‘The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels; it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant’
- Salvador Dali
‘If you suggest to a client in hypnosis that she goes back to a past life, “where the problem first started” the subconscious mind may comply by confabulating such an experience (you have created a false memory which is entirely unethical)’
- Cal Banyan & Gerald Kein
With the body of research that shows the fallibility of memory and recall, what safeguards are in place for the client?
To answer this question we need to recap some of what we have already covered in terms of what the ISE Hunters; - consider as proof of efficacy, what they assert as fact when training others in R2C based therapy and what evidence they present to their students in terms of scientific research and literary references.
Then we will look at how they are wrong on pretty much everything and why this can have serious ramifications for the clients and the public's negative perception of the hypnotherapy profession as a whole.
This may take some time, but if you are a serious R2C diehard and still haven’t budged in the way that I personally had (almost certainly by the time I had mulled over question two), I am really hoping that our exploration of question four will give you your ‘Holy Shit, I need to look into this more’ moment.
Hopefully I will have given you all the ‘looking into’ you need to step back and consider the facts.
So let us start with ‘Proof of efficacy’ and how a R2C specialist measures the success of the process. In a way this is very simple to answer as there are only two components to it.
Firstly and simply, the level of efficacy is determined by what the main figure heads and thought leaders, both present and past, tell them they need to know. 'It worked so well Elman taught it to doctors and dentists (70 years ago..)’, ‘We have done hundreds of cases of R2C’, ‘It is the most powerful technique a hypnotist can use’ etc., etc. The fact that there was a body of research being done over several decades into the fallibility of memory, including the contributory risk of hypnosis to it, certainly doesn’t come into consideration. If you have come straight in at Question Four, I strongly urge you to go back to the references mentioned in Question One by Lynne & Kirsch that give a brief summary of them.
Secondly, they will talk of their own successes in using age regression to help many clients over their own illustrious careers and I do not doubt for one minute this to be the case in many instances. I know lots of people have had their issues resolved using age regression - I’ve helped people using age regression myself and in class shared my own successful anecdotes with students too.
Except over time I began to realise that some of the successes I had attributed to R2C had favourable outcomes because of other factors or were only temporal in their accomplishments - I never followed up or incorporated reflective processes for my clients or myself in the way that I do now, otherwise I would have seen that though I did indeed have successes, they were fewer than first thought. I now understand that those other factors were definitely at play, including having a solid therapeutic alliance, incorporating other coaching and therapeutic approaches in sessions, external influences, the client being ready to change and so on and so forth. The real proof in the pudding was that when I stopped using R2C my own efficacy actually improved and in more measurable and safer ways. Anecdotally the referrals picked up too, though this absolutely could be a coincidence, down to a shifting demographic or other contributing factors.
The honest truth is that lots of outdated methods can and do still work - it doesn’t mean you should use them. The same can be said for entirely unorthodox approaches as I am sure that I would have some statistical success if my preferred approach was to slap every client in the face, though obviously I wouldn’t (not all of them anyway).
The downsides of R2C are very real as we shall go on to explore in a little more detail how the wider implications of using age regression can have a negative affect, not just on the client, but on the people in their lives, past and present and how the profession is perceived publicly.
We are aware that their is a heightened likelihood to believe false memories and suggestions post hypnotically (see the Lynn and Kirsch references in Question One) so this will lend to a positive response to the clients subjective experience ‘back in time’ when the SUD may be first checked. Also if we are not aware, we should also be, of the subjectivity in the 'good results and positive response’, especially with an etiological understanding of confabulation (to be explored soon) and the predisposition to it by hypnotic clients, so that when a hypnotist asks for feedback, their may be an increase in compliant positive responsiveness.
R2C folk genuinely believe (or hope that their students genuinely believe) that there is no leading during the process of ISE excavation, but this simply is not the case. The situation of that particular client coming to that particular hypnotherapist who specialises in that particular process already has removed objectivity from the session. The models and pretalk an R2C therapist does with a client reduces objectivity further. The language and line of questioning lends more subjectivity, the authoritarian and direct approach, the leading, the words in the mouth, the process itself - ALL make R2C arguably the most subjective approach used in hypnosis and without any regulation as to the accuracy of any of it. Bearing all of this subjectivity in mind, I like how the following consolidated interactionist view of hypnosis, as defined in the Oxford Hand Book of Hypnosis. Theory, Research & Practice - byMichael Nash and Amanda J Barnier combined with what we know, or will know about hypnosis, false memory and confabulation, can cast doubt on the subsequently reported experiences of an R2C subject:
“Some investigators have argued that hypnosis reflects specific and special cognitive processes and that the focus must be on these processes if we are to understand hypnosis (e.g.Shor, 1959, 1962, 1979; Hilgard, 1973a, 1979). Others have denied the importance of such cognitive processes and have argued that hypnosis can be best understood on the basis of conventional social influence processes (e.g. Spanos and Barber, 1974; Spanos, 1986). On the surface, it would seem difficult to have it both ways. But this isn’t so. The interactionist position considers that hypnosis involves genuine, subjectively compelling alterations in conscious awareness, and that hypnosis is shaped powerfully by the social context in which the hypnotic encounter occurs. From the interactionist perspective, the key issue is to determine and to explain the conditions under which either cognitive or social processes are more influential in determining the experience and behaviour of the hypnotized individual” p69
What I am suggesting is and what an R2C hypnotherapist certainly won't ever tell you (or actually may be genuinely oblivious to), is that the whole process of R2C stacks the cards in their favour and improves their chances of getting a positive response at the end of the session. Let me be clear, this isn’t the same as a healthy outcome for the client, not at all, but in terms of a 'thumbs up at the end of the session', a likely win for the house. A somnambulistic (their words), or emotionally triggered subject worked on with reconstructed (false, confabulated or insinutated) memories of their own design will respond in a way that will involves elements of their own conscious awareness and in the context in which the hypnotic encounter has occurred.
