Little White Lies and Little Green Men

Have you lived before? The evidence pointing to previous existences and past lives is truly underwhelming and yet there are those who make a comfortable living from persuading others to believe that they have lived before.

Time to take a closer look…

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During the 1960’s, 70’s and early 80’s, all sorts of research was carried out into hypnosis which was, at the time, undergoing something of a renaissance. One of the directions this research took was an exploration into the vague possibility of past life regression. One can’t help but notice that the idea for this wholly speculative endeavour had its roots in some religious philosophies that promote the idea that we have all lived before. Buddhists have long held the belief that we have all been reincarnated many times. Researchers in this field could well have been suffering a hangover from the 1960s when some of America’s hippie types engaged in a brief flirtation with the mysticism that encouraged those ideas. Natural therefore, that some investigation into the possibility of reincarnation was bound to take place and hypnosis presented itself as the ideal tool with which to explore the hypothesis.

The technique takes a subject back through childhood, to the moment of birth, then back into the womb and then even further back into their ‘pre-existence.’ There were some celebrated cases – Bridie Murphy for instance, whose uncanny accuracy in recalling events and details from a previous life inspired her mentor, Morey Bernstein to write a book – The Search for Bridie Murphy – which was first published in 1956 and became a best seller. In 1977 came the Bloxham tapes, in which the past-life experiences of various regressees were recorded on tape (hence the title) and became the focus of much media attention. Before long, anyone who fancied themselves as a cutting edge hypnotic researcher eagerly jumped on the regression bandwagon and a worryingly large contingent of practitioners were using their results to either prove reincarnation as fact, or at least lend the theory credibility. In 1980 John Gribbin even went so far as to say that as past life regression was now proven beyond any reasonable doubt, there should be no reason why future life progressions could not reveal er… the future. This has to be quackery on an epic scale, the like of which has not been seen since the snake-oil salesman peddled their wares to the hopelessly naive in the travelling medicine shows of the old Wild West.

We know that under hypnosis the imagination is often allowed to run free and there is a great desire to please the hypnotist, so it would certainly seem more likely that this particular phenomenon is simply just a trick of the imagination. The technique relies heavily on leading questions which the hypnotised subject feels that they must respond to in the manner expected by the hypnotist. The fact that the hypnotist believes in this stuff himself makes the whole charade even more compelling. As a simple rule of thumb, the more receptive to suggestion and the more fertile the imagination of the subject, the greater the likelihood of a spectacular result.

There is however an immense danger here. What in the normal waking state is purely imaginary can appear very real in the hypnotic state. Some past life experiences have been so profound that they have had a life altering effect on those who take part in such ridiculous and psychologically dangerous, experiments. Admittedly, the people who have been profoundly affected by their altogether subjective experience are relatively few in number, but nonetheless, common sense dictates that there is a need for caution. It is one thing to say to people that they must have an open mind about these things, but quite another to fill those minds, once open, with stuff and nonsense which could possibly have unforeseen consequences.

Under the terms of the model conditions attached to the 1952 Hypnotism Act, any type of regression is specifically prohibited, which is ironic, because this sort of phenomena lends itself perfectly to voyeuristic and often hilarious entertainment. It is astonishing how many regressees claim to have been Mary Queen of Scots (even some of the men) or Napoleon Bonaparte (even some of the women.) Surely, we can’t all have been illustrious characters from history. One is inevitably drawn to the conclusion that past life regression is simply a matter of imagination run riot combined with shaky memories of movies in concert with a little knowledge of the novels of Charles Dickens.

Fascinated by the phenomena of past life regression, or at least seduced by the prospect of making large amounts of money from it, I conducted my own experiments with a group of volunteers in 1982.

The modus operandi was as follows; a group of seventy people were recruited from a leaflet drop in Liverpool, Glasgow and Manchester – three towns representative of the general population. The volunteers in each town were split into two groups, A & B.

