by Evelyn Fuqua, Ph.D., M.F.C.C.
The primary goal of therapy with children is to strengthen self-esteem. In working with children I do not advocate using regression therapy except in cases where all other methods have failed to help the child. One must always use caution since the ego strength of children is quite fragile. Children need to develop a sense of their unique personality and talents of this lifetime. However, the metaphysical concepts of past lives can at times be used very effectively with children.
I have found four major methods of using regression concepts in working with children: 1) Using hypnotherapy, with the therapist giving suggestions to the child; 2) Encouraging a child to talk about a past life which has spontaneously surfaced as the result of stress; 3) Discussing difficult relationships in the child’s life in the context of reincarnation; and 4) Discussing dreams which are recurrent. A case history will be given to illustrate each method. The discussion of recurrent dreams will include a case in which I felt that a past-life regression through hypnosis was justified due to the severity of the problem and the ineffectiveness of traditional therapy methods.
I. Using Hypnotherapy with the Therapist Giving Suggestions to the Child
Children are readily hypnotized and feel quite comfortable with the experience, It seems best with children, however, to use the terminology of “deep relaxation” rather than hypnosis. Older children are familiar with the term hypnosis but often do not understand what it really means. Give them a simple explanation and then allow them to ask questions. During the hypnotic session any metaphysical concepts that you feel are appropriate for the particular child/client may be incorporated. Allow the child to lie down on a blanket on the floor. Background music designed to induce an alpha state facilitates the process, and it is also helpful to give the younger child a stuffed animal to hold. Begin by telling a relaxing story using various kinds of imagery in the story. Follow the story with your suggestions for the child. Use the child’s name often to personalize it as much as possible. It is very difficult for children under nine years of age to verbalize their feelings. You can do this for them by saying how you think they probably feel, speaking in a way to encourage them to feel confident that they are going to be able to handle their problems in a positive way.
The child will often fall asleep during the session, and this is all right. The research I conducted in a public school for my doctoral dissertation (using hypnosis to improve reading) indicated that children who slept during my group sessions improved in reading equally as well as those who just deeply relaxed.
The entire session should be taped and the tape given to the parent with instructions to have the child listen to the tape every night as he is falling asleep. Children enjoy these tapes and feel that they are special, since the tape is just for them. It is unfortunate that the power of the subconscious mind has not been used much more extensively with children. Addressing the subconscious mind is a natural and effortless method of changing behavior and an effective way of helping children learn. In school or in an institutional setting, the method may be called “relaxation.” If the term “right hemisphere thinking” rather than “subconscious mind” is used, few questions will be asked.
The Case of Lynne
Lynne, age seven, was diabetic and had to give herself daily shots of insulin. She experienced frequent temper tantrums that often resulted in her being late for school, thus creating a great deal of friction between Lynne and her mother, who was a single parent. The child and mother seemed to have incarnated together again to try to resolve karma from a number of past lives. This intense relationship involved much anger on the part of both.
The mother, who was interested in metaphysics, expressed openness to my doing a regression with Lynne, but Lynne seemed reluctant, and the idea apparently frightened her. Therefore, a regression did not appear appropriate, and instead I began using hypnotherapy according to the method I have described. Since Lynne was also having much difficulty with reading, I incorporated many suggestions that she would soon be able to read well, and I talked about using power in a positive way.
Lynne’s mother, a recovering alcoholic, had given very little nurturing to Lynne when she was young. Thus, during one session I had Lynne go back to the time she was in the womb, and I reprogrammed her to receive much love and nurturing from her mother. I also did one session filling her body with white light and implementing many healing suggestions to deal with the diabetes. I began each session with a general idea of what I wanted to accomplish, but mainly I used my intuition and guidance from my higher self to say whatever would be most beneficial for Lynne.
Lynne and her mother came to see me for a total of six sessions. Lack of money ruled out further sessions. My follow-up by telephone several months later indicated that Lynne’s reading had improved dramatically, her temper tantrums were subsiding, and the relationship between the mother and daughter had greatly improved.