Put into layman’s terms - because of the situation they are in and with whom - they will continue to report what they think the person wants to hear.
Put into more layman's terms - ISE hunter-gatherers know the subjective dynamics of an R2C session and make the client very much fit the process and the results fit both.
It may be too much for some to believe that the true subjective experiences of a regression participant may differ from those reported to the hypnotist and from participant to participant. But the 'social and contextual demands associated with hypnotic responding' have been researched decades ago (see Sheehan et al. 1978; Sheehan and McConkey 1982; Kihlstrom and McConkey, 1990) and the environment created by an R2C operator ratchets up the subjectivity as highlighted in the study below (REFERENCE 1) - EAT – Experiential Analysis Technique developed by Sheean and McConkey (1982).
Just by having a rigid commitment to a theory or belief in a specific way of working is enough to highly prejudice a process and outcomes, as Michael Yapko describes in his 2011 Mindfulness And Hypnosis: The Power Of Suggestion To Transform;
Suggestions can be Misapplied
“suggestion is indeed powerful but it is not innately benevolent. Someone can have positive intentions yet catalyse negative outcomes through the misapplication of suggestion. If we are to apply clinical hypnosis and GMM in truly therapeutic ways, we must openly acknowledge our suggestive role in the process and accept-and strive to eliminate the potential for misapplication. The goal is to use suggestion skilfully without as strong commitment to a particular theory or philosophy that may or may not be helpful to the individual’. P37
But for now let us move on and explore what is not being taught and what is being taught incorrectly and the implications that has.
What is asserted as fact when training others in R2C based therapy
We explored in QUESTION TWO all of the things that the R2C organisations present as fact and found them to be anything but the sort. They offered up a number of outdated metaphorical models and ways of working and presented them as FACT, but the actual facts were very thin on the ground. A quick recap however of the process being taught, may be beneficial for the purpose of addressing this question.
In a nutshell the subconscious mind is a locker room of all of your memories and experiences (as well as being a non-conscious but surprisingly sentient entity within you that picks and chooses when it will and when it wont protect you etc.). When a client presents a problem, to access their subconscious and to work on those past moments when, despite having all the answers, its protective system misappropriates memories and things go tits up, you need to do one of two things; Firstly, you can hypnotise them to bypass the non-conscious filtering process within the conscious mind (don’t ask) called the critical factor and lead them with suggestions (totally objectively of course..) of following a negatively elicited feeling back to the earlier time their problems began so it can be fixed (sometimes this can be better done by persistently tapping on a clients forehead..). Alternatively, you need to get them into a highly emotional ‘state’ through a gentle line of questioning called STEMS (or 'chasing the pig through the village' as it was affectionately referred to in class..) that results in an emotional outburst called an abreaction. This ‘abreaction’ is the result of the subconscious becoming consciously aware enough (again don’t ask...) to discern that this hypnotists in this hypnotic moment is presenting it with a gilt-edged opportunity to resolve something it couldn’t resolve for itself and that despite it’s capacity to protect, has allowed to insidiously fester in the mind of the person, probably since before they were seven (according to the anecdotal research..).
The above process is validated and expanded upon with the use of a number of highly subjective and totally metaphorical ‘rules of the mind’ that involve making some unsubstantiated and blatantly inaccurate assumptions about how the minds work, how emotions are formed, how memories are stored and how people’s different levels of consciousness contribute to their behaviour.
These are the assertions and these are the facts and I would love to share with you a proper reproduction of the material of the training manuals that I am privy to but for reasons already stated I cannot. That said I would be delighted to publicly discuss with anyone who thinks the material is based on facts rather than anecdotes and metaphorical constructs and thinks that it is being misrepresented by my facetious highlighting of the contradictions and misplaced claims throughout.
As we move on to the next point regarding research, science and external resources, I cannot promise the sarcasm will entirely abate, but I hope that the number of useful references I provide in terms of reading recommendations, quotes and valuable information will make up for it. So without further ado;
What evidence is presented by the R2C organisations to their students in terms of scientific research and references?
Much like the previous question, the answer was given in the discussion of previous questions, but can be repeated gain in four words now;
not much at all.
One of the organisations, beyond providing three short quotes attributed to Sigmund Freud does provide the students with a reading list at the back of the manual.
The reading list is shocking! It is bad enough just in how woefully skewed it is to reinforce the misinformation the syllabus teaches about the veracity and validity of age regression. But the other titles listed are even worse!
