Multiple sources have said that belief in past lives is not a prerequisite for successful regression therapy. But exactly how do we use past-life therapy with the “nonbeliever?” The author, the Journal’s new Associate Editor Thomas Shafer, presents a case of a man who improved after exploration of past-life type dreams even though his religious tradition prohibited any belief in reincarnation or any work in altered states of consciousness.
(Author’s note: This is a case from my psychiatry practice but names and identifying details have been altered to protect confidentiality.)
George M. was a 49-year-old white male US Marine Corps Vietnam combat veteran who presented to my office at the US Veteran’s Administration on referral from his internist. He complained that he had adjusted well after the war until recently, but now “was going crazy” and “can’t deal with it.”
George had an unremarkable childhood history, growing up in a rural Alabama town with no family history of serious mental illness. He graduated from high school with a C+ average. After high school, he had worked for about a year in a paint shop, but had then enlisted in the US Marine Corps at age 19.
After about nine months of training and active duty, his unit had been sent to Vietnam. He had served a full 13-month tour there as a rifleman. He had spent most of this time “in the boonies” and had been in numerous firefights. His platoon had taken over 30% casualties during George’s tour, including two of his close friends. He estimated he had killed “over a hundred” enemy soldiers. He had not been wounded.