Disclaimer: PTSD is not something anyone without training should face alone. This blog contains descriptions that may trigger anxiety or fear, especially in PTSD sufferers. If you suffer from PTSD and have learned tapping from your EFT Practitioner, counselor, or therapist, please tap while you are reading the following post; if you are unfamiliar with tapping, please postpone reading this blog until you have engaged a counselor, EFT Practitioner, or certified/licensed therapist who uses this technique. Winter Blooms is an educational website only and is in no way meant to replace a trained EFT practitioner, counselor, or therapist. To find an EFT Practitioner near you, visit the AAMET website, the EFT Universe website, the Tapping Solution website, or contact Jane at 802-533-9277 or firstname.lastname@example.org for support in transforming your PTSD experiences.
Many of us, despite feeling happy and in control most of the time, may be unexpectedly blindsided by past events that flood us with fear, terror, rage, and/or despair. The sun may be shining, the people we love may be safe and happy, and our work may require no more of us than our current skill sets support, and yet a sound, a scent, a scene, a taste, or a touch has the power to catapult us into a dark, isolating world even our closest companions cannot understand. When the past becomes the present research proves that tapping can help us to resolve what has come to be called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) more quickly than other coaching methods or indeed psychological therapies.
PTSD is a fairly recent term, one that is being brought into public awareness by many aspects of our violent culture, including our veterans’ rates of suicide and the excessive media coverage of violent single or mass killings and acts of war. Family members, first responders, and people on the periphery of these events have implanted in their energy fields an energetic version of the traumatic experience, one that returns whenever they are triggered by sense memories indelibly experienced on the day of the trauma or on the day they received news of the trauma. Although more people today may be aware of PTSD, it has been with us far longer than the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder label first used in the nineteen eighties. Veterans of WWI were said to suffer from shell shock; before that the distress soldiers suffered after active duty was sometimes called soldiers’ heart, irritable heart, and battle fatigue. Veterans and other survivors of trauma are known to self medicate with alcohol, street drugs, prescription drugs, and other addictions to keep the sense memories of explosions, grisly deaths, and sustained terror at bay. This course of action is understandable but ultimately more harmful to the PTSD sufferer than the original trauma.
Veterans and victims of sudden, intentional, and random violence are not the only people who develop PTSD. Women and children in abusive situations also develop the sense memories, flashbacks, and dissociative behaviours that are the signs of PTSD, the wars holding them hostage often covert and minimized or dismissed outright, a response that causes further trauma. Young children in schools can also suffer from PTSD when their learning situations are governed by unclear expectations, corporal punishment, and verbal abuse by those in charge; children are at further risk from bullying, usually by fellow students, often also traumatized, who disguise their own feelings of vulnerability by preying on those they perceive as more vulnerable than they themselves feel. Children and adults unsure of sexual orientation and exposed to the hate crimes of homophobia also suffer from PTSD, as do children who experience sudden, random acts of violence or sexual predation in what should be comforting, safe settings. Finally, children and adults undergoing medical procedures also develop PTSD, often because of fear of the unknown, isolation from family and friends, and the common medical practice of excluding patients from decision making when developing a treatment plan.
There are, in the tapping/EFT world, a specific set of criteria used to identify PTSD or lasting trauma responses in relation to an event. These events are Unexpected and Threatening, and the person experiencing the trauma feels (and often is) Alone and Powerless (UTAP). Whenever we are reactive to specific situations in the present – crowd or event phobias, hospital anxiety triggered by scents, sounds, and visuals, food revulsion triggered by temperatures and textures, and/or heightened emotional reactions to loud or specific sounds that others find ordinary and even entertaining – we are in the presence of PTSD.
One of the reasons I began to learn about EFT/tapping was because of an early medical trauma I shared with my mother when I was a toddler. Quarantined in the Windsor-Western Tuberculosis Sanitarium when I was two and she was thirty, we shared the traumatic experience of losing one another for two years while being exposed to the medical treatments for TB of the day – strict bed rest, constant chest X-rays, blood work, and, worst of all, isolation from family and friends. We also suffered the stigma of TB sufferers mythologized as over-sexed and dissolute by the Romantic Poets and such stories as the one told in the opera, La Boheme. During the early years of the twentieth century, the government of Canada made short films to stress the importance of cleanliness and godliness in avoiding TB. In one film “bad girls” who drank alcohol and dated more than one person developed TB, while “good girls” went to church, did as their parents wished, married the man parents expected them to (usually the only boy or man they ever dated) and remained healthy. My mother, in spite of being a “good girl” by these standards, developed TB and exposed her younger daughter to it as well. Not only did she have to recover from the disease; she had to recover from the shame of having it.
During the seven months of my quarantine I was confined to a five-sided crib that resembled a cage, awakened at night for invasive procedures, sometimes force fed, and always kept behind a glass partition (such as we see in maternity wards today) when relatives came to visit. These conditions may sound harsh, but they were the state-of-the-art procedures of the day. The goal was eradication of the disease (compare our current extreme measures to execute “The War on Drugs” with our outsized prison “industry”); no procedure was considered too harsh in the war against TB. Something we often forget as we contemplate current medical advancements is that all professions evolve in the same way that individuals do. One hundred or so years ago women who complained of being regularly raped by their fathers, brothers, or husbands were locked up in mad houses for “hysteria.” Today, when we believe children and adults (and, sadly, often we don’t) about sexual violence or interference, we have a far more tender and compassionate attitude to their distress.
I grew up learning about my quarantine story as well as my mother’s, but it was not until my teens and twenties that I began to feel the aftereffects of the traumatic experiences I was too young to process cognitively. A vitally important yet little understood fact about recurring traumatic flashbacks and sensations is that much of the time PTSD sufferers are fine; whole chunks of our lives are fulfilling and delightful. We succeed in our studies (unless our traumas happened in learning environments), we love our mates and our children, we relish our friendships. And yet, some part of us – a wild, reactive, unconscious or dissociated part – anticipates the situation that will activate all the fear and dread and rage we experienced but couldn’t express, process, or even name when the original event(s) happened. This wild part of us remains hyper vigilant against possible explosions of feeling regarding a recurrence of the situation that was unexpected and threatening, and in which we were alone and powerless.
How to use EFT/tapping to tame our wildest fears and feelings and expand our capacity for trust is the subject of the next couple of blogs.
Until next week,
Jane Buchan, MA, AAMET Adv. Practitioner, email@example.com, 802-533-9277