Trauflexive Breathing: Unbalanced Distorted Breathing Stemming From Trauma
By Michael Grant white
A word I coined referring to traumas reflected in the breathing. You may have never really knew or at least knew it well or got it traumatized out of you without remembering that or you remember the trauma but it was not clear how much it affected you. Shallow breathing included.
Insights towards guided and self-directed trauma resolution.
It is a fairly well understood amongst many people that study the breath that "any negative emotion you can breathe through long enough and in a balanced way loses its grip on you."
*Indicating the possibility of a traumatized breathing reflex. Trauflexive breathing can be observed by the pattern and timing of inhales, exhales and any pauses plus breathing balance during real or perceived stresses. Also by the chest measurement addressed in our Optimal Breathing Mastery Kit.
When any of the following issues present themselves, it is recommended that the breathing is attended to at the earliest opportunity.
- Abrupt mood swings, e.g., rage reactions or temper tantrums, shame
- Amnesia and forgetfulness
- Attention difficulties with various names for them
- Attraction to dangerous situations
- Avoidance behavior (avoiding certain circumstances and phobias)
- Chronic fatigue or very low physical energy
- Depression, feelings of impending doom
- Difficulty sleeping
- Diminished interest in life
- Dissociation (including denial)
- Exaggerated emotional and startle responses
- Exaggerated or diminished sexual activity
- Exaggerated startle response
- Extreme sensitivity to light and sound
- Fear of dying, going crazy, or having a shortened life
- Feelings and behaviors of helplessness
- Feelings of detachment, alienation, and isolation-''living dead.''
- Feelings of helplessness
- Frequent crying
- Frequently stressed out)
- Hyper-vigilance (being ''on guard'' at all times)
- Immune system problems and certain endocrine
- Inability to love, nurture, or bond with other individuals bond with others
- Inability to love, nurture, or bond with other individuals
- Inability to make commitments
- Intrusive imagery or flashbacks
- Mental ''blankness'' or ''spaceyness''
- Nightmares and night terrors
- Panic attacks, anxiety, phobias
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Psychosomatic illnesses, particularly headaches, neck and back problems, asthma, digestive, spastic colon, and severe premenstrual syndrome.
- Reduced ability to deal with stress and to formulate plans
Psychiatrists, cognitive and somatic psychotherapists will add additional or varied modalities as they become more familiar with the breath and breathing. Reichian therapy, Rebirthing, Radiance Breathwork, Vivation, and Radix are forms of high-intensity breathing that may or may not be appropriate depending on how the energy is handled by the person traumatized.
Much care is necessary to process the memories and feelings in a safe and manageable manner. Insights from Chi-Gung or QiGong (they refer to this erratic energy as Qi deviations) and voice/singing coaching plus my own experiences and the experiences of many others lead me to believe that the long way is often the best way.
The short often quick fix of cathartic breathwork too often overloads the energy circuits of the body and while it seems to resolve past emotional experience does rarely allow for the grounding and centering needed for the day to day stresses of life as well as the maintenance of therapeutic progress. Although with the support of an experienced counselor/therapist it can be processed and "breathed through."
That implies to me that techniques need to be utilized that incorporate all relevant styles of breathwork, advanced breathwork, breathing work, Chi Gung, pranayama, Yoga, voice training, nutrition, ergonomics, and environmental influences so that the client/patient can be guided into safe and long lasting balance and internal power.
I repeat that in the case of severely traumatized people, there most often need to be high skill levels generally reserved for the professional therapist. If you are on your own then get our Optimal Breathing Kit and I will back you up online or whatever.
"'All traumas are a major doorway to bliss."
Gay Hendricks Ph.D. "I have not found that to be true but I am hoping it is."
I have observed that some people can, with proper (even over the phone) guidance into the healthy and balancing aspect of the way they breathe, that they can be able to resolve some of even the most horrendous experiences, by themselves, in their own time.
The high energy used by the cathartic breathwork school would never work in this regard as the restimulation would confuse or overwhelm the solo breather, take them out of the "incident" needing resolution and perhaps cause overcompensation and resistance to further breath work or breathing work (God knows that must happen quite enough in the therapeutic environment anyway, why increase the odds of its occurrence?).
But teaching the client to GENTLY breathe through their resistance on their own, can be tremendously empowering to that person. Of course, some of the Cathartic school teaches this as well, but I have seen too much abuse from the lay examples to feel confident in recommending but a few as being accounable professionals.
I agree with George Leonard and Michael Murphy as implied in "The Life We are Given" and Jesus ("teach a person to fish" etc.) that self-determinism is almost always the key to lasting results. Daily practice of proper breathing that engages the seven chakras or "segments"-(Reich) is where I believe we should direct everyone for balance, grounding, and accelerated emotional stability.
