by Hazel Denning, Ph.D.
Rescripting is a comparatively recent concept introduced by hypnotherapists to describe an intervention with clients who have painful memories. Suggesting that they rewrite the unpleasant event in their past, clients imagine the event to be as they would have liked it to be. For example, if their mothers rejected them at birth, they create a story in which they were lovingly accepted. This technique has been adopted by some past-life therapists to deal with traumatic events in a past life. Clients may or may not respond favorably to this suggestion, but when they do create their own version of the experience, there is often a feeling of relief and satisfaction.
I had not favored this technique for reasons which will be made clear in the following article. However, at a recent workshop Dr. Chet Snow was selected as my client for purposes of demonstration. At one point in his very painful regression experience, he refused to forgive his persecutors or himself and insisted on creating a new scenario, which he proceeded to do very successfully so that he felt good about the outcome.
Any method or technique that motivates a client toward the improvement or the resolution of a problem has some merit and should not be dismissed summarily. On the other hand, it should not necessarily be considered the best or most successful method of dealing with a problem until it has been tested and the long-range results measured.
Stopgap procedures and quick relief methods are common practice in all cultures. So the individual with arthritis is treated with a drug which later produces irreversible back problems; the child with flu is shot with a drug which later results in a kidney dysfunction; the uncontrollable movements of the body in Parkinsons disease are reduced by a drug which causes symptoms of senility.
We are a culture which demands immediate relief from our discomforts, whether they be physical or emotional. “Why not?” one may very well inquire. Is there anything wrong with wanting to be well and feel comfortable?’ Obviously not, but the methods for accomplishing comfort may certainly be in question. Is there an ethic or a universal principle or axiom which is violated when rescripting is employed in therapy? I believe there is, and with that in mind I would like to elaborate.
There is a mounting body of evidence for the belief that man is indeed the creator of his conditions. This is by no means a new concept, but it is not accepted by the majority of individuals. Not more than three or four decades ago the word “psychosomatic” was unknown, and the very idea that man’s mind could create pathological conditions in his body was met with derision by the medical profession, as well as by many psychologists. I recall a scientist friend, a biologist, telling me at a dinner party, when I said that probably most of our illnesses were caused by our minds, that I was ignoring all the progress we had made in the biological field and erasing the years of research and progress we had made in understanding the causes of physical diseases. In his superior wisdom he indicated that my idea was totally without merit or substantiation.
Research has brought us a long way since then, and while many in the medical profession still ignore the power of the mind to affect the body, psychosomatics is a healthy discipline supported by a rapidly growing body of professionals in all of the healing arts.
In order to address the subject of this discussion on “rescripting,” it is important to consider the above remarks as germane to an examination of what rescripting is and does for the client. It is also essential that we place this technique in a model or give it a framework in which it can be explored. Whether it is employed in hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, or regression therapy, it may be using the same stop gap technique, psychologically speaking, as drugs are used in the medical field. In either case, the real cause of the problem is not even considered, let alone dealt with, and certainly it is not recognized as having any relevance to the presenting problem.
In a paper of this length, it is not possible to explore the profound implications of that last statement and adequately support my contention. A radical departure from long held concepts is essential to an understanding of the dynamics of human behavior and the promising emergence of a new spiritual philosophy which interpenetrates all the facets of man’s personality and behavior. In his powerful new book on past-life regression therapy, referring to his own experience of a purported past life, Dr. Roger Woolger states: “Clearly, whole new dimensions of therapy were hinted at here and with them a complete revisioning of the origins of mental illness and the very nature of personality.”
In order to get directly to the reason that I believe rescripting is not the best way to resolve a problem originating from a past experience, whether it occurred in the early part of the current life, or had its origin in a previous life, we must ask the question, “Does rescripting ignore the purpose of the problem?” The philosophy applicable to this discussion is predicated on the assumption that life is an ongoing process, striving in successive physical experiences to attain a state of unconditional love, self awareness, and unity with all of life. In that striving, error often compounds error and then frequent lives are required to eradicate the mistakes.
Past-life regression therapy has provided a new technique for facilitating the process of letting go of past traumas which interfere with full and creative expression of the personality in the present. Again quoting Dr. Woolger:
…there is a powerful learning to be had from this extraordinary process. It is no exaggeration to say that there are among my clients those whose whole life orientation has been changed by only one or two past-life sessions. The opportunity to confront one’s true self, naked and unadorned, to see the essence of one’s “stuckness” in even a single story, is unparalleled in any other discipline that I know.
It is this last sentence, “The opportunity to confront one’s true self,” that I wish to explore as pertinent to rescripting. It has been my observation over the past 30 years of working with past-life techniques that in the confrontation experience, clients are able to analyze and evaluate four areas: First, the event which would include who they were, where they lived, and the circumstances of the trauma—the scenario as it were. Second, they became aware of the reason or purpose of the experience and the lesson to be learned from it. Often it is necessary to recover still other previous lives to reveal the pattern of perpetrator and then victim. The third insight is frequently the realization that they have chosen their present problem for a lesson to be learned, and it is quite clear that their choice was purposeful, even though they frequently see in advance that it is not going to be an easy life. After such insight, no one can place the blame on parents, siblings or God. The fourth step is the integrative process. Forgiving the self as well as others who may have been perceived as persecutors or enemies and letting go of the past, frees the client from the destructive pattern in the present, whether it is guilt, fear, rage, resentment, or any other negative emotion.
