Regression Therapy
Regression Therapy

Can We Establish an Ethical and Scientific Basis for Regression Work? by Jan Erik Sigdell

Istanbul 67

In a European group much controversy recently arose about questions of ethical and scientific aspects of regression and even “elitist” claims in that respect. The discussion about this concerns everyone everywhere who works with regressions and needs to be taken to a public level in the professional community. I herewith wish to give answers to criticism and outline a basis for our work.*

What are souls?

One point of criticism was that everyone speaks about souls and even soul fractions and yet no one seems to be able to define them.

If there would be no self that survives the death of the body, there could be no reincarnation and past-life regression would be nonsense. The only valid form of regression would be the attempt to go back into memories from the childhood and, at most, the prenatal state in the womb.

But what is a soul? Since we do work with regressions under the hypothesis or theory of reincarnation, it is obvious that we are dealing with souls. For us, a simplistic and pragmatic definition is quite sufficient: the soul is your self in a state that can exist without a body. Various doctrines, religions and philosophies talk about divisions of this self in at least two parts: soul and spirit, and up to five and more parts like various sheaths (Sanskrit: kosha) or levels which constitute a kind of “anatomy” of that self, but it is of little or even no value to be concerned with that in the practical work with regressions. Hence we may for practical purposes simply regard the soul to be all of that together.

Where is a soul?

An increasing number of physicists to day share the opinion that cosmos is multidimensional, however hard this is to imagine for us. But it can be grasped by means of the mathematics of theoretical physics, which is, however, quite abstract for most of us… The thing is that our organs of perception are three-dimensional and accordingly also our mind, our thinking and our consciousness are. Many find it hard to believe that there could be anything beyond that, only because their perception is limited to only the “material”. We are blind for the rest. But if we (normally) don’t perceive the soul that is out of the body, temporarily or definitely after the body’s death, where is it then? It will be in other dimensions, as will entities be. When we die, we “wake up” in a realm of higher dimensions and slowly begin to remember that we were there before. Soon we have no problems with the perception of these realms, since the soul’s organs of perception are multidimensional and perceive them easily. We do know that from regression experiences, in which we had the client continue to relive what he or she experienced after death in a past life. So is that then true, or not? It really makes a lot of sense and one important thing is the reproducibility. In science a phenomenon is usually regarded as probably true if it is reproducible, that is, if it is the same or highly similar whenever it occurs – but for many not in the case of such experiences, because of their “scientific prejudice”. Actually we all the time were multidimensional, but got so trapped in three-dimensional perception that we forgot about other realms. Some few people, however, perceive more and are clairvoyants or psychics (the real ones – there are, of course, also pretenders).

Thus we in a regression that includes spiritual and “esoteric” aspects open up a window to such realms, which has proven very helpful, indeed. It would be too bad if we were to close that window, only because some don’t believe in it, and resort to more materialistic techniques – a “regression” to a more “primitive” stage of regression procedures. That most of us know so little about these things doesn’t mean that it is wrong to open that “window”, because the results are the “proof of the pudding”.

Are there soul fractions?

There is some talking about “soul fractions”, mainly in the sense that apparently a part of the soul could split off and leave the main soul, much like loosing a limb and continue living without it. Can such things happen? There is an age-old shamanistic doctrine that it can, and shamans in such cases go “soul-hunting” to find the missing part and reunite it with the main soul. This is claimed to happen, e.g., in a heavy trauma, as if that “soul part” escapes to no more suffer. Since this view can be an effective help to the client in such a case, the theory is at least practically meaningful, since we can work with it and have positive results. This is, however, not a common part of regression therapy. But if a regressionist chooses to apply it in a suitable form and can effectively help clients with it: what is then wrong?

Psychological mechanisms of regression and memory

Another point of criticism was that there would be a lack of clarity as concerns psychological mechanisms in regression and remembering.

So what happens in a regression and what and where is a memory? There will be various “schools” related to different regression techniques and ways of practicing regression therapy, and no one can really know exactly what goes on! These different theories will all in part be true and in part wrong, i.e., there will be none that at the present state of knowledge can grasp the whole real picture … and if someone wants to impose his own idea, it becomes a dogmatism that will do more harm than good. At the present state of the art, the only plausible way is to respect each other’s theories – knowing that we ourselves could be wrong, just as well as they could, at least in part – and respect each other’s way of working according to an own theory as long as it gives positive practical results and doesn’t cause more than minimal harm – and that only exceptionally in rare cases – to any larger extent than other ways do. There will be no way that could not theoretically cause some form of limited and temporal harm in very special cases, just as there is no way that is 100 % helpful in each and every case – or the way of practicing limits itself to minimalistic help, leaving out important possibilities, as the saying goes: throwing the child out with the bathwater.

