All change creates stress, and the prospect of great change, even if welcome, can be a fearful one. When facing trauma or stressful times, we often link our present day experiences to those of the past – sometimes consciously, sometimes not.
I am on the threshold of a new and very different life – marriage and moving to a new country- and I found myself thinking of childhood experiences that had produced similar feelings and reactions.
I thought also of the advantages to our mental and spiritual health that we can gain from all forms of personal reinvention and renewal. And in personal renewal terms, it doesn’t get much further down to the bottom line than rebirthing.
In the 1970s, Leonard Orr, a member of the EST (Erhard Seminar Training) organization, started experimenting with the use of breathing techniques to enhance long periods of relaxation therapy. Orr found that he could attain an altered state of consciousness by using these techniques, and subsequently claimed that he had relived the moment of his birth, to great therapeutic effect.
Using his experiences, Orr created rebirthing therapy, emphasizing the breathing techniques he had used. Under the guidance of a rebirthing practitioner, a client practices ‘conscious connected breathing’, as Orr’s technique is known. This may produce a variety of physical and emotional reactions, perhaps dizziness or euphoria. The client is encouraged to ‘breathe through’ these sensations, to reach a state of deep relaxation and release of emotional tension.
Many people who have received rebirthing therapy claim to be energized by it, and to achieve mental clarity and insight.
Closely related to rebirthing is Primal Therapy. This was developed by the psychologist Arthur Janov as a means to help clients release the pain of early traumatic experiences.
We have known for a very long time that many forms of mental and emotional unease have their roots in infancy.
Janov developed his idea for Primal Therapy after he encouraged a client to call the words ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’ during therapy. The client soon began to sob like an infant and then let out a piercing scream. After this session his improvement was so marked that Primal Therapy was born.
Arthur Janov believed that those who suffer due to childhood trauma – even if they cannot remember it consciously – can find healing by releasing their rage through shouting, screaming and sobbing. They discover, bring forth and heal their hurt inner child.
When we are facing stressful situations or big changes in our adult life, it may be worth looking back at our childhood to find connections to our present emotional state.
We may not wish to go as far as rebirthing or Primal Therapy, but if we allow the child within to release her fears or anger, we may find our adult self the happier for it.