For a school that promotes itself as using the most advanced techniques and claims to be ‘the biggest hypnosis trainer in the world’ the reading list is actually nothing short of an absolute disgrace, that ignores any seminal work or respected evidenced based literature and instead could be argued to be a compilation of some of the most harmful and genuinely scary drivel misguided money can buy - The books recommended by our thought leaders include the works of - Brian Weiss (past life regression), Steven Parkhill (healing cancer), Dr. Edith Fiore (Spirit Possession), Michael Newton (Spiritual regression to lives between lives), Gregg Braden (new age conspiracy theorist) and Eric Pearl (energy healing).
This reading list tells you all you need to know about the intentions of at least one of the organisations - to blatantly get it’s students to gravitate to anything that utilises any kind of regression and to avoid any research that challenges the ‘woo woo’ such as cancer healing it publicly denies it tries to peddle, but happily fills its reading lists and 'products for sale' website with. If this is safeguarding students, or more importantly clients who come to those students with problems, then heaven help the hypnosis profession.
Why does an organisation or school of thought that is obsessed with working with all manner of memories; childhood memories, past lives, lives between lives and so on, not want to explore the body of research that has closely examined memory and highlight the dangers associated with working with it?
Why are they ignoring the scandal of false memories that rocked the psychoanalytical and hypnoanalysis communities and destroyed families?
Why can they not be more informed on the reconstruction of memories, what confabulation is (they know it exists) and it’s harmful connotations to client work?
Simply put - if they acknowledged any of this they know they wouldn’t have a product, wouldn’t have a target market and therefore wouldn’t have a business.
So for those regression to cause hypnotherapists who, like I did a few years ago, have harboured doubts, have stuck with me in this exploration so far and now want to know more about memory and confabulation - what should they do?
They can invest in some of the titles at the bottom of these pages and as I have mentioned before, by reading just one or two of the key ones, will have enough compelling information to challenge their own beliefs and successfully question any R2C specialist on their own specialist subject. Admittedly some of these texts are expensive, so I went to the liberty earlier of sharing the main key points and references from the ESSENTIALS OF CLINICAL HYPNOSIS - An evidence-based approach - Steven Jay Lynn and Irving Kirsch within the additional notes of question one. I am such a helpful character, I have provided them again below (REFERENCE 2).
If you need to explore beyond the vast amount of referenced research in Lynn & Kirsch’s book, one of the great places to start would be to look into the work of Elizabeth Loftus (again as featured on my recommended reading list). Loftus is a cognitive psychologist (I’ve probably lost a few more just by mentioning that - the words ‘cognitive’ and ‘psychologist’ are enough to give some lay hypnotists the heebie-jeebies) who is most widely recognised for her work in the malleability of memory, eye witness memories and the misinformation effect and and the nature of false memories, including recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse.
I think she may have been referring to me as vituperative when she said in her book The Myth of Repressed Memory:
“According to the most outspoken and vituperative Skeptics, therapists specializing in recovered memory therapy operate in a neverland of fairy dust and mythic monsters. Woefully out of touch with modern research, engaging in “crude psychiatric analysis,” guilty of oversimplification, overextension, and “incestuous opinion citing,” these misguided, undertrained, and overzealous clinicians are implanting false memories in the minds of suggestible clients, making “therapeutic lifers” out of their patients and ripping families apart.” - Elizabeth F. Loftus, - The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse
She certainly touches on a number of concerns that I have in terms of safe guarding clients, namely; how crude the process is, how outdated the process is, how unnecessarily indulgent and over the top the process is, how undertrained the people are doing it, the fanatical insistence of the use of regression when far more appropriate approaches can be utilised, how exploitative the process is, how damaging to family and external relationships the process potentially can be and lastly, the level of dependency in terms of the therapist and the process using R2C may infer upon a client.
Why self styled 'leaders of a profession' would choose to recommend the literary works of ‘cancer healers’ and ‘spiritual attachment specialists’ over the influential and groundbreaking work Loftus has contributed to the fields of psychology, therapy and false accusations of childhood molestation is as clear as day to anyone not deliberately burying their heads in the sand like hypnotic ostriches - They are either buying into falsehoods or deliberately selling falsehoods that the subconscious not only exists, but has recorded every moment in a persons life.
Loftus is well aware of these deluded (and perhaps malevolent) claims:
“[M]any people believe that memory works like a recording device. You just record the information, then you call it up and play it back when you want to answer questions or identify images. But decades of work in psychology has shown that this just isn't true. Our memories are constructive. They're reconstructive. Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page: You can go in there and change it, but so can other people.” - Elizabeth Loftus
(We will be looking at more references and quotes by Loftus and other contributors to the growing body of research. But you may want to take a brief moment now, to listen to her Ted Talk (click here) where she covers some of the issues involved).
In the meantime and just knowing what we have just learned, let's take the above quote from Loftus and put it into a run of the mill Age Regression scenario with the same objectivity she potentially would apply to the situation. This is how I see it it could be unfolding:
We construct the memories and when I say ‘we’ in the context of a hypnotherapy session, I am referring to both the subject and the operator.
