A Conversation with Rev. Jerry Bongard
by: Victor R. Volkman (May 2003)
The views and opinions expressed in these articles and interviews are those of the individuals speaking, and do not necessarily represent those of Applied Metapsychology International.
This article and other similar articles can be found in Beyond Trauma: Conversations on Traumatic Incident Reduction, 2nd Edition available from our bookstore at www.TIRbook.com
Gerald Bongard is an ordained Lutheran minister, and he was a student of Dr. David Cheek which inspired him to author The Near Birth Experience. Gerald Bongard’s interests and work spans a wide range from helping individuals resolve traumatic stress, including PTSD, to counseling individuals who are interested in exploring past life experiences. I talked with Rev. Bongard on May 27th, 2003 and asked him about his experiences with TIR
VV: I’d like to ask you a few questions to give people some more context about your work
JB: I started out with what we called [Applied] Metapsychology and TIR. That’s really been a turning point in my life. That’s where the impetus came for this book that I wrote. And also a lot of the counseling that I do, as well as the way that I look at life.
VV: What are some of the areas where you’ve applied TIR and found it really effective?
JB: The nine years I was director of the Chrysalis Counseling Center, we became known as specialists in helping people with PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There were many different people that came in with trauma. And I just used straight TIR with them and found it very effective on Vietnam vets. One case that really impressed me was a 2nd lieutenant just out of officer’s training had been put in charge of a group of people his own squad. And he was so concerned with those folks lives that he did something the Army wouldn’t have wanted him to do. He had them retreat into part of the jungle where they set up a perimeter and just took care of themselves. They didn’t go out to engage the enemy at all he just wanted to make sure all those men would come back home alive and safe.
But they were overrun and everyone was killed but him. When he woke up he was in a bodybag and somebody said “Wait, I think this one’s alive”. He had suffered, you can imagine the trauma of not only his injuries and the death of his people he was responsible for but his great concern for their lives. He had done so much to protect and save them and now they were all dead. And so his degree of trauma was quite disabling for him. But TIR for him was so effective that he in a matter of 4 or 5 sessions just was restored to a very normal happy life. He also, even though that could have finished the counseling, became interested in the Near Birth Experience. The regression was a very fascinating one for me because he regressed to a life where he wrote a book about something called an “astrolabe”. Anyway, he later on found the book and was so incredibly fascinated by that. But that’s kind of typical, although perhaps a little more dramatic with all these people being killed.
VV: So he had the classic symptoms of flashbacks and panic attacks?
JB: Yes, yes, and unaccountable anger that would lash out. Divorce too, because of his inability really to deal with his emotions and his marriage relationship after he came back. The inability of his family really to understand how this had impacted him and what to do. He had all the classic kind of symptoms.
When the hurricane Andrew hit Miami [in August 1992], I had already begun working in TIR with Teresa Descilo. She invited me to Miami where we did workshops and dealt with not only counselors, but also the survivors of that hurricane. This was a real important thing for me because it helped me see how effective it was. Remember, this was when I had just started working with TIR. It was so effective that ever since then Metapsychology, TIR, and the Near Birth Experience that came from Dr. Cheek became very much the focus of my life.
VV: Tell me about your background in ministry and how you got started.
JB: My professional career started as a teacher at St. Olaf college in Minnesota in the Psychology department. After three years in teaching, I decided to go to seminary. A lot of the counseling that I did there got me really interested in what we call the psyche or the soul, this spiritual part of us. After three years of teaching, I went to Lutheran Seminary and became an ordained minister in the Lutheran church. I was an assistant pastor in Everett, co-pastor in West Seattle, and finally pastor in Bellevue over the course of 15 years.
And then that’s when I got in touch with people from Metapsychology. I met Karyn Keuver in Everett and she introduced me to some of the techniques and I began to go to the Metapsychology conferences. I saw Dr. David Cheek’s demonstrations in 1994 before he gave the keynote address and became very interested in that. He had worked with Milton Ericsson and Leslie LeCron, who are so important in the field of clinical hypnotherapy. Clinical hypnotherapy includes dentistry, obstetrics, and psychiatry, and just so many fields. David Cheek gave such a good presentation and interested me so much, that I kind of became a kind of student of his for a while. We corresponded a lot and met just a few times. He gave me a lot of interesting information on the subject. When I told him I was interested in writing a book, he gave me a lot of encouragement.
