Breathing As Therapy?

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
Winsights No. 69 (August/September 2003)

Is there a licensed therapist in the house?

We would very much like to get in contact with one or more licensed psychologists, psychotherapists or other therapists.

Our purpose:  to convey — for review and possible development as a therapy — our technology of ways to use breathing to recondition stimuli and to bring about other desired psychological and physiological states and changes, both short- and long-term.

You cannot involve significantly with a lot of people over a long period of time without on occasion experiencing persons in some considerable need of support — emotionally, psychologically, and sometimes in terms of mental health.

Not always are these under conditions which can simply be referred. Moreover, when a human situation is “hot,” I’m not sure that standard psychotherapy by appointment, on the clock, for months and years once the situation has “cooled,” is preferable to seeing the situation through to completion within minutes on the first instance. Or more responsible.

Given that we have some very sensitive tools to work with, we’ve thus had some experience these past thirty years with lending people help when they need it.

I am not, nor do I want to be, in the business of providing therapy, certainly not of patching people up to “o.k.” when “beyond o.k.” is so invitingly accessible. At the same time, there certainly are people who need some help, and there are plenty of qualified professionals to provide it under more controlled conditions (if they’d just get a bit more flexible with that clock, and perhaps a bit more flexible in their thinking — and maybe some are). I do not wish to withhold from service, and from people who need the help, a body of techniques which appear to enjoy remarkable efficacy in providing that help.

So I wish to explore with qualified therapists the possible use of some of these techniques as a basis for therapy.

Breathing patterns to recondition stimuli, past and present

This is one of the first things I’d like you to consider before making up your mind, one way or another, to test out our techniques as a basis for therapy. Branches of your profession already use a narrow form of this in a negative way:  discomfort and bad odors for aversion therapy, for example. In a more positive way, every woman who adds a dash of perfume is practicing a reconditioning of the stimulus (herself), a practice tested for thousands of years.

Just about every stimulus, past or present, can be reconditioned. That includes such past traumas as constitute so much of your case load. That includes even current pain, as in various physiological injuries and disease.

Ideal for such uses are the various breathing patterns already associated with various emotional and physical states-of-being. There is an art to using these which some day will become a science, and fairly readily so.

A basic introduction to these patterns of breathing, already and naturally associated with appropriate physical and psychological states, together with the account of how these were discovered, is found in “Winsights” articles No. 28 and No. 29.

Self-therapy by breathing patterns?

Under uncontrolled conditions, individuals have reported remarkable respites from long-bothersome conditions, others the near-instant removal of pain and other symptoms from sites of current injury. This writer has both witnessed and experienced such events, including complete correction of an apparent lifetime eyesight deficiency which “cure” has as of this writing held for a quarter-century.

The breathing was only one component in that “cure,” but evidently a very important and necessary component. If these effects are mere “suggestion,” then we are long overdue to go after healing just about every condition under the sun with such “suggestion.” Moreover, the breathing is part of an assemblage of techniques whose overall effect and purpose have been the rendering of people to be less susceptible to suggestion, not more.

The reader can check his or her own immediate observations and memory:   that you can tell from a patient’s breathing if he is angry. Or pleased. Or satisfied. Or hurting. Or confused. Or freshly de-confused and understanding. Or feeling really good.

It’s easier if you’ve worked with babies and small children. They breathe transparently; it’s much easier to tell with them how and what they are feeling, just from their breathing. There’s more in the way with us don’t-let-on adults. But once you’ve learned to identify the various patterns in babies, as we did, it’s much easier to recognize the same patterns in adults, including in yourself.

From there it shouldn’t be too hard to appreciate the extremely powerful role breathing has in all its interplay with the other autonomic, automatic processes of our body, brain and mind.

The procedures are simple enough, straightforward enough, that various individuals have applied these breathing patterns successfully for self-therapeutic purposes, not only in controlled groups. We do not, however, in any way suggest that people reading this information proceed to apply this as a form of self-therapy, especially as a substitute for a more disciplined and scientific procedure, and especially in instances where close qualified supervision may be in order.

One of the main reasons we do not recommend this as a self-therapy is that the later stages of defense of a “trauma” or difficult condition are characterized by boredom and wandering attention, so that the “treatment” concludes before the “cure” is complete and the reconditioning is so well set that the old unwanted pattern can creep back in over time. The situation, once in process, needs to be seen through, and few people have the self-discipline and drive sufficient to see such situations through on their own. Thus, it’s too easy to end up with people finding some temporary relief but not a meaningful long-term cure.

One other late-stage defense of a trauma is more easily countered, whether in self-therapy or in a controlled therapeutic setting. Very often as one is resolving very strong experiences and/or emotions, he will abruptly start to drowse off. Albert Einstein in his “Deep Thought” experiments used to hold a rock in his hand so if he started to nod off, the rock falling out of his hand would re-alert him to his task.