Who does really know in conventional psychology what is actually going on in and with a client? Here, too, there are various ideas and theories, and it will just have to be even more so in a regression therapy which includes the option of a previous existence in another body. But every responsible and well-experienced regressionist does know that his way of working really works for his clients – or he soon wouldn’t have any…

It would, of course, be nice if we could reach some kind of a “unified theory”, but it would most probably be in a continuous state of revision, and the one who is regarded as being right to day may be wrong to morrow, and the other way around… So far we can honestly and realistically only deal with variations of a theme much like different orchestras and conductors play the same music in their own ways and sometimes even with other instruments. Imposing strict concert rules may make the music rather unpalatable…

Imposing a minimalistic, “scientific” and materialistic world view

With “scientific” I here mean: according to the established world view of the official science in its present state (which could well be quite different to morrow). Imposing such a view is something that is of the potentially harmful nature mentioned above. The attempt to dictate how a regressionist should work and what he should believe would lead to omission of various valuable additional techniques which are being used successfully, only because someone else doesn’t believe in them.

Specific harm and damage can be caused by omission of spiritual aspects. Those who don’t believe in them cannot possible know that they have the “whole truth and nothing but the truth” and they must, therefore, let those who believe in them work accordingly, as long as they achieve positive results that way and cause no real harm (at least not more than their critics). A “materialistic” regression cannot be as complete as one which involves spiritual aspects. It may be that some who include such aspects talk about them in a rather sloppy and “esoteric” manner and find it hard to define what they are doing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that what they do is wrong. It often rather means that they deal with aspects and concepts which go beyond the materialistic and “scientific” world view but yet are valid. Regrettably, “scientific prejudice” tends to be limiting factor in our world.

So if we practice with cases which actually do fit a theory that there can be attachments of souls and even entities, who can with a good conscience (and karma!) attempt to stop them? After all: souls is what we are dealing with! Souls which are in the client’s body to day and before were in other bodies. That is the very basis of our work! And who am I and who are you to declare that a soul cannot for a period have an intermediate state without a body between incarnations? Of course we must, and definitely so, consider that option! And that inevitably leads to the possibility that such a soul in an intermediate state could in certain cases attach to a body that isn’t his. If a regressionist under this assumption comes to the conclusion that this appears to be the case: should he then not help the client to become free from such an attachment, only because there are some who don’t believe in it? That could, again, be harmfully excluding what might have helped the client and leave him in his inappropriate state, and that I would call irresponsible.

If we “shave off” all that appears too “esoteric”, too diffusely “spiritual” and not scientifically based (according to the actual stage of science and the “fashion of the day” in psychology that can well be quite different to morrow) we may need some 10 regressions to solve the client’s problem that now isn’t rarely solved in one single session. That would mean that not much more evolves than another kind of psychoanalysis. That would actually be a kind of “regression” of the technique back from the new to essentially the old, even if the latter is performed in a quite new manner. There are severe doubts about the effectiveness of psychoanalysis, see: I once had a client, who afterward informed me that one regression had helped her much more that a whole series of psychoanalysis sessions she had gone through before.

Are there entities?

So what is an entity? If we according to all evidence and empiricism have to assume that a soul after leaving the body can spend a period in an intermediate state, then it is a kind of entity in that state. But the common use of the term “entity” rather refers to a soul-like being that never (yet) had a physical body and hence never was incarnated. Who am I and who are you to tell that there is no such thing? Experience and empiricism do indicate that such entities do exist and that they can also attach to a client.

As there are “good” and “bad” people, there will also be “good” and “bad” entities, even though “good” and “bad” are largely subjective concepts which change with the frame of reference (such as religion). Can a person be really bad? Do we not nearly always find that an evildoer has become such a one due to a traumatic and violent childhood? If only we care to research his history… Thus “good” and “bad” often become quite relative concepts. That the person ha caused much suffering is, of course, really bad, and we want to judge him heavily. Yet: if we know his background, how can we judge? As Jesus said: “Judge not, least you will be judged.” And of course it is our duty to help the victims and stop him from doing such things, but that is another thing than judgment. Actually he will himself be in more need of help than many others, even though he doesn’t realize it.

So we have to assume that there could also be “good” and “bad” entities. The “bad” ones cause harm to incarnated souls and the “good” ones support and help them. The latter we may call “spiritual guides” or angels or what have you… And if they can be assumed to exist, who can with a good conscience want to forbid a regressionist or healer to attempt to cooperate and work with them? Again, imposing a more materialistic view would do harm in the sense of excluding a way of working that could be very helpful for certain groups of clients (and leave the latter to keep much of their problems).

Do we charge clients with non-original contents?

It was questioned whether it is really needed to use suggestions and imaginations to establish a bridge to a past life, since this could charge the client with “non-original contents” – and it would furthermore be questionable whether or not the experienced “past life” would really be one of the client’s.