Dr. Cheek said that this area of life before birth or even of life before conception was one that he was very interested in. But as a medical doctor, he had not especially published the part about “life before conception”, because he thought his professional colleagues would think of him as too far out. But he thought it was time to do that kind of publication, and was very encouraging and so I did. I collaborated with him, actually, on the first edition of that manuscript. I became a counselor and director of Chrysalis Counseling Center in Bellevue Washington. For 9 years, I stepped outside the traditional parish ministry to do that ministry, not as a religious counselor, but as a counselor.
I used TIR, Metapsychology, and the techniques that David Cheek had developed for getting in touch with the soul. Which meant that a lot of people regressed back to a previous life. We found that that previous life was a very effective metaphor for the things they were struggling with in this life. And we used that it in that way. We didn’t necessarily say that it either was actual fact that they were here before or it wasn’t. We used that material that came out as a metaphor. But it was so emotionally charged for so many folks that they became convinced, and I did too, that this was in fact getting in touch with a previous life.
Then, I wrote this book which talked about the importance of pre-birth memories while in the womb and the importance of memories just before this life. These were memories with God and an inter- or between-life kind of a thing and earlier life reincarnation. In the book still I used them pretty much as metaphors because it was so helpful in counseling. Specifically, helpful to people to look at that material and apply it to what the issues were for their lives right now.
It became very helpful for a lot of folks and very fascinating and interesting for me. It became really the focus of my life for, not only for that time, but even yet. Nowadays, I do some counseling with TIR and I’m listed on the website as a facilitator for TIR and use that a lot and also the Near Birth technique. But I’m also retired right now as a Lutheran minister, and as a counselor, and just do this when people approach me. But many people do approach me either from TIR website or from reading the book or from word of mouth. So I’ve stayed quite active but am officially retired right now.
For three years after, I decided not be director of the counseling center anymore. I went back into Lutheran ministry as a chaplain for people and their families who had developed Alzheimers. I’m very interested in that dementia aspect and the grief and working with families. But then I retired from that too. Now I’m just living on an island in Washington State and just enjoying it a lot. I’m doing counseling when people approach me and, surprisingly, different speaking engagements. That’s what happened with The Learning Annex from my book.
I feel really honored to be invited to teach a class at The Learning Annex in October there on The Near Birth Experience. When Brian Weiss was there, who does some of that same work, they had a group of people there. Those people got very interested in the possibility of existence before birth, whether in the womb or earlier than that. I think I’m going to have a lot of fun with that.
Another focus of my life, spirituality, had begun already in the Lutheran ministry and that’s part of the whole thing. How the spiritual impact of this kind of permanent part of us, which transcends this life, can be something we can get in touch with to be more of who we are. I give the credit to Metapsychology, to TIR, and especially to Sarge [Dr. Frank Gerbode] and Gerald French. For those first few years they were really mentors to me. So it’s been a real exciting time ever since I got in touch with that group.
VV: Can you compare how your practice was before TIR and after and your level of effectiveness?
JB: TIR is the most effective technique I’ve ever encountered. Although the Near Birth Experience for some people will have some of that same impact. This is something that doesn’t really apply to your question. There are people, who are very religious people, who get in touch with me (being a pastor) and I find that a lot of those people are not interested in using those techniques. There is some kind of a resistance to that. And so with a lot of those folks I use kind of a traditional, supportive, pastoral role even if they aren’t members of the congregation I serve.
That’s helpful to people, but for those who are open to it, these techniques are so much more powerful. Because they get the results that they really want instead of getting kind of a supportive friend or a listener. They really get the tools to help themselves and much more than that. I like it very much though there are people who aren’t willing to use them but I’m willing to work with them anyway. I much prefer those who are open to do this whole self-exploration with the most powerful tools that are available. Which is what I believe TIR and Metapsychology have. I also believe that this Near Birth Experience for me, probably just because me interest is so high, produces very good results and very helpful things for people and it’s somewhat different. But I started it from Metapsychology and that same group, the people who were that the 1994 Institute for Research in Metapsychology (IRM) conference are pretty much the people who are still active.
VV: I was there and I remember a room of 100 people who were actually spellbound for 90 minutes during Dr. Cheek’s address.
JB: I was one of those people, and I was spellbound. It opened up a whole new way to view reality, with an open mind rather than a closed one.
Other information about Jerry Bongard: The Near Birth Experience: Talking with Jerry Bongard