Group A were told that they were to take part in a remarkable new kind of hypnosis therapy that was part of a national and ongoing project that would seek to uncover past lives and that this had proved to be successful with a remarkable number of people throughout the country. They were individually hypnotised and were asked leading questions such as “what can you see, what year is it, where are you, who are you with, what are you wearing, what have you had to eat today?” and so forth.

They were led on (the operative expression here is ‘led on’) to describe their individual experiences and with most of the participants in group A (twenty eight out of thirty five) there poured forth a remarkable and descriptive assortment of death and destruction, of rape and pillage and on occasion, quite harrowing role play, and with one particular subject, more of an aristocratic disregard for one’s fellow man as I have ever heard!

“Men have been taken from this room and hanged!” he stated with the all disdain of a seasoned Shakespearean master.

Participants in group B however were told that the experiment probably would not work as this whole pretence had already been exposed as a fake but the experiment was simply to confirm the results. Again, they were individually hypnotised and asked the exactly the same questions. The responses on these occasions were altogether more disappointing. Only seven out of thirty five were able to describe, with any conviction, any scenario that could be taken seriously by even the most enthusiastic supporter of past-life regression.

What this proves is quite clear; imagination and suggestion plays an enormous part. It’s not only the imagination that’s important, but also the emotional expectancy of the subject. If further proof were needed, the use of modern parlance that subjects used to describe their experiences is a dead giveaway. Likewise, when quizzed about the time, statements to the effect that the year was 500 BC (too much of a nice round number) did not lend credibility to their story (how would they know it was BC?) If a subject was an inhabitant of Ancient Rome, he would hardly refer to it as ancient, or have any inkling of the date of the birth of Christ. As an aside, when I asked one subject if he had any idea of the time, he replied “about a quarter past three.”

Nonetheless, there are people who believe that they have lived before with such a passion and are more than willing to supply the most fantastic detail to anyone who cares to listen. Those who care to listen are often hypnotherapists who also believe their clients have lived before and serve to encourage these wild fantasies. Take the woman who appeared on ‘This Morning’ (ITV1, 16th Feb 2007.) She was so convinced that she had been on the Titanic (shame she wasn’t!) that she said she not only believed it but knew it to be true. Her hypnotist (shame on him) said that her case was a perfect example of “cryptamnesia” (a word he had recently made up) and meant that the memories were undoubtedly true but had been repressed (Oh God, not again!)

Not having a proper job, I was able to watch this interview and I did so with an increasing fascination. It soon became obvious to me that this woman’s greatest fantasy was to have been on the Titanic. Something about the story of the Titanic – possibly the romance or an unconscious desire to be near Leonardo di Caprio – had first acted as a catalyst for the fantasy to establish itself. Then, over the months and years, the idea became so deeply ingrained in her consciousness that she started to not only fill in the details, but also started to feel the emotions. This woman wanted to have been there so badly that eventually she came to believe it.

This woman is then given an opportunity to tell her (or someone else’s) story to a sympathetic programme researcher and thence to a viewing audience of well over a million, none of whom have proper jobs either, she seizes the opportunity and waxes lyrical. Her nice hypnotherapist uses a couple of big words to justify the whole charade and we are left in no doubt that everything she said was true (after all, he’s a hypnotherapist and he knows about these things) which confirms her delusion and after they all get their small appearance fees they go off and live happily ever after. The real truth of the matter is that the woman is delusional and her hypnotherapist is merely stoking the fires of her imagination. Still, she’s not doing any harm so no one suggests that she be taken to see a psychiatrist.

All this can be said of ‘progression’ which is the art of getting subjects to progress rather than regress, into the future. The common thread here is that subjects are much better at remembering some of the details of the past, which add to the inventiveness of their role plays, but not so good at predicting the future. Based on the information imparted by one very imaginative individual (female) I await with the greatest excitement the appointment of Donny Osmond as President of the United States.

And yet, whole books have been written supporting the theory that at least some of us have lived before. One must examine all these claims very closely. Good science stands up to test. There have been literally thousands of regressions that have been carried out over the last fifty years and there are bound to be a handful that simply can’t be explained by anything other than pure coincidence. Having one positive result out of a thousand is not significant and is bound to be nothing more than chance. Nonetheless these flimsy results are seized upon by the experts in the field; they find their way into urban myth and become part of our collective culture.

