By Steve Wells
If you have had a significant traumatic incident like a car accident, or other life-altering or life-threatening event, it is easy to see that you might be affected long-term. These are the kinds of incidents that can affect us deeply, and sometimes lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder if not managed effectively. By definition, these “big ‘T’ traumas are incidents where your life or your bodily integrity is threatened.
However, there is another type of incident or event, the “little ‘t'” traumas, or what I call Everyday Trauma which can also affect your present. This is the “stuff that happens” to us as we go through life which exceeds our capacity to cope and which upsets us emotionally.
These experiences may not meet the criteria for big “T” trauma, the kind that is presumed to lead to PTSD, however, they can and often do have lifelong effects. Especially when a whole bunch of “little ‘t'” traumas accumulate, either all at once or over time.
A parent says something hurtful without even realizing its effect on you. The teacher asks you to read something in front of your fourth grade class and when you nervously stumble over the words laughs along with the other children. An elder sibling insists that you keep up with them then lashes out in anger when you don’t. You move to a new school and find it hard to make new friends…
All of these incidents have the potential to develop into what I call little “t” traumas, or Everyday Traumas (ET). What defines them as an ET is that they overwhelm us emotionally at the time, causing negative emotions and thoughts, and those emotions and thoughts (beliefs) may still be associated with the event years later. The decisions that we make and the emotions we feel at these times can be crucial in determining just how far-reaching the effects of the incident become.
When a traumatic or emotionally upsetting incident occurs, one part of us is assessing, “What does this mean?”
For instance, in the example of reading the book at school, stumbling over the words and having everyone else laugh, the child may decide, “I’m no good at reading”, or “I’m no good at talking in front of groups.”, or worse.
The feelings of humiliation and rejection can then become anchored or conditioned or attached to being in front of groups, such that even years later as an adult that person has trouble talking in front of groups.
Even worse, the child may decide “I am not good enough”, and may go on to suffer from self-image problems throughout their life.
The effects (and internal mental-emotional decisions) of a single event can extend into many others by setting up a global category system (or belief system) within which all associated negative events become anchored to the global perception “I’m not good enough”.
Everyday Trauma as I define it doesn’t just happen when you are young.
Everyday adult experiences, the “stuff” that’s happening in your life right now, can be similarly life altering, depending on your response. And the key is it all depends on your response.
Now the challenge is that the two go together, because to some extent your response can come pre-wired from the factory, so to speak, particularly if you have had incidents from your past that predispose you to react in certain ways.
If you did have a negative experience speaking in front of the class when you were at school (and who didn’t?), it should be no surprise that you feel nervous when your friend asks you to present a speech at her wedding.
When we encounter a situation like this, our “mind-body” asks the question, ‘Have I experienced something like this before?’ in order to know how to react and prepare. When the experiences in the “box” it draws from are all bad, then our “mind-body” prepares us for a negative future experience.
Thus, it can seem like we attract to ourselves experiences that resonate with the experiences we have had in the past, compounding the trauma.
Our past can end up determining our future unless we release the effects of those past traumas.
The good news is that tapping is ideal for intervening in the “trauma attraction loop” that gets set up here. By changing the emotional intensity (and “resonance”) of the key traumatic incidents, the negative beliefs that rely on these can be changed as well. In short: Your whole life can change.
There are many ways that Everyday Traumas (and the more serious non-everyday type) can be managed and healed with tapping.
The simplest way to deal with the everyday “stuff that happens” is to start tapping when stuff does happen. Tap on your reactions and responses as they happen and as you experience them, as much as is possible, and continue to tap until you make your way through. This is tapping for first aid.
If you are unable to tap while the ET is happening, try to do so as soon as possible afterwards.
For example, your spouse does something hurtful, and you are unable to manage your reactions, so you withdraw to your bedroom to tap on your hurt feelings. While there, tap on whatever reactions arise, both in the mind (thoughts) and in the body (feeling reactions and bodily sensations), until you are feeling better.
Now sometimes tapping on those hurt feelings doesn’t seem to be doing anything, and it doesn’t always occur to people that the reason why they have such a strong hurtful reaction to the thing their partner did is most likely due to hurtful experiences and traumas from their past which have set up a “resonance loop” or a “hurt feelings box”.
How does this work? Their “mind-body” subconsciously asks the question “Have I been here before?” and the response is “Yes, and here are the places where you’ve felt this before” and up come the feelings from all those past unprocessed incidents to amplify the emotional reaction to the current event.
It’s a post-traumatic reaction.
And even though we are often no longer conscious of those previous events, the feelings we had then do flood into our consciousness.
This is why it makes good sense to go back through your history, identifying any traumatic experiences that may be related to the current trauma and treating them with tapping.*
* Just a reminder that here I am recommending you do this for Everyday (or little ‘t’) traumas. If you are dealing with big “T” traumas these are best dealt with while working with someone else, such as a qualified and experienced therapist, ideally someone who also knows tapping.
Good questions to ask here are:
“What does this remind me of?” and “Where have I felt this feeling before?” for the negative feelings, and “Where did I learn this?” and “Who – or what – taught me this?” for the thoughts and negative beliefs.
When you can identify incidents from your past where you felt these feelings, they can often be treated very effectively by working through the incident using the “Run the Movie” or “Tell the Story” techniques (If you are not familiar with these techniques, see the links at the end of this article).
Run the Movie and Tell the Story are very simple yet effective techniques for treating past (and present) traumas. Actually, maybe it should all be considered present trauma because a past incident that still affects you is affecting you NOW. Your mind and body can remain stuck in the feelings and perspectives of the original event. Until you release this.
As you tell the story (or replay it or review it in your mind-body) and tap on the associated emotions, the entire experience processes through your body-mind, and as it does so, the feelings typically shift (you feel better) and your perceptions of what happened shift too (you think differently).
For those who know Intention Tapping you can bring this in too, using it to release the emotional attachments that were formed at that time and restoring the body energy to flow.
Even significant life beliefs that are predicated upon particular traumatic and stressful incidents can shift when tapping is applied to them. It’s a wonderful thing when this happens.
For example, you realize you are not really a “loser” just because you couldn’t keep up with your more athletic friend in sports. You see that this was all “her stuff”, or even “the teacher’s stuff”. And that part of your negative self-image, which you have carried with you into adulthood, starts to shift, such that you are now willing to try out many things that before you would have shied away from for fear of suffering the ignominy of “losing” again.
You start to see yourself as a “winner” in many other ways, or, even better, someone who doesn’t have to measure their results in terms of win/lose definitions. A part of your life that the traumatic reactions had closed down opens up, and ultimately, you become a little more free. Your whole life starts to feel lighter because you are no longer carrying the “emotional baggage” associated with the traumatic experience.
As the emotional intensity of the negative past experience releases, and even disappears, via tapping, you may even discover a life-affirming meaning behind it, a silver lining that you couldn’t see when you focused only on the cloud.
Some people find new directions in their life – to paraphrase Helen Keller, doors open to us that we don’t otherwise see when we focus only on the “closed door” of the traumatic experience itself.
The defining events of our lives are often what were originally considered traumatic events. Finding the life-affirming consequence behind a traumatic event is very difficult ordinarily, but tapping can facilitate such an awareness. When used in this way, it becomes a powerful tool for conscious transformation.
For a more comprehensive outline of how to use tapping to treat trauma and PTSD see:
I’ll have more to say in future on how Intention-based Energy Process (IEP) aka Intention Tapping can be used to rapidly and safely release past trauma. I’m very excited by the results so far. Stay tuned!