Does past-life hypnosis work?

The science of hypnosis is rock-solid. There’s no doubt that it works.


There are many mysteries around how and why it works.

This leaves plenty of room for speculation – some of which seems scientific, some of which seems less so.

And more towards the pseudoscience end of the spectrum is the idea of past-life hypnosis.

The idea is this:

You carry in your unconscious ‘ancestral trauma’ – bad stuff that your past selves went through and never got over. The trauma, negative energy, bad karma or whatever you want to call it, resides inside you today, causing problems.

This isn’t a scientific theory and most hypnotists don’t buy it. But it’s popular enough that I figured I’d go into it.

Now, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. After all, all hypnosis was considered outright unscientific (let alone pseudoscience) before the evidence came in. So, who knows, maybe it works.

I mean, I doubt it. But maybe.

Here are the arguments in its favour:

We know trauma can carry on through generations, thanks to epigenetics. If your great-great-grandparent went through a famine or war, certain genes of yours will be expressed or suppressed. It doesn’t change your DNA, but it does change what it does.

Also, there are weird theories around the molecular basis for memory. I won’t go too much into them, because the science is young, moving fast and confusing. All I’ll say is it’s plausible that certain memories could pass from parent to child.

If you want to get even more off the familiar path, maybe memories are transmissible through non-molecular means. Like some form of limited telepathy or collective unconscious. It’s not impossible, just unlikely.

Even if all this is true – and it’s a big ‘if’ – and past-life regressions could still be wrong.

Most past-life experiences don’t tend to hold up. They tend to follow popular culture, rather than demographic trends. And the historical details are often, shall we say, wonky. That might be how it works, though. Your past life was as a Viking, and your present brain fills in wrong details like horned helmets. So maybe the evidence against it isn’t evidence either way.

Finally, there are many anecdotes of things like young kids recognising people and recalling things they shouldn’t. Some of you are yelling at me already. “Anecdotes aren’t evidence!” In a Bayesian sense, they’re extremely weak evidence. If all you have are anecdotes, you’re in trouble.

But, hey, I said I’d list all the evidence for it.

The evidence against it?

It assumes:

  • Trauma can transmit from one of your ancestors or past lives to you,
  • That trauma causes problems in your life,
  • Using certain mental techniques, you can ‘regress’ to this past life, and
  • Resolving the ancestral trauma will help you in this life.

There are many moving parts to this model. If any of them are wrong, the entire thing falls apart.

So even if reincarnation or telepathic traumas are real, it could still be false.

More, this counts as an extreme claim, and therefore demands extreme evidence. If it’s true, it changes everything we know about life, religion, physics, psychology and… well, everything.

I can even think of a few military applications for it.

Yet all the evidence for it is pretty weak.

If so, you might wonder why it’s so popular.

Apart from showing there’s more to this life and that death isn’t the end, there’s a big draw in this model of hypnosis:

Your issues aren’t your fault.

All your problems began before you were born.

And we’ve all had inexplicable problems no one else seemed to. Maybe we were shy, despite having every reason to feel confident. If that shyness came from a past life, that explains it and takes the blame off you, while giving you the means to fix it.

Maybe that’s what you need. Sometimes distance from your issues gives you the perspective to face them. What could be more distant that literally another lifetime?

I don’t do past-life regressions. I could fake my way through one, but I don’t think that’s doing either of us any favours.

If that’s what you’re after, I wish you luck.

If you want a good old fashioned regression, though?

Or anything else for clearing out the cobwebs of your past?

I recommend starting with a Neural Reset, right here:

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