One of the most oft quoted examples relates to a boy in India who once regressed, was suddenly able to speak in a dialect that was previously unknown to him. The hard truth is that there is simply no proof – no one was there with a tape recorder or video camera – all we have is someone else’s rather dubious word for it. Just because something appears in print does not necessarily endow it with substance or truth. These stories get around because like- minded enthusiasts talk about them among themselves and they are passed round, gathering momentum and embellishment as time goes on and we are tempted to believe these tales because we are suggestible.

An argument most frequently used to convince us that this phenomenon is real, is that underneath all the vivid and occasionally lurid imaginings of the subject, these people are ordinary; they lead spectacularly average and mundane lives. Well there’s the next major clue! It shouldn’t come as anything of a surprise that some of these people use the hypnotic state as an escape from their humdrum lives and that once surrounded by microphones, video cameras and people wearing white coats, hooked up to expensive machines that go ‘beep’ they are tempted, albeit unconsciously to embellish their stories from session to session – after all, these ‘scientists’ are giving them a lot of attention! This does not mean to say that they are making it up because that would be unkind, unfair and untrue, but nonetheless they do elaborate at an unconscious level. The danger comes when, encouraged by overzealous researchers, they start to believe it themselves. In that case, the chances are that they may end up as the subject of quite a different sort of examination by more men in white coats.

Our lives are full of coincidence. We see coincidences all around us and we are normally able to accept them as such without all the excitement that surrounds the customs of past life regression. Some coincidences are truly amazing but they do not and should not, point to anything more than pure fluke. Chaos Theorists could explain this concept much better than I can but for the time being, I will content myself with one example.

There are ten things which link the assassination of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy;

1. Lincoln was elected president in 1860, Kennedy in 1960;

  1. Lincoln’s secretary was called Kennedy; Kennedy’s secretary was called Lincoln;
  2. The assassins, John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald were both southerners in their twenties;
  3. Lincoln and Kennedy were both shot in the head
  4. Both Lincoln and Kennedy were shot on a Friday;
  5. Lincoln was shot in a theatre by a man who later hid in a
    warehouse and Kennedy was shot from a warehouse by a
    man who later hid in a theatre;
  6. Both assassins died before they faced trail;
  7. Lincoln was succeeded by Andrew Johnson, Kennedy by
    Lyndon Johnson;
  8. Andrew Johnson was born in 1808, Lyndon Johnson was
    born in 1908 and finally;
  9. Kennedy was riding in a Lincoln when he was shot.

All pure coincidence! Of course the conspiracy theorists will read things into all this that will escape persons of a more sober frame of mind, but there is absolutely nothing more to it than sheer chance!

So, when we read of Bridie Murphy describing a cellar at the back of an old baker’s shop in Dublin and then find out in the next chapter that the shop was explored and – Jesus Mary and Joseph! – there is the cellar that Bridie was talking about, we should not be too surprised or taken in. In actual fact, many old buildings in that part of Dublin had cellars and some are still in use today. Sheer guesswork can sometimes lead to a result, but the odds are stacked against the past-life debate. For every Bridie Murphy, there are thousands of uncorroborated statements from thousands of subjects. Amazingly, even the tabloids ignore them. Mind you, I haven’t read the Sunday Sport for a while…

But what about regression to childhood? Surely, as we have all had childhoods, we should be able to recover some of the lost memories of our youth? Sadly not… Our brains simply don’t have the capacity to remember every minute detail of our existences. One of the purposes of dreaming is so that the brain, our very own super computer, can sort out the things that are important and worth remembering from the trivia we simply don’t need any more. A side-effect of this process is that even after relatively short periods of time, memories can become confused, which is why some witness statements, even those taken within a few short hours of an incident, are unreliable.

Childhood regression gives us next to nothing that we wouldn’t be able to remember anyway. I say next to nothing because when one is relaxed and focused it is always possible to remember a little more of the detail – especially regarding occurrences that have taken place within a relatively short period of time. Still, one must bear in mind that some of that detail may be a product of our imaginations too.

