Scroll Top
19th Ave New York, NY 95822, USA

Can We Establish An Ethical and Scientific Basis for Regression Work? – Jan Erik Sigdell (Is.23)

by Jan Erik Sigdell


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 is that everyone speaks about souls and even soul fractions and yet no one seems to be able to define them. If there is no self that survives the death of the body, there is no reincarnation and past-life regression is nonsense. The only valid form of regression is 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 regression under the hypothesis or theory of reincarnation, it is obvious that we deal 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. It is of little or no value to be concerned with that in the practical work with regression. For practical purposes we may simply regard the soul to be all of that together.

Where is a soul?

An increasing number of physicists today share the opinion that the cosmos is more than three dimensional, however hard this is to imagine. But it can be grasped by means of the mathematics of theoretical physics, which is quite abstract for most of us.

Our organs of perception are three-dimensional as are our mind, our thinking, and our consciousness. 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 to the rest.

If we do not normally perceive the soul that is out of the body, temporarily or definitely after the body’s death, then where is it? It is in the other dimensions, as are the entities. 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 know of these realms 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 this concept of other realms true or not? It really makes a lot of sense based on one important thing; the reproducibility of the experience of these other realms. In science a phenomenon is usually regarded as probably true if it is reproducible; if it is the same or highly similar whenever it occurs. Many can not accept the truth of such experiences because of their “scientific prejudice.” We have always been multidimensional, but we got so trapped in three-dimensional perception that we forgot about other realms. A small minority do perceive more; the clairvoyants or psychics (the real ones – there are, of course, pretenders).

In a regression that includes spiritual and “esoteric” aspects a window is opened to such realms, which has proven very helpful. It would be too bad if we were to close that window just because some don’t believe in it. Resorting to more materialistic techniques would be 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 talk of “soul fractions,” mainly in the sense that apparently a part of the soul could split off and leave, very much like loosing a limb and the limb continues living. Can such things happen? There is an age-old shamanistic doctrine that it can. In such cases shamans 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” splits off to escape suffering. Since this view can be an effective help to the client in such a case, the theory is 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, then what is wrong with that?

Psychological mechanisms of regression and memory

Another point of criticism is 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 are various “schools” related to different regression techniques and methods of practicing regression therapy, and no one really knows the truth here. These different theories are all partially true and partially wrong. At the present state of knowledge no one can grasp the whole real picture. If someone wants to impose his own idea, it becomes a dogma that does more harm than good.

At the present state of the art, the only plausible approach is to respect each other’s theories knowing that we and/or they could be partially or totally wrong. We should respect each other’s way of working according to our theories as long as the method gives positive practical results and rarely causes more than minimal harm to any larger extent than other ways. There is no method or technique that does not theoretically cause some form of limited and temporal harm in very special cases. There is also no method or approach that is 100% helpful in each and every case. If the way or technique is applied incorrectly then we may realize minimal help, leaving out important possibilities. We don’t want to, as the saying goes, “throw the child out with the bathwater.”

Who really knows in conventional psychology what is actually going on in and with a client? There are various ideas and theories and it is even more so in regression therapy, which includes the option of a previous existence in another body. But every responsible experienced regressionist knows that his way of working really works for his clients – or he soon doesn’t have any clients.

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 today may be wrong tomorrow, 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 playing the same music in their own way, sometimes even with other instruments. Imposing strict concert rules may make the music rather unpalatable.

Imposing a minimalistic, “scientific,” and materialistic world view

What I mean by “scientific” is: according to the established world view of official science in its present state (which could well be quite different tomorrow). Imposing such a view is potentially harmful as 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 possibly know that they have the “whole truth and nothing but the truth.” They must, therefore, let those who believe in them work accordingly, as long as they achieve positive results and cause no real harm (at least not more than their critics). A “materialistic” regression cannot be as complete as one that 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. That doesn’t necessarily mean that what they do is wrong. It often means that they deal with aspects and concepts which go beyond the materialistic and “scientific” world view and yet are valid. Regrettably, “scientific prejudice” tends to be a limiting factor in our world.

If we practice with cases that actually do fit a theory of soul attachments and even entities, then who can conscientiously attempt to stop us? After all, souls are what we are dealing with; souls that are in the client’s body today and before were in other bodies. That is the very basis of our work.

Who are we to declare that a soul cannot, even for a short period of time, have an intermediate state without a body between incarnations? Of course we must and definitely should consider that option. That consideration inevitably leads to the possibility that a soul in an intermediate state could, in certain cases, attach to a body that isn’t his. If a regressionist using this assumption concludes that this appears to be the case, then shouldn’t he help free the client from such an attachment even though there are some who don’t believe in it? Excluding the possibility of a soul attachment only because others don’t believe it possible can be harmful to the client, leaving him in his inappropriate state. I believe that would be irresponsible on the part of the regressionist.

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 tomorrow) we may need some 10 regressions to solve the client’s problem that currently is usually 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 informed me that one regression had helped her much more that a whole series of psychoanalysis sessions she had previously gone through.

Are there entities?

So what is an entity? If we, according to all evidence and empiricism, assume that a soul 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” usually refers to a soul-like being that never incarnated in a physical body. Who are we to say that there is no such thing? Experience and empiricism do indicate that such entities do exist and that they can attach to a client.

