Dear EFT Community,
Schizophrenia is a very difficult issue to tackle, but we’ve had several reports of success. Here Sonia Novinsky from Brazil spent nearly a year working with her schizophrenic client on a host of interwoven issues and memories. Please remember that, unless you’re a licensed mental health professional, the EFT ethics code does not permit you to work with clients with mental illness unless they are simultaneously and continuously under the care of such a professional.
By Sonia Novinsky
Jacqueline came to me about 1 year ago. She was a beautiful woman, in her 40s, and had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic with auditory hallucinations, depression, and an inability to operate in social environments. Now, after a year, the hallucinations are gone and she is well adapted to society. Along the way, many other benefits occurred, including relief from anorexia and the cessation of smoking. Here’s the story.
She arrived in a very depressive state, saying to me: “This is my last chance. And all I can pay is 10 dollars per session.” It was impossible to refuse her desperate appeal for help. She said…
“For 9 years now, since my daughter was born, I am taking Haldol, Prozac and other medications because psychiatrists considered me an incurable schizophrenic patient. I’ve been sleeping most of my daytime during all these years. After a traumatic event when my daughter was born, I fell into a depression. I started listening to Mary’s voice (Jesus’s mother)[diagnosed by her former psychiatrist as an auditory hallucination] and I had some inappropriate behaviors, including a kind of anorexia, with hospitalization. I heard about your work with energy and I want to try it. I believe that this could help me get rid of medication and my disease. The only reason I don’t kill myself today is because my religion forbids me to do it.”
My first thought was: Should I do EFT for a psychotic client? But the despair I saw in her eyes touched me and I decided to try. She said she would do anything to be free from Haldol. In fact, she threw away her drugs and cut off communications with her psychiatrist. She refused to take drugs because of the negative effects on her and made it a requirement that I work with her on that condition.
At the first moment, she told me that she had a supportive husband and parents, and also wonderful children and that made her feel more guilty for being a mentally ill person. She complained of smoking too much, of having difficulty resting and sleeping. She said she was also 30 kg more than her ideal weight, partly because of the antipsychotic medication. During the last 9 years she had been afraid to drive a car; before her crisis, driving was normal for her.
The last psychiatrist she saw was very oppressive, telling her she had an incurable mental illness and would be obliged to take Haldol for the rest of her life. When she arrived at my office, she was very angry with all psychiatrists and therapists who took care of her during all these years. They gave her no hope: just labels and drugs.
Before investigating core issues, I worked for some weeks on our rapport, trying to help her on her self-esteem and trying to develop some trust in our connection. She was very upset with the kind of relationship she had with her psychiatrists and therapists. A hierarchy was always present, and she was the inferior part of it, all the time. Her objections about the treatment were never validated by them.
I agreed to try to work with her without medication (her choice) only if we could see each other almost every day and talk on the phone whenever necessary. She agreed to tap with me on the phone whenever I asked her.
In this case, it is very important to stress how strong was her intention to get rid of any medication because they condemned her to be out of a normal life.
In this case, besides EFT, praying was used almost every day. She bought “A Course in Miracles” and did her lessons every day. The first result, from the combination of these items, was that her hallucinations started fading and then disappeared completely.
I will give a summary of the main topics we worked with in EFT. We did EFT hundreds of times. I do a free talk while tapping, in a way that I can’t reproduce here, introducing humor and installing new meanings and possibilities. She was entirely open to working with EFT.
We started working with the most apparent sensation she was having at the moment she arrived. In my experience, you can start with this state, even if it is not a core issue. When this layer is reached, even if you don’t clear it completely, it gives room for the traumatic memories to show up. Meanwhile, you get the basic trust needed to work deeply. Defenses hold back slowly while the person calms down. At the same time, inner positive resources become more available for working with more delicate issues. So we started working on her self-image and self-esteem, while tapping:
Even though I was shocked by the label of “incurable schizophrenic” Dr. X put on me, at his office, that makes me feel completely hopeless, I am not this label, I am more than what people think about me and I deeply and completely love and accept myself.
While we were tapping, I installed some reframing about how I was one with her, no hierarchy between us, how we were together and no label separating us.