If a lesson is not learned, and thus in the current life a negative carry-over remains, the individual retains this problem that he must someday resolve. This seemed to be the case with Dr. Snow. During the current life, he was dealing with anger which he related to the rage he felt when he was executed unjustly. If love is the spiritual goal for everyone, then forgiveness is an essential step; but in his case he refused to forgive his executioners or himself, and he chose to rewrite the experience. While this made him feel good, I believe that he missed the opportunity to learn the lesson of forgiveness and will at some future time be required by his own choice to deal with that.
When a situation in the past is rescripted to suit the ego desire of the client, attitudinal changes may very well be in question. It has been noted by many past-life therapists that the last dying thought of the individual is carried over into the present incarnation and manifests from an early age. Anger manifested out of proportion to the circumstances is an all too common emotion, perhaps because so many individuals have died in a rage at their executioners. Past-life therapy can be a shortcut for the client, affording him the opportunity to learn a difficult lesson during a regression session because of the insight which is possible in an altered state of mind.
Past-life therapy has clearly produced evidence that the physical experiences one has are not of any great import, but the attitudes resulting from the physical experiences are of primary importance. Therefore if one dies with rage, revenge, guilt, resentments, and so forth, and those emotions manifest from the moment of birth, their energy attracts experiences which are congruent with those emotions, and the individual is again faced with the same lesson. This principle has been succinctly expressed in the phrase: “It isn’t what happens to you that is important, but only the way you handle it.’’
For illustrative purposes let us take the case of a woman who had been physically and sexually abused through three previous lives. As she recalled them, she was appalled at the misery she had suffered, and in the current life she made a heroic effort to ignore her feelings of anger over the burdens she carried as a wife and mother. As a result of this refusal to own her real feelings, she had contracted a serious disease.
In her regressions she recognized how in each life her own rebellious behavior had antagonized her tormentors. She recognized that for three lifetimes she had created her own unhappy circumstances in order to learn to love and forgive. Instead of changing, however, she had carried over more anger and had increased her suffering in each subsequent life. Through the current life she had really tried to be loving and unselfish, and on the surface she had done a heroic job of it, for she never complained as she took care of her invalid son for almost 20 years. But the anger from the past was still there and was expressed finally in her ill body. When she became aware of her past and the purpose of her suffering, she responded positively by forgiving herself and those who had abused her and in a few weeks her body got well and she was dismissed by her doctor.
This rationale sounds harsh and unreasonable to many who are not conversant with the reincarnation philosophy, but case histories from past-life therapists substantiate the premise that love is man’s ultimate goal, that rage is a self-destroyer, fear paralyzes, and guilt is demoralizing to the personality. When once the magnificent power of love and acceptance of others as they are is understood, all therapies will approach the problems of clients from an entirely new perspective. There will be no more placing the blame on parents, teachers, siblings, peers or anyone else. Let us use the word “cause” rather than “blame” and the cause will be sought out in the individual’s past track record.
To cite briefly two examples from my own files, there was a lady who experienced a stabbing pain in her back, following unpleasant confrontations with her daughter-in-law. She moved through a regression in Rome in which she was stabbed in the back by a man who was supposed to be her friend. She admitted that for many years she harbored the thought: “I was stabbed in the back,” when she felt someone had hurt her unjustly. The second case involved a daughter who had been subjected to incest between the ages of three and thirteen by both her mother and father. She saw herself in Nazi Germany killing many children, and choosing those parents in order to pay off her karma in one lifetime and be free again. She was determined to forgive them but was having trouble changing her feelings. This insight brought from her the comment: “I should thank my parents for being the instruments through which I could pay off my karma in one lifetime.”
Rescripting would seem to be bypassing the lesson selected by the individual, and therefore in the long run it would not be to the client’s best interest. At this time there are no statistics to prove or disprove the long-range results of this type of therapy, and certainly temporary results are often positive. If it takes the individual another lifetime in which to learn the lesson he bypassed, that is certainly his right.
However, if we are to shorten the years of pain which mankind has so long endured because of his own ignorance of universal laws, then it would seem the wiser course to be aware of how we can conform to those laws. We never break a law. When we go contrary to the law, it breaks us. This becomes obvious in observing the laws governing cause and effect, for instance, gravity and fire. We do not blame God if we fall from a high place and get hurt, or if we are burned by placing our hand in fire. We have obviously committed an act which is not in conformity with the law, and the law “punishes” us.
Universal laws that apply to the life process are just as irrevocable. All experiences are opportunities for learning and soul growth, and when the lesson is not learned, the pain—physical or emotional—increases until the behavior is changed. Rescripting avoids the change in the individual which should have occurred as a result of the experience, and it ignores or negates the events which were the instruments for spiritual growth.