Depossession, a term used in past-life therapy, emerged
when therapists encountered phenomena not accounted for by
reference to past incarnation of their subjects. Depossession is
similar to exorcism, but differs in that no reference is implied
to demonic spirits. In her research, psychologist Edith Fiore,
the person most responsible for developing past-life therapy as
a specialization within psychology, discovered that what appeared
to be attached spirits were interfering with the exploration
of past lives of patients. These spirits are thought to be deceased
human beings who have remained in the Earth plane
rather than moving on with their life experience. Such deceased
spirits commonly attach themselves to a family member,
but may also choose a person weakened by alcoholism or drug
abuse or a severe illness, or a person with a significant hostility
component in hisher personality.
The idea of treating patients with possessing entities echoes
the work of rescue circles in Spiritualism. Such work was pioneered
by Dr. Charles Wickland and his wife in the early twentieth
century and subsequently became a popular practice in
the Spiritualist community. Spiritualists moved beyond the
idea of demon possession, but placed their work in the context
of attempting spirit contact and the continued upward evolution
of spirit entities. Wickland was also working at a time when
psychological sciences were still in their infancy. In their rescue
work, Wickland’s wife Anna would operate as a medium and invite
the possessing entity to speak through her. Thus, conversation
with the entity would not occur through the patient as is
the case in past-life therapy.
Like Wickland, Fiore hypothesizes that most possessing entities
are deceased humans. Depossession is accomplished by
confronting the possessing entity and persuading it to leave.
Such entities are seen as attached to the spiritsoul of the patient
and may have been attached for many years, the original
attachment having occurred during a past incarnation. Fiore’s
colleagues have noted that some past-life reports that they obtained
from patients were in fact the past lives of the possessing
entity. On occasion nonhuman entities, described as elementals
or evil-natured entities, have been encountered.
Possessing entities account for a range of symptoms from
mood swings, chronic pains and illness, or suicidal urges. They
frequently are associated with the use of alcohol and moodaltering
drugs. Patients are rarely aware of the attached entity,
but once ‘‘releasement’’ has occurred, they report positive
Ongoing research based upon the idea of depossession is reported
periodically in The Journal of Regression Therapy, a scholarly
journal that grew out of therapy based on the idea of treating
psychological problems as the product of past lives. Critics
have suggested that the past lives that Fiore and her colleagues
have elicited from patients, however useful in treatment, do not
offer evidence of reincarnation, the fact of the patient’s prior
existence in another life, or of the existence of possessing entities.
The phenomena reported by past-life therapists, similar to
forgotten memory syndrome, can as easily be seen as stories
that have a certain psychological truth for the patient without
providing any objective report on what had actually occurred.
Fiore, Edith. The Unquiet Dead A Psychologist Treats Spirit Possession.
Garden City, N.Y. DolphinDoubleday, 1987.
Ireland-Frey, Louise. ‘‘Clinical Depossession Releasement
of Attached Entities from Suspecting Hosts.’’ The Journal of Regression
Therapy 1, no. 2 (fall 1986) 90–101.