BREATHWORK & TRAUMA WORK
By Gaia Pollini
Trauma is a form of numbing.
When an experience is overwhelming, the nervous system protects us by numbing us. We literally stop feeling. This numbness happens in our bodily feelings, but also in our emotional feelings and in our energetic body. The energy gets compressed and limited to certain areas in order to feel less.
If you look at an animal when they go into freeze because of a danger, that is the numbing. This is also referred to as ‘playing dead’ – the presence is gone.
In human beings, if an overwhelming experience is not resolved (i.e. if we don’t go back to a sense of safety) the numbing remains in the system. Something in us keeps ‘playing dead’.
It is easy to see how this is not so conducive to living a full life, emotionally or energetically.
This discourse is particularly relevant because most of us experience a degree of trauma called ‘developmental trauma’.
Developmental trauma is the result of the overwhelm we experience in childhood when our core needs (such as the need for connection, for touch, for approval, for being seen) are not fully met.
Most of us – in different degrees – experienced this.
In fact, I have concluded from seeing how everyone has a degree of this trauma in their system, that it is part of the human journey to not be fully met, protecting through numbing (disconnecting), and finding our true selves by working with the disconnection.
So most of us need to work through some protective numbing mechanisms of body, energy and emotions.
Breathwork (Conscious Connected Breathing) – combined with experience in working with developmental trauma – can be used very successfully in doing this.
In a Breathwork session, through increasing the breathing capacity and body connection, we access energy that was compressed.
In this way, the energy that was compressed is unlocked.
If this is paired with deep relaxation and embodiment, the body is able to contain the increased energy and remain in presence. The body works through the numbness, regaining conscious access to feelings and emotions.
In turn, this unlocks body memories that can then be processed.
This is an experience a client (Lisa, not her real name) had in a Breathwork & Trauma session:
Lisa was processing self-esteem as a theme for the session.
After breathing in a slow but constant rhythm, Lisa started to feel the presence of her mother and brother in the room. And she felt immediate anger.
As I encouraged her to breathe and stay with this feeling, initially she saw the figure of her mother and brother growing bigger.
As she kept breathing, she accepted and felt her anger more deeply, in her body, then she noticed that her anger was actively shrinking and distancing the two, further and further away from her.
As she kept breathing, she realised that the more she allowed it and approved of her anger, the more the two became insignificant and powerless and eventually disappeared from the room.
When this happened, Lisa got in touch with a deep elation, she felt a sense of pride and ‘bigness’ and started feeling completely present in her body with deep delight. After that she experienced being immersed in a wide space and spent the rest of the session in bliss and self-appreciation.
Breathwork is one strand of the work I do with trauma and reconnection to the true self beneath it. And, overall, this work is called: ‘Being Me Therapy’.
I’ve been a breathworker since 2002, and have done hundreds of sessions with groups and individuals.