II. Encouraging a Child to Talk About a Past Life Which Has Spontaneously Surfaced as the Result of Extreme Stress
Often a past-life memory will be triggered spontaneously when a child is experiencing an extremely stressful situation in his life. In such an event, the role of the therapist is to listen and clarify by asking questions. It is important to recognize that the events are very real to the child. Pointing out that these events probably happened in a past life is helpful, because this suggests that the child does not need to be concerned about the memories any longer. However, the child should be listened to as long as he wants to discuss the “memories.” When the child has said everything he wants to say, conversation about the past life will usually stop, and there is no desire to discuss the matter further. It is as if the talking has dissipated all the pent-up emotion connected with that life. The therapist can then get back to the original problem which triggered the past-life memory in the first place.
If the concept of reincarnation is not already familiar to the child, a simple explanation may be sufficient. Children readily accept reincarnation. It seems to be something that they have known but have forgotten. Also, when the child draws a picture of what he is seeing in his mind, the therapeutic process is facilitated, since it relieves the difficulty that young children have in expressing their thoughts verbally.
The story that the child tells about a past life often is not sequential and may not make much sense to the therapist, but this seeming disorganization should not be commented upon. Simply listening and reflecting the feelings expressed in the story is sufficient intervention. There often seem to be fragments of the story mixed up with facts from the present lifetime, reflecting the child’s effort to have the story make more sense. There may also appear to be memories of several past lives mixed up together, with the child relating these pieces as if they were all from one life.
Extensive information about spontaneous regressions is included in Children Who Remember Past Lives by Ian Stevenson, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Virginia. (This book is the first in which he discusses cases of children in the United States, rather than children from other cultures that maintain a strong belief in reincarnation). Stevenson describes children who remember past lives from birth and who are able to talk about them at an early age. These children have often begun to forget past-life memories by the age of four or five. Stevenson found that past-life memories frequently created problems for the child and family, particularly if the child had lived in a wealthier or more loving family in a past life. Although this kind of situation may fuel the arguments against using hypnosis with children to remember past lives, in my experience these memories, if not addressed through therapeutic regression, can surface later on in childhood.
Children probably talk about past lives frequently in this country, but are discouraged by their parents who tend to react with statements that such memories are imagination and should not be described as if they were actual events. This response was reported in several of Stevenson’s cases.
The Case of Fred
Fred, a seven-year-old, asked to see me when I worked as an elementary counselor. His mother had cancer, but the more recent stress he experienced involved his father’s plan to make a bomb to throw at the car of a woman who had injured him in an automobile accident. The father had a metal plate in his head. Fred said that the accident had “hurt his father’s brain.” This child was the only person who knew about the bomb, and his father had warned him not to tell anyone about it. I was alarmed and considered talking with the father, but refrained because school personnel had observed that the father had a violent temper and became irrational quite easily. It did not appear that talking with either parent at that time would be helpful to Fred. I made it a point to see him again as soon as possible, and in a few days Fred told me that his father had stopped making the bomb.
Immediately after this, Fred began talking about the “old days” in Boston where there was a lot of fighting and there were many guns. He described the house where he had lived, and gave many details about the violence going on in Boston. Though it proved difficult to make sense out of what he was telling me, it occurred to me that perhaps this story had surfaced from a past-life experience.
During the next session Fred started talking about “The Glow,” saying, “It is this wonderful light around you. When you have The Glow, nothing can hurt you. After you die, you come back to life in three seconds.” Did this mean that he remembered how he had felt after he had died?
In subsequent sessions we discussed metaphysical concepts such as the other worlds he saw in his dreams. He also told of a pet cobra, girls in cages, and Christmas ornaments being made of flesh. Fred talked at length about the cobra, saying that it helped him get “The Glow.” Was this image perhaps related to the Kundalini (serpent power) rising? I surmised that he might be talking about several past lives, though he told it all as if it were from the same life. I wondered if he had been in Boston during the Revolutionary War. Fred had been to Boston when he was four years old, and perhaps the name of Boston was his effort to have the story make sense to him. The house he described did not fit the description of the aunt’s house where he had stayed during his visit to Boston. I had asked his older sister, a sixth grader to tell me everything she knew about Fred’s early life to see if anything Fred was telling me actually related to the present lifetime. She described their visit to Boston, and she stated that Fred had always loved snakes. He had seen a cobra at a friend’s house and wanted to touch it.
