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.
Please see the August 3, 2014 blog post for the introduction to this three-part exploration of tapping to transform PTSD symptoms.
In transforming my personal PTSD symptoms and in my work with clients, I consider our ability to reframe or shift our perspective on events to be our most valuable tool. In every case, by learning to view our PTSD symptoms as messengers warning of potential danger we are able to create the necessary space to be with the evidence of our trauma, not as a threat, but as an ally that is looking out for us. Once we understand and experience our explosive feelings as guides and teachers, we can then shift our relationship with them.
Unfortunately, developing the process of deep understanding is especially challenging in our culture. We in the west live in a quick-fix, polarized world where demonizing others and events is commonplace. Here in the US we see examples of this simplistic and reductionist view of life highlighted daily in the political arena and in the media. Politicians and media workers (true journalists are exempt from this criticism because they work at presenting all points of view along with the deep background of an event or situation) are quick to blame and to judge. Cries of ‘abortion is evil’, ‘a specific race is taking all our jobs’, ‘climate change is a plot against American supremacy’, and other extremist points of view are doing their best to shout down the more reasonable approach to different points of view such as negotiations, town-hall meetings, visioning circles, and simple conversations to build good will. In our inflammatory political/news climate of extreme, often disrespectful opinions, it is challenging to develop personal critical thinking and relationship skills in relation to public events and also to our personal past, but we can do it. Rather than endorsing a “take-aim-and-fire” attitude to people with whom we disagree and indeed, to our own traumas, effective tapping helps us to move into acceptance and curiosity about ourselves and others, thus ending our private and public wars, wars that often lead to self mediation with street drugs, prescription drugs, and alcohol.
Please notice the word “effective” in the above sentence. Tapping is not a one-size-fits-all technique, but an artful presence to what is that makes wisdom and wholeness possible. Mechanically tapping on various points by uttering stock phrases cannot provide much help. What does help is compassionately being with the part of us that is still suffering the trauma as if it were happening in the present. Let me use my own experiences with PTSD as an example.
For as long as I can remember, I have suffered from both a doctor/dentist phobia. Even as a mature woman in my fifties and sixties, knowing I had a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment put me into a highly reactive emotional state. On my way to these appointments – ordinary checkups with a familiar, competent doctor or dentist – my heart pounded, my mouth became dry, and my thoughts, usually well ordered, were chaotic and fearful; just before each check up I was almost paralyzed with fear. I suffered this reaction to ordinary everyday medical appointments until 2006 when I discovered tapping and finally connected my present day doctor and dentist appointments with my early hospital quarantine (see August 3, 2014 blog).
Years before learning EFT I’d engaged therapists and embraced the therapeutic process to address my conscious feelings about what had happened to me as a toddler. My first, most significant therapist, saw through my smile and calm demeanor as I told her about my traumatic history and sent me to the library to research John Bowlby’s attachment and loss studies. Before I researched Bowlby I lived outside my trauma, looking on my two-year-old self from the vantage point of a detached, almost indifferent adult. I had no emotions when I talked about “her” experiences and what “she” might have suffered. Detachment and absent feeling when discussing personal trauma are a sign of dissociative behaviours, and I soon learned that my habit of dissociation had protected me from the brunt of my trauma for the first three decades of my life. These behaviours diminished and eventually disappeared as I became empowered to consciously explore my trauma with my therapist.
As I read studies of children abandoned during the Blitz in England compiled by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, the adult part of me that had been closed off from my early suffering opened. I cried for the abandoned children I read about, easily imagining all their terrors as they waited in vain for the comforting presence of familiar people – parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, and neighbours – to take them home to comfortingly well known surroundings. This deep emotional response to other children’s abandonment and suffering was the beginning of my healing. Eventually, after a lot of therapeutic work, I broke through to my own small traumatized self, feeling at least some of my personal pain, rage, and shame, this last emotion a surprising discovery, one I will deal with more fully in next week’s concluding post on PTSD.
