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So, this is a question I've kind of been wondering for a while now. I have a character that is, by all human standards, (and quite literally) dead. So, with a heart that doesn't beat, lungs that don't actually breathe, and nerves that don't technically feel pain, would taking a deep breath actually help calm them down? Would taking a deep breath have any effects at all?

Basically, this character can make all her bodily organs work if she wants to, but she doesn't usually feel the need. After all, if you didn't have to breathe all the time, would you? (Not to mention she has to consciously be thinking about breathing, due to her cerebrum not functioning correctly)

If her heart doesn't beat and she doesn't breathe, she can also run a lot farther than any normal human would be able to. (Let's just say she has a unique anatomy and leave it there, the schematics really aren't all that important) But that got me thinking. If she somehow got extremely scared, worried, etc., how would she calm herself down? Would the usual method of taking deep breaths even work? Or would she have to find a new way of figuring out how to calm herself down?

Any and all answers are welcome, thanks! :)

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, Sparky! If you have a moment, please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. You'll also find Worldbuilding Meta and The Sandbox useful. Here is a meta post on the culture and style of Worldbuilding.SE, just to help you understand our scope and methods. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – FoxElemental Aug 25 '18 at 0:30
  • $\begingroup$ Is the character "dead" by the nature of her species or was she human originally before ending up in her current state? $\endgroup$ – TKOW Aug 25 '18 at 0:53
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    $\begingroup$ She was originally human before hand. $\endgroup$ – Sparky Aug 25 '18 at 1:02
  • $\begingroup$ Does she remember her past life as a living human?Or is she a new (un)living being created from a corpse? $\endgroup$ – Jão Aug 25 '18 at 2:26
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, she remembers her past life, though she wishes she did not. She was born in 1907 and died in 1921, and was murdered, which is one reason she would feel scared in the first place. She's a spirit, (she'll argue with you on the malevolent part, but most of her species is) and was killed because she had information that could have destroyed an entire evil organisation. $\endgroup$ – Sparky Aug 25 '18 at 3:08
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Breathing in and out is as much psychological as it is physiological, so breathing deep would work great. In fact, she probably breaths a lot while talking, sighing, and possibly even taking a deep breath after leaving a cramped and or dreary place. She's got to breath normally to talk after all. The only time she doesn't breath is when she isn't doing anything and would be relying on her medulla. (This also means she doesn't gasp in surprise.)

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She can´t be scared

She doesn´t need to calm down because she will never get worried or scared. If she has a heart that doesn´t beat, if her blood doesn´t circulate, and if her organs are dead (well, not alive), she really does not produce any adrenalin, therefore, her body will never feel that adrenalin rush that mere mortals feel when are in danger (real or imaginary). And that is an advantage! If she is in danger, she will always have his mind clear and calm and will be able to think properly without panic.

However, if it is needed:

Kids and adults sometimes have "irrational" behaviors whose sole purpose is to calm them out. For example, a kid can rub his ear, or hug a Teddy bear, or grab his blanket, or suck the thumb.
Sucking the thumb has no nutritional value, neither it segregates valium or anything to calm the kid. It is just "the action" that produces the calming effect. Hugging a Teddy bear won´t protect you from a monster, but it has a calming effect also. And like that, many other examples. So, the "deep breathing" action could eventually produce in her that effect, even if it has no organic logical meaning at all.

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    $\begingroup$ Good points: a sort of somatic memory that her zombified brain & mind retain; actions & behaviours that arise unbidden and possibly next to impossible to eradicate. I might suspect that as time goes on, she may deliberately work to reduce & eliminate those behaviours. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Aug 25 '18 at 2:56
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To answer such a question, we need to look at why taking a deep breath helps us. Then we can extend that to your non-human creature which doesn't need to breathe.

On Biology.SE, we asked the question of why can't we kill ourselves by holding our breath. The winning answer point to a curious article from 2005. This article was looking at the "breaking point" when you can no longer hold your breath.

They noticed something peculiar. Many physical effects suggest that you keep breathing, even when you're holding your breath. There are cyclical patterns associated with breathing which, for some reason, continue even while you are holding your breath. When you do finally exhale, you actually re-align with the cycle you were on before you held your breath!

This points to a tremendously deep and powerful psychological force driving us to breathe. This force keeps going, even when we try to override it with a "keep your lung volume constant" command (holding your breath). This force gets us to cry at the critical moment where an infant needs to breathe or asphyxiate. It's a really powerful thing.

Research shows that it's not really the deep breaths that matter, its that you are re-alignign yourself with this inner need to breathe. For example, singers have something they call the "angel's breath." You inhale as much as you can, then exhale everything. The next inhale you do is incredibly relaxed, and singers find that they can actually hold a note longer using that resulting breath than they can any time they force it.

This is pure speculation, but I do wonder if practices such as yoga that talk about the breath as a source of power aren't talking about the movement of air at all, but rather are referring to this primal mental cycle, in all its glory.

So without this deep underlying urge to breathe, I think it is unlikely that deep breaths will help. However, if they do have some similar urge, there will likely be a corresponding calming effect. If you are a rabbit, and need to wear down your teeth or die as your teeth grow too big for your mouth, it would not surprise me if there's a biological urge to chew. It would also not surprise me if there was a corresponding calming effect from idly chewing on something.

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