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By Steve Wells
When you experience a distressing event it is normal that your breathing is disturbed. This is part of the typical “fight or flight or freeze” reaction to a threat where your body is preparing you to run away from the threat, to fight for your life, or to play dead. The challenge however is that these disturbances also happen when the “threat” is more perceived than real, or just imagined.
Breathing constriction is almost always present when we have a problem, even with emotional issues which are not life threatening. And your breathing can be just as constricted when you “tune into” such an event by thinking about it.
What is going on here?
My belief is that there is a disruption in energy flow and/or balance which occurs when we experience or tune into our problem. Although it can occur anywhere in the body this disturbance often occurs in the midline of the body and it “feels” like a real physical block or barrier. We therefore tend to breathe up to it and not beyond it.
This is especially so when the disturbing feeling is in the chest area. Now as a result we may end up shallow breathing, which leads to less oxygen in the blood stream, then over-breathing in response, which leads to panic.
So here’s how I think it works: You “tune into” your problem, either by thinking about it or actually experiencing it, and this simultaneously tunes in a disturbance in your body which manifests, for example, as a chest constriction and this in turn tends to cause a disruption in your breathing.
This is also why yawning and deep sighs so frequently result when you apply tapping to emotional problems. As the energetic block shifts and the energy returns to flow, the constriction in your breathing spontaneously resolves and your breath returns to normal.
Breathing in and of itself can also help. In fact, I recommend to all my clients that they keep breathing!
In an emotionally upsetting situation simply by controlling your breathing you can reduce your anxiety and bring yourself more into the moment where you can deal with the situation. This also applies when you are thinking about an event, and when you are just feeling upset and you don’t know the source.
What is happening with your breathing right now?
Until I asked that question you probably weren’t even aware of it. Take a moment to check in and notice what is happening as you breathe.
First notice the in-breath and then the out-breath. Then, when you take an in-breath, just notice how far down into your stomach area that breath goes.
Are you breathing fully, using your diaphragm?
A full diaphragmatic breath goes right down and can look as if you are inflating a balloon in your stomach. Try that right now; imagine that your stomach is a balloon that you are going to inflate and breathe right down into it so that your stomach expands. Try not to over-do it, you should be able to do this with ease, as you breathe slowly in and out.
Now slow down your breathing using a count. Mentally count slowly to 4 as you take your in-breath (as in “one thousand and one, one thousand and two…”, etc) then hold the breath for a slow count of 2, then slowly breath out to a slow count of 4. Do this several times and notice how you feel. Most people who do this will feel more centered and relaxed.
This simple diaphragmatic breathing process is what we used as the comparison treatment way back in our first research study using EFT to treat phobias of small animals (mice, spiders, cockroaches). We had people focus on their feared animal and repeat a reminder phrase (such as “this mouse fear”) then, instead of tapping, we had them take a deep diaphragmatic breath. They did the deep breathing in rounds of 10 breaths, and as the treatment continued, we encouraged them to focus on different aspects of their phobia, just as you do in EFT and SET. After 30 minutes of this, we tested them to see how far they could go towards their feared animal and how anxious they now felt.
Now as history shows when we compared the results of this deep breathing “treatment” to EFT the results of the EFT treatment were superior.
What many people may not realise however is just how significant and impressive the results actually were for this simple deep breathing treatment. Some people, just using deep breathing, were able to go right up to their feared animal without their former phobic fear, and the feedback was that they were also able to use the deep breathing to reduce their anxiety in other situations. I have often commented that if we didn’t have the superior results of EFT and SET, then deep breathing itself would be a quite effective treatment approach for many conditions.
In using SET tapping and Intention-based Energy Process (IEP) we often combine the best of both worlds by instructing our clients to take a deep cleansing breath after every few minutes of tapping and also when they notice a shift. Of course this often occurs spontaneously as part of the process.
I also often ask my clients to breathe into or around the area where their problem seems to be located, whilst tapping, or to breathe to a point beyond the block. This simple process puts them in touch with their breath and often gives massive leverage on the problem being treated.
Try this next time you are dealing with an emotional issue. Become aware of your breathing and take conscious control of your breathing, taking some deep diaphragmatic breaths. And keep tapping as you do.
Next, try incorporating this Intention Tapping statement:
“I restore the right energy flow to my breath.”
You can also target the area of disturbance, as in:
“I restore the right energy flow to my throat / chest / diaphragm / stomach / all of the above.”
Try another deep, diaphragmatic breath. Keep tapping and keep going until you are able to breathe deeply and easily. Rinse and repeat.
Keep tapping, keep intending, keep breathing, and keep living!