by Winafred Lucas, PhD.American Board of Hypnotherapy Journal
I am honored to get this review written by Dr. Lucas. She has been a leader in alternative medicine and in the past life therapy movement for most of her very long career. She literally wrote the book on the subject--the highly-regarded Regression Therapy: A Handbook for Therapists. And she is a founder of the Association for Pastlife Research and Therapies (A.P.R.T.).
Children's Past Lives: How Past-Life Memories Affect Your Child by Carol Bowman (New York: Bantam Books, 1997)
Reviewed by Winafred B. Lucas, Ph.D.
This beautifully written book fills a void in our understanding of a little discussed aspect of the parent-child relationship, namely, the attempt by children to communicate the often charged material of their former lifetimes. When children share such deeply personal events, and especially the traumatic aspects that need healing, it strains the parent child relationship when they are not accepted and dealt with helpfully.
Why, when we have come to understand many of the principles of past-life work with adults, has regression work with children been so neglected? The answer seems to be that in the seventies when past-life recall was emerging as a viable, if questionable, form of therapy, some of its leading exponents hypothesized that encouraging children under fifteen to recover their past lives was unwise and could even be harmful. This assumption was never researched, but most of us did not question it and simply dropped regression of children from our agenda. To our surprise, fifteen years later Tineke Noordegraf in the Netherlands found children to be excellent candidates for past-life recall and introduce her techniques in Europe.
Carol Bowman was the first person in the United States to challenge the statement that it was inappropriate for children to remember their past lives. Because she had been open to her own past life experiences and had found physical healing and relief through recalling them, Carol was sensitive to the communication of her own children about their previous lifetimes. She listened with empathy and assured her children that the frightening events they recalled had happened in another lifetime. She told them further that they were safe now and had nothing to fear. As a result of this dialog, her son stopped being traumatized by booming noises that reminded him of a disastrous lifetime as a black soldier in the Civil War, and her daughter released a fear of being burned to death.
The experiences of her children and their healing caused Bowman to wonder if memory of past lives was a common childhood experience. She found that children often tried to share such memories but were deflected by the doubting or negative attitude of parents who were unable to listen because their belief systems were challenged, Past life memories often included traumatic deaths, which are responsible for many phobias and physical and emotional problems in this lifetime. Such scars can often be erased by the parents' acceptance of the memory and their own clarification that the event belonged in a previous life. Bowman knew that she needed to help other parents accept their children's communication in order to bring about healing.
Her first task was to differentiate children's past life recall from their fantasies. She found that the two differed markedly in four areas. Past-life memories, unlike fantasies were related by children in a matter-of-fact way and remained consistent, even over long periods of time. Bowman also looked for behavioral traits, such as phobias or personality twists, which had no ostensible origin in the current life and often disappeared when the past life was related by the child and accepted by the parent. The phobias of her own children had shown her how this took place, and the book is filled with fascinating accounts of remissions of such difficulties.
Bowman searched to determine why the public in general shows such resistance to publicly admitting a belief in past lives, even though they might privately accept the concept. She suggests that the punitive attitude of the Catholic Church over the ages toward the idea of reincarnation may have initiated a general reluctance to admitting such a belief. The entire population of half a million Cathars was wiped out by the Catholic Church in the early part of the thirteenth century because of this. Many who are open to the idea of reincarnation may be uneasy because of an unconscious fear of recrimination.
It was not Bowman's intent in this book to prove reincarnation, but the cases of children relating details they could not possibly have known through experiences in this lifetime lead one to wonder if any other hypothesis makes sense. This broadening of perspective can also help parents understand that much of their children's present lives are determined by their past lives, thereby releasing the parents from feelings of guilt and responsibility for all the vicissitudes of their children's experience.