Could controversial regression therapy awaken suppressed memories and trauma?

Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

Part of a spouse’s duty is to sometimes do the things we don’t want to really do. We do it out of support and, well, to suffer through the circumstances and consequences so that our life partners do not journey through a bout of craziness alone. It’s also self-serving. In my case – I’d rather go through the past life regression with my wife, instead of send her alone on a journey to her past and have to hear about it all the livelong day. And that’s exactly what we’re about to do.

My wife is also a writer, and as part of research for a project she is working on, she is exploring different avenues of “therapy”, so to speak. Past life regression is one of them and we’re due to have the experience soon.  

I do not believe in star signs, or the motions of the moon and the effects it has on ones mood. There is no crystal ball worship to explain my experiences and I certainly do not imagine that a complete stranger can uncover secrets of my past and foresee fortunes in my future.

And as for the whole crossing over thing – well, I’d rather build a bridge and get over things than have some spirit communicate with me from the other side. But the more I think about this regression thing, the more I get freaked out. This angst was not helped by a documentary series we’re currently watching called “The Keepers”.

The bulk of the series is about the 1969 unsolved murder of a 26-year-old nun, Sister Cathy Cesnik, who was also a schoolteacher. But complex narrative also explores the sexual abuse of former students at the same school who confessed to the events twenty years later. 

The accused is the school's chaplain, and the students claim the nun’s awareness of the abuse as a motive for her murder. Enter repressed memories. Because the victims come forward two decades later, many of their accounts are based on repressed memories. A contentious subject that needs extensive corroboration in order to prove they are true. That is, did the abuse happen when the women are only remembering them, and reporting them 20 years or so later?

Past life regression is a controversial method when it comes to uncovering repressed memories, which in itself is a controversial topic and remains challenged by several scientists and academics.

Many studies have shown that a subject, who undergoes hypnosis, start to spiral into a web of false narrative. A journey into the past to uncover trauma, which they may have forgotten but still has an effect on their real time experiences can result in a fictional explanation influenced by the “hypnotherapist”. 

It is possible for the brain to create a memory of something that did not happen, so corroborating trauma from past life regression or the resurfacing of repressive memories is almost scientifically impossible. Still, we cannot call women who suffer from abuse and silence their voices so intensely that the secret is forgotten for the benefit of getting on with their lives, liars. This is why, statistically, women don’t report abuse to begin with.

“I didn’t tell anyone because no one would believe me”, “Nothing will happen to the man who abused me so what’s the point” – these are the reasons put forth by the victims in the documentary and many other women when they eventually do speak, and they are valid reasons. Think about all the women who, not so long ago, came forward and accused Bill Cosby of abuse decades before. Sometimes one woman’s confession is enough to trigger the memory of many others.

This is fact: Post-traumatic trauma manifests in crippling consequences when the memories of the trauma are triggered.

Can opened, worms everywhere. What if this whole past life regression thing shakes my entire world and I start remembering things that I don’t want to deal with? What if my brain makes things up and these “truths” become a landslide of confusion and madness? This documentary has me spinning out of control a bit. 

In all fairness, a lot of it for me is paranoia but it begs saying: I have a creepy uncle who in retrospect screams paedophile tendencies and I can definitely recall one or two inappropriate incidences which are not that terrible, but what if I am not remembering the rest?

I just lost a kitten who I am uncharacteristically convinced was my soul mate and I take a multitude of medication to counter my depression.

I do not need to report an uncle who I now have no interaction with and is just a wet spot on my seat of childhood. But the facts remain, these are not the reasons that many women choose to bury abuse resulting in dissociative amnesia, who don’t tell anyone about it when it occurs and who suffer the post traumatic consequences of it all for the rest of their lives. 

Maybe we need to stop focusing on women to recall through bullshit methods, and questioning whether their experiences are true or not. Maybe we need to stop regressing, and start converting?

Maybe it’s time that societies and authorities change the way they think about and deal with abuse so that the only thing women have to remember is that their stories exist in a safe environment – in real time. 

As for my upcoming appointment into past life regression – well, I hope the only thing that comes out of it is that I knew my deceased pet when we were both cats. Tigers, to be specific. 

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on W24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of W24.

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