Regression Therapy
Regression Therapy

A Changing Perspective on Emotions in Regression Therapy

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By Hans Ten Dam

Here, Ten Dam relates how his views of the roles of emotions in regression therapy have evolved over time. He proposes that negative emotions have a proper and working place in our human experience and uses parts of sessions as illustrations of this point. He defines emotions in many different ways, such as communication, information and states of being.

In my first years as a regression therapist, the role of emotions seemed clear-cut. Emotions were used to induce regression, to focus the session and to anchor the evolving train of events relived. Finally, emotions were the most noticeable part of catharsis.

A client may have recurrent bouts of deep loneliness. Focusing on the loneliness, we find that it connected with a sense of coldness throughout the body. If the session results in a shallow catharsis, no part of the body is cold anymore. In a deep catharsis, all parts of the body are warm. Likewise, in a shallow catharsis, feelings of anger may have disappeared. In a deep catharsis, they may transmute into feelings of peace, acceptance and inner strength. In a shallow catharsis, negative emotions dissolve. In a deep catharsis, negative emotions transmute into positive emotions. All this is straightforward. Most fellow therapists will recognize this.

However, in the course of the years my views on emotions have changed. Nowadays I consider negative emotions to have their own part to play. They do not need releasing; they do not need transmuting. Usually they need restraining, pruned, cut back like a cancerous growth. Sometimes negative emotions have to be released, sometimes they have to be cleansed, and sometimes they have to be repositioned. I will give examples of each.

Sometimes, after a good session still some part of the negative emotions remains. Although the patient may have experienced a rewarding catharsis, some of the loneliness, of the disappointment, the anger, the grief or the guilt remains. Usually this means that the session is not completed. There is still something to discover and understand. We have to go back once more, maybe relive an aspect of the situation we ignored, or to relive another situation.

Sometimes, however, nothing new is found. Apparently, all relevant experiences were explored and all aspects have surfaced. When we then ask patients how they feel about this remaining charge, they may say to their own surprise that it feels all right. Then we ask what the function of this remaining charge is. On the other hand, it is OK to be there, but seems positioned in the wrong part of the body.

A woman felt weakness in her arms and legs related to her disappointment. After the session, she only feels a light disappointment in her shoulders. Somehow, it does not feel right on that spot. After we instructed her to feel the remaining disappointment flow toward the right spot, she felt it flows to her throat and then to her stomach. When asked for its function, her response was that this charge made her sensitive to the disappointment of others.

Maybe she has a rosy, innocent, naïve sub-personality who needs watching over. Her answer could also have been that this prevented overly optimistic expectations. Or she does not know and we suggest going to a future situation in which she experiences the function of this charge at the stomach. Her answer might then be that this spot would warn her against decisions that will result in disappointment. When it is strong, it may even stop her from taking a road that will lead to disappointment.

The negative emotions that remain after a good session may be highly functional. Sometimes the location may feel right, but isolated. Then we may ask to what it needs to be connected, or we suggest feeling that the charge is streaming or flowing instead of being stagnant. One answer may be that this spot is connected to another spot around the navel, which has to do with unshakeable self-assurance. The connection may result in a feeling of being able to stand any disappointment. Or it may prevent that self-assurance from becoming arrogant. Let me give some examples from my therapy practice.

Somebody has worked on a general feeling of weakness. The catharsis leads to a search of strength that is felt throughout to whole trunk. The client glows with it. Asked if there is any weakness left, he answers after some searching that at the tail of his breastbone remains a small center of weakness. Does it feel bad? Not really. So what is its function? It ensures that my strength will remain subtle, flexible; not brute, stupid force.

Another patient works on the general sense of isolation and coldness. Afterwards she feels warm throughout. Only her right hand remains cold and it is somehow connected to the feeling of guilt. How does she feel about that cold right hand? The coldness is not too bad; it is actually refreshing. However, that cold hand is not good. Imagine that the fresh coldness would go to another part of your body where it would fit better. Where would that be? It pulls up to a spot about the middle of my forehead. Feel yourself in a situation in which this cold spot in your forehead functions optimally. I can see everybody around me, to what extent they are warm and cold and what extent they need warmth or coldness. I can look to overheated people, feverish people and calm them. At least I can prevent that I loose my calm. And if people need warmth, because they are cold, I can perceive that without losing my own warmth.