The result was important for the rest of the treatment: She trusted that she was not alone and that I was assuming a strong, deep, and personal commitment with her. Different from other professionals she had seen before, I was not just using a technique or medications or my professional skills. Sometimes when there is a lack of this commitment, then technique, titles, or medications become tools that are responsible for the client’s feelings of isolation, inferiority, and separation. When this happens, these tools become inefficient.
She disclosed that when her daughter was born she was very upset with some events and we tapped on them. The worst one (which launched her first psychotic episode) was her husband’s imposition that his mother should be the godmother of her daughter. Since they started dating, his mother and his sisters disapproved of Jacqueline and were mean to her. Jacqueline’s husband, Leo, didn’t allow any choice to Jacqueline. He almost begged for this, crying and screaming. When Jacqueline went to see her mother-in-law to invite her, her reaction was very negative. She said: “I accept to be the godmother but I will not receive your family in my house.” This was a traumatic event for Jacqueline.
She felt very unhappy, with no way out, and thus she had her first psychotic attack. She undressed completely at a soccer stadium full of people.
We tapped for this event, and many aspects showed up. We tapped for the shame and guilt of not having control of her behavior. While she was narrating the event, I tapped on her. This is my preferred way of tapping specific events. This one was a very traumatic event, but finally her husband agreed to her demand that his mother would not do the baptism of their daughter.
Thus she was victorious in some way, but she paid a high price for this “victory”: From this day on, she carried the label of a sick person. Two months later, her mother-in-law died suddenly and that gave Jacqueline the illusion of having a mean power inside her, and that made her still more guilty. In some way, Jacqueline felt she had no control over herself but from another point of view she was afraid of having some extraordinary power.
We tapped on:
Even though I lost control about my behavior that day in the stadium and I am ashamed about it, I completely forgive myself. This was they way I found at that time to validate my protest against my mother-in-law and my husband demands.
Even though I did what I did at the stadium and she died 2 months later, it is only a belief that I can control someone else’s time to die. This is God’s power, not mine, so I can be free of any responsibility for other people’s life or death.
Jacqueline wanted to drive a car again. She felt ready to try it after clearing her psychotic attack and its consequences. So we tapped for the fear of driving, first at my office, then in her car.
Even if I have fear of driving a car because I went out of control that day at the stadium, and my mother-in-law died just after it, and my husband said that I was not trustable anymore, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Some aspects of her fear were: fear of losing control, fear of hitting the car, fear of hitting some one on the streets, fear of hurting her children if she hits the car, fear of killing someone.
We made a test. We went inside her car and tapped in the car for any aspect, like “heart jumping too fast,” “I am not able to drive anymore,” etc. With me at her side, in the car, she drove the car by herself. After a couple of minutes, she was very calm, driving the car. Since that day she has been driving the car with no problem, with her children. Sao Paulo (my home) has very dangerous and wild traffic. Many normal people don’t drive cars here. But she does it now.
Schizophrenia is caused sometimes by double messages received mainly during childhood. Since her birth we could find many situations where double messages were received. Clearing all these double messages of Jacqueline’s life, from her birth until now, it was essential to allow her to see everything in a different way and to create a more integrated identity.
Jacqueline was the first child. Her father (Italian origin) wanted only a male child. When Jacqueline was born her mother felt in some way not comfortable with the fact that she couldn’t give her husband a boy. At the beginning of her life, Jacqueline felt no holding, no sensation of being desired. Eleven months after her birth, her mother gave birth to a boy who received all the attention of the parents. Jacqueline was most of the time with a single aunt that had a strong passion for a Catholic priest at that time.
We tapped for all events and sensations Jacqueline could remember that were related to this belief of not being wanted, of not deserving love, of being guilty for not being the boy her parents were waiting for. The strategy Jacqueline found was trying to persuade her father that she was good enough like a boy would be, and to do so she became too close to him and that made her mother very jealous and ambivalent toward her.
Even though I felt the cold eyes of my mother and felt alone in my little bed, feeling I didn’t deserve love for not being a boy…
Even if I still feel guilty for not filling my parents’ expectations, when they said to me how important it was for them to have a boy as their first child…
Even if I felt an ambivalence in my mother’s way of looking at me because she wanted a boy instead of me and she was jealous of my love for my father…
Investigating it more, I discovered that when Jacqueline had her crisis, after the birth of her daughter, she was feeling guilty and not deserving of having two healthy children, a boy and a girl. This was connected with a specific and important event that we addressed in each detail.
