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Regression Therapy As An Adjunct To Marriage Counseling: A Case Study – Esther Iseman (Is.22)

by Esther Iseman, Ph.D.

This case study demonstrates the potential benefits of regression therapy in healing troubled relationships. Each of us presumably brings a variety of memories from other lifetimes into current life relationships. These memories, which are beyond awareness and to which we subconsciously react (e.g., those resulting from trauma), can cause a variety of dysfunctional scenarios. Regression therapy can be a valuable tool in retrieving problematic memories so that the role of these memories can be discovered and used to resolve current issues.


“John” (age 39) initially began individual counseling because he had feelings of remorse resulting, in part, from a recent “drunken” one-time extramarital sexual encounter. He revealed that his wife of 17 years, “Melanie,” had recently been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer (an almost certain death sentence). Despite his despair, he found himself distancing himself from her. He made excuses for not accompanying her to chemotherapy sessions and made only brief visits while she was in the hospital undergoing various surgeries. He focused his attention on their three daughters (ages 4, 6, and 9), using their care and his job to rationalize not being by her side. Clearly John was clueless as to how to deal with the death of a spouse, which is generally thought to be the number one cause of stress (followed by divorce, separation, and jail). John recognized that he was behaving like a “terrible husband.”

John’s Individual Therapy

At our first meeting, John admitted that when he first learned of Melanie’s diagnosis, he mentally “buried” her and had all but abandoned her physically and emotionally. Both spouses were bright, high achieving professionals. It didn’t take long for Melanie to figure out that she had already been “laid to rest” by John. He recognized that Melanie was frightened about the future course of her disease, about dying, and about leaving her daughters motherless. He was also keenly aware that she felt unloved and believed she was a burden to him. No longer did she feel attractive, and she was feeling, at best, expendable.

After disclosing his one-night stand to Melanie, John finally hit bottom. He said that Melanie was “the most incredible person in the world.” He also believed he was in the process of destroying everything they had worked for in their 17 years of marriage.

His first step towards repairing the damage was to downsize and simplify their lives. They sold their dream home and purchased a more modest house. This move was made so that Melanie could quit her job, stay home with the girls, take care of her health, and enjoy whatever time she had left. We talked about other steps he might take in order to get close to her again. Although he recognized she was angry and could no longer trust him, he kept trying. Complicating his efforts to make amends, he realized her energy level was low, and she had little tolerance for him. He said she resembled a woman in her 70’s, rather than her actual age of 37. Yet he persisted in trying to at least hold her hand and spend more time with her in simple easy ways such as having coffee together and watching TV. He attempted to talk to her and to express his everlasting love; he also reiterated his remorse over his misdeeds. In spite of his best efforts over several weeks, John said that Melanie was still unresponsive. At that point, Melanie believed that John wished her an early demise so he could “get on with it.”

Melanie’s Individual Therapy

About a month into John’s individual treatment, Melanie came for individual sessions. Although she said she still loved him “beyond belief,” she still had anger towards him for abandoning her and for cheating on her, even though it happened only once, and he had confessed. Consequently, in spite of John’s persistent efforts, Melanie remained angry over his previous lapses of judgment. She also expressed fear and distress over her illness and how it was ravaging her body. We talked about the personal benefits of letting go of anger, staying in the moment, learning to communicate more effectively, letting go of that which one cannot control, and focusing on the positives, e.g., finding enjoyment and beauty in the world. She began using her time to create crafts, which she graciously gave to others. She took a dance class. She participated in many cancer fund raising events, such as walks for the cure. Although she tried, she couldn’t fully forgive John for cheating and abandoning her when she so desperately needed him.

John’s Past-Life Regressions

At John’s next session, he expressed feelings of emptiness and a lack of peace in his life. He said he was seeking answers on a spiritual level. He had been searching for the purpose of his life, and he wondered if his primary purpose might be to learn how to deal with loss. He admitted that his infidelity was “shameful and disgraceful” and wondered if that drunken experience was, perhaps, meant for him to hit bottom and turn his life around. He said he feels empty whenever he attempts to reach out to Melanie because she rejects him. He said he was seeking courage, faith, and a greater understanding of the nature of the soul. This conversation afforded the ideal opportunity for us to discuss past-life regression, which could potentially provide insight into the behaviors he regarded as shameful and disgraceful. He was intrigued. His next session was scheduled for past-life regression.

John’s regression question was, “Why is it so difficult to let go of a loved one through death?” John easily regressed into “Dusty” in a World War II past life at about 18 or 19 years of age; he saw himself wearing a U.S. infantry uniform. His first memory was of his buddy, Tommy, who was dead. Dusty became very emotional and, referring to himself, repeated loudly several times, “It’s your fault! It’s your fault! It’s your fault!…” Dusty was scared. The entire area had been bombed out, and there was debris all over Tommy’s body and face.

After Dusty moved farther backward in time, he recalled how Tommy had died. The two of them were coming into a town somewhere in Europe in 1942. Everything was blown up. Dusty was scared. Tommy said, “Come on Dusty—let’s go.” They were on patrol. It was cold. They were freezing. “Let’s go, Dusty—keep walking—keep walking…” Dusty was shaking with cold, his pack was heavy, his gun was heavy, and he wanted to go home. He spotted a Nazi tank. It kept coming closer. Dusty yelled, “Go for cover! They’re trying to shoot us.” Dusty knew they couldn’t take out a tank with their rifles. Dusty and Tommy were alone and didn’t know what to do. Both hid behind a low stone wall. They were freezing while they were waiting. No one was with them, and then, BOOM! There was smoke and fire. Tommy was hit and was bleeding. He stopped moving. He had taken a shell fragment in his stomach. Dusty yelled, “Stay with me!” Dusty knew that if he went out for help, it would be suicide. Tommy said, “Stay with me brother.” He wasn’t dead, but he couldn’t move. [They weren’t blood brothers—they were, however, like brothers). Dusty held onto Tommy’s hand; he soon became aware that Tommy had died.

