Monday, February 22, 2010

A Quick Note To My Readers!

I value you, my readers, very much and because I do I'd like to just say that as I probably won't be updating this blog too often I'd love to invite you to join me over at my other blog JOURNEYS THROUGH TIME (under my real name, Ann Brien) where I usually just write about things that have a special nostalgic meaning for me and indeed my thoughts about events in my day to day life.

I guess the reason I won't be updating is that this blog and the Breakingdown ~ Breakingthrough blog deal mainly with the book which I made available online as a reference source for those working in the area of Transpersonal Psychology. I sincerely hope that someone will benefit from my experiences.

Until next time!

Image sourced at:  Dublin Writers' Museum


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Complete "Breakingdown, Breakingthrough...." Book Online

When I first decided to self-publish "Breakingdown, Breakingthrough - My Thorn-Paved Road To Healing Via Altered States and Near Madness" I could only afford to have fifty copies printed.

As I now have only two copies left and I'm still being asked where the book is available I made the decision to upload the whole manuscript online for those who wish to explore its contents.  My reason for writing the book was solely to make the accounts my breathwork sessions available to anyone who might find them of interest to their work in this area, whether as a facilitator or breathwork researcher.

I hope my journeys will benefit someone.

To view the webpage please click on the "Links" section opposite.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ireland's Shame - Someone Should Have Spoken Out

The following is a post which I wrote a few weeks ago and appears on my other blog, JOURNEYS THROUGH TIME written under my real name, Ann Brien, actor. The reason I want to include it here is because, as Ann Brien I have never spoken about my painful past so therefore readers of that blog post will have no indication that its author has also suffered at the hands of those responsible for her care.

It is for that very reason I had to express my intense sadness and condemnation of what happened to those poor children and also because I could so easily have ended up one of them. The first two and a half years of my life were spent in hospitals and foster homes until I was then adopted by people, who sadly through no fault of their own as I now realise, inflicted on me physical and emotional suffering which to this day still haunts me. Years of therapy eventually helped me deal with the pain but above all, it gave me the strength to forgive. The anger I once felt towards my adoptive parents has long since been replaced by an immense sense of gratitude for their decision to adopt a small, scared little girl who at two and a half years of age could neither walk or talk. Had it not been for my parents desire for a child I too could have been placed in one of those houses of evil. Bad and all as my treatment was it could have been so much worse. Reading that Report has made me realise just how lucky I am.

Here is that post:

"As an Irish citizen and Roman Catholic I feel compelled to voice my overwhelming anger at the horrific atrocities carried out in our Industrial and Reformatory Schools across Ireland over a period of nearly sixty years. The perpetrators of these evil acts of mental and physical torture were not WW2 concentration camp guards but men and women of God, namely priests, nuns and Christian Brothers. Those were the people supposedly responsible for the welfare of these vulnerable children some of whom were placed in the institutions simply because a parent had died. What God in Heaven could have allowed this to happen? I never thought I'd hear myself ask that question.

The very houses set up in the mid-nineteenth century as places of refuge were to become akin to prisoner of war camps, their staff inflicting such appalling abuse to their young charges that words fail to describe. Punishments is not the term I'd use in this case as the children did no wrong but the acts of violence include; rape, horrific beatings, starvation, not allowed a drink of water from mid-day onwards so forced to drink from toilets, humiliation. The list is endless and far too harrowing to describe in detail.

Although the physical scars may have long since healed the horrendous emotional abuse these unfortunate children suffered at the hands of those bastards will surely have left them with scars no amount of counselling may ever heal. For them, the recent so-called heartfelt apologies by the representatives of both the clergy and state must have served to drive the dagger even deeper into their wounds. Words are cheap. Justice is what these people need in the form of acknowledgement of and apology for the wrong doings directly, where possible, by those personally responsible followed up by appropriate financial assistance from the religious orders concerned. The men and women who carried out these atrocious acts should be named, shamed and brought to justice regardless of their seniority.

What also disturbs me is the fact that our State has no plans to clear the "criminal" records of those youngsters sent to Reformatory Schools whose only crime was petty theft. What kind of mentality could continue to impose such cruelty on these unfortunate individuals? Has their suffering not served many times over as their sentences?

I feel I should point out that there were also acts of kindness by members of staff towards the children. One woman recalls being given a sweet once a week by a nurse. These kind souls it appears were also terrified of their evil colleagues as the gestures were made in secret.

My heartfelt admiration goes to Christine Buckley and all the other victims of abuse who have so courageously brought this litany of evil into the public domain where it is now in a five-volume Report, evidence that their stories are real, they were not imagined as some people cruelly insinuated.

For all those who suffered in the dark I pray their stories will light the way towards a brighter and safer world for our children and those yet to be born.

Should you wish to read the Report it can be viewed here The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse"


Monday, June 9, 2008

"Breakingdown, Breakingthrough...." Review

The following is the entire Review which appeared in both Breathe Magazine for Breathwork & Rebirthing, (UK) and The Healing Breath - a Journal of Breathwork Practice, Psychology and Spirituality, (US)

Margaret Coyne (2005): Breakingdown, Breakingthrough: My Thorn-Paved Road to Healing via Altered States and Near Madness. (Self-Published, Dublin, Ireland).

