Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Air as Metaphor

(This blog was originally posted on January 30, 2017)

Photo by Rick Hustead

Air is all around us. It sustains us. It ensures life, for without air (oxygen) we cannot survive. When we breathe, we take more or less of it into our lungs and send the rich oxygen molecules throughout the bloodstream to nourish every cell, tissue, organ and bone of the body. When we are working or playing hard, we may gulp in deeper breaths more often. When we experience extreme levels of stress, we sometimes forget to take in that air or even breathe so quickly in shallow gasps that the oxygen doesn’t get where it needs to be. Where would we be, without air?
Consequently, I incorporate breathing exercises and metaphors about air and filling the lungs in my hypnotherapy consultations. Through teaching my clients how to breathe deeply and completely, I also provide them with insight about the power of this action and air to relax, comfort, reassure and carry them through a stressful moment. When we can breathe normally, naturally and deeply, that is one less thing the physical body needs to worry about during an unexpected crisis. The subconscious mind is already pre-wired for fight or flight. However, breathing—filling the lungs with air and sending the oxygen to the organs that need it in a fight for survival—takes some of the pressure off: the mind knows it has what it needs for instant action. Breathing, especially when we are breathing deeply, is a harbinger of relaxation. Imagine a scene in nature, perhaps in a forest or at the beach. A gentle breeze is blowing, rustling leaves in the trees above or pushing the hair behind or in front of your face. You can see birds in the distance, floating on the air currents that carry them for a few heartbeats before they need to flap their wings again to stay aloft. And then they soar again, motionless, for a few more heartbeats before they fly away.
Air also represents power, such as the strong Santa Ana Winds that blow through the canyons in Southern California in late summer and early fall. Sometimes these winds—this air—is destructive. A particularly strong gust can knock down trees or utility poles; motorists often report feeling buffeted by the force of a hard wind as they drive down highways. In a sailboat on the ocean or a lake, however, a strong breeze is necessary to move you across the water from one shore to another. However, if there isn’t a motor in or on your boat if the wind suddenly stops, you can be stuck in the middle of that lake or ocean for a long time until that breeze kicks up again.
Finally, air is a metaphor for communication. We think of radio transmissions coming across “the air-waves.” We need air (oxygen) in our lungs when we speak or sing to project the sound or intensity of the meaning we are trying to communicate to someone else. The flute, clarinet, saxophone, etc. are all “wind” instruments that use our breath to create the beautiful notes that we hear as the breath is exhaled. During hypnotherapy, I sometimes have clients practice power breathing to forcefully expel negative emotions or distressing/stressful associations with their breath, followed by a slow, deep inhalation to restore a sensation of calm and feeling centered.
Finally, air as a metaphor can alternately represent various emotions and states of being. Expressions such as “I feel light as air!” or “I’m floating on air!” are used to express extreme happiness or exuberance. A sentiment such as, “The air is so thick/heavy in here, I feel like I can’t breathe” suggests some kind of oppression. The experience or image or suggestion of standing in an open field with the wide expanse of sky above your head and rolling hills below your feet often evokes a sensation of freedom and exhilaration. The desire to inhale a deep lungful of air and appreciate this sensation is more often an automatic response than a conscious action. Finally, when we are in a closed room or small space for a long period of time it is easy to become panicked and want to move, but opening a window or door just a crack is often enough to reduce that anxiety.
This is what air can do.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy®, please visit http://www.calminsensehypnotherapy.com/.
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