I refined my skills of exploration through lots of feedback from the clients. In the initial years I was conducting regressions on volunteers and at the end of the session, I would request the client to give me a comprehensive introspection report and suggest me what sort of questions to be asked and how the explorations should be done. Based upon such feedback, I modified and updated myself. I generally follow a caring, compassionate, soft, gentle, patient and considerate approach to hypnotherapy and regression in particular.
Importance of Feelings: I realized that an experience consists of cognitive (thinking), feeling and physiological responses. The feeling component is most significant aspect of an experience. Sadness, anger, disgust, fear, anxiety, joy are examples of feelings. I keep a close watch on appearance of feeling component in regression experiences. In my view, feelings provide dynamic energy to the source experience and corresponding symptoms. If feelings are drained from the experience, it becomes devoid of the dynamic energy and is left with cognitive component which by itself loses its potency in producing symptoms. In each set of experience, I would ask a client to tell me what he/she is feeling. If the response suggests any negative or painful feeling, I apply a technique to heal the painful feelings and it usually works giving a relief to the subject. I allow a subject to continue to experience positive feelings and do not apply any technique to interrupt a positive set of feelings in an experience.
Factual vs. Experiential Questioning: The factual questions are asked to put a regression experience into perspective and a possible point of validation of the experience. The questions related to personal, family and geographical details pertain to factual questions. I generally ask such questions to facilitate regression and formulate my own perspective of proceeding with the regression work. These factual questions and responses have least healing potentials and as such I do not get stuck on them. If a subject is smoothly able to respond to such questions it is well and good, else I would simply tell the subject to report as and when there is any clarity for such questions and would proceed ahead with the regression. I emphasize questions which facilitate description of a regression experience. My usual questions are – what are you feeling, what is happening, what are you experiencing, continue to narrate the experience, you are moving ahead with passage of time and keep on reporting as it is. Dr. Roger Woolger (1988) stated that probing for specific details like name, dates, places or similar historical details can cause distractions and drain vital healing energy of a patient. A past life memory is used for emotional catharsis; enhancing one’s understanding and healing the client.
Encouraging Pure Experience: A subject remains aware of here and now as well as of regression experience (duality of awareness). The intact part of analytical faculty of mind keeps on evaluating the released regression experience and a subject may tend to minimize it by sub-vocally telling him/her that it is simply an imagination, this is not a true regression experience, it is a fantasy, it is a trivial experience, it is not worth reporting, it is irrelevant and makes no sense. This is a common experience and happens with many subjects. This sort of critical evaluation and minimization of regression experience is a barrier in the regression work. To remove this barrier and encourage the regression work, I suggest following to the subject at the beginning and periodically during the session. It often works.
Your mind is open to all the possibilities…the deepest layers of your mind are open… allow your mind to have a pure experience…keep on reporting whatever pops up in your mind… do not withhold… do not criticize…do not discard any experience or visualization by considering it as irrelevant or imagination… narrate like a cricket commentary…allow yourself the luxury of the pure experience… this is not the right frame of mind for critical evaluation… a trance suppresses part of critical faculties…it may be difficult to fully evaluate this experience at this point of time because of suppressed critical faculties… you alone or we jointly can evaluate the truthfulness of your experiences after termination of the trance…you are here to have a full and pure regression experience… use your time wisely by having pure experience and reporting it as such…
Open Ended vs. Closed Ended Questions: My approach is to begin exploration with open ended questions and ask closed ended questions towards end. An open ended question has inbuilt potentials for a comprehensive and detailed response and a closed question on the other hand results in very brief answers. What are you experiencing, what is happening around you, what others are doing, are the examples of open ended questions. Are you sad, are you a boy, are you angry; are the examples of closed ended questions? Most understanding and healing occurs in response to open ended questions.
Reference of Dominant Sense Modality: Visualization is the usual modality in which most subjects release their regression experiences but there can be subjects who have less prominent sense of visualization. In such subjects, I tend to identify the dominant sense modalities – auditory, olfactory, gustatory and kinesthetic. While asking questions and exploring the regression experience, I would ask questions to the subject according to dominant sense modality or simply go blind by using the term “experiencing”. That is what you are experiencing. The subject would report his/her experiences according to the modality in which it is revealed. This term does not put cognitive load on the subject for visualization or any specific sense modality and minimizes the potentials for irritation on the part of the subject due to the questioning of the therapist. I have also observed that there may be masking of visualization modality in some subjects which get unmasked with proper education and repeated trance work.
Dr. PM reported difficulties in visualization and a prominence of the sense of smell. For hypnotic induction, the therapist suggested him to have an experience of walking into a park full of a variety of flowers planted in several rows. As he is walking, he is enjoying fragrance of each variety of flowers and with every changing variety of fragrance; he is sinking deeper and deeper into relaxation… within a few minutes he got absorbed into hypnotic trance…
In the next session, I continued the trance work and asked him what he has been experiencing… he reported blackness and darkness… I then suggested him that feel as if he is slipping deeper and deeper into this darkness… and he felt accordingly and then revealed that he had some visualizations…
Pulling Responses: I do not pull answers from a subject during trance work. I avoid persistent questioning to elicit a response from the subject as it has potentials of producing a cognitive load on the subject which at times results in visible distress and may interfere in the flow of regression experience. I would gently ask a question maximum 2-3 times and if no answer comes, I would simply suggest to flow with the time and report whatever experiences are being released to the subject.