Though much of this possibility of past life recall is speculation, the important fact was that Fred appeared to be much better after telling me these things. His father began behaving more rationally and his mother’s condition had at least become stable. Fred left my school the following year, but I checked with his grandmother who lived nearby to see how Fred was doing, and she went on at length about how well he was performing in school.
I cannot be sure that Fred was talking about an actual past life. However, it is clear that he was telling me about metaphysical concepts to which he had never been exposed in this lifetime. His family belonged to a fundamental church that would not have approved of metaphysical ideas or the concept of past lives. I learned a great deal from Fred and intuitively seemed to do what was best for him. Since my work with him, I have begun to listen especially attentively when a child starts talking about seemingly bizarre events that apparently have no origin in this lifetime.
III. Discussing Difficult Relationships in the Child’s Life in the Context of Reincarnation
Some children between the ages of 10 and 12 are open to the concept of other lifetimes, and in this context they are able to explore the possibility of having had past-life relationships with their present families. This process can be particularly helpful in cases where the present family situation is extremely stressful and where it is not feasible to counsel the parents along with the child, a situation that is often the case in the public schools or other institutional settings. As a school counselor, I used this method of dealing with past lives more frequently than any of the other methods I am discussing. This approach can assist the child to understand why he or she is in a particular family, and it can improve relationships within the family through giving the child greater understanding of the parents. The following case history will clarify this approach.
The Case of Marie
Marie came to my school when she was in the fifth grade. She was a conscientious student who functioned well in school, but she was distressed about her home situation. Her mother was a drug addict, and Marie lived with her father and stepmother, who was his fourth wife. Marie reported that her father also was an alcoholic and had physically abused all his wives. The stepmother always sided with her biological daughter whenever there was any problem at home, and this situation created problems for Marie. After two years of counseling I became convinced that the only approach that could help Marie understand these relationships would be to talk about past-life relationships.
I suggested that she might have had past lives with all of the members of her family, and needed to try to improve these relationships in this lifetime, an effort that would require much maturity on her part. I sensed that she was an older soul and had the ability to help the other members of her family. Since Marie repeatedly expressed the desire to be a psychologist when she grew up, I stated that she may have chosen to grow up in this family in order to experience firsthand the problems associated with drug, alcohol, and physical abuse. She would then be in an excellent position to help other people with these kinds of problems. I encouraged her to recognize her potential and focus her efforts as much as possible on a future when she would no longer have to remain in the difficult family environment.
These concepts seemed to be quite helpful to Marie. I gave her the book, There is a River about the life of Edgar Cayce. She found the book difficult to understand, but her stepmother read the book and synchronistically stopped drinking by the time Marie had finished the sixth grade. At the same time her husband stopped physically abusing her. Marie had strongly requested that I not talk to her parents since she was fearful of their reaction if they knew she was telling me about family problems. I respected this request, but it prevented me from getting direct feedback from them.
IV. Discussing Recurrent Dreams
Children of all ages enjoy talking about their dreams. Once the child has talked about a dream and its implications, that dream is usually not repeated. However a dream which recurs many times may indicate a past-life experience. If the dream is of a nightmare quality, which is often the case, a regression can be helpful because the main facts are already present at a conscious level.
The Case of Ben
Ben, age nine, was extremely upset by a regular nightmare of being shot by the Germans. He requested a regression because he was already familiar with the concept of past lives. The fact that he had become an extreme behavior problem, constantly in trouble at school and at home, made me open to an approach that I would not generally use for children his age. The anger he carried with him from that past life of being tortured and shot by the Germans during World War II explained a great deal of the anger he expressed in this lifetime. Once he repeated the dream experience under hypnosis and added more details, that dream did not recur. Unfortunately, Ben left my school before I was able to work with him further. The fact that he had mentioned bits of other dreams that were always of a violent nature suggests that we had only scratched the surface. His extreme anger of the present lifetime may have been caused by a series of past lives in which he died angry.
I did not expect to see Ben again, but our paths crossed several years later when I was working on the School Attendance Review Board (SARB) as part of my early retirement option. Ben was one of the cases brought before SARB. He was now 13 and about to be expelled from school for the second time, due to insubordination and fighting. Both he and his father remembered me from the experience of when I was Ben’s school counselor, and so I could continue to work with him with support and trust already established. The father was not familiar with the concept of past lives, so I briefly explained the approach I would be taking with Ben. It was important to accomplish as much as we could during the session because the principal of Ben’s school was going to make a decision regarding his expulsion, depending on Ben’s behavior after he returned to school on Monday.
