BREATH-WORK and VOICE DIALOGUE are wonderful healing companions and are very effective in combination.
Both Ardhan and I trained in Voice Dialogue (also known as Transforming Dialogue) for many years on top of other trainings like Psycho-synthesis for Ardhan and for me with Addictions, Non-Violent Communication (NVC) and Shamanic Family Constellation.
Alchemy of Breath have more recently opened an intentional retreat centre and community called ASHA (Alchemy School of Healing Arts), in Southern Tuscany, about six hours drive from us. Given we are here in Italy, we hope to go to visit soon and attend one of the breath camps there.
If you are interested in learning more, please write to us on the contact form.
Background : Why being trauma-informed is essential
We are a collectively traumatised, disembodied and shame-based society, this is more obvious than ever before. With trauma, the nervous system gets dis-regulated. This does not change over time by itself, unresolved energy remains trapped in the body causing havoc in our lives in a myriad of different ways.
We stop breathing when we are in shock and overwhelm and we don’t get to complete what needed to happen. In order to be in our bodies, we need safety and the breath is our anchor to come into more presence. We all need to stay connected with each breath, one after the other, because this is what was stopped as a short-term strategy that was never meant to be lifelong.
Trauma has come out of the shadows with the current global situation in so many different ways and it’s clear also from the level of compliance and the lack of personal authority, that fear has the upper hand with most people, where they defer to the mainstream news and government for what they should do, not even questioning if this is actually in their best interests. This programming, often brain-washing, much of this stems from our relationship with our care-givers and how we unconsciously project our mothers and fathers out into the world onto authority figures. We can be totally compliant trusting with blind faith or we can rebel and be more on the anarchist side but inevitably, mostly we are still stuck playing out old patterns that need to be addressed more consciously.
Thankfully as a result of special souls like Bessell Von Kolk, Gabor Mate and Peter Levine, we know that trauma does not only exist for war veterans or rape victims but for so many others dealing with more invisible, hidden issues such as womb and birth trauma, surgery and other medical procedures, car incidents, incest and sexual abuse issues, as well inter-generational, unresolved, ancestral trauma passed down epigenetically.
This is clearer than ever now and as Thomas Huebl reminds us, disassociation from our bodies, hearts, souls, nature and each other is widespread and the water that we swim in so we don’t even notice it. Spiritual bypassing is also endemic as we struggle to be EMBODIED, with our vulnerability and feelings, individually and culturally. My personal experience is that I am doing my inner work not just for myself but for my ancestors and in order to clean up and create a brighter future for my grand-children. It has not been easy work but it has brought me back into self honouring, where I can finally bow down in gratitude and deep realisation of what happened before me, instead of standing in victim powerlessness or with ego entitlement and grandiosity.
The current world is full of hatred and judgement, we have lost our way and strayed far from mother nature and our own divine terrain. If we want to create a heaven on earth, we all need to do our inner and shadow work, to ‘know thyself’, embracing BOTH sides of our power and vulnerability, of our masculine and feminine, our humanity and divinity, to come into more balance and wholeness.
The more presence we bring, the more of our unresolved issues will come up to be fully ‘met’ so that we can bring them back home to love and acceptance. When this happens, we have greater capacity because we are more regulated and more resilient with stronger resources in order to manage situations and stay in presence. With breathing, titrating and staying within our ‘window of tolerance’, we get to come into balance and alignment with ourselves, with our bodies and minds and inter-relationally with others and life itself.
Ardhan and I are both passionate that it is our sacred duty to clear the shadows within ourselves, to see where we are all contributing to the dark agenda and part of the whole right now, rather than simply judging and pointing the finger to each other or outside. It doesn’t mean we are anywhere near sorted on this, returning to the path of love is a huge undertaking and a daily practice. What Voice Dialogue teaches us, is that underneath all our judgements which creates separation, is ALWAYS a deep vulnerability that needs to be honoured because otherwise we easily play into the blame game either of ourselves and/or others.
Psychotherapists know and work with the habitual and default patterns and feelings we all carry, the inner dynamics we bring from childhood and the mechanics of traumatisation. All this is known in psychotherapy where practitioners need a high level of sensitivity and wisdom, particularly with the MAP of the psyche. And we know that as therapists, it is important to truly see people as already having the resources they need and of helping them tap into this resourcefulness rather than creating dependence.
It is Ardhan’s and my view, that we need to bring wisdom to the breath by being trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive too. We need to be familiar how to work with inner and outer resources, as repressed material will surface through a more active and conscious breathing process. Spiritual emergency is all too familiar in our world and all healers need to understand how to create a safe container and work with energetic linkage, grounding and resonance, titrating what is happening, to avoid overwhelming and distressing reactions taking place.
“In what ways does Voice Dialogue enhance and deepen the Breathwork experience?”
Developed by Hal and Sidra Stone, Voice Dialogue (VD), is in our experience, an incredibly inclusive and powerful, psycho-spiritual approach to consciousness. It’s a journey home to oneself and a tool for conscious transformation. Voice Dialogue is best used for people who have developed and stabilised their primary self-system and want to turn inward and reclaim their essential self. That’s why it’s so good to work with the breath and VD together, they are a great team for bringing more presence and awareness.