Another client works on envy and jealousy. After the catharsis some of it remains. What should be done with it? Strange, when you ask this, suddenly see it rising out of my thought becoming a small line like a thread, stretching horizontally before my eyes. What is it doing there? I can see now the very fine division between what is just and what is unjust between me and other people, and between other people in general.

After an extremely painful and horrifying experience, someone fills with black hate and hot anger. In the course of several lifetimes parts of this anger and hate are processed and resolved, but there is still something unresolved. In the session we find out how all this started. There comes a kind of understanding, and the harmony and love, which existed before the painful experience, are regained and begin to flow into the client. At the end of the session, she is in full possession of her original radiant power. Powerlessness, important rage and hate are gone. Is there still anything hot in you? No. Is there still anything black in you? Now as you ask this, I feel two black spots in the palms of my hand. What do you want to do with them? I do not know. Feel the difference between having those two black spots and not having them. If they are not there, I have lost something. They are my power to stop things.

Even negative emotions have their own place. Apparently, we often do not need to get rid of them, but we have to prune them, to restrain them, to assign them their proper place; maybe an essential place, maybe a modest place, but a proper place. Every emotion has its place in a balance with other emotions, just as the total of our emotions has to find a balance with the non-emotional.

Emotions are states we are in, how we feel our selves.

Emotions are also energies. Emotions urge us to act in a certain way or to manifest ourselves in a certain way. Fear urges us to run away, to freeze, to hide or to fight. Love urges us to embrace. Joy urges to sing or dance. Envy urges us to take something; jealousy urges us to prevent somebody else from getting something. Loneliness urges us to find the ones we lost. Confusion urges us to search for clarity. Pain urges us to take care of our body.

Emotions are also information. An emotion simply tells us that there is something the matter. We open the letter and even before we start reading, we feel suffocated. Somebody makes a sensible business proposal, but we leave the meeting with a headache. We accepted a marriage proposal, but now we feel tight and tense. Emotions, like somatic symptoms, tell us something. We may either listen to them or ignore them.

Emotions are always also communication. When we are glad our eyes shine and our tone of voice changes. Our submissiveness shows, our fear shows, and our anger shows. We show our emotions in the open or we hide them inside. They are, if not seen, then sensed. If we repress or disown emotions, we repress or disown information, we repress or disown communication; most of all, we repress or disown energy. Almost all stress is blocked emotional energy.

Rationalizing people tend to suppress and disown emotions. In the vernacular of New Age, they are in their head, not in their body. They depreciate emotions and somatics until they are burned out.

Emotions are our friends, even our soul mates; they are semi-independent parts of our own soul. We have to tame them and ennoble them, not avoid and denounce them.

Positive emotions may have to be pruned. A feeling of forgiveness may be so pervading that we no longer can defend our own space and become easy prey to parasitic influences. Even a feeling of love can be so pervading that we become blind and leak love into swamps and into dark whirlpools where it is absorbed and feeds its opposite. Well known is the hate of the grumbling receivers of charity.

In another metaphor, our emotions are like horses. We ride them-or they ride us. Our positive emotions are friendly horses; our negative emotions are dark war-horses. We should learn to ride them, because we live in a dangerous world. Learning to ride them, we get stature-not only here but also in peaceful worlds.

Most people in most of our history have been over-emotional. So advise how to learn detachment and calm abounds. Many people are too detached, cold and dry, mental-or worse, spiritual-far from the murky recesses of the body and the physical world. They need emotions to prevent them from dying off while still in the body. They think they need to offer people a way out of fear. They do not realize that fear may point the way-toward a frightened forgotten part of us; just like depression may point the way toward a sad and lonely forgotten part of us.

There is no creation without emotions. We get only fluffy creation with positive emotions. Good for babies and infants; and for kind old people, slowly dying; less good for the rest. People who want only the positive emotions do not want to develop, but to be happy. That is OK, but they should stay out of the therapy room-and out of every other delivery room.

