“I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace.” – Helen Keller
Age regression in therapy is also referred to as hypnotic age regression. This is a hypnosis technique utilized by hypnotherapists to help patients remember the perceptions and feelings caused by past events that have an effect on their present illness.
Hypnotic age regression occurs when a person is hypnotized and is instructed to recall a past event or regress to an earlier age. The patient may then proceed to recall or relive events in his life. This allows for the patient to reinterpret their current situation with new information and insights.
The purpose of hypnotic age regression is to reframe the negative feelings and perceptions of the past to facilitate progress towards the patient’s goals. It allows patients to find the cause of their current blocks and eliminate their past traumas.
When patients are hypnotized, they are in an altered state that allows for their subconsciousmind to be accessed. The subconscious mind holds the behaviours and habits that people exhibit to protect them. These behaviours and habits are repeated until they are not necessary anymore. Hypnotic age regression allows for patients to reframe and purge their unnecessary behaviours.
Levels of Regression
There are three different levels of hypnosis; each level has a regression counter-part. Depending on the level of hypnosis and regression, the patient will be able to recall a past event as if it were occurring in the present.
- Light Level
i. It is often referred to as the hypnoidal level.
ii. The mind is still aware of what is occurring, but one is much more relaxed and utilizing less logic.
iii. The ability to experience the memory may be very blurred in the recall level, but still is much enhanced if compared to the non-hypnotized state.
- Medium Level
i. This level is referred to as the pseudo regression level.
ii. The patient is in a very relaxed level of consciousness and is less aware of their body.
iii. The patient possesses control of the entire regression experience in this level.
iv. After the regression is finished, the patient is still able to recall everything that he spoke of while hypnotized.
- Deep Level
i. Somnambulism is a commonly utilized to describe sleepwalking, but in hypnosis, it is referred as the deepest level of hypnosis.
ii. This state is profound relaxation and is generally a hypnotherapist’s goal with a patient.
iii. During this level of hypnosis, a patient’s voice and other characteristics may begin to change accordingly to the time that they are regressing too.
iv. The patient is able to recall certain details, but he feels the emotions as if he had just lived through the experience again.
Age Regression Process
1. Information Gathering
Information gathering in the fully conscious state, familiarization of the client with the nature of hypnosis and certain tests of hypnotisability to provide the practitioner with important information about client’s personality and the area which they want to work on.
2. Inducting to Somnambulistic state
Somnambulism enables the client to experience amnesia by suggestion and most importantly to be able to hallucinate. Light and medium states are sufficient for improving memory (hypermnesia) but are not sufficient for true age regression therapy.
3. Initial Sensitizing Event
This process may occur instantly with the first suggestion to “go back to an earlier time that you felt this way,” where the client immediately returns to the first time that she ever felt that feeling, But more likely the client will move through a few Subsequent Sensitizing Events (SSEs) – situations which occurred after the ISE but involve the same emotions and reinforced the problem.
How did the problem begin? The ISE is the first time in which the client experienced the fear or when an erroneous belief was established about her or the world. Usually, it is an incident in which the child is made to feel an emotion such as fear (but could also be sadness or anger) and usually there is some misunderstanding or misconception of the situation. This fear or erroneous belief has caused the problem, and then it became a self-fulfilling prophesy that was reinforced over and over during the client’s life. When the feeling or belief is reinforced in an event in client’s life, those events are called Subsequent Sensitizing Events (SSEs).
In other words, client is directed to follow the feeling back to an earlier time, and then the therapist encourages to tell everything that is happening as it happens. Then the therapist asks, “Is that feeling familiar like, oh boy, here we go again, or is it new?” So long as the feeling is familiar, one continues to direct the client to follow the feeling back “to an earlier” time when she felt that way. When it is “new” it is evident that ISE is found.
Generally, ISE’s occur before the age of 5. The exception occurs when some kind of trauma occurs later in your client’s life that explains the problem, such as when someone becomes afraid of horses after being bucked off of one.
4. Informed Child Therapy
This technique allows your client to know what they know now and it can change everything.
In this process the age regressed client, is taken before the ISE, informed by both the hypnotherapist and the “adult” (the unregressed aspect) of the client whatever she needs to hear, so that she can get through it without being filled with unnecessary fears and erroneous beliefs.
When this all happens, the “adult” client is right there supporting the “child” as she goes through the process, healing and becoming stronger for it. As the child changes, so does the adult. Calvin D. Banyan often ensures that the change stated in words by having the “child” say to the “adult”, “As I change, you change, because I am you. I live inside of you where all of your feelings come from.” This is usually a profound and emotional experience for the client. The client is then guided through one or two SSEs so that the insights, feelings and behaviour changes can be reinforced as they go through them knowing what they know now.
5. Age Progression (optional)
Here, the “future-self” tells the “adult” client whatever he needs to know to ensure the change into the future. It serves two purposes:
- Testing the results:-
If the client can move through a mental simulation free of the emotions, the Age Regression is complete.
- Reinforcing the change and building confidence:-
Each time the client moves through a simulation successfully, repeat the insight process. If Future Self can change, client can change, and Future Self can provide all the information the client needs about how to successfully accomplish those changes.
6. Therapy – Replacement With Positive Emotions And Feelings
According to Dr. Rajiv Naidu, with the exit if the earlier emotion, there becomes a vacuum. The therapist now aims at replacing the vacuum with positive emotions. Banyan also recommends a “forgiveness to others and self” process.
Importance Of Follow – Up
No matter how successful an age regression might appear to be, or how satisfied the client may seem, it is an extremely involved process the full impact of which may not even be known. Therefore, even in the case of a single-session regression, a second session for follow-up is imperative.
To Be Kept In Mind
- Avoid Leading The Client.
A study by Dr. Joseph Green, professor at Ohio University, 32 students were informed prior to the hypnosis that hypnosis could lead to false memories and could not help people remember events that they could not ordinarily remember. 16 students were not given any similar information.
The students were asked about an uneventful night during their week, where they experienced uninterrupted sleep, uninfluenced by alcohol or drugs, and inability to recall dreams. While the students were placed under hypnosis, they were asked if they had heard a loud noise at 4 a.m. After hypnosis, the students were asked if they remembered hearing a loud noise at 4 a.m. 28% of the informed students and 44% of the uninformed students claimed that they had heard a loud noise at 4 a.m.
Dr. Green found that the “warnings are helpful to some extent in discouraging pseudo memories, but did not prevent pseudo memories and did not reduce the confidence subjects had in those memories.”
- Defence Mechanism
The purpose of AR is to go back and discover the early life traumatic experiences. These are assumed to be blocked from the conscious memory and the sub-conscious defence mechanisms. It, therefore, exists to protect something that they are not ready to experience because it is too traumatic or painful.
These defence mechanism should be, thus, treated with great respect when discovered. Banyan prefers to not expose the memory, and related experience, to the client without knowing that they are ready to handle it.
– Heet Pandya