By Dawson Church, PhD, EFT TRN-3
At an EFT workshop, when I asked for a volunteer with a current emotional issue, Josh, 52, stepped forward. He was tall, well dressed, and articulate, and revealed a thoughtful gentleness as he explained his dilemma. He wanted to divorce his wife but was troubled by the emotional pain this would cause her.
Josh explained that he and his wife had been going to weekly couples therapy for the previous 3 years, as they attempted to work on the issues in their 28-year marriage. Their children were grown and had left home a year before they started counseling. Without their former shared focus on child-rearing, Josh and his wife were thrown together more than they had ever been in the course of their marriage.
They had quickly discovered that they didn’t like each other that much, or perhaps they had grown apart while parenting, without realizing it. Josh was a Buddhist, with a vibrant spiritual practice; his wife had remained a Catholic and did not support her husband’s new spiritual path.
The pain on Josh’s face as he worried about the emotional devastation he suspected a divorce would cause his wife was evident. But he felt that he’d given the marriage “his best shot” in couples counseling, and he’d privately decided that a divorce was inevitable.
His presenting emotional problem was telling his wife.
I asked how intense his feelings were on a scale from 0 (peace) to 10 (extreme turmoil). He said they were an 8. I asked a classic question from EFT training: “How do you know they’re an 8?” Josh put his hand over his heart, indicating he felt it in his body. I asked, “What’s the earliest time in your life you felt that specific physical feeling in your chest?” He replied that it was when he was 5-years-old. I asked what he remembered from that period, and he answered, “My dad’s eyes. When he got mad, he would look at us with fury in his eyes.”
“Think of a specific event when your dad’s eyes were particularly furious,” I requested. He described a road trip when he and his brother were in the backseat of the car, fighting. His dad told them to stop. They did for a while but then started again. Josh’s dad lost his temper, swung his arm around in a big arc, and clobbered both boys in the face.
I asked how strong his feelings were as he recalled the incident, and he said 10. I had him silently recall the incident in his mind, as though he were watching a movie, and do EFT tapping at the same time. We started with a neutral point in his movie, when the family–his mom, dad, and brother–was getting into the car. Little Josh was excited and looking forward to the ride.
I had him visualize the next part of the story, asking how he felt when he fought with his brother.
“We were always fighting,” he said. “It didn’t mean anything. I’m still a 0.” He took the movie further, to when his dad turned around and told the boys to stop. Josh visualized his dad’s eyes, and his intensity level went up to a 6. We did EFT tapping until it was down to a 2. I then asked Josh to rewind to the neutral point at the start of the movie, and begin again.
He got to the point of seeing his dad’s eyes, and was down to a 1, so he kept on with the movie. When he reached the part where his dad hit him, he went up to a 4 for the sting of his father’s hand on his face, and we did more EFT till that was a 2.
He then told the story out loud, and his intensity number remained at a level of 1 or 0 the whole time. He let out a big sigh of relief at the end.
I asked him for his intensity around his dad’s eyes at other times in his childhood, and he said that his father had been a good dad and usually controlled his temper, but on that occasion, Josh and his brother had provoked him beyond his limits. He said he loved his father very much and he remembered how much his father loved him, and how much love poured through his father’s eyes.
I said to Josh, “Tell me about your wife.”
He said slowly, “I love so many things about my wife. She’s my best friend, and we have so many good times together now that the kids are gone.”
The rest of the workshop participants let out a collective gasp of astonishment. Here was a man who had come up to the front of the room to work on the issue of telling his wife he wanted a divorce. Now, after tapping on a specific childhood event, he was telling us all how much he loved his wife!
“What about getting a divorce?” I asked him.
“I have 28 years invested in this marriage,” he said, “and we can’t go there without putting a lot more effort into making it work.” I asked him about the feeling in his chest he had earlier when thinking about his wife, and he reported that now he had nothing but warm feelings for her.
The whole class was deeply moved watching the evolution of Josh’s feelings. He went from a SUD intensity number of 8 out of 10 in his chest around telling his wife about a divorce to “warm feelings” in the same area–without even once working on the current worries about his wife, his marriage, or a divorce.
Just doing EFT on an early event with a similar emotional template was enough to collapse the emotional intensity of the current event.
The present problem is rarely the actual problem, and addressing the underlying problem is often enough to dissipate the emotional charge of the present problem. Healing the past often heals the present too.
This article is excerpted from the book EFT for Love Relationships
By Dawson Church, PhD