Age regression in therapy
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Age regression in therapy is a technique in a psycho-therapeutic process that facilitates access to childhood memories, thoughts and feelings. Age regression includes hypnotherapy, a process where patients move their focus to memories of an earlier stage of life in order to explore these memories or to get in touch with some difficult-to-access aspects of their personality.
Age regression has become quite controversial inside and outside the therapeutic community, with many cases involving alleged child abuse and other traumatic incidents subsequently being discredited.
The notion of age regression is central to attachment therapy whose proponents believe that a child who has missed out on their developmental stages can be made to experience those stages at a later age by a variety of techniques. Many of these techniques are intensely physical and confrontational and include forced holding and eye contact, sometimes while being required to access traumatic memories of past neglect or abuse or while being made to experience extreme emotions such as rage or fear.
Occasionally, 'rebirthing' has been used with tragic results. Accompanying parenting techniques may use bottle feeding and systems of complete control by the parent over the child's basic needs including toileting and water.
Age regression in therapy is also referred to as hypnotic age regression. This is a hypnosis technique utilized by hypnotherapists to help patients remember the perceptions and feelings caused by past events that have an effect on their present illness. Hypnotic age regression occurs when a person is hypnotized and is instructed to recall a past event or regress to an earlier age. The patient may then proceed to recall or relive events in their life. If the hypnotherapist suggests that the patient is of a certain age, the patient may begin to appear to talk, act, and think according to that age. This allows for the patient to reinterpret their current situation with new information and insights.
Every age regression session varies based on the hypnotherapist and patient.
The purpose of hypnotic age regression is to reframe the negative feelings and perceptions of the past to facilitate progress towards the patient's goals. It allows patients to find the cause of their current blocks and eliminate their past traumas. When patients are hypnotized, they are in an altered state that allows for their subconscious mind to be accessed. The subconscious mind holds the behaviors and habits that people exhibit to protect them. These behaviors and habits are repeated until they are not necessary any more. Hypnotic age regression allows for patients to reframe and purge their unnecessary behaviors.
Whether hypnotic age regression leads to more accurate earlier memories or if the memories are real at all is heavily debated. The question of whether people should utilize hypnosis to recall memories of early trauma is very controversial.
Some psychological research shows that interviews can be carried out in a way that people can easily acquire false memories.
A study by Joseph Green, professor at Ohio University, involved 48 students that were found to be highly susceptible to hypnosis. The group of 48 students was divided into two separate groups. 32 of the students were informed prior to the hypnosis that hypnosis could lead to false memories and could not help people remember events that they could not ordinarily remember. The other 16 students were not given any similar information.
The students were asked about an uneventful night during their week, where they experienced uninterrupted sleep, uninfluenced by alcohol or other drugs, and inability to recall dreams. While the students were placed under hypnosis, they were told that they had heard a loud noise at 4 a.m. After hypnosis, the students were asked if they remembered hearing a loud noise at 4 a.m. 28% of the informed students and 44% of the uninformed students claimed that they had heard a loud noise at 4 a.m.
Green found that the "warnings are helpful to some extent in discouraging pseudomemories, but did not prevent pseudomemories and did not reduce the confidence subjects had in those memories."
- Baker, R.A. (1982). "The effect of suggestion on past-lives regression". American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 25 (1): 71–76. doi:10.1080/00029157.1982.10404067. PMID 7180826.
- Chaffin M, Hanson R, Saunders BE, et al. (2006). "Report of the APSAC task force on attachment therapy, reactive attachment disorder, and attachment problems". Child Maltreat. 11 (1): 76–89. doi:10.1177/1077559505283699. PMID 16382093. S2CID 11443880.
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