Are the events that surface during age regression real?
What do you do when your client emerges from a regression hypnosis session and asks, “How do I know those things really happened?”
When a client visits an event from the past and later questions their perceptions of it, realize they are bringing into question the entire healing process. If you don’t satisfy their Conscious Mind’s need to understand the experience, they could discount the insights and understandings gained through the process.
This could negatively impact your outcomes.
Don’t let that happen. Help your client understand how their mind works. And make the healing process reasonable.
The mind learns through association. The Subconscious Mind is responsible for holding onto all our memories and what we learned from them. That’s what has helped us evolve as a species. By learning from our experiences we know what threats to avoid. And where to access the resources needed to thrive.
The Conscious Mind is very here-and-now. It can think back to the past. Or imagine the future based on past experiences. This is very helpful because once you have learned something you don’t have to keep re-learning it over and over again.
You can reach into your Subconscious memory files and find a “recipe” for situations that match your past experiences. All very helpful when it comes to tying your shoelaces, riding a bicycle or cooking a turkey. Where this ability can become problematic is when our learned responses involve feelings and emotions that take over and cause us to act in ways we don’t like.
When we are powerless to do anything about how we think, feel or act, it generates anxiety. We don’t feel in control of our life. When this happens it’s common to conclude that there is something “wrong” with us.
Nothing could be further from the truth. When a person experiences a panic attack, or behaves compulsively, or feels out-of-control in some area of their life it’s because their Subconscious Mind is running a “program.” The program is how they learned to respond to certain situations in daily life. So there’s nothing wrong with them.
Their mind is doing exactly what it was designed to do.
The good news is that what has been learned can be unlearned. This is the purpose of regression hypnosis - unlearning. We do that by locating the situation in which problematic learning occurred then find what is needed to change it.
The Subconscious Mind is the repository of all our learning. And it is magnificently efficient at fulfilling it’s function. It helps us be more effective in daily life by forming habits. So we don’t have to keep re-learning things we do routinely. We don’t even have to think about it consciously. We can respond automatically.
Imagine what life would be like if you had to keep re-learning how to tie your shoe-laces, brush your teeth, tell time, or drive a car! Habits make us more capable. And they help us to survive. In the face of a threat you don’t have to consciously compute all the variables before taking action. You can act to protect yourself or your loved ones without thought.
This is a prime function of the Subconscious Mind – to protect.
The Subconscious Mind is not rational. The Subconscious Mind does not use reason and logic. That’s a function of the Conscious, thinking Mind in the here and now.
The Subconscious Mind is the Conscious Mind of the client in the past. When a problem is rooted in experiences from childhood the cause may have nothing to do with logic. Subconscious Mind reasoning is based on experiences, growing up. While these thought-feeling-behavioral responses can seem irrational, they’re not unreasonable. They’re based on the reasoning of the child at the age at which a decision was made.
The earlier in life this learning occurred, the less likely the client will have conscious memory of the events that contributed to the problem. So all the client will be aware of is that the behaviour or response is irrational. And this will generate anxiety because they’re not consciously in control.
The Conscious Mind needs control.
The Conscious Mind needs to understand to feel in control. This need to understand is completely aligned with the Subconscious Mind’s Prime Directive which is safety.
Efficiency serves the purpose of safety. As a result, the Subconscious Mind tends to generalize learning. Generalizing learning is another way to make us more efficient.
Events that share a similar theme can get merged into a single memory-file. Think of this as a computer file compression program. Because these episodes are similar in some way, or the experience was repetitive, the memories are alike. So they get dumped into a shared file.
When the contents of the file are unresolved, painful thoughts and feelings from the past can begin to cause problems because the file remains active. It doesn’t get stored in long-term memory as completed. There is something still calling for resolution so the file stays open.
When similar situations occur in present life, they can serve as reminders of unresolved events from the past and trigger the learned response. This happens automatically. So the person can feel out of control. This just adds to their level of distress.
What happens when a person gets triggered?
When a person gets triggered they access the file. During a triggering event the client’s Subconscious Mind pulls out the file containing all the unresolved thoughts and feelings associated with the past events contained in the file. It runs the program for the purposes of survival.
It is this natural function that makes age regression hypnosis possible. We can use this ability to associate back into earlier events. The goal of regression-to-cause hypnosis is to locate the event in which the programming occurred. Then we can change it.
Changing the underlying program will change the unwanted responses. Once free of the old programming the client will then be able then think, feel and behave in ways they consciously choose.
The Subconscious Mind is the Child Mind.
The Subconscious Mind is the feeling part of the Mind. And much of our programming is formed during childhood. But the younger the child is, the more limited their knowledge-base from which to interpret events.
Events are commonly misunderstood in childhood. Up until about age 3, the child’s perception of the world around her is predominantly egocentric. Whatever is happening is perceived by the Child as an extension of herself. For example, if Mommy and Daddy are fighting, it is not unreasonable for the Child to assume that she is responsible for causing the conflict. Based on this interpretation the Child makes decisions – about herself, others, how relationship works, what to expect in life, etc. – and this adds to her Subconscious data-base of learning. This tells her how to respond to similar situations in future.
The younger the child the more body-centered she is. And the less ability she has to reason. This means that, the earlier you go back in a person’s time, the more you’ll find information is being processed kinesthetically. An infant’s first response to situations in daily life is through feelings and sensations in the body. (Something to watch for in your regression hypnosis sessions.)
The Child Mind
Children are wonderfully imaginative and creative. Because the Subconscious Mind is the Child Mind, it does not make a distinction between real and imagined. As a result, a great deal of learning in childhood has no basis in truth or fact.
