Breakingdown, Breakingthrough

- by Margaret Coyne -


I felt a mixture of apprehension and excitement as I climbed the steps to the big old house. After leaving my bag containing a blanket and some lunch in a small room off the hallway, which I was inforned would be where I'd return to after the session, I went on through to the large shed-like building situated at the end on the long garden. This room felt good. Lynn and Grainne (the facilitators) were busy getting things organised. By 9.20am. everybody had arrived. Having chosen our partners, the "breathers" lay on mattresses, while the "sitters" sat beside them.

We began with a brief relaxation exercise which the "sitters" did as well. For some reason I always feel very nervous when I begin to relax, but slowly I allowed my body slip into a deep dreamy state with the aid of some very soothing music. Following the exercise the "sitters" once more resumed their positions beside the "breathers". Now the music changed tempo to become the hypnotic ethnic sound, that along with my deep rapid breathing, was to take me into my first real altered state of consciousness. The following is my incredible experience:-

"I am comfortable with the breathing and totally absorbed by the music. The blanket which I brought along keeps me warm and cosy. After what seems to be half an hour, some of the people begin crying while others scream. It is a bit unnerving but I continue with my breathing and listening to the music.

A short time later I become aware that my hands are curling inwards and are being slowly drawn upwards towards my chest. Numbness sets in all over my body. Then it all begins to happen. I let go this long drawn-out scream which seems to come up from the lowest depth of my being. (Days later as I am writing this I can still hear that scream).

Now I begin to sob uncontrollably, my crying sounding exactly like that of a very young infant. My feelings are of being abandoned with no one hearing my distress. Still crying, I begin to feel very sick. Lynn is kneeling beside me. I am gagging a lot at this stage and my body is all over the place. Terrible feelings of total despair and loneliness. Drenched in sweat and crying my heart out, I suddenly become aware of the vomit in my throat. With the help of Lynn and my "sitter", Danny, I manage to lift myself into an upright position. Still fairly agitated, I throw up several times into the plastic bag which Lynn successfully manages to hold under my head. I feel better. After resting for a few moments, I go back into my breathing again.

Once more I am drawn back into my painful isolation. The sobbing is heart-rending. My fingers claw at my head and face. My legs kick out in frustration. I am sick again, only this time it is Grainne who helps take care of me. I rest again. Now my breathing takes me much further back - right into my mother's womb. I am desperately trying to be born.

There is a strange sensation in my left leg. It is gradually becoming increasingly difficult for me to breathe. As I gasp for breath and struggle to free myself, I begin to despair that I may never be able to get out of this horrible situation alive. Liquid fills my throat and I choke in the attempt to clear my airway. That effort brings no relief. The struggle to move out is exhausting me. There is no one to help me. I am aware that my head is pressing against something solid. With what little strength I have left, I try to push through it. I know my body is arched and that I am pushing my head against the wall because someone is putting pillows behind me to stop me from hurting myself. I am so angry because they are stopping me from getting out.

Finally I break through. I scream in absolute terror. This is my horrendous entry into the world.

Fluid in my throat is suffocating me. I gag quite forcibly, which causes me to throw up again. Almost immediately Lynn is over beside me. I feel I will never stop being sick. Afterwards I am totally exhausted. I lie back on the mattress. Within a few moments I am calmed by an incredible sense of peace which seems to fill my entire body. This is the first real pleasure I have ever known. My eyes are now wide open although I cannot see properly. Lynn is leaning over me, though I do not recognise her face. I do not see her as another human being, more as a reassuring image. I slowly move my head fron side to side, totally mesmerised by my surroundings. I am seeing and feeling everything for the very first time.

My fingers slowly open and close beginning their blind search for my mouth. I am only aware of my desperate urge to suck. This is my first hunger. Lynn lies down beside me and takes me in her arms. It is so comforting feeling the wannth of her body. My first experience of being loved. I latch onto the back of her hand and begin to suck vigorously. All this time she is stroking my back and making gentle little sounds. I no longer remember the pain of being born. Nothing outside this close contact with my "mother" exists, so, exhausted from my journey. I sleep.

As I begin to return from my inward journey, I am seized with an overwhelming sense of sadness. I begin to cry uncontrollably, but this time as an adult. Lynn continues to hold me. I try to tell her how much I miss my brother-in-law who died three years ago, how much I miss my natural mother whom I was taken from when five weeks old. The feelings are too painful and I just completely let myself go into the almost unbearable grief. After a while I recover. I feel I have accomplished a great deal in releasing so much buried anguish in one session. Once more I relax and allow the peaceful sounds of the music to gently wash away any trace of remaining fear or hurt. Around me, a few people are still in the final stages of dealing with their pain".

It must have been some thirty minutes later that l felt OK to leave the room. As it turned out I was the last to leave. Lynn helped me to my feet, and I quickly discovered that I was as though I'd been in the dark forever. I had to shield my eyes against the brightness.

A few people went out to lunch while the remainder of us gathered together in the small room where we'd left our belongings. We talked a bit, mostly describing our experiences, then set about drawing our Mandalas. These are the first images which come to you following your session. They can be anything, and you don't have to be an artist either.

The afternoon workshop began around 2.00pm. It felt slightly strange going back into that room again. I benefited from the relaxation exercise, but still felt physically dreadful. I could compare it to a night's boozing without any sleep. I was lucky my "breather", Danny didn't require any assistance from me, I don't think I'd have been up to it. As the music became more sombre, I found myself slipping back into my dark despair. Danny recovered quickly and was one of the first "breathers" to leave. I then submerged deeper into the feelings.

In the dim light, out of view, I sat curled up on the mattress where I began to quietly cry. I just needed someone to hold me. Grainne sensed my distress and asked me if I would like her to sit beside me. As soon as she embraced me I immediately cuddled into her and began sobbing my heart out. Again I talked of how I long for my "real" mother and how I've always wondered whether she held me when I was born.

Once more we retired to our little room, where we exchanged brief details of our experiences and the "breathers" drew their Mandalas. Neither Lynn or Grainne joined us, but they did leave in some food - cheese and chopped-up fruit. I didn't indulge, instead I just had another couple of rice cakes and a cup of Camomile tea. That was about all I could manage.

At around 5.30pm. we all went back with Lynn and Grainne into the "session" room where we sat on the floor in a circle. Each one of us in turn described our experience and tried to explain our Mandalas. At this point I felt very energetic and eager to share what I felt to be my horrendous birth, and the feelings of total despair at my abandonment sometime afterwards. My Mandala showed a woman giving birth, and beside that a tiny baby in a cot left to cry all by himself. The picture was coloured red.

I walked with one of the girls to my bus-stop. On the journey into town I felt very sick and exhausted. The bus journey from town to home was even worse. At one stage I thought I was going to actually pass out.

I arrived home at 7.45pm. A friend of ours had our boys staying with her overnight. I told my husband everything as I needed to talk. After a welcome cup of Camomile, I went to bed.

(Some Insights from 1st Holotropic Workshop).

(1) Clear understanding of the fear a baby feels at birth.
(2) A lot of my insecurities and lack of self-confidence stem from my first separation from my mother at five weeks old. Also there appears to have been times when I'd been left to cry on my own for long periods.

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