Determined to get to the bottom of this, in the early 1980’s, I carried out a series of ‘age regressions’ on willing subjects just to see what happened, while at the same time exploring the possibility of using the initiative as a way of making some extra cash. The following two examples are typical of the overall results. The first experiment involved a man in his late twenties whom I ‘regressed’ to the age of seven. Asked what he got for Christmas that year, his eyes lit up and barely able to control his excitement, he pointed straight ahead and shouted “a racing bike!” On checking with his parents, his enthusiasm turned out to be misplaced. There was no two ways about it, his parents distinctly remember that at seven years old they deemed him too young to have such a large bicycle and he had to wait until his tenth birthday for Father Christmas to oblige.

The second experiment involved the ‘regression’ a man of thirty- two back to the age of eight. I asked him to write his name on the blackboard and sure enough there appeared the spidery signature of an eight year old. The process was repeated for the ages of eleven and thirteen. To make sure that this experiment was carried out under the most rigorous of scientific conditions, I had already taken the precaution of obtaining copies of his handwriting from his parents who had lovingly and methodically kept some of his best school work as souvenirs of his growing up (much to his annoyance it has to be said!) Alas, the comparison proved that the specimens obtained by meticulous process bore no resemblance to the originals. I repeated this experiment a dozen times with different volunteers and it produced the same result every time. Shame – if cold reality hadn’t intervened, I could have written a book about it and turned it into a best-seller.

So it would seem that the imagination is king when it comes to these things.

Undaunted, I went in search of devil-worshipping, animal sacrificing paedophiles…

During the same period that experiments concerning past-life regression were becoming popular, an altogether more sinister development was taking place in the world of hypnosis – a development that was to have tragic consequences for all that found themselves on the receiving end of it and highlights the dangers of a little knowledge being a very dangerous thing.

Based on Freud’s theory of repressed memory, that is the memory of something so unpleasant it has been buried in the darkest and deepest recesses of the mind, Repressed Memory Syndrome became disturbingly fashionable with some therapists and particularly those therapists who erroneously considered themselves adept in the use of hypnosis. The procedure is based on the recovery of these ‘repressed’ memories so that the facts fit the theory rather than the more scientifically correct practice of the theory fitting the facts.

Quite unwittingly, hypnotherapists had been accidentally implanting suggestions in patient’s minds that they had been sexually abused, usually by a close family member, during childhood. The subject was usually told that the memory of these events was so painful that the subject was unable to recall it to their conscious mind without the help and ‘guidance’ of the hypnotist. Under hypnosis they would then be encouraged to fantasise the most awful imaginings which would be recorded and later presented as ‘evidence’ to the police. The end result was that many particularly suggestible subjects unintentionally allowed their imaginations to take over and came to believe the fantasies were real – such was their blind faith in their therapist. Families were torn apart and previously respectable and decent people lost everything precious.

Horrifyingly, we don’t need flawed hypnotherapy to drive the point home.

In Britain, the Cleveland child abuse scandal is the most well- known example of what can happen when things go badly wrong. Although neither regression or hypnosis was involved, I include a brief synopsis of the events because I hope it will serve not only as a dreadful illustration of what can happen when things really do get out of hand but also as a warning to those who charge in where angels fear to tread.

In Middlesbrough, in 1987, woefully under-qualified social workers were persuaded by one Dr. Marietta Higgs (who had a pet theory – later rubbished in the courts) that certain children in the community were being habitually sexually abused. Dr. Higgs ordered the local authority to take the children of several innocent families into care, based on evidence which was at best flimsy and at worst built on a catastrophic lie. By the time the justice system had sorted it all out, the parents of at least one family (I going to call them family X in a genuine attempt to spare them further distress) were denied any access at all to their two children – three years and eighteen months old respectively – for nearly two years. This episode is a vile disgrace. If you are at all squeamish, I would skip the next few paragraphs if I were you.

