Controlled Breathing? Is it that simple?

ANSWER: Not really, but it’s a damn good gateway to other things.

My web site emphasises the value of simple breathing exercises to calm ourselves. There are many different exercises you could identify and practice.  I have included some and more can be gleaned from my other pages as well as Internet research.

These exercises work for many people as they focus attention on our physiology – the workings of our bodies – and less on intricate psychological processes. Physiology seems to reach more of us than psychology!

However, thinking about breathing is a beginning. It’s a gateway to many other  ways of soothing ourselves. I’d ask you to think about controlled breathing – however you do it – as a gateway into many other important safe experiments. Controlled breathing is one step to take in affect regulation (to provide the official title for the process of soothing ourselves). On the subject of affect regulation there is a ton of research you can read, and, by way of a health warning, it is not very digestible. Affect regulation refers to the ability to maintain or increase positive feelings and a state of well-being. There are many ways tominimise or regulate stress and the feeling that go with it. It is a helpful strategy in the treatment of depression and compassion fatigue.

Controlled breathing – as a gateway to other small safe experiments – can be linked to ‘tapping’. It is evident that physical actions have a part to play in soothing ourselves. For that reason, I have often linked controlled breathing with the butterfly hug. This is just one tapping safe experiment. I demonstrate it here on a one-minute video clip. Please bear in mind that controlled breathing, and any tapping, is best focused on ‘a something’, and I am not focusing attention on that ‘something’, here.

The idea of affect regulation is very old as it arises from the earlier, traditional psychological models. A living expert in this field is Allan Schore and he has two books of over 300 pages devoted to the topic. It is an important subject – infants and children have to learn how to control their responses to the world and carers are generally charged with helping that process. Some of us are more or less capable here. Therapy often exists to support and repair damage done in early years. Unfortunately, rather like the acquisition of language, it is less easy to put things right in later years.

To compound the problem, affect regulation rather depends on a deep understanding of human neuro-science. On this subject, Schore is well worth studying along with Louis Cozolino’s The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy. For a more readable introduction to  the topic, have a look at Sebastian Seung’s Connectome.  If you really want to get into the neurology of the matter, you will find Stephen Porges very helpful if you look up his Polyvagal Theory.

If you find the language difficult to follow, then it is important enough to research it further and/or look at the video, below.

A useful text that looks wider is Peter Fonagy; the lead writer of Affect Regulation, Mentalisation and the Development of the Self. Just a few glances at one or more of these texts will reinforce the idea that controlled breathing does, indeed, simply scratch the surface of ways to calm ourselves.

…. but you could be forgiven for the passing thought that therapy and therapists have a talent for complicating the picture and created a mystery around the change process. My own blog is more concerned to identify practical ways in which you can enhance your own skills – on a daily basis – in affect regulation.

For an interesting introduction to a brief affect regulation therapy, take a look at:

For some practical aids to controlled breathing and other calming practices, visit:, or

Please note: all sites like this usually command a fee to receive relevant services.

Information on Stephen Porges can be found on:

with an interview available on You Tube at:

Some minutes in, he will hear him talk about the practical relevance of ‘controlled breathing’.

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