That has not been a recourse needed for most Project Renaissance and Psychegenic processing, as the individual is describing aloud his experiences as he goes, and this not only keeps him awake but develops those experiences. But even so, individuals working through some trying or deeply emotional experience will, before the end, suddenly start to drowse off, which would defend the experience by ending its processing prematurely. This problem for would-be self-therapists is easily solved, by Einstein’s technique or like measure.

The above-cited ennui problem, though — attention wandering at almost the last minute before treatment can be completed — is very much another matter, requiring at least work with a pretty savvy partner if not, indeed, a fully qualified professional, if these techniques are ever to see much light of day as a useful therapy helping people with their issues.

The basic therapy proposed

The basic “therapy” we suggest here is to:

  1. Get the pleasurable patterns of breathing as strongly pleasurable (and “anchored” to pleasure) as possible. These patterns should be well-practiced as a pleasure experience and meditation before they get used on target experiences. (Once during the past thirty years this writer was advised of one individual who reportedly had managed to recondition the breathing-pattern instead of the experience. I guess this helps demonstrate that just about any response can be reconditioned. We’ve learned of no other such instances, but it seems a good idea to get pleasurable breathing patterns as very pleasurable as possible before using them to convert negative experiences to positive.)
  2. Have the person revisit the experience (which will already have been de-fused by some of the general effects of that breathing practice before he ever turns to that specific experience) as closely and attentively as he can do comfortably, while breathing in the pleasurable pattern. Have him feel all his feelings in relation to that experience, exposing as much of those feelings to each breath as he can, until all distress is used up or carried away and the more directly pleasurable “Satisfaction-Breathing” or “Deliciousness-Breathing” can be used — attention still fully on the stimulus — to complete the reconditioning of that stimulus or experience.
  3. This is a two-phase process which sometimes goes three phases. First phase is to relieve the person of distress associated with the experience in question. The pattern (in those Winsights articles referenced above) called “Relief Breathing” is one way to get relief from the situation; more powerful for this phase is the pattern we’ve identified as “Noise-Removal Breathing,” “noise” meaning anything that doesn’t belong. Second phase is applied only after all distress seems to have been cleansed away, at which point, continuing to focus on the experience, the above-cited reconditioning with “Delicious-” or “Satisfaction-Breathing” can commence unfettered. The third phase is when a patient is asked if he can recall an even earlier experience in his life which feels like the one just concluded had once felt. If he does recall such, that one also should be cleansed in like manner during this current session, and some individuals have had several such needed cleansing.

An hour or so total, usually undertaken in shorter segments of time, usually suffices to get persons trained and well-practiced-enough in the pleasurable breathing patterns that one can begin to undertake such issues with them.

The “treatment” sessions themselves, usually begun spontaneously in the midst of some other activity, can run to completion in ten to eighty minutes. The treatment sessions can also be begun deliberately simply by directing the person to think of what had been bothering him, or by a number of other techniques which go more directly to the problem than is always attained by that simple instruction. Be prepared, though, if need be, to go several hours. If a “hot case” is allowed to get “cold,” it can be a lot more work just to get back to the point where you left off, much less seeing the case through to completion.

A lot of why many patients see therapists is simply the need to have someone to talk to. After you’ve successfully treated your patient’s problem or problems so quickly, you can still satisfy other needs in his life and in a much more positive space than if you spent years chipping away at his problem. And your quick success with him should bring you other patients.

Tools in the hands of professionals

Skilled use of simple, natural patterns of breathing can relieve or alleviate many distressing human conditions and difficulties. Project Renaissance is using these toward objectives much more positive than those of therapy. For example, one can “Noise-Removal Breathe” up and away whatever was between you and full perception / understanding of whatever matter, issue, question, piece of artwork, etc. — or between you and some specified higher level of performance.

Pursuing those positive goals, this writer simply does not want to play the role of therapist. But we in Project Renaissance don’t want to withhold these techniques either, from that broad number and range of people for whom just getting to “o.k.” would be a blessing. And there are entire professions full of committed people equipped and qualified to responsibly handle the well-being of other human beings.

True, most of these professionals, equipped with their own methods and a settled practice, may not see any compelling reason to look further afield, and the need, with these breathing protocols, to ignore the clock and see a case through to completion once it gets “hot,” can be decidedly inconvenient. But balanced with that may be scientific curiosity and/or the consideration of helping more people more effectively and rewardingly.

Moreover, with professional experience and scientific background, there is the further possibility of your rendering these simple breathing protocols into a much stronger and comprehensive therapy than could otherwise obtain. And there are some further details to be explored which bear considerably upon how effectively the art of applying these techniques can be pursued.

What I’ve written here in short article form are mostly matters you can easily enough check in your own observations before turning to us as a source, in our hopes that scientific curiosity and intellectual integrity will carry you forward from there.