The facts are as follows;

In June 1986 Dr. Marietta Higgs attended a conference in Leeds and had been impressed by the ‘pioneering’ work of two paediatricians, Dr. Christopher Hobbs and Dr. Jane Wynne. Eager to test the ‘Reflex Anal Dilation’ (RAD) theory presented at the conference, Dr. Higgs found herself presented with an opportunity to do so a month later in July 1986. It is now known that RAD can occur quite normally and spontaneously in young children of either sex.

Not to be deterred however, Dr. Higgs proceeded with the test on the two girls from family X. The RAD test involved Dr. Higgs putting on a surgical glove and probing the girl’s bottoms before indulging in a guessing game as to whether or not the child may or may not have been buggered. This test was repeated on at least sixteen other occasions (something that surely amounts to child abuse in itself!) and the police were brought in, although no charges were ever preferred.

Six months later, in January 1987, Dr. Higgs was transferred to a new job at the Middlesbrough General Hospital. There, in cahoots with another paediatrician, Dr. Geoffrey Wyatt, she introduced the RAD test as a standard procedure. The result of this wickedly misguided error was that children in the Cleveland area started to be diagnosed as having been sexually and anally abused on a scale never before seen anywhere in the world. The tabloids dutifully covered the story in the most minute detail and the nation was duly outraged. In the six months between February and July 1987, over 120 children had fallen into the clutches of Higgs and her fellow bungling incompetents and by the summer of 1987, the hospital was brimming with ‘abused’ children. It was only when Dr. Wyatt ordered every child from a local primary school to attend the Middlesbrough Hospital and undergo the RAD test that questions started to be asked.

Meanwhile, the two children from family X were sent to live with foster parents who had three young daughters of their own, aged two, eight and ten. Again, relying on RAD tests, Higgs now claimed that all five girls were being abused and all were admitted to the hospital. The foster father was also now arrested, though again, no charges were brought. If ever there was a modern-day witch hunt, then this is it.

It was only in the February of 1988 that the whole debacle was exposed as the travesty of justice it had always been and the courts ordered the children to be returned to their parents. (In fact, only 80% of the children ever returned home. Some of them had been with foster parents for such a long time that the courts deemed it wiser that those particular children stay with the foster parents who had been looking after them for nearly two years. The parents of those children must be devastated; something not reported in The Sun.)

Imagine for one moment if you will, that you are the mother or the father of two beloved, precious children; Imagine that for two or more years you’ve nursed your beautiful babies and watched them grow into beautiful little people; you’ve changed their nappies and got up countless times in the middle of the night to feed or comfort them. Imagine how overjoyed you were when they first said the words “mummy” or “daddy…” Imagine how precious they were the first time you held them in your arms and how you secretly promised that you would forever protect and cherish them.

Imagine then, the knock on the door in the early hours of the morning, the confusing questions in the police station, the snide comments the neighbours make behind your back when the story appears on the Six-o-clock News and everyone in the street looks away because everyone knows it’s you that’s had your children taken away. Imagine the agony, the mental anguish, the loneliness that will keep you awake night after night, wishing ever second of every minute of every hour of every day that you had your children back. Imagine the possibility that you may never get them back… Imagine the injustice of being accused of a terrible thing, all the time, knowing that you have done nothing wrong. Faced with the over whelming power of the state, how hopeless do you think you would feel? Just put the book down and think about that for five minutes. Those readers who have had children will know exactly what I mean… If this happened to my child, I’d want to kill the bitch, and would quite happily, were it not against the law.

Dr. Higgs, the genius behind the Cleveland child abuse disgrace and the social workers involved were never punished or sanctioned in any way save for some mild criticism from the judge who presided over the enquiry, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss. Dame Elizabeth merely said that Higgs and Wyatt had been “over confident” in their diagnoses. This amounts to no more than a slap on the wrist and a gentle one at that. Although the Northern Regional Health Authority has barred Higgs from child abuse work, she is unrepentant and has never apologised. Neither has she ever admitted that she might have got it wrong. She has made it abundantly clear that she has not changed her views even though confronted with the fact that twenty years on, the two girls concerned (now grown up of course) insist beyond question that no abuse ever took place.

