“Will you help me discover who I was in a past life?” “Do you do past lives work?” “What do you think about past lives?”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard those and related questions, I’d be, well, you know how the saying goes.

Past Life Regressions are big business. There are people who build their whole practice around doing them. There is one woman in my area who travels, speaks at conferences, holds training seminars and has made an empire around a practice that seems to be entirely based on helping people discover their “past lives.” This woman even calls herself “Doctor,” even though her “degree” comes from a confirmed “diploma mill” where anyone can buy the title.

Yep, it’s big business. So why can’t I bring myself to “give the people what they want?”

Because I don’t believe in past lives and I can’t offer a service I don’t believe in.

There, I said it. Now let me explain before the mob gathers and sends me into my next life.

It is possible that past lives exist. I cannot discount the idea 100%. I can’t disprove the concept to the point where I would be comfortable saying it’s a certainty. So, if I am wrong, feel free to point, laugh and make fun of me in the next life. Please make sure you point out how wrong I was and remind me of it over and over. I invite that.

However, I don’t see a shred of evidence to indicate that past lives are real. There’s lots of anecdotal “evidence” where someone has had an experience “that can’t be explained any other way,” that can be explained lots of other ways. There are even stories of people who have had a “past life” experience, then gone on to confirm details from that experience in such depth that the experience “can’t be explained in any other way” except for being a genuine past life experience. Of course, it’s always a friend of a friend, or told by someone selling past lives regressions, or in some other way not able to be confirmed. Basically, it rises to the level of an urban legend.

I’d love to be wrong about this; I’d learn something new that would blow my mind. But I don’t think I am.

I think “past life” experiences can be a valuable tool. They are the hypnotic equivalent of the famed Rorschach inkblot test. The client starts to tell a story and fills in the details. In those details are clues to the client’s present life. It’s a principle known as projection.

Psychological projection is a defense mechanism people subconsciously employ in order to cope with difficult feelings or emotions. Psychological projection involves projecting undesirable feelings or emotions onto someone else, rather than admitting to or dealing with the unwanted feelings.

If a client spontaneously regresses into a “past life,” I am happy to use the experience in therapy. I am also willing to use the techniques as part of ongoing therapy but under neither circumstance will I encourage the client to believe that the experience genuinely indicates that can and did happen before this lifetime. I don’t actively attempt to dissuade the client from that belief either if they have had a meaningful experience that helps them make progress, but I will explain that from my perspective, the useful part of the exercise is in relating the experience back to this life.

“Past Lives”.  A useful, but a misnamed approach to getting the imagination involved in therapy. If you are looking for someone who believes in past lives, I would be more than happy to refer you to my esteemed colleague down the street, but in my office, don’t expect any genuine revelations related to things that happened before you were born to come out of our sessions.