Note from Steve Wells: This article is written largely by Kathy (not her real name), a client who I worked with who presented with multiple traumas, including a sexual assault. It includes her inspiring words and helpful suggestions on self-help tapping for trauma relief and some clarifying notes from me about the tapping treatment.
The article was originally written for EFT Creator Gary Craig’s newsletter and refers to EFT tapping. Since that time we’ve developed our user-friendly tapping approach, Simple Energy Techniques (SET). Therefore, I’ve also added some updated notes (in italics) about SET and about trauma treatment where this differs from EFT and the approach I used back then.
In practice, the outcomes of EFT and SET trauma treatment are the same although in our clinical experience SET tends to be more efficient.
Original Intro from Steve Wells:
Recently, I was given this beautiful poem by one of my clients, who I will call Kathy. It comes after about 2 years of using tapping to address some heavy duty issues – and, as a result, quite literally changing her whole life. As you will see from Kathy’s poem and her “Story behind the poem”, she has come a long long way. Her poem speaks of a level of self-acceptance that is a joy to behold. I suggest that you read the poem, then read the story behind the poem, then read the poem again. It will then have a whole new meaning for you.
Sun in my soul
I reached out for land
but what I found
was freedom and light
and sea just for me
Now I can swim
with the sharks
and the seals
and shine in delight
at just being me
The Story Behind the Poem:
My purpose for writing this is to provide encouragement for people to try EFT.
I have been fortunate enough to have Steve Wells cross my path and introduce me to EFT at a work seminar 2 years ago. At the time I was very unhappy in my job. I was miserable and my misery was impacting my personal life. I had never known what I wanted “to do” or “to be” in life and had changed jobs every 6 months to escape the boredom that would always creep in. I finally decided to seek help from Steve to work out a more fulfilling career path, hoping EFT might help me get rid of the boredom.
I knew I wanted to help people and so in my first proactive move I took 5 months off work to figure out what that might be. I ended up doing some real estate deals and donating to my favourite charities, although whilst I knew I was helping people through my donations, I knew this wasn’t enough and I felt empty emotionally.
During this time I was also injuring myself frequently as a result of my emotional disharmony. Eventually the turning point for me came when I broke my arm (at one of my investment properties). For the first time in my life I had to ask people (mainly family) for help as I couldn’t even drive my manual car. I was suddenly stripped of my independence and forced to ask for help, which was very difficult for me to deal with. Whilst I was trying to come to terms with this, my injury and my frustration at not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, I found all the difficult and painful events from my past were coming back to haunt me.
I felt emotionally wrecked and confused. I didn’t know what to sort out first. Over time with Steve, I realised that the reason I was revisiting emotionally painful events from my past was because I was in conflict. Throughout my previous ordeals I never once asked for help or support. I was the “strong” one in my family and had identified my role as “the supporter” who helped others through their grief or difficult times. Allowing myself to seek help and have someone listen, focus and help me with my issues was very alien to me and was my first hurdle using EFT. It was the first time I had allowed myself to spend time helping myself rather than others – a concept that felt selfish and made me feel guilty and self centered.
Over time I realised that in order to find contentment in my working life and in fact anything in my life, I needed to first address the personal traumas and events from my past that I had buried. When I began this journey I got disconcerted at the enormity and number of them and I became very distressed. As I’d start using EFT on one issue, another would take over and I became somewhat disillusioned and overwhelmed. (For detail of my traumas see below. I have listed these in hope that if someone can identify with any of them, they know that there is a way to heal the pain).
Eventually Steve was able to draw out from me my core issue. I was still in denial about being raped and as a result, falling pregnant and having an abortion at the age of 20. I thought I had no one to turn to for help as at the same time I was helping my Mum care for a close relative that had terminal cancer. I thought the family was in enough pain without me adding to it. It wasn’t until I started to address the various aspects of this through EFT that I realised how, through keeping the incident to myself and not seeking help, I had allowed it change my identity and affect so many areas of my life and the decisions I have made.
The session when we finally addressed the rape incident was the worst and best hour of my life. As Steve began with some EFT for me to open up and discuss the rape I felt like the room was closing in on me. I could barely breathe and just wanted to curl up and die. It got to the point where Steve took over tapping on my wrist as I went into emotional shutdown. I was at my lowest. As we progressed through the session, the weight lifted and I was able to tap for myself and by the end of the hour I knew the worst had passed and I had taken the first steps on my path to emotional freedom.
Update note from Steve: Since then I have learned many ways of treating severe traumas like this more gently with tapping. One way to do this is to have them do plenty of tapping before accessing the traumatic incident on any of their body discomforts and tensions. Next, we might seek to address any fears and concerns about the issue without tuning into it directly, for example treating the fear of the fear. When having them relay the trauma story it can help to have them go back to a point before the trauma event started and do plenty of tapping there before proceeding into the more emotionally intense parts of the incident. It also helps to create distance by having them disassociate from the event by imagining they are watching it on a screen (if they find this visual process easy to do) rather than being in the experience. These are just some ways of making the experience more gentle for the client. I am in no rush to get to the most challenging and painful parts of the experience and often if enough tapping is done at an earlier point then when you do move into those stronger parts the intensity is typically far less than the client expected.
