Age regression is a hypnotherapeutic method for clients to retrieve memories of past events that explain certain behaviors, emotions and beliefs that they have today. Disorders, addictions, phobias, fears, anxieties and dysfunction in interpersonal relationships can be addressed, and frequently resolved, with age regression therapy, according to the Wellness Institute of the Americas (n.d., para. 2). The regression is a form of hypnoanalysis: using the process we can recover, identify and analyze the root causes for certain conscious conditions in order to remove them, thereby beginning the recovery process for clients. Cal Banyan (2013) calls age regression an “insight technique.”
This blog entry provides an overview of age regression as a potentially beneficial hypnotherapy technique for clients. It explains age regression, the reasons clients may choose to undergo the process, the various induction techniques therapists employ to achieve age regression, and the possible risks. This entry serves as a basic guide to age regression and does not aim to advocate age regression as a go-to solution for all psychic dysfunctions. Indeed, not all clients are suited to the process and therapists who are not entirely comfortable with the emotionally intense style of age regression are not encouraged to administer it (Hunter, 2013).
Often age regression reveals that the client has developed negative behaviors as a means to distract herself from dealing with painful aspects of her past. For instance, age regression can highlight damaging past experiences that drugs or alcohol were used to subvert pain. When age regression therapy brings these painful events or buried memories to the surface, the need to distract or medicate can be eliminated and the patient can begin to heal (“Wellness”, n.d., para. 2).
The age regression therapy process can be dramatic: it requires the client to revivify, or relive in their minds’ eye (Banyan, 2013), past incidents, and the revivification is achieved by activating intense emotions. According to Cal Banyan, a true age regression is a vivid hallucination of a past event, so real to the client that the event is re-experienced with all of the emotional impact and clarity of the actual event. He says it most closely resembles the experience of having a dream that is so real that one may be left feeling like it had actually happened.
Because the revivification is believed to be real in the client’s mind, she will respond to her memories as though she were in them. In fact, it should be the therapist’s objective to ensure the memories are recalled vividly, by inducing trance to a somnambulistic state (more on this later). So vivid is the re-experiencing that the client may hit a memory that hurts and then exhibit an abreaction (abnormal reaction), often by crying or screaming. C. Roy Hunter (2013) says that abreactions are one reason even some therapists oppose the use of age regressions. These therapists believe clients do not need to experience such extreme reactions while experiencing unpleasant past experiences (Hunter).
To manage abreactions, the hypnotherapist uses psycho-education and reframing to help the client understand that the events actually happened a long time ago, will not hurt her any more and have been retrieved for the sake of therapy and learning (Lew, personal communication, August 6, 2013).
Many induction techniques are used for age regression therapy. The Corridor Method re-imagines the many entrances down a corridor imagery created in an earlier Safe Place visualization session done with the client. In a subsequent session when age regression is done, the client is asked to enter each door on the left to revivify her past, then to proceed to the respective doors on the right for solutions, before revisiting her personal safe place to end the regression without negative overhang.
Some therapists use the Photo Album technique (Swartz, n.d., para. 2), a process whereby the client turns a photo album backwards and sees her memories in photographs. As she reviews old pictures, she sees herself and others in them grow younger and smaller, and the photographs turning from color to black and white (for dissociation purposes). The visualization is induced by suggestions the therapist provides.
A common induction is the Affect Bridge. Karinna Najera (2009) says the Affect Bridge approach is one of the more popular ones that therapists use. As the name suggests, in this process the therapist makes use of key emotions to experientially bridge the client from the present to the past. The method works by amplifying those emotions that are psychically linked to the client’s trauma or dysfunction and using the amplication to revivify an earlier event in her life that caused the trauma or dysfunction.
For the Affect Bridge method to do its work, Banyan (2013) counsels the therapist to practice eliciting strong emotions from clients and learn to work with them. He says this is not a method for every therapist since a certain comfort level must be achieved for dealing with very intense expressions of sadness, fear or anger. Banyan also says this method requires the client’s trance state to enter into somnambulism, or “sleep walking.” In this state, an age regression patient will be susceptible to hallucinations, allowing him or her to vividly relive past life experiences.
(At this point, I need to point out that there is an offshoot of regression therapy that addresses clients who regress to events beyond the realm of this life. When it occurs, the therapist does not and should not judge whether this is fantasy, delusion, symbolism or actual, even if his original aim was never to bring the client back into a different time dimension. Whatever the client re-experiences is real and useful for therapy. The original trauma in past life regression will be located in another life time, and it is the therapist’s duty to ring it out for treatment, regardless of his own biases.
As past-life regression expert Brian Weiss (2002) says, regressing to significant childhood events, to infancy, or even to past lives may provide considerable relief and benefit in the present time. He says that sometimes just by remembering, symptoms can be removed. Memories can lead to understanding, and understanding frequently leads to healing (Weiss). These insights come from a trained medical practitioner and psychiatrist who uses hypnotherapy as a treatment tool.)
There are other methods that therapists favor: having the client imagine herself on a Merry-Go-Round (Swartz, n.d., para. 14) or floating on a cloud (Swartz, para. 8). The underlying principles are the same: to get the client to see herself becoming younger and smaller, so that she can re-experience past events and return to one specific point that triggered the present day trauma. The past events are known as subsequent sensitizing events, or SSEs. Those SSEs, in turn, were triggered by the “root cause” event, known as the Initial Sensitizing Event. Unless the therapist can guide the regressed client back to the ISE, use it to uncover the causes of the original trauma, utilize the information for the client’s healing, no recovery may be expected (Banyan, 2013).
Apart from the probability of abreactions, Hunter (2013) has pointed out that there is a risk of false memories in using age regression. False memories are planted by hypnotists who project their own preconceived opinions into the client’s trance journey. These “mental constructions” include rape, physical abuse or injuries. Hunter says the best way to avoid implanting false memories is by asking clean questions, ie. asking the “W” questions: what, when, where, who, why, and how (which ends in “w”). Also, a good pre-talk with a client helps reduce the risk; because anytime emotion is involved, our perception of an event can differ from facts.
Banyan, C. (2013). The Key to Successful Hypnotherapeutic Age Regression: Identifying the Initial Sensitizing Event. In Cal Banyan’s Hypnosis.org. Retrieved August 31, 2013, from https://www.hypnosis.org/free-hypnosis/hypnosis-hypnotherapy-articles/ezine-articles.php?aid=1028
Hunter, C.R. (2013). Discovering Causes with Hypnotic Regresison. In Cal Banyan’s Hypnosis. org. Retrieved August 10, 2013, from https://www.hypnosis.org/free-hypnosis/hypnosis-hypnotherapy-articles/ezine-articles.php?aid=833
Najera, K. (2009). Age Regression as a Therapeutic Tool. In Focus on Change: Hypnotherapy . Retrieved September 2, 2013, from http://focusingonchange.com/age-regression-therapeutic-tool
Swartz, R. (n.d.). Hypnotic Age Regression Techniques that Work. Retrieved from http://hypnotistexaminers.com/PDF/ACHE-Article9-11a.pdf
Weiss, B. L. (2002). Mirrors of Time: Using Regression for Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Healing. California: Hay House.
Wellness Institute of the Americas. (n.d.). In Age Regression . Retrieved from http://wellness-americas.com/age-regression/