By L. Kenny
A dear friend of mine is a brilliant psychologist, a best-selling author, and wonderful lecturer. “Dr. Dave” has the appearance of being a really together man. He’s successful, well known and respected, has a beautiful wife, two bright daughters, and is himself a creative, caring, and sensitive man.
Deep inside, however, “Dr. Dave” has been heartbroken for many years over the death of his brother, “Dean”, who was buried alive in an avalanche. Even though I’ve been close friends with Dr. Dave for almost 20 years I’ve never known exactly what happened because Dr. Dave couldn’t even say his brother’s name without tremendous emotional pain.
He would break out sobbing at the mere mention of the incident or his brother’s name, or the words "avalanche" or " or cross-country skiing" or the name of the mountains where it happened. Furthermore he didn’t like being around snow, and couldn’t talk about his brother, even in the abstract, without crying.
It was clearly a painful memory for him, but his pain seemed a bit extreme for the amount of years that had past since the event.
When our families were vacationing together I had the opportunity to see him privately several times and have a couple of EFT tapping sessions with him.
Because this was such a painful subject for Dr. Dave, I wanted to use the Tearless Trauma Technique, but I found out quickly that there would be no “sneaking up” on this issue.
Dr. Dave started crying before we even started our first tapping session. No matter how I approached the subject, even as vague as saying “this incident” he broke into a pain-racking, body shaking sobbing. I decided to tap on him, including the Setup Statement, which he was unable to say himself.
“Even though this incident is so painful for me, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”
“Even though I can’t even think about it without being sad, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
“Even though I’m still brokenhearted, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
I used the Reminder Phrase: “this incident.”
My heart was breaking for him and I wanted the tapping to work fast to ease his pain. After one round, the sobbing did stop. However, as soon as we would start another Setup Statement, no matter how innocuous, he would start crying again. I started thinking that even if we had said, “Even though I like peanut butter, I deeply and completely accept myself” he would still have cried.
So we tapped, and tapped, and he cried and cried. With each round, he was getting relief and seemed to be getting better. But he still couldn’t say his brother’s name or any of the trigger words. Nor could he imagine a painless 2-minute “movie” about the accident without getting extremely upset.
Then out of the blue he mentioned that what was even more painful (I didn’t think that was possible) was that his mother had committed suicide when Dr. Dave was 22. Without going into details of that incident, I’ll just say that because of that traumatic death, he had vowed that someday he’d be more of a sensitive, aware father and loving husband than his father had been.
I think he then took on the role of protector of the family and became ultra sensitive. Anyway, we left the issue of his brother for a moment and seemed to move through his mother’s suicide story by tapping on it.
“Hmmm,” I thought, “What’s going on here?” He said his mother’s death was more painful, yet he is able to talk about it, but he was still struggling with his brother’s death. So, as I often do when things seem to stall, I asked him if he really wanted to get over the pain of his brother’s death and he replied weakly, “Of course.” I felt that subconsciously, he was holding onto the pain as sort of a penance because he felt responsible in some way for his brother’s accident.
I explained that this had become a “secondary benefit” to him, which, as a psychologist, he got right away. However, he didn’t really think that was true for him.
Nonetheless, I had him tap the Karate Chop point:
“Even though I don’t want to let go of this sadness over Dean, I deeply and completely love and accept myself anyway.”
After saying that three times, for about 10 seconds, we started the regular sequence again.
This time we used the Setup Statement:
“Even though I’m still holding on to this grief and sadness over Dean’s death, I deeply and completely accept myself.” (He started crying again.)
For the Reminder Phrases, I used different ones at each point, such as:
“Hanging onto this grief,”
“Not wanting to let go of this sadness,”
“Attaching Mother’s death to Dean’s,”
“I haven’t suffered long enough,”
“I’m just so sad,”
“I miss my brother,”
“it was probably my fault."
This time he calmed down very quickly and rated his SUD Level of Intensity at about a 3 out of 10.
So we moved to a Choices Method statement, as developed by Dr. Pat Carrington:
“Even though I’ve been hanging onto this sadness about Dean’s death, I realize it wasn’t my fault, and I choose to let this grief go and remember my brother painlessly.”
There was a lot of free-flow, so I may not be remembering the exact phrases or all of them. I just went with my intuition and watched him for visual clues that I was on the right track.
We did the Setup three times with slightly different variations on that theme.
Then for the first round of tapping we used different reminders at each point such as:
“Still hanging on to this grief.”
“This remaining sadness (or guilt, or sorrow, or pain, etc.).”
“He died doing something he loved.”
The second round we alternated the negative with the positive such as:
“This remaining sadness” on one point then
“Choosing to overcome this sorrow” at the next point, then
“Letting this grief go” and next point
“Choosing to remember Dean with happiness.”
We finished with the third round with all positive reframe phrases like:
“Choosing to let this incident go,”
“Choosing to be guilt-free,”
“Choosing to think of Dean only positively,”
“Feeling good about remembering Dean,”
“Completely overcoming this incident.”
At the end of those rounds, there were no more tears, and Dr. Dave assured me he was feeling great. So I asked him to tell me what happened to his brother. He said very clearly, “My brother, Dean, was killed in an avalanche 10 years ago.” And as he said it with no emotion at all, he was amazed. However, I still felt there was still a little there. But he was too exhausted to do another round so we quit for that day.
A few days later we went on a hike together and I did one final round of EFT tapping with him just using the Reminder Phrase:
“All this remaining sadness, sorrow or grief over my brother’s death.”
At the end of that round, Dr. Dave was able to tell me the whole gory story of how his brother was buried alive under 40 feet of snow and wasn’t found for 2 days. How Dean was out blazing a trail so Dean could take Dr. Dave cross-country skiing, and how he (Dr. Dave) always felt responsible for his brother’s death.
He was able to tell the story without any pain, sorrow, sadness, or guilt.
We were both thrilled. But I wanted to test him to make sure it was ALL gone, so I said, “It must have been a horrible way to die, just laying there in the snow.” I knew this was a big risk and sounded just awful for even me to hear. But Dr. Dave just said, “Yeah, it was awful, but I don’t have any feelings about it.”
“Lindsay”, he said “this is amazing! I’ve never, ever, been able to say any of that about Dean before. Now I can enjoy his memories again.” Later, he actually cracked a joke about his brother and commented how he could have never done that before using EFT.