I continued to gain perspective on my early trauma, feeling more whole each time I read something that helped me to understand the early effects of my experience and therefore better understand myself and my way of being in the world. What I didn’t understand until my first tapping experiences in 2006 was how much pain and emotional distress my body began to hold during the seven months of my quarantine and the challenging childhood years afterward. Constant free floating anxiety, an out-sized startle response to sudden events and sounds, and interrupted sleep patterns were the physical language of my trauma, a language I could not speak until I learned to tap.
As soon as I had my first EFT experience, I knew with certainty I had a new tool, one that empowered me to explore my strange reactions to ordinary events such as doctor or dentist appointments. My mature, well informed mind knew these appointments were of little consequence because I was in good health and had no significant medical issues. And yet, on those days of ordinary medical checkups, my equally well informed body told a very different story, speaking in the language developed during my quarantine, the language of physical sensations when medical personnel – doctors, nurses, orderlies, and aides – had been associated with ending my world of trust, security, comfort, and happiness. At two, my mind hadn’t developed sufficiently to interpret events and sensations and so it was left to my body to carry these physically rioting experiences until something made it possible to acknowledge and release them in a consciously directed, safe, and loving way. I cannot provide a script for readers that addresses PTSD generally because each of our traumas requires exquisitely nuanced responses to the sense memories our bodies are holding for us; what I can do is introduce the general pattern I followed when I began to transform my personal PTSD experiences, including those triggered by visits to the doctor and dentist.
After reading Gary Craig’s manual following my first professional experience with EFT, I began the Personal Peace Procedure, listing chronologically those events I determined needed EFT attention. It didn’t take me long to arrive at my hospital trauma. Using my intellectual and emotional knowledge of attachment trauma, stories my mother told me about what she knew of our quarantine experiences, and my memories and intuitive leaps, I began to tap on each tiny part of my quarantine experience – the before, during, and after of it – using my emotions and physical sensations as my guides.
Since my early therapy days, I have used a journal to chart my journey into wholeness and soon found writing about the insights I received during my Personal Peace Procedure sessions helped me to see how my early morning tapping sessions shifted and lightened my long-held, unconscious physical and emotional burdens. Some of the specifics of this journey involved acknowledging and grieving for my intimate losses – our loving family dog who used to let me flop on him, my beloved ‘Snuffy’ blanket I carried – like Linus – everywhere, our neighbour’s chicken coop and the chickens who were my special playmates, our back garden and woods, the perfume of my mother’s baking, my sister’s happy, playful presence, my very own personal record player, and my father’s workshop where the smell of wood became indelibly linked to the joys and the messes of creation. After grieving the losses of my before-quarantine life, I was able to let myself feel and imagine what it was like for me, a two-year-old, to be locked away from my mother, my father, my sister, my grandparents, my aunts, my uncles – all of whom adored me simply because I belonged to them – and have them replaced by a daily changing medical staff, many of whom were rushed in their duties, fearful of and disgusted by Tuberculosis, and annoyed by a blustering, blubbering toddler.
EFT/tapping has become my most effective tool to date in addressing my early trauma and PTSD legacy. Now as I compare my experiences to the criteria used to describe the conditions of trauma (events that are Unexpected and Threatening, and in which participants feel Alone and Powerless), I know first-hand that EFT has transformed my personal traumatic experiences. These days, when I book a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment, the unexpected, threatening rush of sense memories that used to manifest as anxiety, dread, and even fear of death, no longer plague me because I have honoured them with attention and compassion and released them during my tapping sessions. Nor do I relate to feeling alone and powerless because with EFT I trust my ability to change any disproportionate emotional response to any situation that arises.
In my personal experience, feeling alone in my trauma often gave rise to feelings of general isolation that sometimes prevented me from connecting with others in the present. Those feelings of isolation are gone, all free-floating anxiety is gone, the threat of imminent death is gone, and in their place I find a completely trustworthy, compassionate, powerfully aware consciousness fully engaged in the present moment. I credit therapy generally and EFT in particular for my amazing PTSD transformation and invite everyone suffering from the terrors of trauma to experience the same joyous transformation and growth in self trust by beginning a personal journey toward wholeness with a certified EFT Practitioner.
Next week I will write about the surprising role of shame in our traumas in my conclusion to this three-part exploration.
Jane Buchan, MA, AAMET Adv. EFT Practitioner, email@example.com, 802-533-9277