R2Cers will go to great lengths to stress the importance of not leading clients and avoiding influencing the person under or in hypnosis, but the lack of objectivity begins from the moment a hypnotist is chosen over another one. Then the process becomes more subjective due to elements such as the dynamic between the two and the contextual framing and the nature of the pre-talk.
Next, how the R2C mind model is presented to a client will further contribute hugely to the future constructive nature of any memories that manifest along the way and how problems are defined to exist subconsciously and be beyond a client’s conscious reparation even more so.
Just how something is presented and the key factors to it, all serve to pre-influence the reconstructive process of what will ultimately be conjured in the clients mind, with the subtle and not-so-subtle presuppositions the client is making, further shaping and contributing to the end result. As this all happens, the client may be changing, reconstructing or constructing memories, swayed further by the inferences made in the direction that the session is taking and where the hypnotist is leading the client by what he is, or indeed isn’t, saying to them. The client is then led back to a time heavily swayed by the hypnotists own subjective experiences and biased leanings, such as whether they should be leading their client back to before the age of seven where most ISEs are assumed to reside and maybe looking for signs of sexual molestation once there (if the client has exhibited a big sexual appetite - according to the training material).
It is hard to conceive that belief and suggestions, whether those of the client or the hypnotherapist, do not play a compelling part in memory construction in a clinical setting. I would strongly propose that skewed beliefs can be intimated and implicit suggestions as part of a process similar to that which I have described above. Loftus and Spanos certainly agreed. As Loftus cites:
In a series of studies conducted by Nicholas Spanos, adult subjects received hypnotic suggestions to regress beyond birth to a previous life. A significant numfer of the participants in this study actually developed past life identities that reflected the hypnotically transmitted expectations. When subjects received a suggestion that they were sexually abused as a child, they reported higher levels of abuse than subjects who were not provided with expectations of child abuse. All it took was a suggestion, and they remembered being abused in a past life. “These findings,” Spanos concluded, are consistent with anecdotal reports indicating that clients in psychotherapy sometimes confabulate complex and extensive pseudomemories that are consistent with the expectations held by their therapists” From these and many other experiments, psychologists specialising in memory distortion conclude that memories are reconstructed using bits of fact and fiction and that false expectation can be induced by expectation and suggestion.
- Elizabeth F. Loftus, - The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse
In their book 'HYPNOTHERAPY A HANDBOOK' Michael Heap and Windy Dryden concur and point to fictional direction in which the implicit suggestions of a hypnotist's seemingly neutral, but directed questions could lead:
This is not to say that memory is generally enhanced by hypnosis, this is a myth and in fact memories elicited under hypnosis may be at special risk from contamination by fantasy or leading questions (Mingay 1988).
Objectively, it may be reasonable for anyone cynical enough to assume that the whole notion of entirely clean memories is fallacious due to any number of subtle and not so subtle contextual nuances. Attention must also always be paid to the resulting nuanced memories and the high level of confidence subsequently attributed to what is thought to have been remembered. In other excerpts from 'The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse’ Elizabeth Loftus cautions us to be mindful of context, therapeutic bias and approach to questionning:
ADDITIONAL WARNINGS: In a recent paper, psychologists Lynn and Nash point out that
Features of the hypnotic context, taken individually and in combination may conspire to elevate the risk of pseudomemory creation. This observation is reinforced by the 1985 report by the American Medical Association* and by subsequent research that underscores the fact that hypnosis can increase the confidence of recalled events with little or no change in the level of accuracy.
Repeated questioning “tends to freeze or harden memories, regardless of the historical accuracy of the memories,” Nash and Lynn warn, and the problem is intensified if the therapist believes in the historical accuracy of the memories: “When clinicians communicate that clients memories are accurate, clients may place an unwarranted degree of trust in their memories.” When clinicians communicate that clients memories are accurate, client may place an unwarranted degree of trust in their memories.”*
In a paper presented in 1992 at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Nash discussed cases in which hypnotized subjects were age-progressed to seventy or eighty years old and recalled events they had yet to experience.
P164-165 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00207148608407388 - Journal of the American Medical Association apr 4, 1985, Vol 253, pages1918-1923
So it seems that neutrality and avoiding subjective bias in memory reconstruction is actually a hard standard to adhere to when using hypnotic regression.
As such it would be prudent and ethical to err on the side of caution and avoid using it altogether. As demonstrated just now, Loftus certainly is no proponent of the use of hypnosis in working with repressed memories and she evidently has good reason. In the same, aforementioned book she also discusses the potential consequences of digging even when historical foul play is known or suspected. She writes:
‘Fredrickson cautions that hypnosis is not a magical truth serum and is effective only if the client is prepared to ‘face the truth’. Other clinicians extend the warning, even arguing that hypnosis is contraindicated with incest survivors. The misuse and application of hypnosis carries “the potential of harm” writes Mike Lew in Victims No Longer, arguing that “memories are blocked for a reason”, and questioning “the benefit of dragging out memories before you are ready to deal with them”. Lew is also sceptical about the quick fix mentality of memory recovery work:
I don’t think it makes sense to set recovery of specific abuse memories as the primary goal. Doing this gives the misleading impression that if you recover the memories everything will be all right. If you adopt this mistaken notion, you will be deeply disappointed when you discover that there is still much work to be done after the memories are in place.