After my usual induction, I asked Ben to go back to a past life which would help him understand the extreme anger he experienced in his present life. At first there was silence, and then he opened his eyes, which I feared might break whatever trance state he was in. I sensed that it had become difficult for him to keep his eyes closed, something that seemed true of many hyperactive children when I used guided imagery in the classrooms. Therefore, I suggested that he look at the lighted crystal on the table across from him. Ben said that the only thing he remembered was a dream he had had several years ago. He was in a shopping mall, “A woman cut out my tongue and put it in a basket. Then I woke up yelling.”
I urged Ben to talk just about his dreams. He returned to a story he had told me four years ago. “I was shot by a firing squad. There was one nice officer who tried to help me, but they shot him too. I was tortured before I was shot.” When asked how he was tortured, he replied, “They stuck me in a pit with a cage over it. They hit me with sticks and put food down for me through the top of the cage. I tried to escape once, but they caught me and beat me up. I was an American. My friend was tortured worse than I was. They cutoff his arm and burned him. He was caught before me.”
I asked Ben how he felt and what thoughts went through his mind before he died. He responded, “Why am I dying?” His last thoughts were of America. He had wanted very much to escape and go back home. “I was l9 when I was killed.” He added, “I remember leaving in a plane. I was in the Army, and they dropped us out of a helicopter. Half of my platoon was killed.”
Ben added many new facts to this story. This time it would seem as if he were killed in the Vietnam War, although he was very definite about being in World War II. Perhaps he was killed in both wars in two different life times. We ended the session by talking about the school situation. I asked if he thought there was any connection between his being told what to do all the time when he was a prisoner, and his resentment over being told what to do at school. I am not sure that he would have come up with this insight himself, but he agreed that it was probably true. He emphasized again his negative attitude toward his teacher, stating, “I don’t like her. I don’t want to learn.”
In spite of our good rapport, there was obviously much work to be done to resolve Ben’s many problems. In addition to Ben’s hardened, tough-guy image, he evidenced a learning disability so severe that the application he filled out for me was almost illegible.
The following Monday I received a call from the SARB secretary saying that Ben had been killed Sunday evening. He had been riding a bicycle, was hit by a car and was apparently killed instantly by the impact Because I had grown really fond of Ben and had looked forward to working with him, I felt extremely upset and wondered if he had held a subconscious death wish, since Ben hated school. The day had now arrived when the principal was to make the decision regarding Ben’s expulsion. Ben had expressed very little hope that things would actually get better in school, and with the severity of his learning disabilities, which caused him a great deal of frustration, he was probably right. Even if therapy were successful in dissipating his anger, Ben had experienced so much difficulty with school work that it would have been quite difficult for him to feel any measure of success.
Because of his sudden death I became concerned with the possibility of Ben becoming an earthbound spirit. Therefore, it did not surprise me when, soon after hearing about Ben, I began to feel physically ill. I experienced a clammy coldness in my body and I sensed that Ben might have attached himself to me. Fortunately, my first client for the day was a psychic. With her help we were able to send Ben to the Light. The psychic said that Ben had become attracted to me because I held some knowledge that he needed. I then remembered telling him that earthbound spirits sometimes find the body of a caring person to enter and I knew Ben felt that I cared about him. I felt great relief when Ben left me, and when I could again function in comfort. This was the first time that I personally experienced an attached entity. The experience proved to be an emotional one, and it resulted in a dramatic difference in my views on entity attachment.
Therapists can effectively use the concepts of past lives with children without using hypnotic regression, though in unusual cases in which the problems are profound, a regression may be justified. Each case must be judged individually. This area is an unknown one, and great caution should be used to keep the child’s present-life ego strength intact. The children I have discussed have been my teachers. I want to thank all of them who have taught me much over the many years in which I worked in the schools. I especially thank Ben.
Fuqua, Evelyn. Developing Right Hemisphere Thinking. Rocklin, CA: (unpublished manuscript), 1984.
Stevenson, Ian. Children Who Remember Past Lives. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1987.