It would be superfluous of me to pillory Dr. Higgs (the main instigator of this tragedy) further. But she now works as a paediatrician in Kent, is likely to speak with a slight Australian accent and goes under the name of Dr. Marietta Higgs.

As recently as December 2005, a seventy four page booklet was published in Scotland entitled A Can of Worms: Yes You Can! Working with Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse and distributed to social workers and other healthcare professionals. It encouraged practitioners to “always” look for childhood sexual abuse as the root cause of mental health problems, from eating disorders to depression to alcoholism to drug addiction to personality disorders. The booklet says that “there is almost no condition that the authors do not consider a sign of past abuse.” It also refers to something called ‘body memories’ (more twaddle) as if they were scientifically recognised symptoms. They are not, but you can see how easy it is to be taken in by this sort of thing.

This is highly dangerous stuff and oh so wrong on oh so many levels. Some very eminent psychiatrists and psychologists have called for the booklet to be withdrawn. “If the guidance set out in this booklet is followed, then many vulnerable people could be damaged… Some people who have not been sexually abused, but who have the ‘symptoms’ will be led into a false belief that they were, and may experience false memories; their mental health will also be seriously damaged.” The authors of this mammoth work of fiction are Dr. Sarah Nelson, a research fellow in the sociology department of Edinburgh University and Sue Hampson, a ‘person centred counsellor’ and former social worker. Dr. Nelson has argued that many ‘victims’ of satanic sexual child abuse have suffered from eating disorders as a result of being forced to eat and drink such things as “human and animal flesh, blood, urine, excrement, vomit, maggoty meat and drugged drinks.” One is tempted to believe that Dr. Nelson may have been taking drugs herself while writing this outrageously imaginative rubbish – she claims that more than 1,650 people have been victims of satanic abuse in Edinburgh alone! Dr. Nelson’s PhD. was not awarded for research into child abuse but for writing about paramilitaries in Northern Ireland; to research satanic abuse, she worked as an “unqualified social worker.” You pair of stupid, wicked, sick bitches. You deserve to go to prison, and when you read this, you can sue me if you dare!

This sort of disastrous mistake is not limited to over-zealous amateurs however. The ‘expert’ testimony of Professor Sir Roy Meadows, which succeeded in putting at least four wholly innocent women in prison, has recently been more than just criticised. Meadows’ own invention, the much publicised Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy has also received a savaging from the medical profession. At the time of writing, there are at least another two cases pending appeal. The General Medical Council accepted that Sir Roy’s failures were neither “calculated” nor “wilful” but it added: “However, your misguided belief in the truth of your arguments… is both disturbing and serious.” Which is a polite way of saying Meadows was not only hopelessly wrong but dangerously incompetent into the bargain. What is really disturbing is that the courts swallowed his nonsense first time around; hook, line and sinker.

When referring to ‘repressed’ memory syndrome, it makes more sense to refer to such issues as false memory syndrome. The imagination is nearly always more powerful than cold hard fact and it has taken nearly three quarters of a century to realise that Freud was wrong after all. This is especially true when working with children. The fact of the matter is that children are extremely suggestible and prone to flights of fancy the like of which adults are immune. The road that has led to this awareness is littered with casualties and is in my view the single most shameful misuse of hypnosis ever to occur in its history. On occasions where therapists have taken to criticising the stage use of hypnosis, they might do well to remember that stage hypnotists have never left a trail of broken lives in the same way that some of their therapeutic counterparts have.

As hypnotherapists we must be extremely careful not to accidentally plant inappropriate suggestions in the minds of our subjects. Such mistakes can lead to catastrophe… and worse, a never ending procession of lawyers.

In the United States of America and to a much lesser extent in Europe, thousands of people have been hypnotised to relive alien abduction experiences. The fact that most of these so-called investigations have taken place in America is probably a lot to do with their culture and America’s obsession with conspiracy theories involving government cover-ups and small grey space aliens kept in secret bunkers hundreds of feet below the Nevada desert at an Air force base called Area 51, a place so secret, that everyone in the world has heard of it and knows where it is.

