Two outstanding books that address trauma parallel one another:
Touch by Michael Changaris (Life Rhythm, 2015) and Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine (North Atlantic Books, 1997). They both assume that the body is the key to understanding psychic pain as well as the pathway to its healing.
For Changaris there is a direct neurobiological link with touch and that explains everything from developmental delays to techniques of healing. Therapeutic interventions most often utilized include touch of various kinds in different settings. For Levine trauma is body-based and healing comes through an awareness of sensations related to the trauma.
However important cognitive therapies are our emotional selves live in and express themselves through our bodies. Our interaction with body – listening to it as well as physically touching it – gets to the root of emotional suffering much more quickly without re-traumatizing the person.
EFT utilizes exposure therapy and cognitive restructuring. But it does so while simultaneously tapping on the energy centers of the body, activating the body’s innate power to clear trauma and replace it with the unimpeded flow of energy.
Ritualized Handwashing often becomes compulsive as it functions as a magical personal spell against perceived contagions. A sense of control is provided by a behavior that functions as a sedative for anxiety. Since different aspects of the perceiving mind are at odds with one another – one aspect repeating the compulsion and another at the same time knowing that it is fictitious and magical, EFT tapping on those opposiites reveals and exposes the polarities. Clearing and identifying the anxiety, ritual and sensation in the body often results in freedom from the self-enforced captivity.
Imagine the strange, entangled world of Quantum physics at work:
Just this week a group of people sat with me in a tapping circle. Each person secretly wrote a concern on a piece of paper and then sat on it. As we worked with one person’s publicly shared concern, everyone tapping along, each person took stock of the intensity they were experiencing with their own concern. After we tapped down the intensity of the willing participant we asked for intensity levels of the others in the circle, those who had not publicly shared their concerns. Bingo! The levels all dropped, some to zero. Why? How?
You could chalk it up to some group hypnosis, maybe a trance state induced in the same way as a drum circle does – except our bodies are the drums. Maybe so. Or perhaps it is the power of suggestion and the most suggestible received the most indirect benefit. Maybe so again.
Or the answer is more directly and invisibly related to shared energy. Why else do people gather together in prayer and meditation and yoga groups? You could and can do it alone. It is because of the shared energy. There is a qualitative difference between a solitary and communal experience. And in our circle of concern, sharing and practicing synchronized tapping on energy meridians, our energy systems entangled, and the benefits and shifts in one person’s consciousness was shared by others.
All of us have contradictory thoughts that coexist within our minds and cognitive structures. We often hold two opposite ideas simultaneously and that internal conflict leaves us confused and anxious.
For example, a person may at the same time long for approval from others and also know that ultimate approval comes from a sense of inner belonging, what some would call a sense of being loved by God. By tapping on these opposites we not only expose the contradicting cognitive structures but more importantly the emotions attached to them.
Once the opposites are exposed and the tapping activates our energy to sedate the limbic system, we feel much calmer, more accepting of our internal contradictions. We develop a clarity about them and then, at the best, move back toward the origins of the convictions. These are most usually tied to narratives from our past experience that we have internalized; the stories have defined us. Clearing a story of its emotional charge allows us to view our own stories in a more objective way, as an observer who recognizes having chapters in a biography. This work reduces the sense of conflict realized in opposites that used to upset and unsettle us.
Since the root of much of our captivity has to do with trapped emotions and restricted energy flow our primary goal is always to identify and name those aspects as we tap. That combination of repetitively exposing the emotions while engaging in the rhythmic act of tapping is what releases the confined emotions.
Many times the best way to release the emotions is to verbally exaggerate them. Exaggeration is good. Not only does the excess get to root but the overreach of exaggeration sometimes reveals the opposite, the silliness, even absurdity of certain thoughts connected to emotions.
In ancient cultures that made a practice of casting out spirits they frequently named the complex that possessed a person while chanting, drumming or using repetitive motions. This often induced a trance state in which the energy overcame the energy reversal. In the modern era many of the same combinations remain highly effective: naming, repetition, rhythmic tapping and, yes, exaggeration.
Though many headaches derive from mechanical difficulties, i.e., pinched nerves from a slipped disc, they also source from anxiety, worry, sustained stress, chemical imbalances and repressed emotions from past trauma. There is tremendous fear that headaches will never remit and that all efforts to reduce them will fail. This is especially difficult for those with long-term debilitating headache activity. There is pain and then there is suffering about the pain.
EFT addresses many aspects simultaneously. Physical relaxation is often the result of tapping which immediately impacts tension oriented headaches. The rhythmic tapping stimulates energy flow and often precipitates a kind of meditative state. Naming the specific pain while tapping defuses the emotional power of pain and the fear that it will prevail.
The beginning point is always the most direct and simplest, tapping on the pain itself – the location, the perceived size, density, color, temperature. Generally the pain changes location and as we “chase” it around the body it begins to dissipate. Connecting the pain with an emotion is often the key to clearing it.
Just recently I tapped with an eighty year old woman who was having persistent headaches due to nerve damage in C3. Those who tried to help her prescribed muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety meds, The result did not diminish her pain but only made her groggy. After only three rounds of EFT she said, “It’s gone. How did that work? Will it come back?” After we worked on developing her own self-tapping regimen for later she proceeded with cheerfulness and a renewed serenity. And she began to incrementally reduce her medication dosage.
Anxiety attacks have several causes but often have at their root a fear of overwhelming feelings. This is the terror that the feelings will destroy us, that we will not be able to handle them if we allow them to surface. Paradoxically, the more we attempt to lock them down and out the more power they have and the more intense our panic becomes. We run from these feelings like we would a tiger pursuing us in the forest. When we tap on the fact that we are panicked and then move to the feelings that gave rise to the panic in the first place, they are cleared, emptied of their charge, their oversized sense of threat.
So called “free floating” anxiety often is not as amorphous as it seems; it is often based in very concrete fears. These fears are often masked by other secondary emotions and rationalizations. Anger is often a go to emotion that is a stand in for fear. And ideas cluster that steel one against fear. If my fear is that I am never quite good enough then I may write a canon of laws that keeps me from facing it. For example, I may decide that if I procrastinate forever then I will never have to face what I fear most.
Usually the present fear is linked to a coordinate in past experience, a charged memory that keeps the fear alive. By exposing and tapping on that specific event and remembered experience the charge is cleared and the present fear is addressed in addition. And then what seemed to be general anxiety dissipates as well.
Many times people struggle with pervasive, reoccurring, persistent, obsessive thoughts, ideas or images in their minds. EFT can be very helpful in clearing these.
On the one hand our minds are the containers through which thousands, millions of random neural fragments are firing then passing. These impressions, fragments and traces are much less important than we often believe them to be.
As a general tapping regimen used to clear these – or more specifically our preoccupation with them – we may tap repeating, “A thousand thoughts … passing through … a thousand feelings … passing through … a thousand images passing through …”
And then we tap on specific words, voices, fears, ideas and phrases that repeat and reappear. Remember – EFT is an exposure method so we always surface and name the troubling preoccupation.
If our reoccurring belief is “You will never be good enough” then that is exactly what we articulate as we tap:
“Never good enough … passing on through….”(repeat)
Close by reinforcing the general state of mind clearing: “A thousand thoughts … passing on through…”
Just working with some folks with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. One of the fascinating ways that EFT works with OCD is the way it exposes habitual ideas that are at odds with one another. As the opposites are exposed at the same time energy and paradox combine to quiet and clear them. In many cases the first wave of exposure brings the chaos to the fore. In successive sessions they slowly clear one at a time.