People who use tapping regularly are often pleasantly surprised by a growing sense of equanimity and peace. Petty annoyances disappear, strong negative reactions dissipate, and flashes of anger or fear over crossed boundaries diminish. Gary Craig’s name for tapping, Emotional Freedom Techniques, says it all. Daily practice that goes deep to core issues really does free us from debilitating negative emotions. Sometimes, however, the process of freeing ourselves from such emotions takes time, patience, great detective work, and intuitive leaps to uncover the core issues associated with these emotions.
When we have been traumatized as children or during a particularly vulnerable time in our adult lives, it is sometimes difficult to avoid the complex emotional reaction we call hate. Over the course of my life, I have had many personal experiences with this emotion. One of my most memorable occurred when I discovered an older boy tormenting a kitten. Although he was older and bigger than I was, I bloodied his nose and made him cry and run home to his mother. Had that been the end of it, I might never have been inspired to reflect on my capacity for hate. The story continued when the boy’s mother complained about me. As she stood on our doorstep expressing her disgust with my behaviour, I felt shame. I also felt a small degree of satisfaction when I heard my grandmother say that while she didn’t condone what I did, she thought the woman’s time might also be spent teaching her son to be kind to helpless creatures.
Any self righteousness I felt disappeared when my grandmother called me to the rocking chair in our living room for one of our meditative chats. After she took me onto her lap and kissed my sore knuckles, she told me she was glad I rescued the kitten but hoped I would learn to do so without doing violence in turn. I defended myself. Surely a great big bully deserved a bloody nose and a few scratches. Maybe, she said, but it probably wasn’t the most effective way to teach him to be kind. In her opinion it was unlikely he’d learned anything from the incident except perhaps to hate me for humiliating him as much as I hated him for hurting the kitten.
I wasn’t convinced by her argument, but I did think about this experience from time to time, especially when I felt other flashes of hate as I matured. Whenever I heard of children and animals being abused, that reckless, avenging eight-year-old girl appeared, fists clenched, ready to inflict as much pain on the perpetrator as had been inflicted on his or her victim. As witness to injustice, I couldn’t help but get involved. Eventually becoming a more mature, self controlled person, I didn’t bloody anyone’s nose, but I sometimes bloodied those I perceived to be bullies with words, something I knew my grandmother would find only a small improvement on the brute force she counseled against when I was eight.
It wasn’t until I began my EFT/Tapping journey that I discovered a tool to address my hate reactions to injustice, reactions most often disproportionate to the situations I witnessed or heard about. In my first reading of the EFT Manual I learned about the Personal Peace Procedure. As I understood it at the time, the process was simple; you made your list of charged memories and applied EFT much as you would a poultice to neutralize inflammation. I soon discovered that Craig’s Personal Peace Procedure offered me a much deeper experience of personal emotional healing, albeit one that prompted an artful rather than mechanical approach to stubborn issues.
As I undertook my EFT journey into my past, my most resistant group of charged incidents not surprisingly involved hate. Try as I might, I couldn’t see a common denominator beyond that self righteous urge to be someone’s avenging angel. And then, one day, I asked for what seemed the hundredth time the question so fundamental to my personal and professional EFT effectiveness: When did I (or my client) first feel like this? Previously, when I asked this question of myself I felt my way into a memory about injustice; up to that point, my eight-year-old was the earliest memory I had discovered. On this occasion, however, as soon as I asked the question an image flashed into my imagination: I was a toddler of two, and I was caged.
I recognized the image of an actual experience I knew about but only intellectually. I immediately began to tap, “I’m curious about what this early experience has to do with my capacity for hate.” Through days of tapping, pages of journal writing, and hours of reflection in which my early self felt entirely known and loved, I came to experience emotionally the knowledge my body had carried for several decades: my capacity for hate rooted when I was a very young child quarantined in a Tuberculosis Sanitarium. As soon as I began exploring this possibility in my journal, my perspective shifted and my heart softened.
My mother was diagnosed with TB after my left lung collapsed during a routine tonsillectomy a couple of weeks after my second birthday. After I was resuscitated and the cause of my lung collapse linked to exposure to my mother’s TB, we were taken immediately by ambulance to our regional TB Sanitarium. There, despite her doctors’ assurances that we would room together, I was taken to the children’s wing, she to the adult. For the first few days, I was too sick to protest, but as I grew stronger, I began to howl for my mother.
In those days I was a legendary climber and it didn’t take me long to escape from my crib to search for my mother, my sister, my father, our dog . . . someone or something familiar. Because I was permitted no visitors and because I was too young to understand what was happening to me, I was at the mercy of my feelings. These feelings of loss and grief and fear prompted me to search for a way back home. In an effort to keep me safe and to enforce the strict bed-rest rule for people with tuberculosis (or, in my case, exposure to it), the administration had my crib fitted with a fifth side, a lid of sorts, that locked me in.
Slowly I felt my way into that early scene, tapping as I wondered what it must have felt like to experience life in this cage. I clearly visualized my young self as a prisoner in that crib, one that my mother had described over the years of our conversations about our quarantine time. I knew the information, the facts of the situation, but I’d never felt the deeper emotional legacy left by my quarantine. In a series of revelatory physical sensations – long blocked from my awareness by my need for safety from them – I came to know without doubt that I had hated, too. I hated my imprisonment, I hated my jailors, I hated this unfamiliar sterile setting, I hated my family for abandoning me, and, most surprisingly, I hated my own vulnerability.
Since that amazingly rich discovery, I have done many tapping sessions focusing on my early trauma, and especially on the physical sensations that fueled my outsized capacity for hate. It may seem strange to hate oneself for being vulnerable at two, but without cognitive development, we have only our feelings and our instincts. Hating being caged, hating being separated, and hating feeling abandoned by those I trusted were predictable reactions to my seven-month quarantine. A toddler cannot understand such events, but she can feel the violent emotions these events trigger. . . , and, she can hate herself for feeling them.
Tapping is a remarkably safe way to approach a wound that leaves us with a reservoir of hate, especially in the company of someone trained in the art of safely unpacking the legacy of trauma. In my experience, describing this unpacking process in my journal has become an essential companion to tapping because a written record enables me to review the emotional and cognitive shifts I experience over time. EFT/tapping may be most famous for all the one-minute wonders people talk about, but my personal experience with this energy psychology tool has convinced me of its amazing capacity to heal the fight, flight, and freeze response that trauma embeds in our bodies; in doing so, it deepens our compassion for self and others. As my experience illustrates, tapping daily and artfully can help us to gain access to the hidden contents of our subconscious, even the most traumatic of these, in order to acknowledge, honour, and release them. Because of its ability to calm our most reactive emotional responses, even pre-verbal ones such as mine, tapping is one of our most effective tools for neutralizing hate and deepening our emotional peace, with ourselves and with the world.
Until next week