Modern conventional psychology works to quite an extent with images and imaginations, such as the guided affective imagery (German: katathymes Bilderleben) of Hanscarl Leuner – and other methods. When we in regressions use images and imaginations as a bridge to past memories (in this or an earlier life): what is the real difference? What do we do wrong that they don’t? Properly handled, these are not suggestions, but aids – and the client then knows that they are – and then it appears highly unlikely they would impose some kind of a foreign view on the client.

Do we really impose a world view of reincarnation on a client who comes to us because he shares this view? Would he come if he didn’t? And if he experiences something that he understands to be a past life and that really helps him to solve his problem, what relevance do then discussions about the reality of the experience really have for him? Isn’t there rather the danger that such discussions could even contra-productively reverse the so far reached therapeutic effect and the client at the end loose the help offered?

Is it then a past life and is it his past life? The strong evidence is when the experience really helped and the client has become free from a possibly life-long problem! As a German saying goes: “Who heals is right!” If it really is a past life, or not, becomes a rather secondary question as long as it works! The main thing is unavoidably that the client achieves the help he sought. Often there is, though, enough evidence in the “story” that does fit facts of the past. But no therapist has the time and means for extensive historical research of individual cases and can much better use his time for other clients who are waiting… And if it most probably is a past life, is it his past life? How could the experience be of a real help if it wasn’t? How could he become completely free from a life-long fear of heights (and that in maybe only one regression!) through experiencing how someone else fell down and died? Or in whatever case from a story that isn’t at least essentially a part his own? I believe that he could not! He may reduce his symptoms, but not become definitely free, and the problem may later pop up again…

Tapping into an energy that isn’t yours

It has also been objected that a client could in a regression tap into an energy that isn’t his. If that is really so in an individual case, I see good reasons to assume that he unconsciously did so already before the regression, and that it is from that (at least in part) that he has his problem! Or he may have attracted that energy because of his problem. If it should really be a foreign energy of whatever kind, and if it relates to the problem, there will be good reasons to deal with it…

Symbolical aspects of the soul

Still one more point of criticism concerned the use of models like “inner child”, “higher self”, “spiritual guide”, “path to the light”, “mountain of knowledge”, “book of wisdom” and the like, since this doesn’t come from the client but is offered to him for support. This could, it was claimed, impose a world view on him that isn’t his own.

Above, theoretical divisions of the soul in parts that constitute a kind of hypothetical soul “anatomy” were touched upon. In many ways of regressions some kind of more or less symbolic “assistants” are used, such as the “inner guide”, “higher self”, “inner physician” and the like. This is quite analogous to certain forms of imagery in more conventional forms of psychological work. It is obvious that if the client had a past life, the memories from it will not be in his brain, or he would to day know at least a bit of a past life even without a regression. These memories will be in his soul and came with it into the present incarnation. Using such “assistants” we invite the soul (or an appropriate part of it) to give help and support with knowledge that the brain has no access to. In a proper regression, we also make it clear to the client that this is just what it is!

If the memory would be only in the brain it would be lost when the body dies. Hence it is very obvious, indeed, that the soul is the carrier of deeper memories. Otherwise past-life regression would (again) be nonsense. So what is the “unconscious self”? In my opinion there are two levels of unconscious memories:

  • memories in the soul, and
  • memories which are “hidden away” in the brain, not being actual now or even being suppressed.

The latter kind of memories may be triggered by circumstances to pop up by themselves, but hardly the former kind. So if we really want to access the deeper memories, those of the first kind, we need to involve the soul and invite it to “assist”, for which such “imagery” is really very helpful indeed. Or we would much more than else be “poking in the dark” and again limit our methodology to exclude valuable options for helping the clients.

Conversation in a hypnotic state

It was claimed that conversations take place while a client is in deep sleep and yet replies to questions. Or that he is subject to a treatment while in a deep state of hypnosis, but remembers nothing of it afterwards. It was suggested that this isn’t regression therapy but hypnotherapy. So what is hypnosis?

Isn’t all regression work hypnotic?

Many want to claim that it is. But what does the Greek word hýpnos really mean? It means “sleep”! So if the client is not more or less asleep, this doesn’t fit the definition. We have to differentiate between two alternative states in a regression:

  • a hypnotic state, which often involves a post-hypnotic amnesia, unless a post-hypnotic suggestion is given to remember everything, and in which the body could be more or less under control of the past mind, and
  • a non-hypnotic “alpha” state, in which the body is more or less relaxed but the mind is all the time aware both of “here and now” and of “there and then”, so that the present mind participates in the experience and automatically remembers (Hans ten Dam appropriately calls this an “elliptic” state of consciousness), and a state in which the body is mainly under control of the present mind.

A popular expression to day is to talk about “altered states”, which would include both states above but nevertheless still leave them as two subgroups. Therefore “altered states” is just a common “heading” under which we are still to differentiate between hypnotic and non-hypnotic states.

