EFT offers trauma recovery victims control of the recovery process right at their fingertips. By incorporating the ideals of modern trauma therapy into Tapping, the comfort and healing of the patient is always at the forefront.
When I first started my stress relief and coaching business with EFT I didn’t focus on Trauma. My mission was to help people move ahead on their goals and careers by uncovering underlying stress and anxiety blocking them from success. However, it didn’t take long for me to learn that the majority of time the “reason” clients came to me had nothing to do with what was currently bothering them. More often than not, through EFT the client discovered a childhood adverse experience, or uncovered a trauma that was still driving unwanted behavior or beliefs.
I don’t know why this was such a surprise to me. The very reason I quit my career and became a coach with EFT is because of a personal trauma. I am just like my clients; however, I’ve just made it to the other side of the trauma. Wow, how far I have come that I didn’t see the same connection! Or maybe I was trying to create some distance with denial. Either way, my work has brought me back around to one of the gifts of EFT – lowering anxiety. Whether the anxiety stems from past adverse childhood events or traumas that still impact one’s life.
I also learned that people are extremely resistant to “go back and Tap on the trauma.” Oftentimes they would say, while holding back tears, “that was a long time ago and it really doesn’t bother me.” Or, “I went through counseling a long time ago and I am over it,” while at the very same time nearly crying while discussing how this adverse experience created their fear or anxiety around what they are currently going through. Clearly, there is more to this past traumatic experience that has yet to be fully addressed.
Beyond the Talking Cure
According to trauma specialists Bessel A. van der Kolk, M.D. and Peter Levine, PhD, the greatest tool in helping clients understand and heal from a traumatic event is the body. Like these preeminent researchers, I have seen over and over again that words alone didn’t help my clients heal from a known or unknown trauma. Sometimes these were large traumas like abortion, rape, and abandonment, and sometimes they were what we in EFT like to call “small T’s” (or sub-traumas) – these are experiences that maybe wouldn’t deeply affect everyone, or when the experiences occur you don’t realize the impact, but they create an indelible scar on your life and continue to adversely influence your life without you even knowing it.
If you’re interested in learning more about subconscious small T’s or need an example of them for understanding, check out my blog “The Small T.” Either way, my clients did not sign up for trauma work with me, and they really did not want to address it.
“Geez, I just came to you because I was stressed with the new promotion at work and you are telling me that it has to do with when I was 8 years old standing up to my dad when he was raging at my mother?”
Actually, I never told them that. That little bit of trauma came up through innocuous Tapping on the work promotion. Hence, this is how I quickly ran into people not wanting to “go back there” and face the trauma again. I soon learned that EFT was an ideal tool to lower anxiety around trauma while keeping people from becoming too flooded with their fearful memories.
Trauma Informed Care best practices extol that early client trauma work should focus on establishing a sense of safety to help the survivor build confidence in their ability to stay safe to discover, self-regulate, and promote healing, while preventing further harm from hyper- or hypo-arousal. This reduces the risk that reviewing the trauma will cause emotional flooding and re-traumatization during the process. from revisiting the source of the patient’s trauma.
For these reasons, using Emotional Freedom Technique is quickly becoming a “go to tool” for TIC (for more information about the benefits of using EFT for TIC read my blog on Tapping & Trauma Informed Care.) TIC, when supplemented with EFT, then becomes a patient driven therapy that can ease the recovery process and give survivors the tools they need to accept the past and move forward to a brighter future.
Below are the steps I use to ease the anxiety around EFT when working with trauma survivors. I added a couple more points to help caring professionals when utilizing Tapping with their clients/patients.
- Let the Client Lead. Assure your client that nothing is required, and the goal is healing, not to re-traumatize them.
- Guide Their Choice. Ask if they would be open to learn a little about the research on Trauma Relief. If yes, give a very short explanation about why it is necessary to address the past trauma to heal. Survivors don’t have to go back to the event, but learning how the emotion is trapped within their body is key to overcoming it. For more on this, see Bessel Vanderkolk’s “Beyond the Talking Cure” and Peter Levine in his book “Healing Trauma,” or click here for my explanation in my blog post: “Trauma Healing and the Body.”
Research also suggests that educating clients on the research behind trauma relief and the process helps with a client’s openness and acceptance. Additionally, offer a couple testimonials of people just like them who are survivors who have recovered from all of their trauma triggers by using a somatic experience.
If you don’t have your own testimonials from clients, you can use mine.
- Identifying the Obstacles. Describe the process that you personally recommend for Trauma work, including EFT as the first, least emotionally intrusive, option (read the SAMSA TIC Guidelines here.)Personally, my first step is to create a name for the trauma (a.k.a. “Trauma Name” (TN.) This is a word or super-short statement that identifies the trauma incidence: It can be something like “that day”, or contain slightly more details like “The attack“ or even a date “September 11”. If you’d like to learn more about creating Trauma Names, read my blog “Aiding Trauma Relief with Trauma Names.”
