Thelma B. Freedman, Ph.D. Saybrook Institute, 1997
In a study of 37 participants with 81 phobias between them, hypnotically-facilitated past-life and/or interlife reports of people with simple and social phobias and/or agoraphobia were examined when the participant’s “Upper Mind” in hypnosis said they were causal of the phobias. Also, earlier experiences in some participants’ (present) lives that they reported in hypnosis as causal of their phobias were examined. Three participants with 11 phobias between them were unable to reach the required levels of hypnosis, and received no deliberate treatment. Their phobias became an ad hoc control group for Research Question Two. Because many participants suffered from more than one phobia, sometimes of different types, for purposes of analysis the phobias themselves were used as the units of study rather than the participants. Two research questions guided the study:
1) Were there any significantly phobia-differentiating patterns in the phobia-related past-life or interlife reports, and
2) Was accessing these past lives and/or interlives therapeutic?
For Question One, two consistent patterns were found that differentiated simple (and possibly social) phobia from agoraphobia; these reach significance at p = <.005 (Chi Square) and allow questioning the statement that “past-life and interlife reports are fantasies.” The contents of the patterns for simple phobia and agoraphobia had been somewhat predicted by the researcher, based on her own observations about simple phobia in her Master’s Thesis (1987) and on de Jong’s discussion of her agoraphobic clients (Journal, VI (1), 1992).
Briefly, of the simple phobias, 84% were said to have been caused by past-life experiences and 16% by experiences earlier in the person’s present life. For social phobias, 60% were traced to past lives and 40% to experiences earlier in the present life (this was not a significant difference). For agoraphobia, an entirely different pattern was found; rather than past-life experiences as such, 56% of the agoraphobias were traced to the “lost soul interlife” experience first reported by de Jong. Of the other agoraphobias, 11% were traced to past-life experience and 33% to earlier-in-life events. No social phobia was traced to an interlife experience of any kind, but one simple phobia was traced partially to a past-life death experience (falling off a cliff) and partially to its following lost soul interlife experience as well. This participant suffered from agoraphobia (caused by his lost soul interlife experience) as well as his simple phobia for heights (caused by his fall from the cliff as well as his lost soul interlife experience).
For 84% of the simple phobias, a range of 1 to 4 past lives (M = 1.94) were said to have caused each phobia; a range of 1 to 5 negative incidents involving the phobia stimulus (M = 2.5) per phobia were embedded within the past lives; from 0 to 3 death experiences per participant were said to have caused 63% of the phobias; in 31% of the phobias the most recent past life was involved (although this figure may be too low, as for 22% of the phobias, the data are uncertain). But for 47% the most recent past life was definitely not involved. The intermission time between the death in the most recent past life and the birth date of the present life ranged from 1 to 43 years, with M = 15.5 years, median 12. The 43 years is a somewhat uncertain outlier; without it, the range is from 1 to 28 years, M = 11.5, median still 12.
In only 2 cases was there any seeming symbolization or metaphorization regarding the phobia stimuli, and these may not be truly symbolic or metaphoric. All other past-life events reported for simple (and social) phobias were events directly involving the feared object or situation. For example, a death by falling = a phobia for heights. All simple phobias had been “triggered” by some minor event early in the present life; for example, the first sight of a running cat, seen at age two, triggered one participant’s fear of cats, caused by an attack by a lion in a remote past life. These triggering events were gleaned when the participants were in hypnosis; they had usually occurred so early in life that the participants had no conscious memory of the triggering event.
For the 16% of simple phobias caused by events earlier in the participant’s present life, these were similar in nature to the events in the past lives. For example, being in a childhood car accident on a bridge had caused one participant’s fear of bridges. Social phobias were often (60%) caused by past-life events, with 40% caused by events that had occurred in the participant’s present childhood. This is not a significant difference and a larger sample would probably level to 50% for each cause; in the preliminary, incomplete, report (Freedman, Journal IX (1), 1995), the 60-40 ratio was reversed. Whether past or present life, the causes of social phobias were almost always on-going situations rather than the discrete events that were said to have caused the simple phobias. For example, a participant with a fear of speaking in a group traced her fear to a past life in which she had been ridiculed all her life by her father, brother, and husband whenever she spoke up; another participant traced her fear of eating in public to her present-life childhood, when her parents frequently took her out to eat and ridiculed her table manners loudly and publicly.