So not only are we being presented with strong and robust reasons for not encouraging the hypnotically framed reconstruction of what we can surely now agree are (at best) reconsolidated memories, even if we do have accurate markers in the client's history that point to evidence of abuse, the necessity to still ‘go there’ is still up for serious debate.
What surely cannot be still up for debate, is whether poorly and inaccurately trained students, having undergone a seven day crash course filled with untruths, misinformation, incredibly outdated methods and invalidated claims, should be working with either scenario.
I would strongly recommend exploring Loftus's work and the research she has influenced further by checking out her work, an additional sample of which I have provided in (REFERENCE 3) below.
Now we know what we actually know about false memories and how the problem is exacerbated by hypnosis, can we still honestly say that deploying R2C, regardless of a persons alleged experience, is ever an appropriate, ethical and safe way to work with clients?
You should all know by now what I think and, for those that disagree with me, be looking forward to challenging any references that I have presented or any spurious claims you think that I have made. Unfortunately we haven’t even scratched the surface in relation to the relevance of False Memory Syndrome and the plethora of cases worldwide detailing how families be torn apart by inappropriate therapeutic techniques and overzealous and badly qualified therapists.
One of the challenges put to me when I have been discussing the topic of false memory and the numerous associated scandals that occurred over several decades, is that I am attaching a problem within the psychoanalysis and psychotherapy professions to the hypnotherapy profession. Yet, we cannot ignore the fact that hypnosis has been offered up as one of the techniques that was consistently employed by the culprits both from within these professions and from the hypnotherapy profession itself. Even if it isn’t at the top of the list of talk therapies to blame for the numerous instances of FMS and subsequent family heartache and the resulting emotional turmoil of clients and their loved ones, many techniques and mechanics similar to those being taught by the R2C schools were central to the problem.
For those interested in exploring the topic of false memory, there is wealth of information to be harvested from the web or alternatively, a good place to start may be The British False Memory Society. The BFMS is a registered charity with an advisory board of leading academics. If you cannot be bothered to sift through the whole website (though there is some interesting information on there) i highly recommend the article MEMORY AND HYPNOSIS which references some of the previous stated research I have shared but also touches on subjects which will be discussed in detail later.
Before we move on I just want to bring your attention back one last time to the same earlier quote from Lynn and Nash below and, knowing what we now know about how an R2C therapist conducts a session and the questionable authenticity of the memories involved, should anyone be working in an environment where false memories are being reinforced and taken, as fact?
*Repeated questioning “tends to freeze or harden memories, regardless of the historical accuracy of the memories,” Nash and Lynn warn, and the problem is intensified if the therapist believes in the historical accuracy of the memories: “When clinicians communicate that clients memories are accurate, clients may place an unwarranted degree of trust in their memories.”
Clearly repetitive questioning poses a real issue to the quality of uncovered memories and the subsequent conviction the clients and the therapist have in terms of their accuracy, but whether it is to elicit an emotionally aroused response as an induction, or to get information when a client is assumed to be ‘there’ (or on the way ‘there’), that is exactly what the large schools train therapists to do.
They either create their preferred environment by 'chasing the pig through the village’ (or using STEMS as it’s more gently known), or induce, deepen, bring up the feeling and follow it back to what is preferably a time in their childhood (sub 7-10 years one hopes). So whether the process starts with repetitive questioning, in the first instance or, as in the second, consists of a series of post-induction questions and requests put to the client accompanied by pressurising ‘boinks’ to the head, once they are back; smaller, younger and at the supposed ISE - they then have a whole bunch of uncovering questions put to them.
A perfect environment to ‘freeze’, one may fairly surmise - A perfect environment for “confabulations", one may concur.
Confabulations do get mentioned, briefly. In Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy – Basic and Advanced Techniques For The Professional, by Cal Banyan & Jerry Kein state:
‘If you suggest to a client in hypnosis that she goes back to a past life, “where the problem first started” the subconscious mind may comply by confabulating such an experience (you have created a false memory which is entirely unethical)’.
If you think you may have seen this quote before you are right, it is at the top of the page. If you are reading it again and not gawking at the sheer amount of irony in it, then I might need to type this next bit slowly until it sinks in.
The authors seem to be aware that confabulation exists and is a ‘thing’.
They seem to know that the ability to create a false memory is a ‘thing’.
They seem to realise that facilitating the creation of confabulations/false memories is an entirely ‘unethical thing’ too.
What they do not realise or choose not to acknowledge is that, the mechanics of a past life regression and an age regression are exactly the same and, for all intents and purposes they are pretty much the same thing as demonstrated most clearly in the research provided up until now (much of which is repeated in the REFERENCES below).
I’ve paraphrased some points made by Dr. Julia Shaw in her wonderful book - THE MEMORY ILLUSION regarding experiments which, may seem familiar to those that have been thorough and clicking on the links and references as they wade through the material.
Spanos and his collaborators began looking to demonstrate alongside studies into the utilisation of age regression hypnosis, (research ref 20-21) the possibility of generating early memories of things that are not just unlikely but impossible. After his unfortunate death, Cheryl and Melissa Burgess continued their research and published the results in 1999.