With embodiment and breathing you can find even deeper resonance and attunement.
Our personality is made up of many different selves or voices and Voice Dialogue is based on the psychology of Jung, using the idea that our personality is made up of different parts known as selves or sub-personalities. Voice Dialogue is a very accessible technique, a methodology to help us grow and awaken our conscious awareness, through the discovery and understanding of our inner selves, some parts we know about, others we don’t. In Voice Dialogue this is known as the ‘psychology of selves’ and the idea is to bring these inner voices of the psyche into harmony, in order to unleash greater creativity, fulfilment and success for ourselves and our clients.
The challenge for all of us is that these inner voices or primaries as they are known with Voice Dialogue, that form the core of our personality, are often using outdated strategies to try to fulfil their purposes and they’ve never learned how to effectively achieve their highest goal, nor to work together in synergy so they can become allies. Sometimes these primary selves are so vigilant in hiding away our vulnerability, that we can lose touch with it ourselves and with the way to connect with our soul.
However, before going deep into any vulnerability, it’s particularly important that we FIRST honour the guardians of the psyche in our clients (and in ourselves) as these effectively are the protector controllers – sometimes referred to as the risk management selves. We do not push past these primaries as they were set up to create safety and need to be FULLY honoured.
Whilst it might be very tempting, we cannot throw out our selves and parts, the ones we judge and dislike as they will simply return to ‘bite us in the bum’, but we can transform them, where for example, an inner critic can become a discerning judge or a scapegoat can become a whistleblower. I had a killer inner critic so I know this painful path all too well but eventually now, it has transformed into a discerning judge that really supports me in so many ways. Everything needs acceptance and all exiled, disowned and lost parts need to be brought back to the light of love, this is the way to come into wholeness.
In this respect, it needs to be said, that for each of the primary selves that is this strong and ‘running the show’, there has to be a complementary, disowned self that is equal and opposite in content and power. We know this with the bully for example. Another example of this might be the superwoman and wretch which can show itself in a kind of bi-polar behaviour. We need to have this wisdom, as we end up blaming parts of ourselves we don’t like, but they were set up to do a specific job and they’ve continued doing it without having their job description updated.
Whilst strong insight can and does happen in breath sessions, the physical integration does not happen overnight, especially when one’s whole life might be turned upside down by a shocking memory, a realisation to leave a marriage for example or where incest surfaces. It’s a step-by-step process to drop into wounded parts and see why a perfect superwoman character, might have had to be created for safety and whilst there is huge wisdom in vulnerability, this is a way of being we have to learn step by step, as sadly it is not honoured in our shame-based and toxic patriarchal culture.
So – we need to be fully resourced at an inner and outer level, in order to make informed and healthy choices and this takes time…….and hence why working with Voice Dialogue can be very supportive in the breath process. The two definitely work really well together. Most of us know what it feels like to be caught between opposites, immobilised or town between polarised parts that have tension, and while we might like to throw or berate one of these selves, the way the psyche works, you cannot just push a critic away and expect there not to be a backlash.
Learning how to fully be with the body and breathe is a way to stabilise and regulate the nervous system in particular, which is essential when making big changes or decisions. The process of Voice Dialogue together with breath-work helps people trust their inner resources, take personal responsibility and come back into divine sovereignty.
To give an analogy, our community of selves is like an inner orchestra of soul and the Voice Dialogue process, helps guide us to ensure we have a conductor (which the Stones refer to as an Aware Ego) in place, to create greater alignment because it brings these inner parts together as a coherent and empowering team. When you learn to live with the tension of opposites, which in VD is known as developing this ‘Aware Ego’, this represents a central position where we can interact with the world, standing on both feet, in balance between the different selves/polarities and honouring them.
With Voice Dialogue, there is no hierarchy, no agenda and every self is equal. There are no good or bad selves, the spiritual selves are not above any other selves. The facilitator is a guide, holding a lantern, being the bridge, working energetically through linkage and resonance much as we do with breath work. As healers, we have to know these voices in ourselves, because as we learn to interact from this place in our own psyche’s, we will be more accepting of all the voices and parts we meet in others.
In Voice Dialogue, we talk about standing on TWO FEET and what we mean by this, is that people think that they are their PRIMARY SELVES and have no awareness of their DISOWNED SELVES (or unconscious voices) and with this, how they JUDGE others and themselves as a result.
The primary selves for someone growing up in an accountants family, will be very different than someone from a bohemian one for example. If we have a strong perfectionist for example, do we know the opposite part that might be one that wants to be lazy, that is allowed to be human and can make mistakes? If we have a huge pusher, do we know how to play, rest and have fun, is there permission for this? If we have been overly responsible taking control as a young child for irresponsible parents like addicts, often the omnipotent child, do we know how to receive and trust not being the one who is always in charge?