Dr. Hans TenDam, has degrees from the University of Amsterdam in psychology and pedagogy. He has been active in the field of past life therapy for over twenty years and has published several books, including Exploring Reincarnation and Deep Healing. Dr. TenDam is the Director of Tasso, an IBRT certified training program in The Netherlands.


An example of the forth approach is the oldest known form of regression therapy: dianetics of L. Ron Hubbard (1950). All episodes of lessened consciousness, physical or emotional pain lead to engrams, as he calls them. Identifying and repeated reliving of those engrams leads to discharge. His ideas resemble those of Columbus: obstinate misconceptions, but epoch-making results. Like many pioneers, his significance is more in opening new territory than in developing a handy conceptual framework. His methods are rigid, probably effective, but inefficient. Intense opposition against his approach has led to a self-contained empire of cleared people, maintaining itself with the ample proceeds of the time-consuming clearing of others. Out of dianetics came scientology, operating under duress. Scientology is a bastion, formed by a religious denomination, by copyrights on each sentence, and a tenacity resembling Jehovah’s Witnesses. Scientologists don’t canvass at your doorstep, but harass you by mail. Let’s describe briefly the therapy of Ron Hubbard without the jargon, and without fully justifying his methodology.

The remigrant or patient holds in his hands two tin cans or other electrodes connected to an E-meter, measuring skin resistance. The therapist, called auditor, keeps track of the meter. The auditor counts back in time, till he hits a traumatic episode, indicated by the E-meter showing lower skin resistance. He dates this period precisely and establishes its duration precisely. By questioning, he clarifies the initial situation. He asks the remigrant what he sees. From an often insignificant detail he develops the situation in full. Then he asks the remigrant to go over the whole episode in his mind. The E-meter shows to what extent this is done effectively. Then he asks to tell the experience. Usually, emotions have lessened somewhat in the telling, but did not discharge completely. He has the agony traversed many times till the remigrant remains completely calm. The auditor then asks if there is another situation linked to this one, which has to be traversed. If the E-meter shows a reaction (similar to the use of finger signals), he searches for those other episodes and processes them likewise.

Often the remigrant blocks. He prefers to avoid an experience, doesn’t see anything, impressions remain vague or he glosses over things. So the engram is not released. Questions that open the engram are: ‘what can you sense? What precisely do you see? What can you confront? What can you be responsible for?’

Many engrams are anchored in postulates: the conclusions and decisions we used to deal with the situation. Examples are: “It isn’t really happening.” Or: “I will nevermore show how I feel.” Remigrants can recount an episode in four or five versions before they recount what really happened, what they really did. Even then, processing may be incomplete because the embedded postulates still have to be resolved.

Hubbard’s procedures are strict. The auditor has the remigrant recount a traumatic episode till the E-meter shows no reflections anymore. Hubbard gives several examples of the tenacity of scientologists, including one case of forty hours working at one situation (Hubbard 1958).

Later approaches that connect past-life therapy to behavioral therapy, are in one respect even more primitive: discharge is sought by mere repetition, while scientology stresses confronting the situation and taking responsibility, be it in a mechanical way.

Stanislav Grof is an example of the fifth, cathartic approach. Typical for Grof’s approach is strongly somatic induction (forced breathing) and strongly somatic processing. Other therapists stress mental processing: understanding and reinterpreting. Often a therapy has positive effects, but takes long or leads to inconclusive results, because mental processing was neglected, or the reverse: because somatic processing was neglected. Occasionally, mental processing and somatic processing have both been done while the emotions have been neglected. Lasting catharsis presupposes that work has been done and results have been booked on four levels: mental, sensory, emotional and physical. Well-known examples of this fifth school are Morris Netherton, Roger Woolger and Hans TenDam.

According to Ron Hubbard (1958) 82% of people clearly improve psychologically and physically after past-life therapy. General belief or disbelief in reincarnation has no influence on its success. The only condition is that apparent experiences from other times are accepted as meaningful subjective material, without continuously wondering about their objective truth. Several studies show that past-life regressions diminished psychotism scores, and enhanced the reality perception scores of patients. Also extraversion increases, another indication that reality orientation improves.

