The Thing I Like About …

Dead Again: the part where the psychiatrist explains about past lives.

In Dead Again, Robin Williams plays Dr. Cozy Carlisle, a defrocked psychiatrist who now works as a stockman at the supermarket.  Mike Church comes to Dr. Carlisle – someone he had met during a separate investigation – to ask his thoughts about the current case: are his client Grace’s memories of a past life real?

Dr. Carlisle tells a story of a patient he had once, a woman so claustrophobic she “would walk into Yankee Stadium and choke.”  So he regressed her with hypnosis to see if the source of her problem was in her childhood, but revealing an early trauma didn’t help her claustrophobia.  So he decides to regress her further, and she tells him the year of her “memory” is in the 1800’s.  “Right, lady,” he says sarcastically.  But the woman describes a significant past-life trauma involving a family member who would lock her in coffins.

“I don’t know if it was bullshit or if it wasn’t,” Cozy says.  “But after that session, she wasn’t claustrophobic anymore.”

Modern science seems to have forgotten that science is the study of the world – not the creation of it.  It scoffs at anything it can’t define as though definition determines existence. Modern science does not regress a patient hypnotically to a past life to resolve phobias.  Modern science does not believe a patient is cured unless the cure has been proved – no matter how much better the patient feels.  What an unfortunate mindset! – and how counterproductive to people’s healing.  “So what?” you might say, to which I answer: if science and medicine aren’t here to serve the people who created them, then what are they here for?

Dr. Cozy Carlisle doesn’t even know if his patient was sane.  He still doesn’t know years after the fact if her “past life” was real or imagined.  He knows exactly as much as when he began, and he has no reproducible or verifiable results regarding past-life phenomena – in terms of scientific inquiry, it’s a total failure.  But in terms of healing and respecting people? – he’s a complete success.

How much more good could we accomplish if we worried more about the outcome and less about controlling the process?  How much more good could we accomplish if we were willing more often to say, “I don’t know why it worked”?  He may be a defrocked psychiatrist, but Dr. Carlisle sounds like the best doctor I’ve heard of in a long time.


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