dominant attitudes or emotions that seem to persist throughout your life
New Areas of Exploration with Past Life Work
There are some newer areas in which past-life therapy is being applied as well, that are quite exciting and rewarding. Rather than going after traumatic or troubling memories, they focus on positive experiences. These areas include:
- Accessing strengths and accomplishments from prior lifetimes that can be brought forward to increase confidence and effectiveness in the present
- Re-experiencing a happy, successful lifetime; this can bring a sense of balance and peace when undergoing difficult times, fortifying us to work through our temporary difficulties
- Clarifying direction and life purpose by viewing one’s blueprint for this lifetime
- Finding prior lifetimes shared with current loved ones, bringing a great sense of reassurance that we are indeed never parted from those we love
- Accessing the wisdom, peace and guidance that is available from the "interlife," (spiritual realms between lifetimes) where our higher mind and/or guiding ones can assess our progress and give direction to us for our current lifetime
- Strengthening the clarity of the spiritual nature of our existence.
Ann C. Barham, LMFT, Certified Past Life Therapist
Past life therapy is a little unusual as a specialty for a Marriage & Family Therapist. Most people wonder how this came about, so here's my story:
Although raised in a conventional Catholic home, I had always been fascinated with reincarnation and the stories of prior lifetimes that people recalled under regression. However, I really questioned whether I could have such an experience myself. Then, when pursuing my mid-life career change from business management to counseling, I had an unusual experience in graduate school.
My Past Life Experience in Graduate School
Toward the end of my Therapeutic Imagery course, the professor introduced the idea that occasionally clients might experience imagery that could be interpreted as past-life memory. He then invited me to be his demonstration for the class, investigating the origin of a foot problem with which I was troubled. I had undergone surgery, but was still experiencing pain and problems that were preventing me from hiking, playing tennis and pursuing other athletic activities which I so enjoyed.
These were not the optimal conditions for the classroom regression: I lay down on the not-exactly-clean carpet in the front of a class of about a dozen people. My professor put me in a relaxed state, then directed me to the time and place where the problem with my feet originated. I was startled to find myself "seeing/sensing" an adolescent girl with Asian features and identifying with her. She – I -- was extremely upset because my family insisted on binding my feet. Not only was it painful, it limited my ability to move about and do things! Being strong willed, I decided to defy authority and tradition, planning to run away with the help of a household servant. However, I was caught in the act. This was considered a terrible disgrace for my family and particularly my father, who proceeded to sell me into servitude. I saw images of myself walking barefooted and in rags over rough and rocky terrain to a place far distant from my home, knowing that I was in eternal shame for dishonoring my father. I worked for some time as a kitchen servant, and eventually took my own life because I could no longer bear the disgrace of my position.
My professor moved me through the death experience, and into a brief life review, looking at the key lessons, and decisions and attitudes I had carried forward from that lifetime. An amazing part of the experience was the fact that my legs quivered uncontrollably as I lay in front of the classroom, as if giving off intense energy that had been stored in them. The even more amazing part was the next day: I was back on the tennis court with no foot distress, and my feet have been problem free for many years since.
Making Past Life Therapy My Life's Work
Despite this concrete example of how quick and effective past-life work could be, I did not give much thought to doing it as part of my counseling practice for about six years, focusing instead on more traditional forms of therapy. But a sense that there was something missing in my work, something more I could do to help people more rapidly and on more levels simultaneously (physical, emotional, spiritual) lead me back to past life regression. As luck would have it, within six months two of the world's foremost experts at the time in past life work, Dr. Brian Weiss and Dr. Roger Woolger (now deceased), each taught professional, week-long workshops at a retreat center about 1/2 hour from my home. With additional training and some time practicing on willing relatives and friends, I began to introduce past life work into my conventional therapy practice. I have been doing this work since 1997, and it has gradually become my main focus of my professional work.