Rabia Clark writes that therapists report most often success with relationship problems and phobias, and the least success with obesity, addictions and depression. Brian Weiss found (1993) the success rate increasing from 50% to 70% by careful intake and by carefully connecting past-life experiences to (childhood) experiences in this lifetime.

Success certainly is not only a question of the right methods. Past-life therapy, like most psychotherapy, is more than applying skills; it also depends on the person of the therapist. A good therapist is weathered and mild, all friendliness and scars.

Suggested reading

Early works. Ron Hubbard wrote Dianetics (1950), a thick and controversial book of somebody who became even more controversial since. For the practicing professional, study of this work is a must, despite the prolixity and obstinacy that seem to be inherent in pioneering works. Hubbard’s later book about past-life regressions (1958) is the opposite of prolix, but unfortunately badly organized and presented.

One of the first books about the relationship between past lives and therapy, from Inácio Ferreira (1955) is interesting to read, but at the same time disappointing, Mediums identify the causes of eleven psychiatric cases in past lives. The cases seem valid and the restimulations in the present life are interesting and credible. What is being done with that? Absolutely nothing. This is no precursor of past-life therapy. Karl Muller (1970) later gives many examples of spiritist past-life therapy, mainly about karmic obsessors.

Another early book is that of Denys Kelsey and Joan Grant (1967), but they do not give examples from sessions. Kelsey’s new book, posthumously published, does (Kelsey 2007).

Works in English. Past-life therapy really starts in 1978 with the now classical works of Edith Fiore and Morris Netherton. Another good read is the book by Glenn Williston & Judith Johnstone (1983). Florence Wagner McClain (1986) wrote a practical and informative brochure, an almost ideal introduction to regression therapy for potential clients. The only objection is that she suggests that anybody can experiment with regressions and that guidance is just knowing what questions to ask. Joel Whitton (1986) is interesting and illuminating, especially about the intermission period, but uses classical hypnotic induction and classical psychiatry and hardly offers specific methodology.

Past-Life Therapy in Action by Dick Sutphen and Lauren Taylor (1987) is the best presentation of Sutphen’s way of working.

Roger Woolger wrote one of the best books on past-life therapy (1987). He makes it crystal clear that regression is only the beginning of therapy.

The first, already mentioned, book by Brian Weiss (1988) was the report of a psychiatrist that stumbled into past lives. His second book (1993) is already much more interesting. His colleague Robert Jarmon is a psychiatrist who likewise discovered past lives by accident. Though the regression techniques and insights in the whole process remain somewhat superficial, we have her a true, professional therapist at work. Also interesting is that he intersperses regression cases with other cases from his practice as a medical doctor and a psychiatrist, like near-death experiences and psychic experiences of non-psychic people. Good stories, well told (Jarmon 1997). A third American psychiatrist, who stumbled into past lives and wrote about her findings, is Shakuntala Modi. She gives interesting statistics of her therapy practice (1997).

Garrett Oppenheim gives good examples of therapies (1990). Winafred Lucas wrote and edited two volumes in which she has ten therapists explain their way of working (1993). A must for the practicing therapist!

Rabia Lynn Clark wrote her doctoral thesis on past-life therapy (1995). She inventorizes how past-life therapists work, what they work on, how long and with what results. Hans TenDam wrote Deep Healing (1996) and Andy Tomlinson recently described his therapy work and its consequences (2006).

Works in German. The first German past-life therapist who published, was Thorvald Dethlefsen (1976). Werner Koch is an other therapist, apparently experienced, but posturing as if he invented past-life therapy (1992). Far better are the books by the Swede Jan-Erik Sigdell (1993, 2006) who worked many years from Switzerland and now in Slovenia. Good reads are the books by Ulrich Kramer (2006). Marianne Carolus explains past-life therapy in anthroposophical terms (2006).

This text is an abbreviation and an update of chapter 16 in Hans TenDam’s Exploring Reincarn ation (2003).

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