The therapeutic environment should be used for breakthrough work, spiritual principles, practical solutions and to train, monitor and re-enforce daily breathing practices.
I have used mostly gentle, but consistent techniques and exercises and have purposefully avoided the high intensity "Cathartic" styles. I am trained in them (Radiance and Rebirthing and have received over 150 Reichian sessions), and I rarely use them.
I believe, to be safe and "first do no harm" they should be solely for the professionally trained therapist. AND, in as much as the unbalanced breath can result in emotional confusion and overall convoluted energy management, I feel strongly that the professional therapist should know how to develop the breath in the fastest, safest, most grounding and centering way possible.
This is largely why I have developed the Optimal Natural Breathing Somatic Education System.
Anyone, including therapists, may do in-person, group or phone consulting where I train you to receive one's deepest breathing related insights, work through stuck energy that is often called trauma, and or strengthen your connection with your deepest essence and higher power. I highly recommend them.
Here is an excellent website addressing spanking and various forms of abuse. http://www.nospank.net
"Children learn bad behavior exactly the way they learn good behavior. They learn by imitating the significant adults in their lives. No one should be surprised when a child who is routinely exposed from an early age to a particular behavior, begins in turn to exhibit that behavior.
The Beaumont Enterprise is to be commended for its series on bullying. Hopefully, it will address one of the significant sources of bullying: educators who model the behavior by battering students on their buttocks with wooden boards. That happens about 400,000 times a year nationwide. It's legal in 23 states.
The "professionals" who inflict those beatings are the quintessential bullies, in my opinion. And if one is serious about solving the problem of bullying, the first step should be a removal of adult bullies from any contact with, or control over, children. It that isn't possible, at least disarm them."
Jordan Riak, Exec. Dir., Parents, and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE), P.O. Box 1033, Alamo CA 94507-7033, Tel.: 925-831-1661; FAX: 925-838-8914. Web Site: "Project NoSpank" at www.nospank.net
From a newsletter reader in response to this article.
Very interested in the article on breathing and trauma. I have a daughter, adopted from overseas, who spent a long time in an institution. She has been severely traumatized by the experience and operates in hyper-vigilant mode. I had also noticed that her breathing is very shallow, so it was an interesting article in that it connected the two. Keep up the excellent work. I recommended it to my friend, whose son has a similar background.
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From Mike: I would make sure you work on your daughter with the techniques in the Optimal Breathing Kit online or DVD2. Make a game of it. Deepest Calm
From a newsletter subscriber
As I was thinking about trauma, I suddenly realized why optimal breathing work could be so releasing, beyond expectation, why a simple thing like your strap can be so useful. It's about more than oxygen.
I believe these things can open up awareness in the somatic sensory channels, perhaps to realign reflexes to restore a more responsive and balanced sensory-motor response, which can be kindled in other body parts and systems when given a chance.
With somatic awareness, we are given a chance to consciously choose a healthy CHOICE, rather than defaulting to a "mental" choice. In reading your list of ways to augment healthy breathing on page 95, I began to wonder if Relaxation, Self-esteem, Energy, etc. can "allow" the return of healthy breathing mechanics, gently to not set off defensive behavior, as well as support the healthy behaviors.
This assumes there is some awareness of what healthy mechanics might look and feel like, and that there is no interference with PTSD. But my greatest insight was that by bringing breath awareness, one is developing somatic awareness, which is huge in itself to bring somatic awareness to other parts of the body for many types of "stress" healings.
Peter Levine has some excellent articles on PTSD on his website www.traumahealing.com. http://www.traumahealing.com/somatic-experiencing/index.html.
His article entitled Trauma - the Vortex of Violence, has a wonderful discussion on the power of somatic release. He talks of the importance of achieving a release of powerful instinctual energies to arouse a "felt sense" of innate physiological resources, and then gently, uncoupling the fear from the "immobility response" so that traumas can be consciously renegotiated with minimal risk of becoming re-traumatized.
Re-enactment, as done in the past, leads to further trauma. Have you found yourself uncovering unsuspected trauma in your work? ABSOLUTELY. A study he cites (1994 Archives of General Psychiatry, which is conservative) reported 50% of the American adult population meets the formal diagnostic criteria that denote serious psychiatric illness.
So many therapists still assume releasing tension is more a mental matter of "letting go," when truthfully our society is so "mental," the mental is causative in suppressing access to somatic sensing and experiencing. Even talented somatic educators I have studied or worked with getting trapped here. "
If you experience states of being in the trauflexive list, you may well have been seriously traumatized in some way that you are not even aware of. The breathing can resolve many traumatic incidents. However, you may wish to consider working with a health professional experienced in trauma resolution.
Remember that any negative emotion breathed through long enough and properly will lose its grip on you.
Take the Deepest Calm program