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Past life hypnosis is the belief that under deep hypnosis people may recall the details of past lives or incarnations. It is often practiced as a means of therapy or emotional healing. Practitioners say that clients’ emotional or mental health issues may be the result of experiences, traumas, or influences from past lives.
Hypnosis is a mental state sometimes described as being similar to a deep sleep or a trance. The practitioner puts the client into the hypnotic state using hypnotic induction. Hypnotic induction may involve relaxation techniques, the use of certain phrases, and other means. Using hypnosis as a form of therapy remains controversial, but past life hypnosis is approached with even more skepticism.
Past life hypnosis differs from regression hypnosis, another form of hypnotherapy. With regression hypnosis, the practitioner tries to help the client remember past events in the current life. This type of hypnotherapy also remains controversial. Skeptics cite the hypnotist’s ability to introduce false memories or events the client thinks he or she has experienced but did not.
False memories are also a criticism with past life hypnotism. Those cynical of past life hypnosis also argue that the client is more likely having an experience similar to a dream or fantasy rather than remembering a past life. They argue that the words, phrasing, or influences of the hypnotist may influence that dream or fantasy and cause the client to behave or speak in a way that supports the belief that a past life has been uncovered.
One of the most famous cases of past life hypnosis involved a Colorado woman named Virginia Tighe. In 1952, Tighe gave her birthday as 1798, her name as Bridey Murphy, and said she was from Cork, Ireland, while under hypnosis. She sang songs and told stories of Irish origin and spoke with a thick brogue, giving details of her past life. Tighe’s past life experience was recorded in a best-selling book written by her hypnotist, Morey Bernstein. An investigation by the Chicago American newspaper found an Irish woman named Bridie Murphey who lived across the street from Tighe’s childhood home, among other details that indicated Tighe’s memories were not from a past life.
Those who believe that past life hypnosis is real believe it occurs because hypnosis opens the unconscious mind and releases memories from other incarnations. One of the main proponents of past life hypnosis is Brian L. Weiss, a physician and psychotherapist. Weiss, a Yale Medical School graduate, wrote the book Many Lives, Many Masters, published in 1988.