Just as there are “good” and “bad” people, there are also “good” and “bad” entities; though “good” and “bad” are largely subjective concepts that change with the frame of reference (such as religion). Can a person really be bad? It is through researching his history that we usually find an evildoer has become a bad one due to a traumatic and violent childhood. Thus good and bad often become quite relative concepts. That the person has caused much suffering is bad of course and we want to judge him heavily. But 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 different from judgment. Actually he is in more need of help than many others, even though he doesn’t realize it.

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 incarnated souls. The latter we may call “spiritual guides” or “angels.” If we assume they exist then who can, with a good conscience, forbid a regressionist’s or healer’s attempt to cooperate and work with them? Again, imposing a more materialistic view would do harm by 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 necessary to use suggestions and imagination to establish a bridge to a past life as this could charge the client with “non-original contents.” This also brings into question 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 imagination, such as the Guided Affective Imagery (German: katathymes Bilderleben) of Hanscarl Leuner and other methods. When we use images and imagination in regressions as bridges to past memories (in this or an earlier life) what is the real difference? What do we do wrong that psychology doesn’t? Properly handled, these are not suggestions, but aids. As long as the client knows that they are 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 experience really helps him solve his problem, what relevance do discussions about the reality of the experience really have for him? Isn’t there the danger that such discussions could even counterproductively reverse the therapeutic effect? The client could lose the progress achieved thus far.

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!” Whether or not it really is a past life becomes a secondary question as long as it works. The unavoidable main thing is that the client achieves the help he sought. Often there is 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.

If there is a high probability it is a past life, is it his past life? How could the experience be of real help if it wasn’t a past life? How could he become completely free from a life-long fear of heights through experiencing how someone else fell down and died or from a story that isn’t 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 his

Another objection is that a client in regression could tap into an energy that isn’t his. If that is really so in an individual’s case, I see good reasons to assume that he unconsciously did so already before the regression. It is from that, at least partially, that he has his problem. Or he may have attracted that energy because of his problem. If it really is a foreign energy of some kind, and if it relates to the problem, there will be good reasons to deal with it.

Symbolic aspects of the soul

Still one more point of criticism concerns 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 these models don’t typically come from the client but are offered to him for support, their use could impose a world view on him that isn’t his.

Above, theoretical divisions of the soul into parts constituting a kind of hypothetical soul “anatomy” were touched upon. In many types of regressions some kind of 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 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 these memories. In a proper regression, we also make this information clear to the client.

If the memory is only in the brain it is lost when the body dies. Hence it is very obvious that the soul is the carrier of deeper memories. Otherwise past-life regression would 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.

Brain memories may be triggered to pop up by circumstances while soul memories are less likely do so. If we really want to access the deeper memories, those of the soul, we need to involve the soul and invite it to “assist,” for which such “imagery assistants” are really very helpful. Or we are more or less “poking in the dark” and limiting 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 posthypnotic amnesia, unless a posthypnotic 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 aware at all times both of “here and now” and “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); a state in which the body is mainly under control of the present mind.

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

Today most regressions are non-hypnotic and the real hypnotic approach is used less than in earlier periods of regression work. But we 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 with any induction procedure is to achieve a by-pass of 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 is due to the relaxed state of the body more than anything else. Communication with the unconscious mind will 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. Ideally, regressions become more intuitive as the regressionist gains more experience. 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.

Clearly, the idea is not to strive for some kind of psychic work here. There apparently are regressionists who are – to some extent – able to see what the client doesn’t see yet or even resists. I am not one them even though I sometimes feel a bit surprised when the client tells me just what I expected. But I do work quite intuitively and ask questions that come to my mind without thinking too much about it.

We want the client to tell the first things he or she sees or that comes to his or her mind, without thinking about it. Otherwise the rational mind can interfere and distort things. It is important that the regressionist should certainly not suggest something to the client that the regressionist “sees” coming ahead. If we try to guide the client according to what we “see” or believe is coming, this could just as well distort the process, simply because our impression could be quite wrong.

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 is more or less solved, which means that an obvious cause or causes have been re-experienced and all soul-injuring, negative, emotional energies acquired have been released, dissolved, and replaced with new energies (such as symbolically with light energy). In certain cases we see that we can do no more at this time (e.g., due to unconscious resistance in spite of all our efforts to remove it) 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. Whether or not imagery or visualization is used at all, and which imagery, is not a matter to be judged. Any judgment here could be based only on personal opinion or possibly 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,” or “book of knowledge” 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 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 the primary aim is to make the client free of his problem and reach a catharsis – in a general manner or in a specific manner relating to the problem.
  • That the client is charged with non-original contents or manipulated in his world concept does not depend on what is used, but how it is used. For example, I define the “inner guide” to the client as “a symbolic appearance of your own unconscious self. See it in front of you in the inner image and, in this manner, have a conversation with your own unconscious self.” Since everyone 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.
  • There could be, in exceptional cases, a question of an item used in the method. But such cases would be very special.
  • There must be no imposition of a belief such that the trauma, which caused the problem, in reality never happened; that 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, sometimes 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 has to do with how a certain method is used.