Dusty saw himself looking down at Tommy’s grave. He put Tommy’s helmet on his grave marker. Dusty survived the war but was devastated by Tommy’s death. When he finally went home, he felt awful and alone.

In another past-life memory, the soul of John had married a beautiful girl named Ann. They had a nice life and a lot of fun together. Ann brought peace and love into his life. They had a dog, and they also had a lovely daughter named Nancy. She was an adorable blonde. He suddenly remembered, with anguish, that when his daughter, Nancy, was 17, she stepped out into the street and was killed by a car. “Jesus take me!” was his reaction to this overwhelming pain. “She ran out in the street—it’s my fault.”

His wife, Ann, was dead, too. He saw himself looking over her grave. She had died of an incurable illness at the premature age of 45. He was once again devastated.

Image credit: David Haith – Photographer

Marriage Counseling

Soon after John’s regressions, he and Melanie began marriage counseling. At this point, neither had the tools to express their feelings without causing the other to become defensive. John shared his regression memories, which clearly revealed a pattern of excruciating losses; Melanie understood and was sympathetic.

It had become evident that John’s regrettable current life behavior was rooted in the past, and the reality that Melanie was facing an early demise was, for John, “the last straw.” The soul of John, it seemed, couldn’t handle any more heartbreaking, untimely deaths of loved ones. This knowledge enabled Melanie to begin the process of forgiving John.

During the conjoint sessions that ensued, they also learned to get in touch with their feelings, needs, and desires and they gained skill in communicating without judging, blaming, or criticizing. They also learned how to resolve conflicts calmly and find creative solutions that satisfied both of them. They remained focused on each other and were exemplary parents.

Melanie’s Past-Life Regression

In the midst of marriage counseling, Melanie decided that she also wanted past-life regression. Her question was, “Have I known John in another life?” At first she found herself in the inter-life where she was with many happy souls. She felt so joyful that she could cry. It was beautiful there. It felt so perfect, like being hugged. The people there were without shapes, and she recognized one of them as the soul of John. As they moved around, he held her hand.

Then she said she wanted to go somewhere else. She was able to trust the wisdom of her higher self to take her where she needed to go. Melanie went to a lifetime as a happy three year old boy named Bob who was loved and nurtured by both parents. The following recounts some of the relevant details of that lifetime:

At the age of eight, Bob was devastated because his mother had just died in a car crash. Because his father was too sad to take care of him after his mother’s death, he stayed with his aunt.

When Bob was 15, he looked out at the stars from his small bedroom at his aunt’s house. He talked to his mother and wanted to name a star after her. Now drinking heavily, his father never came back for him. Although his aunt wasn’t as nice as his mother, she was “nice enough.”

At the age of 25, Bob was working as an “honest” car salesman. He moved out of his aunt’s house into an apartment. When he was 30, he was still single. He caught T.B. from the lady across the hall. By the age of 40, Bob had recovered from T.B. and had married a school teacher named Susan; she was considerably younger. Bob rescued Susan from her abusive family where she was forced to live until she married. Bob took good care of Susan; they had no children. It was, Bob recalled, a boring life.

On the last day of his life, he felt very lonely. His wife, Susan, had died five years earlier, and no family members were with him at his death bed—no aunt, no father, and no children, as there were none. The only people with him were the nurses and doctors. In the inter-life, Bob met his mother and wife, and he finally felt peaceful and happy.

In processing her memories, Melanie discovered that she had a soul connection with John, whom she recognized in the inter-life. She also realized that she, as the soul of Bob, had married Susan out of convenience, and that relationship was boring and unfulfilling. This provided a lesson, which she learned well in her current life when she married John for love. Melanie also knew that she still loved John, in spite of his early abandonment of her after her cancer diagnosis and his single extramarital transgression. She also believed that forgiving John and working on their marriage was part of her reincarnation contract.

Summary and Conclusions

Melanie’s past-life memories, along with her knowledge of John’s past-life loss traumas, enabled the two of them to remain committed to their marriage. Processing John’s memories revealed the following:

His primary pattern was that his soul had endured at least three tragic past-life losses—Tommy, his World War II buddy, Nancy and Ann, his past-life daughter and wife.

His two emerging patterns appear to be:

(1) an irrational sense of responsibility for the deaths of others, e.g., the death of Tommy (“It’s your fault!”—referring to himself as Dusty), and the death of Nancy, his daughter (“She ran out in the street—it’s my fault!”).

(2) an inordinate difficulty dealing with the premature death of a spouse, as evidenced by the death of his past-life wife at age 45 and the impending death of his current 37 year old wife.

In addition to their soul connection and the love they still both shared, the above insights enabled John and Melanie to benefit from marriage counseling. After the termination of this counseling, John and Melanie had three more years before Melanie’s illness finally claimed her physical body. She had forgiven him, and he was “front and center” both emotionally and physically throughout the rest of her days. John said that during their last few years, they literally started over. He said, “Her love means the world to me.” They worked hard to make every day special. They communicated frequently, face-to-face, by phone, by e-mail, etc. John referred to her lovingly as his “Lance Armstrong” (a cancer survivor and cyclist who won the Tour de France seven consecutive times). She attempted to remain as healthy as possible for as long as possible by staying physically active. She went to the gym, danced, swam, and they walked together for miles and miles raising money for various cancer charities. Even after Melanie’s passing, to honor her memory, John continues to walk in the same charity events.

It seems abundantly evident that regression therapy was a catalyst in helping heal this couple’s marriage.