Dear EFT Community,
Certified EFT practitioner Suzanne Lerner, PhD, gives us this moving account of how she helped a client with generalized anxiety disorder by uncovering and clearing the numerous traumas the client was carrying.
By Suzanne Lerner, PhD, Certified EFT Practitioner
Here’s a wonderful example of how EFT can be helpful, even with clinically diagnosed levels of anxiety. As you’ll see, getting to the core issues was crucial in this case.
Now, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, up to 6.8 million people suffer from “Generalized Anxiety Disorder” in a single year.
They describe how people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little or nothing to provoke it. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work. Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety.
GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about a variety of everyday problems for at least 6 months. People with GAD can’t seem to get rid of their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. They can’t relax, they startle easily, and have difficulty concentrating. Often they have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
While medication is often used to treat generalized anxiety disorder, my work with clients with EFT has shown that there can often be very specific “core events” that the person has repressed from everyday consciousness. When these underlying traumas are addressed, there can be a remarkable shift toward greater health and well-being.
Let me give a rather remarkable example. I worked with a woman who had anxiety about a variety of issues, including her child moving away to college, financial issues, and concerns about having to move. Most people would have some concern about these issues. However this woman’s anxiety was really interfering with her general life, to the point that she decided to consult with me.
She talked to me about feeling helpless. So, I asked her if there was an earlier time, that reminded her of this same kind of feeling of helplessness. Well, it turns out that this woman, when she was quite young, had to have surgery on her eyes. Unfortunately, the hospitals at that time had no idea of the importance of preparing a young patient for what would be occurring. So this poor young girl woke up, in total darkness, unable to see.
Frantically she tried to touch her eyes, only to discover that her hands were tied down and immobilized! She was understandably panicked, crying out, “I’m blind” “What’s going on!” “Mama!” Her mother was pleading with the nurses to untie her daughter’s hands, so that she could feel the bandages covering her eyes, and reassure herself that she was all right. However, it took several minutes to convince the staff that her daughter wouldn’t tear the bandages off, that she just needed to have her hands free, so she could orient to her situation.
Well, we had plenty to tap on! We did rounds on a variety of issues, starting with the fear.
Some of the Setup Phrases included:
Even though I’m terrified, and no one seems to be helping, I deeply and completely accept all my feelings.
Even though I’m so frightened–who wouldn’t feel scared?–I deeply and completely love all of me.
Even though I can’t see anything, and there’s just this blackness, I know my momma’s with me and she’s gonna help me.
We then did several series of tapping using the Reminder Phrases:
I’m terrified, all this blackness, help, help me,
I’m blind, I can’t see, where is everybody,
Momma’s gotta help me,
Momma’s gonna help me, what’s going on?
Once her level of intensity was close to 0 on a scale of 0 to 10 for fear, we addressed the other aspects that were strong for her, including helplessness, anger, the physical sensations of her hands being bound, as well as the horror of the overwhelming darkness and the possible blindness itself.
Finally, after her level of intensity had come down on all these aspects, we began integrating her past childhood fears with her current, adult understandings:
Even though a part of me was frightened that I was blind, I choose to remember now that it was just like having a bad dream; my eyes are fine and I can see.
Even though that happened, and I feel really sorry for that young innocent me, I now know I survived, and I can comfort the frightened part inside of me.
Even though a part of me wishes I’d never gone to that stupid hospital, I choose to know that I’m okay, I survived and, thank heaven, I really can see the surgery actually helped me. I’m so glad it’s all over now, and that I am safe, healthy, and whole.
In our next sessions we worked on reducing some of her current anxieties. She learned how to use EFT on her own to calm herself. She discovered how to recognize and address her “limiting beliefs.” These are the beliefs that were stopping her from taking the practical steps she needed to take, such as investigating new areas where she might enjoy living. We then worked on issues around “losing her daughter,” since her daughter was moving out to attend college.
I’m sure some seasoned EFT practitioners can relate to what then occurred.
I intuitively seemed to say “just the right words” that helped my client reconnect with an old repressed memory, and the emotions were suddenly there, available for healing. I was explaining to this woman how, over time, as she reduced her anxiety, she would be better able to tune in to her intuition. For some reason, I gave the example of: “You know how you may be walking from work, and for some reason, instead of turning down the usual street, something tells you to go down another street instead?” Well, my client’s breath caught, her voice shifted, and she said almost dreamy-like: “That’s exactly how it happened.”
I could tell that something quite significant was happening, so I just said gently, “That’s right, tell me more.”
Well, I’m afraid she had an extremely sad tale to tell. It turns out, that when she was a schoolgirl, she was walking home with a neighborhood girl. There was a kind of “creepy” man, who seemed to be following them, but she couldn’t tell for sure. She would check back every so often, and finally, it seemed he had disappeared. But she still warned her friend to be very careful. Unfortunately, her “inner radar” had been accurate, and she found out the next day that her little friend had been murdered. (If the intensity of this event touches you, you may want to pause and tap on your Collarbone point or other favorite EFT point, taking a nice deep breath for a moment…and letting it go. Whew!)
I was quite moved.
How long had this woman been carrying all these intense feelings, with no one to help her sort them through! All this pain and guilt and grief and confusion. Now, it was time to heal….No wonder her nervous system was a bit more overwrought than most! She hadn’t even consciously remembered this event until now, but her nervous system certainly had.
We worked on many layers of issues, including wishing she had never left her friend, fear that it could have happened to her, guilt that she hadn’t stopped it, and grief that she hadn’t had anyone to talk to about this tragedy. What a heavy burden to be carrying!
She experienced quite an emotional release, as she stated:
Even though SHE doesn’t blame me–he was the one who was bad, not me!–I choose to deeply and completely love and accept and forgive myself. It wasn’t my fault.
She cried and then expressed some surprise and wonder, as she was finally able to gain a more accurate perspective, a kind of cognitive shift, after all these years. She really was not to blame!
It was very moving for both of us. By the end of our session, she was able to look back at this event and understand that it was immensely sad that her friend had to die, but that it was way in the past, and she could now put it to rest.
Even though its really sad that she died, that was the past, it’s over, I’m okay, and I can move on.
This woman’s “generalized anxiety” is now very much relieved. She is learning to deal skillfully with current worries on her own through a combination of tapping on fears in her current life, as well as continuing to tap away the limiting beliefs that previously stopped her from taking constructive actions. She is much more at peace, and so grateful to have lifted these traumas from her life. No medication was needed.
It always amazes me how much human beings can still function, having been through such extreme circumstances. Yet, on the other hand, how much more they can blossom in their lives, when these various traumas have been cleared.
PS: For the interest of the readers, it’s useful to note that all of this EFT work occurred by telephone. I think this is a great example of how EFT telephone work can be immensely effective, and available to people around the world, even for intense traumas. Of course, in such cases, it’s quite important to work with a therapist who is a skilled and experienced EFT practitioner.