Cognitive awareness of these patterns of behaviour is not sufficient, as we have to understand the safety and control mechanisms of these internal selves. We are all in process because at some point in our lives, we gave up on our authenticity in order to be safe just as Gabor Mate teaches so well. We chose to be attached to our caregivers, for reasons of survival and we gave up being who we were, in order to get love and connection. We don’t have choice in this especially when we are tiny. The pleaser is born very young for example, a baby knows the mother’s reaction intimately and what happens when they cry.
You might have a client who is relentless in their critique of their every move, you might have one over identified with being an inner child that is yearning for attention or a seemingly lazy or stuck resistant part that doesn’t want to move their big dreams forward. There are so many scenarios that you will come across, that you perhaps judge in others or are anxious about, because you actually don’t know how to be with that part yourself. This is the key now and a great way for understanding yourself more deeply:
What you have repressed and lost sight of in yourself, you will find in other people and judge them, this is how you can know what your disowned selves are!
Most of us know about how our inner critic can be our worst enemy, often crippling us with harsh and negative words about what we could or should have done. The key with Voice Dialogue and other similar modalities is how to DIS-IDENTIFY from selves like the victim, rationaliser, inner critic and inner patriarch or indeed ones like the pusher and perfectionist, that so easily lead people to burn out and over extension.
When we give up resisting and blaming parts of ourselves and really bring acceptance and love to EVERY PART that serves us, in some way, this is the greatest medicine we can bring to ourselves, others and to the world. We carry our precious judgements for decades and as sensitive empaths, we do the worst damage on ourselves, so it is a heroic journey to stop judging our parts and those of our clients or family/friends, so that we make them allies.
Then we have the opportunity to become CHANGE AGENTS and help make the world a better place.
“Breathing practices have the power to restore a healthy balance to the stress-response system, to unlock the grip of trauma on the mind and emotions, to create the conditions necessary for healing from the many effects of trauma.
As this healing occurs, we rediscover our true selves and the capacity for love and bonding that are essential to our relationships”.
Dr Richard Brown ‘The Healing Power of the Breath’
Breathwork sessions are really a ritual offering in a ceremonial space with music, prayer, poetry and energetic resonance. As breath workers, we act as sacred portal holders. This is the potential of what can be transmitted. When you combine it with the psycho-spiritual wisdom of modalities like Voice Dialogue that honour both the spiritual and physical realities, then it becomes a safe, multi-dimensional medicine, so needed in this traumatised world.
There is no doubt that breathing will help bring us back into embodiment, presence and deep insight, as we breathe into our bodies and re-inhabit them, since alchemic change and transformation are certainly possible without words. Breath work needs to be facilitated in a safe, titrated way where people are directed into their body to see where they themselves have the resourcefulness, tapping in to feel that wholeness.
The breath is your boundary, it belongs to you.
Breath-work is an embodied process, we are here to stay associated with our bodies, to reconnect with ourselves in a deep way and to bring back fragmented and lost parts from exile. We are the only species that interrupts and blocks tremoring and shaking post trauma, as we too need to release pent up tension or it stays in the body causing untold harm.
Breathwork is about regulation. Dr Joe Dispenza says that incoherence and a lowering of frequency is the reason for illness, so self-regulation is very important. Deep long out breaths for example will help with this process. With breath, we can up or down-regulate our breathing and as we change our breath, we can change our state which is an amazing possibility when we are conscious to it.
Breath-work is relational and the question we ask is ‘what is your relationship to your breath?’ If we are not present to ourselves, we cannot be present to others, it’s the same with loving ourselves and others. The more we bring coherence with our mind and hearts, the more we regulate our nervous system and change our neural pathways, the more we have capacity to live a fuller and more joyful life. So it’s about presence, coming back to here and now, each breath in and out.
Breath is a portal, a gateway to wherever you want to go, to activate new beginnings and possibilities and to relax and let go of anything that needs to be released. It holds the library of everything that has happened in your life, deep in your cells and as such, repressed material can come up, as a result of conscious and more active breathing.
Your body is your resource, it isn’t your enemy, this is what happens with trauma, because the experience was too overwhelming and we check out, disassociating as a survival mechanism. Breath and the body is a gateway to presence and embodiment, to avoid bypassing and whilst with conscious connected breathing there is some activation, what we are seeking is not activation, but integration.
This is the key because we need to be IN our body, to connect to that which is beyond our body. It’s very subtle but this is the meaning of the mystic teachings about the ‘breath within the breath’. We can have cathartic experiences by strong breathing process, but any work needs to be embodied, in order to integrate the wisdom, otherwise any supposed benefits are short-lived and not effective in the long term.
Our safety lies in staying close to the breath, in noticing how we are breathing, which says so much about our lives. Do you hold your breath, shallow breathe or do you push it intentionally? Questions to explore might be:
- Can you take a full in breath and say yes to life, expanding your rib cage and out to your back, opening to that spaciousness?
- Is your in-breath easier or harder than your out-breath, how do you find receiving and letting go?
- Can you let go on the out-breath, surrender and release, trusting to the next breath in each moment?
- Do you over control the in breath forcing it up into the chest, rather than letting it happen naturally?
- Do you hold your breath and then remember to grab one when there is a chance?
- Do you sustain a constant breathing pattern, or is it very haphazard depending on what is happening?