Again, it is the effect of the individual’s enhanced imagination whilst under hypnosis, coupled with suggestions provoked by the leading questions of the hypnotist that is the real culprit. The fact that most of these experiences have happened in America reflects the widely held opinion that they are a sociological phenomenon rather than a cosmological one. Anyway, it begs the question, if space aliens want to suck our brains out, why would they go to America?

And finally, the worst sort of hearsay…

What about forensic hypnosis? The gist of the idea is that under hypnosis, a subject, for example a witness to a crime or an accident, could be induced to recover memories forgotten since the incident they witnessed took place. For all the reasons stated above, this kind of cockamamie poppycock is dangerous – not just for the accused, but also for the very principles of justice. The euphoric feeling created by profound relaxation makes a subject anxious to please the hypnotist or the person asking the questions. They will therefore be subject to unbridled imagination and fantasy. Any evidence offered to a court gleaned whilst under hypnosis would, by its very nature, be highly unreliable. It is one thing to elicit a piece of information from someone under hypnosis which then leads to a tangible piece of evidence (a bloodstained knife for example), but information garnered solely under hypnosis must be treated in the same manner and with the same scepticism as any other kind of hearsay. In the United Kingdom, such evidence, if it were offered, would be laughed out of court, and so it should be.

All things considered, the current wisdom is that there is a great danger that the root cause of a problem will be linked to the speciality of the therapist, be that ritual or satanic abuse, alien abduction or global conspiracies involving unseen or imagined sinister forces rather than more mundane and realistic causes such as an individual’s dissatisfaction with their lives or environment.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to deny that there is a great queue of people waiting to find out if they have lived before, been abducted by aliens or brain-washed by creepy government agencies. The bottom line is, we are easily led, and occasionally by the nose. Humans, like sheep, are far too easy to herd.

And Finally… 

having read recently an account of two separate women, both of whom were convinced they had been Queen Elizabeth 1st in their respective past lives, I was forced by reason to come to the following conclusions…

Here is my reply to his kind invitation to approach the subject with an open mind:

“As the Author of this mammoth piece of drivel, you really should start writing for Mills and Boon.
Two Queen Elizabeth 1sts?? You better hope they never meet up or you will be in deep trouble. I can imagine the scene (just as all those in your book have done); ‘but I’m Queen Elizabeth I!!! No… I’mQueen Elizabeth I! No… I’m Queen Elizabeth I, and so’s my wife!

Honestly, it was far worse than I expected. I kept wondering who was fooling who to be honest. Seriously – your first client, Lisa, displays all the symptoms of a serial fantasist. By your own admission ‘Lisa is the only one of the clients… who did not come to me for help with a specific issue. etc.’There’s your first clue Sherlock!

Her ‘evidence’ under hypnosis is too full of schoolgirly fantasies about clothes, jewellery, men, love, romance, and lots of it, and roaring fires and four-poster beds, and powerful minions (mainly men!) at her service, to be credible. There is nothing at all about serious politics, which would have been of paramount importance at Court, certainly much more so than the huge pile of piffle your girl comes out with.

There is nothing, and I repeat nothing there that she couldn’t have got from either of the Cate Blanchet films – I know this because I have them on DVD. [Your client’s account of] Coming out of the cinema after watching Harry Potter and having the sudden urge to dance the volta, is a sign of someone who is emotionally highly strung, or at least someone who is easily over-excited, rather than just a bit over-romantic. It’s a tell-tale indicator of this woman’s true mental state. Cate Blanchet dances the volta with Sir Walter Raleigh in Elizabeth, the Golden Age by the way.

I read this whole section on QEI – a third of the book – very carefully. This is a woman who, in real life, does not want simply to be loved, as one would be in any normal relationship. I would say she craves romance, alright in itself up to a point, but there are clear indications that she craves the excessive kind of attention that goes with it. She also displays a not very well disguised desire to be obeyed. All the signs are there and you should recognise them. Of course I am assuming that she is being quoted accurately.