Depending on the client, we may not start with a TN because even that is too emotional. We may just tap and breathe until they are able to talk. Other times we begin with resistance to discussing the trauma. We tap on the fact that they don’t want to do this or talk about this because it’s too emotional. Conscious or unconscious resistance to the process is a huge stumbling block. Even if a client has verbally said (and they actually believe) that they are ready and willing to address their trauma, I still start with Trauma Recovery Resistance Tapping. Phrases like, “A part of me wants to get over this and a part of me is resistant.”
I also have had clients that were just angry to have the trauma still intruding on their lives. We had to work with the anger or rebelling first. For example, “Even though I don’t want to be here, I am angry that I still have this trauma running my life. I choose to give a voice to this feeling,” (and so on).
- The First Step. If they still choose not to move ahead right now, offer to give them a phone number of an advocate who is willing to share their trauma relief experience with EFT (maybe someone in your agency or former client who advocates publicly). Either way, awareness is the first courageous step and something to be acknowledged.
- Self-Empowerment. Give them the gift that keeps on giving: Teach them Simple EFT with STM to lower their anxiety anyway. My motto is “Some help is better than no help.” I have found that over time, with the confidence my clients have gained in the ability to self-regulate their emotions and lower every-day stress, many of them have become more open to revisit the trauma event. They become empowered with the knowledge that they can regulate ALL of their emotions and oftentimes come back ready to address the trauma.
*Photos used found on www.thetappingsolution.com and www.helpguide.org
If you would like to submit your voice to this page, please submit a short EFT testimonial with a heading you find suites you by emailing [email protected]
While Tapping for trauma, I seemed to keep the emotions at bay enough to speak; it was painful but not overwhelming. I felt like I could keep talking, which is the first time in my life that this occurred. I am so grateful for Tijana and EFT.
At one point in my trauma tapping I don’t think I talked for five minutes; I just tapped. I didn’t need to use words. My body had all the messages I needed. Once I was able to get through that first silence stretch I realized that at any point, I could just close my mouth and continue tapping. I had the power.
Anyway you slice it, trauma isn’t easy. I definitely didn’t want to go back there and address it. Using a Trauma Name greatly helped me to keep it together through the whole tapping processes by making it palatable to say “the incident” instead getting more detailed or graphic.
Slow is Fine
Why am I gaining weight?
Even though I went through counseling after a rape that occurred 32 years ago, I discovered through EFT that the incident was still plaguing me. My first response to this realization was, “Are you freaking kidding me?” I told Tijana that I refuse to talk about this again because I made a deal with myself when it occurred that if I went to counseling and discussed the event that I would never have to deal with it again. Tijana explained that it’s possible that we won’t have to dive into the event. She described to me what a Trauma Name was and we talked about coming up with a Trauma Name to get started. This way I was able to slowly “wade in to the experience” as she puts it. This was all I committed to do at first. Surprisingly, we were able to move in more quickly after I gave up the resistance AND we didn’t have to go back to all the horrific details because it was no longer about shame.
“I’m giving my pain a voice.” The tapping session served as a great distraction from my logic. Also it served as a means to uncover that even though I want to move ahead, trauma is still keeping frozen. Through Tapping, I realized that I didn’t want to give pain a voice. I didn’t feel comfortable or strong enough to carry the burden of fear and shame – the secret. Tapping calmed my body. I am not saying it was easy, but I am finally on the other side I now feel empowered to accept all of me.
Journal Tapping is My Voice
I can’t talk about it but I learned to be able to write about it. Tijana showed me how I could journal and Tap. Sometimes I write while Tapping on one meridian point on my body and other times I journal and then read it out loud while Tapping or read it to my counselor while Tapping.
It often surprises me when, where and how I get triggered. Thank God for Tapping, I can instantly calm myself down and take the edge off until I can get help.
“We are the sum total of our experiences.”B.J. Neblett
Pop quiz. Sadie was on the way home from vacation when a drunk driver hit her family’s car, killing her father. Is this a traumatic event? Yes. Bobby was invited to his first skating party at a roller rink. He fell on the ice, got the wind knocked out of him, and cried resulting in his entire third grade class laughing at him. Is this a trauma? Yes.
We tend to think of trauma as something extremely dreadful such as a rape, car accident, or natural disaster. A “large T,” as EFT practitioners would call it, is an occurrence that would make the average person think, “oh yes, it makes sense that a person would be traumatized because they went through this horrific event.” The person who was traumatized can also more easily accept their stress, anxiety, or unnatural behaviors later in life. It makes more sense; it’s easier to legitimize. Of course, they could be traumatized. Most people would be. It’s easy for the person to look at their current anxiety and accept a trail back to the trauma event.
Small T Still Counts
Remember the time you had a terribly embarrassing thing happen to you when you were a young child? Thinking about it now may still cause some of us to feel the embarrassment in our bodies. Our cheeks flush, we break out into a sweat, our throats become dry. An event that turns into small T impacts our behavior the rest of our lives.