To day most regressions will be more or less non-hypnotic and the real hypnotic approach is used less than in earlier periods of regression work. But we of course cannot draw a sharp line between the two states, which “mix” in an intermediate “gray zone”, so that even a non-hypnotic regression can become a bit “pseudo-hypnotic”. This is not our aim, but we can deal with it if it does.

The real aim is with any induction procedure to achieve a by-pass past the rational mind and reach a more or less direct communication with the unconscious mind. So if the client snores in the regression (which I have never experienced…) it will rather be due to the relaxed state of the body than anything else, and the sought communication with the unconscious mind will nevertheless be established if he speaks and answers to our questions. If he doesn’t remember the experience after the regression, it was probably more or less intentionally hypnotic, in which case it was a mistake of the regressionist to not give the suggestion to remember everything afterwards…

Rational or intuitive regression?

A regression carried out in a rather rational way by the regressionist, out of his rational mind, will not be as successful as a regression carried out in an intuitive way. After long experience it in the ideal case becomes increasingly intuitive. The regressionist sometimes “out of the guts” does something he cannot really explain, which turns out to be just the right thing. This is what we should achieve.

When is a regression terminated?

Some seem to put certain requirements for when a session can be considered to be terminated.

For a responsible regressionist there can never be any “must”. It is to be regarded as finished (at least for this time) when it is obvious enough that the problem should be more or less solved, which means that an obvious cause has or obvious causes have been re-experienced and all soul-injuring negative emotional energies acquired from it or them have been released and dissolved – and replaced with new energies (such as symbolically with light energy). Or in certain cases when we see that we this time can do no more (e.g., due to unconscious resistance we in spite of all effort couldn’t overcome) and that we should continue maybe a week or two later (experience shows that it may then work much better).


Summarizing what has so far been discussed it becomes obvious:

  • The method used cannot be the main subject of judgment, but instead how it is used. If imagery or visualization is used at all, or not, and which imagery, is not a matter to be judged, since any judgment here could be based only on personal opinion or, maybe, the fashion of the day in “science”. If an “inner”, “visualized” or “imaginary” aid is used – and what kind, be it a “spiritual guide”, the “higher self”, a “book of knowledge” or what have you – is not to be judged. This is all a matter of “therapeutic freedom” (a term coined in Germany, “Therapiefreiheit”, in view of the monopolistic and anti-competitive attempts to eliminate certain alternative medical treatments in that country).
  • What is to be judged is how the method, any method, is used. The main thing is that it must be used in a responsible manner and that the basic principle of any therapeutic work is love. Any proper therapy is an act of love. This means that the primary aim is to make the client free from his problem and reach a catharsis – in a general manner or in a specific manner relating to the problem.
  • If the client is charged with non-original contents or manipulated in his world concept depends not on what is used, but how it is used. One example: I define the “inner guide” as follows to the client: “This is a symbolic appearance of your own unconscious self, so that you see it in front of you in the inner image and in this manner can have a conversation with your own unconscious self.” Since everyone to day knows that we all have an unconscious self, this is easily understood and doesn’t manipulate his world view. It doesn’t impose a new idea.

Of course there could in exceptional cases be a question of an item used in the method. But such cases would be very special.

  • There must, of course, also not be an imposition of a belief such that the trauma, which caused the problem, in reality never happened, but you had misunderstood the situation. Methods like rescripting and reframing seem to be used that way in certain cases, however not being the general idea of such methods. But when used to manipulate the memory, it becomes abusive and gives the client a lie to live with: the lie “It never happened; I only thought that it did.” Because in the unconscious self, however deeply buried, remains the truth “It did happen, even though I imagine that it didn’t.” This results in an inner conflict that is likely to make the problem pop up again, be it even years later. What we want to reach is: “I know it happened, but it doesn’t matter to me at all anymore; I am free from it.” This, again, has to do with how a certain method is used.

Jan Erik Sigdell was born in Sweden in 1938 and moved to Switzerland in 1968. He became a Master of Engineering in electronics in 1962 and graduated as a Dr. of Technology in medical engineering in 1968. In the 70’s he experimented with hypnotic regressions and in 1979 he had the opportunity to learn a non-hypnotic regression technique, which he has since developed further and extended with new additional techniques. Since 1980, and parallel to working as a free-lance consultant for the dialysis industry, he operated a practice in Basel, Switzerland, for regression therapy. He moved to Slovenia, the home country of his wife, in 1997 where he is now retired and still working. He has written several books on reincarnation and regression therapy and a number of articles in various journals (see his webpage; most of them are in German and Swedish). Much of his research work is dedicated to the question of reincarnation and Christianity, about which he has written an extensive treatise.

* In this text I for simplicity mainly use the male form instead of over and again repeating “he or she”, “his or her” and the like.

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