The primary principle of Holotropic Breathwork is that healing comes from within the client. In the holotropic model, this is taken to an unprecedented level of trust. Facilitators are not considered to be healers or even therapists. Rather, they are more like mid-wives, there to support a process that has an inherent wisdom. Facilitating a Holotropic Breathwork workshop is intense practice in ‘not knowing’. I recall Grof saying that the reason the training to be a facilitator takes a minimum of two years is that it takes at least two years to realize how little you know.
Grof believes that there is an inner ‘radar’ function in the psyche that, when given the opportunity, can choose the most relevant experience we need, in that moment, for our evolution.[i] No one can know what that experience is, in advance. For example, consider a client locked in a pattern of anger at her mother: what would be the best prescription for her? A bio-energetic therapist might encourage her to express her rage. A Buddhist teacher might encourage her to practice compassion. A Jungian might encourage her to dialogue with the image of her anger. A Kundalini yogi might encourage her to channel the anger into a higher form. But a Holotropic Breathwork facilitator would say simply, “keep doing the breathing and find out what is emerging for you.” The answer is specific to the client and to the time.
It is always tempting to think we ‘know best’. This is particularly true for anyone in the helping professions. But the Holotropic Breathwork facilitator is trained in not-knowing. Of course, many people have great gifts in their chosen modalities, whether cranio-sacral therapy, reiki, bioenergetics, psychodynamic psychotherapy, or cleansing auras, but in a holotropic workshop these would never be applied to a client’s process. To ‘heal someone’ is a beautiful thing, but in the context of a Holotropic Breathwork workshop, it would be considered an abuse of power. Each participant should leave a Holotropic Breathwork workshop feeling personally empowered: having discovered that he himself has answers within—not that so-and-so is ‘a great healer’. The Holotropic Breathwork facilitator is not expected to do the healing and should not promote the idea of being a healer. The facilitator of a Holotropic Breathwork session is there to help, support and encourage clients to find their own way.
Many clients do come to a Holotropic Breathwork workshop wanting ‘to be healed,’ or with an unconscious need to find a guru. This can be a trap for both client and facilitator. But a good facilitator will resist that projection, and gently encourage the client to look for an answer within. Of course, some facilitators do have a strong healing presence, or may be gifted in ‘seeing’ or understanding. But all good Holotropic Breathwork facilitators should keep that firmly in check: the practice of being a facilitator is of not-knowing, and giving space to individuals to find the answers themselves.