Mode of Manifestation: A subject may mistakenly present to me with an expectation that he/she would have clear visualizations (like a running movie) of his/her regression experience. In such cases, I educate the subject that a regression experience may reveal itself in multiple ways and there are wide individual differences in the modes of manifestation. In some subjects particularly high hypnotizable, the regression experience may get manifested like a running movie and the subject keeps on smoothly narrating the experience. In majority of the subjects, the regression experience is revealed frame by frame like a slide show with small or long pauses; and the subjects take their time to describe their experiences. In a few subjects, the regression experience is revealed in alternative modality or they have a very sketchy experience; such a subject may say that he/she is not viewing anything; just thoughts are coming or there is a sense. I respect all kind of manifestations and do not stress or expect any specific kind of manifestations.
True Regression vs. Pseudo-regression: When a subject during regression speaks in first person like “I am being followed by a group of persons, they are running after me to attack”; is an example of true regression. The term true regression, in this context does not mean an empirically valid and verified experience; instead it represents psychological reality for the subject. Also, when a subject narrates his/her experience in present tense; I take it as an instance of true regression. For example, “I am having a dialogue with my Guruji; he is giving me important lessons”. A regression which is either in third person or in past tense I consider it as pseudo-regression. When narrating in third person, a subject would describe his own past life character in third person like “there is a man, he is working on a field, a snake has bitten him”. The use of past tense may be a regression in pseudo mode or simply a memory or imagination. For example, “I was going on my bike; I had an accident, it lead to fracture”. To facilitate the true regression mode, I would respond to the subject in first person and in present tense. For example, when a subject is using a past tense that “he was going on a bike and had an accident”, I would reflect it; and say “ok, now you are going on a bike, you are having an accident”. In some subjects, this attempt of mine can put them into a true regression mode.
Patterns of Regression: Dr. Brian Weiss identified two patterns of past life regression. The first pattern is known as a classic pattern in which a subject smoothly accesses the entire previous life from childhood to the time of death. The second pattern is known as Key Moment Flow in which a subject flows across major events in previous life. In most of the cases, the pattern of Key Moment Flow is observed.
Choice of Past Life: When regression suggestions are delivered to a subject, he/she lands on one or the other previous life. A person may have any number of previous lives. For instance, a person has 50 previous lives. He/she may land on immediately preceding life or any other life say life no. 20. It is not necessary that the subject would drift back to immediately preceding life. I formulated that a subject lands on his/her previous life which is thematically related to his/her present life; and that life could be no. 20 or any other. Since, usually there is a regression to a thematically related life, I would pay attention to the life to which a subject has regressed and try to understand the thematic links.
Regression to More Than One Life in a Session: Usually, subjects release single previous life in a session. But there are subjects who oscillate across multiple lives in a session. In one subject, there were glimpses of 10 previous lives in a session of one hour. I remain prepared even for regression to multiple lives in a single session.
Opening of New Life at the Time of Termination: There are subjects, who come up with regression to new life towards the end of the session. I generally do not open up with new life while initiating the subject for trance termination. I would gently say to the subject that this issue seems to be related to another life and we would need another session to have justice with exploration of that life. We can do it in next session and for the time being let this issue be resolved spontaneously.
Handling Pauses: When a regression experience is released like a continuously flowing movie, there are little or no pauses on the part of the subject. In other cases where regression experience is released in frame by frame manner, there can be pauses of any length. If I notice a continuous flow then I would simply tell the subject that keep on narrating your experiences and do not wait for my questions. I am listening. There may be a few prolonged pauses, and then I would simply tell that time is passing and with passage of time, his experiences are being released and as and when released describe them. When there are pauses, I remain passive and observe the gestures and stance of the subject if he/she is recollecting his/her experiences. When the pause exceeds by approximately 30 seconds and there are no signs of narration or recollection, then I would either repeat the last sentence of the subject or encourage him/her to get deeper and deeper which in turn would facilitate further release. In a few instances I would try gently tapping the point between eyebrows with my right index finger 3-4 times with the suggestion that his/her mind is opening up. I need to have lots of patience to keep a pace with such a subject. I would also try with counting that as I count 1-3, more experiences are being revealed to him/her. I also ask the subject what is happening and respond according to his/her feedback. I may also say that if there is any barrier in release of the regression experience, it is getting diluted and dissolved. I may also seek further permission from the sub-conscious mind of the subject, if it is prepared to move ahead with the regression experience. The whole process demands lots of my listening skills.