They introduced participants to the notion they had skills that they probably had developed immediately after birth and attributed these skills to being born in hospitals which hung mobiles by their cribs. They were then regressed and despite utilising discredited memory retrieval techniques, the research demonstrated that the participants seemed to recall a higher number of details about the time they had ‘supposedly’ been regressed to. Roughly half (51%) managed to remember the key fictional detail – in this case of a coloured mobile, they had been told about. Those who didn’t remember that actually testified to remembering other details and virtually all claimed they were real memories and not fantasies. Think about what the researchers did – they created a scenario and utilised age regression to get participants to confabulate memories from nothing and from a period where it is proven memories cant be formed.
There are a few more references to share from Shaws work, but not only do I want to hold some back for QUESTION FIVE, the above should be enough to illustrate the point by now of just how easy confabulation can and does occur in age regression compared to PLR. The above experiment also ties together the point Banyan and Kein were making themselves with regards to the likelihood of false memories and confabulations occurring when regressing to a time time frame where recorded memories were unlikely to exist, but in the case of the experiment, past lives are swapped with early childhood memories and the results are the same. As I have stressed, thats because the mechanics, probability and scientific evidence point to them (Age Regression and Past Life Regression) being almost exactly the same.
Confabulation gets another mention later in the same book, Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy – Basic and Advanced Techniques For The Professional, this time as a pointer for using the Affect Bridge:
Point 112 - If they start taking a while to answer the question, chances become greater that they are either confabulating or using the conscious mind (p125)
Totally dismissive of the possibility that they simply can’t find anything or alternatively, it might not have dawned on them that what mostly is happening when these clients are regressed to childhood IS entirely confabulations but they just happen quicker for others (when pressured by repeated questioning, or boinking perhaps ....).
It may surprise you (or not) to realise that I can find no written evidence at all of either authors mentioning confabulation or false memories in any of their training material.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t there. There are holes in the notes I personally have for the 5-Path Training and much of the OMNI classroom training is based on sitting around watching videos of Jerrys, videos in which he may well mention the dangers of false memory and confabulation (except I am pretty sure he doesn’t).
But if there isn’t any other additional references, their entire foray into the phenomena of confabulation and false memory gets consigned to a few quotes (and notes which still kind of entirely miss the point).
It also means that there aren’t any real safeguards in place for clients because they think the risks only really manifest themselves, if they do, when following a client’s problems back to a life before the one they are in now. The irony is, all things being equal, Past Life Regression certainly poses less risk to a client, certainly less to their family members and friends, because the same dynamics of confabulation are at play.
They wont know that, but after we join the ISE trail in QUESTION FIVE, you will!
NEXT QUESTION FIVE:
HOW CAN WE BE ASSURED THAT THERE IS A DIRECT LINEAR LINE TO THE RELEVANT ISE WHEN WORKING ON A CLIENTS ISSUE?
(1) - EAT – Experiential Analysis Technique developed by Sheean and McConkey (1982)
Oxford Hand Book of Hypnosis. Theory, Research & Practice - Michael Nash and Amanda J Barnier
EAT was motivated by an interactionist perspective of hypnosis, where the hypnotic subject is considered to be a dynamic individual who brings certain skills, abilities and expectancies into the hypnotic context. This perspective also acknowledgs the social and contextual demands associated with hypnotic responding (see Sheehan et al. 1978; Sheehan and McConkey 1982; Kihlstrom and McConkey, 1990). In the EAT, the hypnosis session is videotaped and, afterwards the participant and a second, independent experimenter watch the videotape. Whilst watching the videotape the experimenter is invited to comment on their experience of particular suggestions. This strategy recognises that an experimenter cannot question a participant about their responses during hypnosis without disrupting the hypnosis session. The cues afforded by a videotape of the hypnosis session remind participants about their responsesand their associated subjective experiences.
The EAT is a useful technique for exploring participants interpretations of suggestions, any strategies that they employed and their experience of the suggested effects. Additional the EAT provides information on affect, imagery, intensity and levels of control associated with hypnotic responding (Barnier and McConkey 2004). Importantly the EAT attempts to avoid leading questions that may cue participants towards certain responses. Instead, it explicitly allows the participants to make any comments about their responses in an interview format that is intentionally open-ended. The success of the EAT requires good rapport between the participant and interviewer to avoid the participant feeling inhibited or directed when describing their experiences. Subsequently, participant’s comments are independently assessed on a range of constructs driven by the experimental questions of the particular study.
