Miranda July’s book The First Bad Man is all about death and life and the interaction of the two by accidental babies. It is funny and sweet and, thoroughly, weirdly and wonderfully spiritual. It was my favorite book of 2015.
One of the most memorable scenes in the book has to do with the main character having a botched rebirthing treatment. While the idea of New Age therapy gone awry has the power to put you in a fit of giggles, the most memorable thing about the scene was the idea of rebirthing, something so strange and foreign and something we all probably will never do but might want to consider. It’s the kind of expert move a writer does to flex a knowledge you don’t have and, without having to explain it, will point you toward a path of better understanding.
So what is rebirthing? It’s a type of breathwork technique from the 1970s that is supposedly to “purge traumatic childhood memories that had been repressed.” It has ties to cultism and nonsense sciences but it most definitely is something people do as a very alternative therapy. WebMD has a good rundown on the hows and whys of one’s rebirth:
Rebirthing, as Walden describes it, is all about breathing: “It’s a circular breath where the inhale and the exhale are connected; there’s no pause, it’s continuous, and it actually puts you in another state where you’re processing thoughts and feeling and emotions, spiritually, mentally, physically, all that.”
Walden tells WebMD the process takes about an hour, and that those who undergo it should have a trained practitioner with them for the first 10 to 20 sessions as intense feelings may come to the surface — even memories of their own births.
“What we’ve noticed are that some people have memories of childhood, memories of birth, [or] memories of what they had for lunch yesterday,” Walden says. Blankets are not used, and children seldom, if ever, undergo the process.
Walden compares the process to “running without running,” saying: “You release stress, you just feel better. It’s like having that endorphin high without moving. … The goal is to be more at peace with yourself.”
So, yes, you literally can revisit your birth which the article purports 30% of patients do. It’s like yoga plus a hyperbaric chamber plus a lot of “Let yourself go there.” madness. It is a bit crazy, so crazy that the practice led to the elongated death of a ten year old girl. In her rebirthing (Well, unbirthing.), doctors used pillows and wraps to cover her and, despite calls of her suffocating, the doctors continued in order to “simulate uterine contractions” to help with her reactive detachment disorder, where the child apparently fails to bond with caregivers.
No, I don’t remember specifically what the rebirthing was for in the book but I do recall it was to help block out past events to help the character move forward without something from her past holding her back. Should you rebirth yourself, getting all hippy breathy so you can revisit your baby self and trace all of your issues whilst in a daze of deep breaths? Maybe not. You could just try yoga or some other hypnosis. If you must bite into this crazy pie, watch the video below. It gives you a good idea of what rebirthing is all about.