The Child lives in a world of imagination where Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are real. The Subconscious Mind doesn’t think or reason. It does not have the ability to distinguish between a real and imagined threat. It simply generates a response based on a perception.
Ever had a nightmare? Was the dream event real or imagined? Did you wake in a sweat? Was your heart pounding in your chest? Breathing hard? As far as your Subconscious Mind was concerned, that experience was a real event. Very real. As a result, it generated all the appropriate responses based on the perception of threat.
The question is not, “Did that really happen?”
The question is, “Did it feel real?”
It’s not until around 5 or 6 years of age that the Critical Faculty of the Mind is sufficiently formed that we can begin to think for ourselves. By then we have acquired sufficient unconscious learning to instruct our thoughts, feelings and behaviour in a classroom setting.
We can think about things consciously because we have acquired a data-based of information we can reference and compare new experiences to. Add to this that the brain’s logic centers aren’t fully developed until around 12 to 14 years of age and there’s plenty of opportunity for even the most harmless event to be misinterpreted and experienced as traumatizing.
Every child knows instinctively that, without someone to take care of her, she will not survive. The only way for an infant to get her needs met is to cry for help. If she cries for help and no one comes, or they don’t respond quickly enough, or they fail to respond consistently or appropriately to her needs, the child interprets this as life-threatening. She learns help may not come. She learns that her needs will not be met adequately. This generates fear and adds to her feelings of vulnerability.
This is the hallmark of trauma.
Trauma expert, Dr. Robert Scaer, author of The Body Bears the Burden, defines trauma as any event that is perceived as life-threatening while in a state of helplessness. The feeling of fear is reasonable. The fact that your client made it to adulthood is evidence that the interpretation wasn’t based in fact. But the feeling is real.
The Child is vulnerable. The most helpless state is that of infancy. A rigid feeding schedule can be traumatizing to a hungry infant. I have dealt with this in regression hypnosis sessions and it’s incredibly traumatizing for the Child. There’s confusion. Grief. Terror.
The perception of abandonment in childhood definitely qualifies as trauma. Trauma also causes dissociation. In the face of threat consciousness leaves the body. That’s numbing out.
Dissociation is a learned response that many people will continue into adulthood by escaping through things like:
- extreme sports
Stress distorts perception.
What’s important to recognize is that the original response was meant to protect the client from the pain. Dissociation is good. It’s a stress response. And in the face of an actual threat that’s a good thing.
It’s habitual or chronic stress that generates dis-ease in a person’s life. And it can block their ability to think clearly. Stress inhibits cognition. So, how much of what the client is reporting in a regression session is real? You tell me.
Consider the following:
- Many of our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are learned responses …
- Learning begins long before we develop the ability to reason or make sense of our environment …
- Trauma is a result of a perception that can result in unwanted thought-feeling-behaviour responses …
- The Child cannot discriminate between real and imagined …
- Stress distorts perception …
- Subconscious reality is frequently at odds with rational, adult thinking.
Resolve the conflict.
Your job is to help your client heal by resolving the conflict between their head and their heart. Thinking and feeling. What matters is how the event affected the Child. How has it continued to affect the client in adult life?
The Subconscious Mind is the feeling part of the Mind. The more intense the emotion present, the more internal stress there is trapped inside the event, and the less likely the ‘facts’ being reported during the regression event are accurate. But feelings don’t lie.
When your client asks, “Was that event real?” invite their Conscious Mind to consider the facts by asking the following questions.
- Was the feeling real?
- How do they know it was real?
- Was it a comfortable or uncomfortable feeling?
- How do they feel now?
You now have all the information you need to satisfy the client’s Conscious need to understand.
1. Was the feeling real? Of course it was! They were feeling it, right?
2. How do they know the situation they experienced in regression hypnosis was real? They could feel it. Physically. In the body.
3. Was it a comfortable or an uncomfortable feeling? Unresolved feelings like fear, anger, guilt, and sadness generate pressure in the body. They don’t feel good. This question gives the client something to compare to.
4. How do they feel NOW? That’s the change. Something has happened as a result of visiting that event. It doesn’t matter whether the event was real or imagined. The feeling was real. And they have changed how they feel. Cool, huh?
This is where I like to challenge the client’s Conscious Mind by asking, “What’s more important? That you be right or happy?”
Questions automatically bring in the Subconscious Mind which naturally seeks to find answers to questions and solutions to problems. So it’s kind of a whole-minded approach.
I then explain, “These were simply the truth as your Subconscious Mind is concerned. Realize they were based in the perceptions of the Child you once were. Children routinely misinterpret events. So distortions in memory are common. But feelings never lie.”
I remind the client that the goal is not to conduct forensics. It’s to help their Subconscious Mind realize they’re not a Child, anymore, so it can finally relax. When that happens, it will stop generating the symptoms they came to see you about.
That’s when they will feel better.
“And you do feel better, don’t you?”
That’s the real question. The client’s Conscious Mind needs to understand their experiences to make sense of them. That’s what provides a sense of control.
If you don’t satisfy this important need you could lose the benefits of the session. So when a client questions regression hypnosis your job is to help them understand 2 things:
- What just happened.
- Why it just happened.
What just happened has everything to do with the reason they are seeing you. Their presenting issue, whatever it happens to be, is a result of their past experiences in life.
The reason they’re examining these events – real or imagined – is not to validate whether or not the event they experienced in hypnosis actually happened. It’s so they can achieve the result they’re after.
All we’re concerned with is the result, right?
Over to you. Helping your client answer these question will allow them to make sense of their experience of regression hypnosis.
To create real and lasting change requires their conscious permission to accept the changes created through the healing process. So now I ask you … what’s more important – convincing the client that regression hypnosis is real? Or helping the client get what they want?