Is All Healing Self-Healing?
In much of my other work, there is a teaching or guiding component to support participants in seeing themselves more clearly, or to experience and better understand the systems they live in. This is not the case with Breathwork. Breathwork is about the breather contacting their own Inner Healer. It is about radical self-empowerment. The sitter’s job is about supporting the breather in a non-interfering way. This means letting go of all need to “interpret”, “help”, “fix”, or “heal” another. It means keeping the breather safe while getting out of the way.
It is extraordinary to just sit next to a breather and witness them, with no idea of what they are experiencing. It is living in pure receptivity for three hours, without needing to know anything and without agenda. It is living in open hearted awareness in deep trust of the other person’s process.
Sitting with a breather is like being a child in that whatever is happening in any given moment is what you respond to, without any judgement, interpretation, future or past thinking, or agenda. If the breather is pounding the floor, you might put a pillow under their fist so they can hit hard without hurting themselves. If the breather is actively dancing or moving, you stand nearby but out of the way so they can move freely without harm to their neighboring breather. If they are crying and ask for tissue, you provide it. If they ask for water, you provide this too. If they reach for your hand, you respond, only letting go when they let go. With training, you learn to respond to other body and emotional needs in a respectful, non-interfering way.
Is all healing self-healing? In Breathwork, I believe this to be largely the case. Though there are documented markers and common features to Breathwork, each breather has his own unique experience. The internal process that is ignited in Breathwork belongs to the breather alone. However, given that our own unconscious is part of the greater collective unconscious, I also believe that when we do our own Inner Healing work, there are rippling effects out into the greater whole.
More generally, I don’t know if all healing is self-healing. What I have learned as I have continued to do my own work for many decades now is that some of it I had to do alone, and some I could not have done without others. For example, I wanted to learn the Enneagram, especially to become aware of the shadow aspects of my own type and processes for working with them, before I could experience a loosening of my habit. It helped me tremendously to learn meditation techniques when I was young. I needed to work with my body/energy healer before I could get in touch with my easily aroused sympathetic nervous system and learn how to calm myself down somatically. In Family Constellation work, it seems the focus is far more about healing the transgenerational lineage affecting the individual, rather than the focus starting with the individual’s self-healing.
Perhaps the question of “Is all healing self-healing?” is not an either/or…perhaps it is more of a both/and. That is, we are all solitary in some respects and there are ways and paths we must travel alone to reclaim our own personal wholeness. Yet, we are also all part of the greater whole, and we cannot heal apart from others.
The great gift of Breathwork, in my opinion, is in accessing non-ordinary states of consciousness and one’s own Inner Healer. We all have one. And there is extraordinary self-empowerment that comes from getting in touch with that. It is a way to return to wholeness, individually and collectively. The breathing invites us to drink deeply of our own soul, and of the shared soul of humanity.