This book is about one woman’s difficult, often agonising journey to emotional and spiritual well being through Holotropic Breathwork. And what a journey it has been. In 1992 Coyne’s brother-in-law who was also one of her closest friends died. This kick-started a period of deep depression when she “couldn’t even bring myself to carry out basic hygiene functions” (p. x). The depression was characterised by frequent episodes of altered consciousness which she could not talk about to anyone. She was also drinking heavily. Finally, in early 1994 she met a therapist who eventually introduced her to Holotropic Breathwork. Over the next two and a half years she attended 30 breathwork sessions. Some were one day events, some held over three days. This book is the diary she kept throughout those years.

Coyne meticulously chronicled her breathwork experiences. Even if the diary entries were written immediately after each session, her power of recall is astonishing. Each session is documented, the insights gained are listed and even her feelings on each day following the session are set out under the headings of “morning”, “afternoon”, “evening” and “night”.

Coyne’s was a tough journey. She worked through incredibly painful feelings and experiences of childhood sexual abuse, fostering, adoption by parents who were at times nothing short of abusive, an eating disorder, her birth, multiple losses, etc. Her writing style is very direct, almost painfully so, as she evokes the pure terror of episodes in her life. The effect is that the reader can feel the rawness of the experience, the emotional wrenching apart of a child subject to abuse, of a baby being born, of a woman losing control of her life and desperately in need of help. The writing is at times powerful and it evokes deep empathy with the author and with the suffering some people have to go through in life.

This book is a very raw and real illustration of the pain that can arise from events children appear to have survived unscathed: birth, adoption, fostering…It’s also a very graphic description of what it is like to revisit the old wounds through Holotropic Breathwork. Coyne does point out that many holotropic sessions are quiet and peaceful, but the majority of what she describes was very dramatic as well as physically and emotionally painful. As a rebirther I certainly have never experienced or witnessed anything like what Coyne describes. I don’t know whether the anguish of her experience would put people off going for breathwork sessions or attract them. For this reason it might be risky to give this book to prospective clients. It could, however, be very valuable for existing clients who still aren’t sure of how the process of breathwork unfolds as well as for students of breathwork. It would be a worthwhile addition to the reading lists in schools of breathwork around the world.

At the end of her thirty sessions Coyne fell into a very deep depression for which she was hospitalised for a short time. She sees this as a spiritual emergence prompted by breathwork, rather than a breakdown. After the hospitalisation she took a break from breathwork. But for Coyne, it was all worth it. She was “privileged…to experience [her] suffering”. (p.251). The ‘breakdown’ “was in fact heralding the beginning of [her] breakthrough to recovery. Sadly, not everyone saw it that way” (p. xiii). She was heavily drugged in hospital and had a difficult time getting off Seroxat afterwards. Part of her hope in writing the book was to “encourage these people to reconsider their routine use of strong sedation of patients on their immediate admission to hospital, especially cases of deep depression”. She left hospital “high as a kite without ever once having dealt with the underlying cause of [her] depression” (p.250).

For people who have never been exposed to the phenomenon Grof describes as spiritual emergence, the concept can be tough to swallow. And this is where Coyne could really come into her own as an author. She has experienced it, she has been hospitalised and has survived. Her opinions therefore are not just based on a crazy theory. They have the credibility of experience behind them. But the emergence and hospitalisation come right at the end of the book. There is no room to go into detail about either and I think she needs to do this if she is to have an influence on the state mental health system. The book is self-published and therefore, as the author points out, does not benefit from the services of a professional editor. This is a pity. A professional editor might have curtailed the diary format which can be repetitive at times. This would have created space for a discussion of the spiritual emergence and the inappropriate treatment of it in hospital. Hopefully Coyne will turn her very obvious writing ability to this aspect of her experience in the near future. Such a book would have a good chance of attracting a publisher.

Catherine Dowling, Eire


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Depression: Still The Great Taboo

If you’ve ever spent time as an in-patient in a psychiatric hospital and later had to endure the pain of people treating you like you were some kind of oddball then you’ll know what I went through ten years ago following my admission for nine days to such an institution. I was severely depressed shortly after completing my thirtyieth Holotropic BreathworkTM session and both my therapist at the time and my family doctor felt I needed to be in a place where I could get the rest and treatment required to get me well again.

I definitely don’t remember the first three days in the hospital because seemingly it is psychiatric hospital policy to drug patients silly on admission probably to make life easier for the staff in cases where they’d be dealing with very distressed patients. The last thing I needed was sedation. What I needed was someone to listen to my pain and try to understand the weird feelings I’d been having during the previous few weeks, keeping me half stoned all the time wasn’t the way to go.

The hardest thing for me to deal with was when I arrived back in the real world and found people who meant a lot to me suddenly treating me as someone not to be trusted. A typical example was when I applied to work as a volunteer in my local childrens’ hospital and my friend who I’d asked to be my referee actually wrote to the hospital explaining that I’d been an in-patient in a psychiatric hospital. She never even discussed this with me before writing the letter. Luckily, I got the job and spent six happy years there until I had to quit because of a mild heart condition.

I put my friend’s action down to ignorance as a lot of people, even in this day and age still regard any form of mental illness, albeit in my case depression brought about by what’s known in transpersonal psychology terms as a spiritual emergency, as something to be greatly feared.

Ten years on I’m thankfully in excellent mental health and haven’t taken any anti-depressant medication for over eight years. My demons have finally been put to rest.