For agoraphobia, 56% reported the lost soul interlife experience. In this experience, the person, after a death in a past life, does not know they have died. Instead of moving away into brightness, they float in a gray mist and/or above various earthly scenes with no understanding of what has happened to them. Unlike other after-death experiences, this is usually a frightening and confusing experience. After floating aimlessly and helplessly for an unspecified time they feel drawn into a “dark tight place” and find themselves in a small body, a fetus, waiting to be born. One striking element here is that none of them had ever realized that they had died before entering the new life; they had no choice and simply found themselves automatically drawn into the fetus’ body. As a side note, they had all died either very suddenly (one was struck by lightning), while unconscious, or in infancy.
The lost soul interlife experience was unique to the agoraphobics; it was not said to have caused any other kind of phobia except for the partial effect upon one agoraphobic’s fear of heights, above. Since no participant had heard of this lost soul interlife experience before they reported it, and since it is not the well-known NDE experience, the fact that the agoraphobics, and only they, reported it is highly significant. (No other participant in the study reported this lost soul interlife or the well-known NDE experience, either).
For those agoraphobics (11%) who reported past-life events as causal of their agoraphobia, the event was always tied to another phobia. For example, one participant said that in two past lives she had left home and been attacked by strangers; hence, her fear of leaving home (agoraphobia) and her fear of strangers (a social phobia). For the 33% of agoraphobics who reported events earlier in their lives as causal, these were usually events from their childhoods. Most had experienced ridicule from neighborhood bullies; one had gotten lost in a shopping mall. All agoraphobias had been triggered by some minor event in the participants’ adult lives.
As for Question Two, whether there is therapeutic value in examining past-life and interlife reports, this was examined by means of a pre- and post-treatment design. Participants were asked to complete an anxiety scale for each of their phobias at intake and again two months or more after their last session with the researcher. These scales were similar and equivalent but worded differently to somewhat alleviate any repeated measures problems. They were derived from the DSM-III-R diagnostic list of symptoms for panic disorders and anxiety attacks. Sandler’s A test was used for analysis, followed by an omega-squared test of significant findings.
Only those who reported past lives or the lost soul interlife experience improved (scores declined) significantly in their anxiety symptoms: for simple phobias, p = <.001; for social phobias, p = <.05; for agoraphobia, p = <.01. Of those who reported only experiences earlier in the present life, only those with social phobias approached (but did not quite reach) significance (p = <.10).
For Question Two, there seems no doubt that examining these past lives and interlives was therapeutic for these participants. No additional processing of material was used; the participants were simply asked to go to the cause(s) of one phobia at a time and whatever they reported was examined in the researcher’s usual manner of past-life therapy. “Hard” data such as dates and geographical locations were gathered by means of an imaginary screen on which the asked-for information “just appeared,” produced by the participant’s Upper Mind. Participants were directed to remain calm and comfortable no matter what happened, and all did; no high-trauma re-living was used and was in fact deliberately controlled by the researcher. The number of sessions ranged from 1 to 5 per participant, with M = 1.87 sessions per participant (2.48 sessions per phobia). Sessions were from 2 to 3 hours long; there were M = 4.37 hours per participant (2.64 hours per phobia). Multi-phobic participants required the most sessions; agoraphobics required only one for their agoraphobia, but some required another session for other phobias.
The statistical results of this study suggest several things. For Question One, the differences in kind between the patterns found for simple phobia, social phobia, and agoraphobia would not be expected by chance. The p = <.005 of this occurring by chance suggests that these past-life and lost soul interlife reports may not be fantasy; they may reflect reality. If so, other past-life phenomena may be equally reality-based. It also appears possible that these patterns may be predictable: It may be that most people with simple phobias will report as causal the simple phobia past-life pattern above, those with social phobia about half past and half present life, and more than half of agoraphobics the lost soul interlife scenario. And the results for Question Two indicate that reporting these experiences through past-life therapy is therapeutic.
The researcher hopes that others will build on this study to attempt to replicate it and to expand it. She herself is continuing her research into the patterns and outcomes found in past-life therapy.