One of the first studies using the EAT illustrates the different subjective experiences of a number of hypnotic participants whose behavioural responding was similar (Laurence and Perry, 1981). During hypnosis, particpants received a suggestion for age regression and in the subsequent EAT they described their reactions to the suggestion. The following comments are from subjects who all passed the age regression suggestion. One participant said: ‘I was there, you know. It was if I was there … but I wasn’t very long. It came and went and didn’t stay … it sort of felt like “what am I doing there?” and the next thing Im back there. I felt like I was looking at myself in a sense … something that you would do in a dream’. Another participant said ‘I had the feeling I was going with my mother …I wasn’t going to school yet so I felt five and a half on the verge of going for enrolment to school. I didn’t have any sense of being an adult’. Another participant described the experience of being asked to write his name while age regressed: ‘I was two people, one standing off looking at the other, and the other that was standing saw saying, you idiot you can write your name, why are you taking so long? Yet the one that is writing is struggling away to form these letters’. The subtle difference in experience illustrated by these comments highlight the subjective differences that may accompany similar behavioural responses. Hence the use of EAT allows researchers to gain a richer understanding of complexities associated with hypnotic responding. P318
(2) ESSENTIALS OF CLINICAL HYPNOSIS - An evidence-based approach - Steven Jay Lynn and Irving Kirsch
‘Much of the hoopla can be attributed to ….the possible creation of multiple or dissociated personalities by the use of hypnosis and other suggestive procedures … (see Lynn & McConkey, 1998). P200
Despite the increased awareness of the problems of false recall associated with hypnosis, our experience indicates that even today, therapists known to be experienced in the use of hypnosis are called on by potential patients or their therapists to assist in the retrieval of forgotten or repressed memories. Compliance with this can lead to the production of new material that becomes part of the memory structure of the patient. However, knowledge of the nature and malleability of memory indicates that this risky procedure may result in the iatrogenic (resulting from the activity of the healthcare provider) production of false memories (Lynn & McConkey, 1998; Lynn & Nash 1994) p200-201
The Research Base 201-204
‘Today there is consensus among contemporary cognitive scientists that everyday memories are fallible, quirky and reconstructive in nature (Lynn & McConkey 1998) p201
‘Even in the absence of a hypnotic induction, it is possible to create complex memories of events that never occurred. Studies with college students have shown that approximately 20% to 50% report experiencing such fictitious events as (a) being lost in a shopping mall (Loftus & Pickrell 1995); (b) being hospitalised overnight for a high fever and possible ear infection, accidentally spilling a bowl of punch on the parents of the bride at a wedding reception, and evacuating a grocery store when the overhead sprinkler system erroneously activated (Hyman, Husbands and Billings 1995); (c) experiencing a serious animal attack, serious indoor accident, serious outdoor accident, a serious medical procedure, and being injured by another child (Porter, Yuille & Lehman 1999); (d) being bullied as a child (Mazzoni, Loftus, Seitz and Lynn 1999) and (e) taking a ride in a hot air balloon (Wade, Garry, Read and Lindsay 2002).
Hypnosis in no way obviates the hazards of memory distortion. To the contrary, hypnosis may exacerbate the problem (Lynn and Nash, 1994) as the following points make plain (see Lynn et al. 2003)
- Hypnosis increases the sheer volume of recall, resulting in more incorrect as well as correct information. When response production is controlled, hypnotic recall is no more accurate than nonhypnotic recall (Erdelyi 1994 review of 34 studies; Steblay & Bothwell, 1994, review of 24 studies) and results in increased confidence for responses designated as guesses during a prior waking test (Whitehouse, Dinges, Orne, & Orne,1988)
- Hypnosis produces more recall errors, more intrusions of uncued errors, and higher levels of memories for false information relating to nonhypnotic methods (Steblay & Bothwell, 1994).
- False memories are associated with hypnotic responsiveness. Although highly suggestible individuals tend to report more false memories than do low hypnotizable persons, even relatively nonhypnotizable participants, including witnesses of live and videotaped events, report false memories (Lynn, Myers & Malinoski, 1997)
- Research (see Spanos, 1996; Steblay & Bothwell, 1994) indicates that hypnotized participants are as least as likely as non-hypnotized participants to be misled in their recall by leading questions and sometimes exhibit recall deficits compared with nonhypnotized participants. There are also indications that highly hypnotizable persons are particularly prone to memory errors in response to misleading information.
- In general hypnotized individuals are more confident about their recall accuracy than are nonhypnotiszed individuals (Steblay & Bothwell 1994). Furthermore, an association between hypnotisability and confidence has been well documented, particularly in hypnotized participants (Steblay & Bothwell, 1994). Confidence effects are not always present and are not universally large. However, hypnosis does not selectively increase confidence in accurate memories. At times, hypnotized participants can be very confident in false memories.
- Even when participants are warned about possible memory problems associated with hypnotic recollections, they continue to report false memories during and after hypnosis, although some studies indicate that warnings have the potential to reduce the rate of pseudomemories, in hypnotised and non-hypnotised individuals (Lynn, Lock, Loftus, Lilienfield & Krackow, 2003).
- Some writers (D.P Brown, Scheflin, & Hammond, 1998; Hammond et al, 1995) have advocated the use of hypnosis to recover memories of emotional or traumatic experiences. Contrary to this position, seven studies (see Lynn et al., 1997) that compared hypnotic versus non-hypnotic memory in the face of relatively emotionally arousing stimuli (e.g. films of shop accidents, depictions of fatal stabbings, a mock assassination, videotape of an actual murder) yielded an unambiguous conclusion: Hypnosis does not improve recall of emotionally arousing events nor does arousal level affect hypnotic recall.