One of the responsibilities of the therapist is to be able to grasp the bigger picture, not be bamboozled by the longings & fantasies of an immature girlie. I’ll bet you any money that despite any protestations by her to the contrary, she will have a fine collection of QEI related merchandise at home. I’ll also bet that she drags her husband/boyfriend around all the related historic sites in the country in all weathers and I’ll bet it drives him nuts. I’ll bet he’s also the sort of guy that goes along with it for a quiet life, the poor sod. I wonder if she’s talked him into getting an Elizabethan style four-poster for the bedroom. I can’t quite imagine her going as far as insisting on using a chamber pot and making her husband/boyfriend empty it every morning, however attractive that image may be. Though faintly possible, I think it unlikely because these cases know not to mix their ‘lives’ together. Hubby must forever remain on the outside. His job is not to get involved; the line for him will be clearly drawn – he is to be unquestioningly supportive, but that is all. He can never be allowed to be part of this world; he must stand quietly back while she fondles the stonework of Fotheringay Castle – open to visitors 9.00am to 5.30pm May Bank Holiday to end of September (except Good Friday & Easter Sunday.)

Looking closely at some of the language she employs is also straight out of the movies. I’ll bet you she’s also got the Glenda Jackson versions – both of them – and all the related Hollywood pap, including the Bette Davis version, all the guidebooks and anything else she can get her hands on. I’ll also bet that she occasionally slips into that mock Shakespearean language she used once or twice under hypnosis when she’s giving her husband/partner a tongue lashing. I’ll bet that he would be a much more revealing interview.

And I’ll also bet you that you are not the only regression hypnotist she’s been to. I’ll bet she does this sort of thing on a regular basis. To her, it’s quite likely an obsessive (not to mention expensive) hobby. Deep down she really wants to be QEI but also knows that it can never be so. So for her, this is the next best thing. All those nice therapists who reinforce the delusion and allow her to beQEI – even just for an hour or so – can’t be wrong! And now she’s in your book! How much extra belief and therefore imaginary power does this give her I wonder? (In this case, power is not to be confused with extra confidence or self-assurance.) Her completely ridiculous assertion that she was QEI has just been tragically reinforced by another order of magnitude. I’ll bet she has ordered more than 1 copy. Actually, if she orders multiple copies, she will most probably get a friend to do it so as not to give the game away! Husband/boyfriend will be suicidal by now I should think. And if he should think of leaving, that would not represent too great a loss for Lisa. After all, he can’t possibly understand the higher plane she is on, let alone be part of it. (I wonder if she has ever made the mistake of calling him Lord Robert when they’re doing it? ‘Ooh, Lord Robert, let’s try the volta position!

If she presented herself to me, my first question would be to try to find out what was missing in her own sad pathetic existence that makes her wish so much for this elevated life. Maybe deep down she’s hoping that one day, by some miracle, she might get a call from the Palace informing her that due to some accident of history, it’s all been a terrible mistake and she should come straight away to take up her rightful place at the head of the nation and blah blah blah.

Frankly, listening to women like this is worse than drinking sick, except infinitely more unpleasant. Attention is what she came for and attention is what she got, where all she really needed was a smack on the bottom when she was a child. But never mind, she’s in your book now, which will convince her even more that ‘I’m special‘ – the hideous self-absorbed little brat.

As for the rest of it, I’m afraid there is not one single piece of evidence for these people’s credibility other than the excitements of their own over-vivid imaginations. Hypnosis can play havoc with the imagination. The imagination an certainly be greatly enhanced if that is what one sets out to do, and much more so when the subject is prone to flights of fancy. I used to do this sort of experiment in the late-night shows in Liverpool in the mid to late 1980’s and we got some really good stuff, some funny, some tragic, but nothing that anyone took seriously. I was obviously playing to the wrong kind of audience! Doubtless you will find your audience and they will all think you a genius.

For more information about how suggestibility can distort memory, read All in the Mind – Hypnosis, Suggestion and the New Mesmerists. Available from this website or from the publisher.

Copyright Andrew Newton 2006. All rights reserved.