Enabling Speech Mechanism: I often observe that some highly hypnotizable subjects develop lethargy in their speech mechanism as a result they find it difficult to speak during deep hypnotic trance. In such cases, I give following suggestions to enable their speech mechanism which in turn save lots of my energy in repeat questioning. “Your lips, mouth and tongue are getting enabled for sufficiently loud speech… you can speak smoothly without much efforts… allow your speech mechanism to produce sounds, words in audible frequencies”
No Regression Experience: There may be a few subjects who enter the hypnotic trance but fail to have any regression experience despite use of any combination of techniques. I would initially try for converting this failure into a success by evolving innovative and intuitive technique or by asking if there is any specific expectation or barrier in the regression experience. I do get success in some cases but still there may be one or two subjects who fail to get into the regression experience. I respect the mind of such subjects and explain that either there is a myth, an apprehension or mind is protecting itself from the possible overwhelming release of unconscious experiences. I terminate the session and recommend such subjects to present to me on any other occasion, try audio assisted regression or be in touch with any other therapist. This may bring success in some of the subjects who initially failed to have regression experience.
Feelings of Imagination: Some subjects continue to feel that the regression experience was purely a product of imagination or fantasy and it was not a true experience. I have conducted a comprehensive search for the issue and this sort of experience is common and every therapist has such subjects. I have not yet come across any definite response to this issue and I usually hand over it to the subjects to think alternatively and generate diverse perspectives.
Skip Forward/Backward: A life is full of neutral and emotionally charged experiences. In response to the instructions of regression, a subject lands on one or the other event in previous life. When the subject completes narration of an experience, I would either tell the subject to skip backward to the previous significant event of that life or skip forward to the next significant event of that life. In most of the cases, I take up a subject forward in time of the previous life by saying ‘skip forward to the next significant event of that life’. This way, entire life is scanned for negative/traumatic experiences and healed.
Complete Life Scan: In response to suggestions for regression, a subject lands at some age level of the previous life. For example, his/her age was 60 years in previous life, he/she landed at the age of 20 years. Logically, there can be significant events at that age only or on a prior or later age of landing. If I decide for a complete life scan, then I would suggest the subject to go to the childhood of that life time and describe what is happening; and then move upward either in age blocks of say 5 years or directly by saying to him/her to skip forward to next significant event of that life.
Use of Ideo-motor Response: I develop a non-verbal response system by saying to the client that raising left index finger means a YES response and raising a right index finger means a NO response. Whenever, required I use this signal system for communicating with the client particularly when a closed ended question can be answered in a Yes or No manner.
Recognition of Subtle Changes: I learnt to recognize minor and subtle response to hypnotic suggestions. There are subjects who give a large hypnotic response to fewer instructions and other subjects give a minimal response to many suggestions. There may be an expected response to the hypnosis suggestions or a response may appear in alternative modality or in a different direction. For example, when a subject is asked to feel warmth in response to suggestions, he/she instead of feeling warmth may have tingling sensations. Since this sensation emerged in response to the hypnotic suggestions, I take it as a hypnotic response. I keep a watch over such subtle manifestations which may provide me an opportunity to explore and heal the subject.
Hurried Sessions: I do not like to conduct past life regression sessions in a hurry. I keep aside about 2-3 hours’ time for a client because one never knows what kind of material would emerge in a client. The session may unexpectedly last for 2-3 hours. My most sessions take about one hour time but one can never know for sure.
The Dialogue: I do not adopt any specific voice modulations or accents to explore hypnotic experiences. I maintain my habitual voice during the trance work. Also for continuation of the dialogue, I do not have any specific set of compulsory questions. It is as simple as speaking and interviewing a person in waking awareness. I am more interested in knowing what is happening, how it is happening, what are the reactions of the subject, what are his/her feelings, what situation is going on and continue to proceed in similar manner.
Maintenance of Ethical and Professional Boundaries: While exploring the trance experiences, I maintain highest ethical standards of exploration and asking the questions. I never like to violate the boundaries.
Session Recording: I keep a verbatim written record of the regression sessions. This recording helps me in keeping the track of events in subsequent sessions and reporting and discussing a case with other experts. It is also helping me in writing this book. I may also use a Dictaphone for recording.
Subject’s Request for Termination: A few subjects request for termination of regression session mid-way. Most subjects request it in a visible distress due to regression experience. I respect such a call from the subjects and would try to give termination instructions. One or two subjects may continue the regression experience even after making such a request and feel repeatedly drawn into the regression experience. I would use my judgment and keep a watch and wait for more requests for session termination. If there are repeated requests I would make it a point to terminate the regression session.
Normal Session Termination: I give plenty of time for session termination. I am often required to manage hang over effect of hypnotic trance and minor post-hypnotic complications.
Handling Negations: A few subjects negate that the regression experiences have got any links with their current life. I do not accept such initial negations and continue to systematically explore the regression experience and the links to the current life by proposing my hypothesis based interpretations and encouraging the subject to give a comprehensive introspection report. With continued gentle probing, such subjects come up with a detailed linkage of the karmic patterns which very well correspond to the current life.
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