- Hypnosis does not necessarily yield more false memories than do nonhypnotic procedures that are highly suggestive and leading in nature (Lynn et al. 1997). Indeed, any procedure that conveys the expectation that accurate memories can be easily recovered is likely to increase the sheer volume of memories and bolster confidence in inaccurate as well as accurate memories. Scoboria, Mazzoni, Kirsch and Milling’s (2002) research revealed that the induction of hypnosis and using leading interview procedures each had a negative effect on participants’ recall.
- Although hypnosis is often used to facilitate the experience of age regression, it can distort memories of early life events. Nash, Drake, Wiley, Khalsa and Lynn (1986) attempted to corroborate the memories of participants who had been part of an earlier age regression experiment. This experiment involved age regressing hypnotized and role playing (control) participants to age 3 to a scene in which they were in the soothing presence of their mothers. During the experiment, participants reported the indentity of their transitional objects (e.g. blankets, teddy bears). Third part verification (parent report) of the accuracy of recall was obtained for 14 hypnotised participants and 10 control participants. Hypnotic participants were less able than control participants to identify the transitional objects actually used. Hypnotic participants’ hypnotic recollections matched their parents reports only 21% of the time, whereas control participants reports were corroborated by their parents 70% of the time.
Sivec, Lynn and Malinoski (1997) age regressed participants to the age of 5 and suggested that they played with a Cabbage Patch Doll if they were a girl and a He-Man toy if they were a boy. (These toys were not released until two or three years after the target time of the age-regression suggestion). Half of the participants received hypnotic age-regression instructions and half received suggestions to age regress that were not administered in a hypnotic context. Whereas none of the nonhypnotised persons were influenced by the suggestion, 20% of the hypnotised participants rated the memory as real and were confident that the event occurred at the age to which they were regressed.
- The search for traumatic memories can extend to well before birth (see Mills & Lynn, 2000). Past-life regression therapy is based on the premise that traumas that occurred in previous lives contribute to current psychological and physical symptoms. For example, psychiatrist Brian Weiss (1988) published a widely publicised series of cases focusing on patients who were hypnotised and age regressed to go back to the origin of a present day problem. When patients were regressed, they reported events that Weiss interpreted as having their source in previous lives.
What are we to make of vivid and realistics reports of past lives? Is the information recovered from a past life reliable? If so, it would constitute strong evidence that hypnosis was an effective age-regression technique and that past lives were indeed a reality. However the research bears out neither possibility. Spanos, Menary, Gabora, DuBreuil and Dewhirst (1991) determined that the information participants provided about specific periods during their hypnotic age regression was almost invariably incorrect. For example one participant who was regressed to ancient times claimed to be Julius Caesar, emperor of Rome in 50BC, even though the designations of BC and AD were not adopted until centuries later, and even though Julius Caesar died decades prior to the first Roman Emperor. Spanos et al. (1991) informed some participants that past-life identities were likely to be of a different gender, culture and race from that of the present personality, whereas other participants received no prehypnotic information about past life identities. Participants past life experiences were elaborate, conformed to induced expectancies about past life identities (e.g. gender and race), and varied in terms of the prehypnotic information participants received about the frequency of child abuse during past historical periods. In summary, hypnotically induced past-life expectancies are fantasies constructed from available cultural narratives about past lives and known or surmised facts regarding specific historical periods, and as well as cues present in the hypnotic situation (Spanos, 1996).
Why Does Hypnosis Increase False Memory Risk p204
A free flow of imagination and fantasy is a common response to a hypnotic induction. In fact one of the central demands of hypnosis is to fantasise and imagine along with suggested events to relinquish a critical, analytical stance in favour of the direct experience of suggested events (Lynn, Martin & Frauman, 1996). Guided imagery, even when hypnosis is not used, warrants concern because people frequently confuse real and imagined memories, particularly when memories are initially hazy or unavailable (Hyman & Pentland, 1996). A sizable body of research has shown that simply having participants imagine an event can lead to the formation of false memories. Confidence in the occurrence of fictitious events typically increases after those events have been imagined. The phenomenon is called imagination inflation and has been demonstrated repeatedly (reviewed in Garry & Polaschek, 2000).
In addition to imagination, peoples beliefs about hypnosis likely play a role in false memory formation. The information that is remembered during hypnosis is typically reported in a context of implicitly and explicitly communicated acceptance of its accuracy. Peoples beliefs have always shaped their hypnotic experiences. When people believed that convulsions were the sine qua non of mesmerism, they convulsed. When they thought it required they went into trance, they went into trance. Catalepsy and spontaneous amnesia have been signs of hypnosis, but only among people who believed that these were expected. Many people believe that hypnosis enhances memory, and this belief leads them to accept more of their confabulation as memory (Whitehouse et al. 1988). The combination of increased fantasy and decreased objectivity, along with the commonly held belief that hypnosis enhances recall, may promote the confusion of fantasy and historical reality and the tenacious events that imagined events actually occurred.
“It is sometimes argued that the actual truth of a memory may be unimportant and what matters is its narrative truth. According to this view, if the recovery of a memory is therapeutic, it does not matter if it is true. The idea that the recovery of a memory is therapeutic is an untested and questionable assumption. But the proposition that a false memory can have negative effects is unquestionable.” P205
(3) - Memory Distortion and False Memory Creation - Elizabeth Loftus (1996) Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 24 (3) 281-295.
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