Steve attended a “Goal and Clarity” seminar because he was in line for a promotion. The odd thing is he didn’t want it. Who wouldn’t want a promotion? Oh, he did want the increased salary; however, he dreaded the idea of being a manager. Through Tapping, he discovered that he didn’t want the promotion because he felt “exposed” when in front of groups of people.
So, our Tapping statement (labeling content and feeling) was
“When I think of the managerial promotion if feel anxious and I have a fear of being exposed.”
Its Not Logical
But small T’s have nothing to do with logic. Steve knew he would make a great manager, but something in his body said, “don’t do it.” Why? Once we started tapping, this story arose:
When Steve was six he fell off his bike and never got back on it. In high school he was an excellent trumpet player but was too anxious to compete in solo competitions. He refused to walk across the football field Senior Band Night with his parents. He refused to walk across the stage and get his high school or college diploma. As an adult, he never sought management positions in his company. Now his company was putting pressure on him to step up and take a new managerial position that they targeted him for. That’s when he attended one of my seminars on goal setting. Does it seem surprising he didn’t want to step in to that role? Now things make more sense. Steve doesn’t like standing out. But why?
3 Factors of a Small T
Let’s look at small traumas a little more closely….
1. A small T is more insidious. First, a small T survivor will not have a daily recollection of the event, as they would with a large trauma. Most likely, they haven’t consciously thought about it since it occurred when they were 6,7,8 years old.
2 A small T has nothing that the average adult person would think is that big of a deal. The small T survivor themselves may not even think of the event as all that important. However, once identified through Tapping many people who have had specific small T’s say, “I can’t believe that X is the reason I behave the way I do. I understand that when I was a six year old it was a big deal, but not as a 40-year-old! Are you kidding me?
3.Small T’s have something to do with how old you are when you experience the T and the respective developmental capabilities. The logic and reasoning skill of a four-year-old is a lot different than a 10-year-old which is a lot different than somebody who is 20 … In a way, the survivor’s brain hiccupped at that point in time, never getting over that trauma, and when it pushed the trauma to the subconscious, the brain never had the chance to go back and reevaluate- to fix what had happened and move on from it.
Steve’s Small T Story
So what happened to Steve to cause him to act the way he did when presented with positions where he may have to prove himself in front of others?
Steve was the youngest of four brothers, so of course he looked up to them.
One day Steve was riding his bike in front of his home when his brothers school bus pulled up. Steve lost his balance, fell off his bike and peed his pants when he hit the ground. Not only was he laughed at by everyone on the bus, but he also was chastised by his brothers for embarrassing them.
The Tapping “Ah”
His words after telling this story were; “I don’t think I said this out loud but after repeated times of being teased about the event I swore to myself that I was never going to be out front again with the possibility to be exposed. And I mean NEVER!” (This is called a vow)
As an adult you could say, “that was 27 years ago; it doesn’t matter anymore.” But that is a small T and the six-year-old needs to be heard. The telltale sign of a small T is the person discounting the legitimization of this trauma. Your brain says, “I know better” but the body says,“That really affected me.” 95% of behavior is driven by the subconscious, and the subconscious is telling you that the small trauma is affecting you just like a big trauma can.
So, if you hear yourself saying, “well I know it doesn’t make logical sense that___, but there’s a part of me who feels ___.” There’s probably a small T buried. If you don’t know what to do, simply start tapping 🙂
Talk Therapy is not enough to heal trauma.
You need numerous tools in the toolbox: EFT can help.
In his renowned book “The Body Keeps the Score” detailing his research findings, Bessel Van Der Kolk M.D. discusses how traumatic events shape people’s lives. Our brains react to ‘triggers’ that resemble past trauma, sending us into natural ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ instincts that cause stress, anxiety, and pop up so often that it is difficult to be productive and feel complete.
As Van Der Kolk argues, “neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going on inside ourselves.” Why do we break out into a sweat when certain events occur? Why does our heart beat double? Why do our mouths go dry? Our bodies are telling us something, and we need to listen if we want our bodies and our minds to be in harmony so that we can live productive lives.
Commonly, we push things from our conscious mind and because it isn’t at the forefront of our brains any longer, we think it doesn’t bother us. However, our subconscious causes our bodies to react to certain triggers from that memory, whether we know it or not. When we pinpoint that memory through EFT/tapping and face it head on, we can rewire our brains to cease from going into ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ mode when certain events occur that resemble our traumas.
The beauty of Tapping is the ability to ease into the more difficult memories. With other treatments, traumatized people may be asked to recall the event in detail, or even visit the place where the trauma happened. With Tapping, you are in control and can ease into the memories gradually while you tap on acupressure points that ease your body into a natural state of relaxation.
Tapping is a combination of talking about what is causing anxiety or stress in a patient’s life, while incorporating the body by tapping on meridian points that act as natural calming agents.
To try tapping for yourself, email Tijana at [email protected] for your free quickstart document!