Kathy continues: At times I thought I was going backwards and falling into a black hole with no way out – but I hung in there and had faith. The rape had made me feel angry that it happened, guilty for letting myself change the way I lived through my 20’s because of it and sad that I will never know what my 20’s would have been like if it hadn’t happened. After some more sessions with Steve and treating myself using EFT, there came a dramatic and unexpected turning point, when suddenly my world opened up and I felt a sense of release.
Since then, I have successfully treated other aspects stemming from the rape and each aspect got treated more and more quickly. In addition I used EFT on all my other past traumas and got a perspective and sense of calm about them.
I eventually got to a stage where I was enjoying my new career, my life and my relationships with family and friends on a whole new level I had never experienced before. This resulted in me becoming very uneasy. As absurd as this sounds, I thought my life wasn’t suppose to be this good. I felt guilty and uncomfortable with everything being so great. I used EFT to become used to my new life and perspective and have finally found true emotional freedom.
I know that life will throw more obstacles at me but I know I can deal with them and that I will meet them head on and not suppress them for years to torture myself with – it’s such a waste of time and energy! Emotional freedom is the most liberating sensation and its effects have impacted all aspects of my life and most importantly my relationships with family and friends.
My very special thanks go to Steve who helped and guided me along this journey. No amount of words can express my gratitude nor respect and awe for his very special gift (…..and his immense perseverance!).
Detail of traumas
Throughout my life I had a father that used cruel mind games and emotional blackmail on me and others in my family. He also verbally and physically abused my mother.
Between the ages of 20 and 27:
A friend died in a drink driving accident and another died in a motorcycle accident
I was raped, fell pregnant and had an abortion
I helped nurse my Aunty whilst she had terminal cancer and another close family friend died of cancer
My only other Aunty passed away
A close Uncle passed away
A friend committed suicide
A relationship I had been in for 3 years broke up
I was stalked
Steve Wells Comments: I asked Kathy if she could elaborate a little more on her process in order to assist others who are working through similar issues. Here is her reply:
As far as adding more detail about the process for me I would say that during times when I was experiencing emotions of great magnitude (e.g. anger about the rape) I would just tap without actually saying anything. My emotions would be so overpowering and thoughts racing through my mind so fast that trying to think of words to tap with was too much so I would just sit and tap until the feelings subsided and I had settled. I’d then usually take a break (and often go and do some exercise to release the physical tension) before coming back and tapping with some phrases once I could think straight.
Update note from Steve: Back then when we were using EFT we thought it was important to use words to describe feelings. Now with SET we know that isn’t necessary and can even be a distraction at times so we simply allow people to go with whatever they notice and attend to their body sensations, emotions, thoughts in whatever form they come, and follow them as they change on a moment by moment basis. We also recommend a more continual tapping process as you mindfully attend to whatever is in your present awareness. Note that Kathy, having done plenty of tapping herself and noticing what worked for her tended to naturally gravitate towards this more naturalistic way of using the tapping.
Kathy continues: My best advice would be not to get too caught up with getting the right phrase, especially when your head is spinning with emotion and thoughts of more than one trauma or issue. You’ll know if the phrase is right or not once you start and can change it as many times as you like until you feel you’ve got it pinned. Even if you can’t think of the right words or they don’t gel with you, just start tapping without saying anything and usually your thoughts will filter out a phrase or 2 for you in time.
I think that providing phrases for beginners is useful but getting across the concept of the technique is more important. People have different reactions and emotions to experiences and I don’t think one or 2 sets of phrases is appropriate for all. I did look through a few postings on Gary’s website and which provided me with some guidance (mostly reassurance that I wasn’t the only one out there) however what I found most useful was saying to myself “I feel….” and letting myself fill in the gap. This was the best indicator for me and I’d use my answers whilst doing the tapping.
Update note from Steve: It isn’t even necessary to say “I feel X” and describe your feelings in words, as some feelings can’t be put into words. Simply notice whatever you notice and apply tapping as you go.
Kathy continues: Lastly, if like me, people are feeling inundated with numerous issues, grief etc from their past, escaping for a weekend retreat and getting everything down on paper was really helpful. Whilst the weekend when I did that was the most emotionally taxing thing I did, it got a lot of scrambled thoughts and emotions in my head out and I could look at them on paper with a clearer approach. If anyone did take this advice however, I would caution them to tell someone where they are going and leave a contact (e.g. I told my partner and asked him not contact me unless it was an emergency) as it can be really tough and when you’re emotionally all over the shop it’s prudent to let someone know where you are.
Steve Wells comments: I truly hope that anyone who thinks their problem is too complex, or that tapping “isn’t working” for them will take heart from Kathy’s story. I think it illustrates the true power of tapping when combined with dogged persistence within the context of relational therapy with someone you trust.
For more articles and video on treating trauma & PTSD visit the trauma page
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