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A therapist wonders if she should pursue her client’s ideas about past lives

27 Sep
A therapist wonders if she should pursue her client’s ideas about past lives in her guided imagery therapy with her for chronic pain, trauma and anxiety, and BR provides a practical answer . . .
Hi Belleruth,
I have a client who was actually wondering if her chronic pain, trauma and anxiety could be an issue from a past life. Do you think that might be a possibility? Should we pursue that? I am working with her using guided imagery specific to trauma, as I''m not trained in these other venues. What do you think? Julie

Julie,
Whenever a client starts talking ''past life'', my strategy is to keep them grounded in current reality, by yanking them back to the present and looking at what’s going on now, in this life. I don’t get into arguing over whether it’s possible or not. I take the position that maybe past lives exist, or maybe the stories are just a bunch of metaphors for this one. It doesn’t really matter. The important thing is to treat any of these past life stories as a metaphor for this one. And the handiest and most functional place to work on the metaphor is in this one.

In other words, all these stories have important information, meaning and purpose for this life. Jungian therapists, like Roger Woolger, call this a "complex" of stories, all repeating the same theme through all the "lives", like a thread through a weave.

To tell you the truth, it''s not that I have problems with the concept of past lives. I don''t. It fits with the theoretical physics idea of parallel lives and simultaneous realities, and all that’s fine with me. But I hate to see people getting diverted from the work of therapy for their current lives. And, Lord knows, there''s enough trouble in this life - no need to go looking elsewhere!!

And as a strategic point, if your client knows you don''t disagree conceptually or philosophically with the idea of past lives, but you still don''t think it’s valuable for your work together to focus there, or to just look for the metaphor it’s telling about this life, they will be more likely to go along with what you are saying without resistance or suspicion.

I hope this is useful.
Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award