When she was 18 years old, she was dating her future husband and she got pregnant. As she was very religious and she wanted to become a mother, she didn’t want to get an abortion. But her husband, Leo, said that he would stay with her only if she got the abortion.
She postponed it as much as she could. She felt under a big pressure. She didn’t want to lose Leo and didn’t want to lose her child. She talked with her parents and they agreed with the abortion. So she did it. It was a very traumatic event for her. She felt guilty for the abortion, felt enraged with Leo, who didn’t go with her to the clinic, and felt very uncomfortable with her father. After the abortion, he was very critical of her. Their parents were supportive on one side, but on the other they were very severe and full of deception.
We tapped for each aspect of this event: the blood she saw, the place where she lay down, the light of the room, the questions the doctor asked her, the ambivalent sight of her mother, the feeling of abandonment because Leo was not there, the guilt of killing a 4-month-old fetus.
We discovered that her anorexia was connected with the blood she saw at the abortion.
Even if the medication had controlled the anorexia, it was a good release to understand and clear this event and the compulsion that it triggered. From that day, she started feeding herself in a more balanced way and started losing the extra weight she had at the beginning of the treatment.
She cried a lot when we were tapping for this event. Anger at herself, anger at Leo, anger at her parents that could have said to her: “You may have the child and we will help you,” anger at her father who called Leo to drink a whiskey to calm down, sensation of having committed a murder, etc.
After some sessions working on this issue, we tapped for forgiveness, reframing that she was not alone in what she had done, she was just a girl in love with Leo, and in some way she got the abortion to save her relationship with him.
Sometimes Jacqueline called me during the evenings, crying, hopeless, feeling that something was wrong with her, feeling that her husband didn’t love her, although he always said the opposite. She never had an abreaction, we just tapped on the phone and she calmed down.
We could see at that moment how the mother-in-law event triggered the abortion trauma, guilt, and anger. When her husband made this second imposition to her, “My mother will baptise my daughter,” she fell apart and collapsed. From that day, she started hallucinating and having inappropriate behaviors. One manifestation of this behavior was a passion for a Catholic priest (like her dear aunt in the past), who held her in a compassionate way at the church.
In my point of view, the main issue for Jacqueline was not being held since the beginning of her life, and this fact was repeated many times, maybe because the writings on her walls were like these: “I don’t deserve to be loved, I don’t deserve to be held, there is something wrong with me, I should be different to be accepted, I am inappropriate, I have some strange powers that can harm people, etc.”
I was suspecting, from some facts Jacqueline told me, that her husband was also sending double messages to her. On one side he said he loved her, on the other side he was indifferent, quiet, isolated, absent.
I worked with the couple for three sessions and my impression was confirmed. Leo was very polite but was always concerned with Jacqueline in a very distant and professional way, asking me if she shouldn’t start with the medication again.
During the year we worked together Jacqueline had some more depressive moments. Sometimes she was very accelerated, talking and talking, reading the Bible compulsively, going to church, and speaking in a non-spontaneous and hearty way. I supported her to be not taking medication at those moments.
Beyond EFT, we did some yoga therapy, grounding and breathing exercises to calm her and connect with the here and now, feeling her body sensations and trusting them. Being touched by me in a very tender way was very important for her to feel grounded and accepted, bringing hope back to her life. These procedures were enough to stop any process of losing control or wish to die.
What was interesting is that when we cleared all aspects of the guilt of the abortion, including the guilt of having healthy children and the guilt of being alive (she used to talk of suicide as a self-punishment), that same week her anxiety stopped, her voice became more calm, and she stopped smoking.
As she was more awake and present to her family she started trying to be closer to her husband but he was always very distant, even repeating mechanically that he loved her.
We tapped: “Even though I feel like I am crazy with the double messages he sent to me yesterday, and maybe since I was 18 years old, I hold myself, I deeply accept myself, and I choose not to believe that I am crazy. Maybe there is something wrong with him.”
She asked him to go to therapy, but he didn’t go.
After some time, as she was more centered and not feeling crazy, she started realizing how strange was her husband’s behavior. It was not difficult for her to find out that he was having an affair. Coldly, he agreed and told her he didn’t love her anymore.
Now they are in a divorce process. As a Catholic, this is very complicated to her. But she has the serenity to face this fate. She brought her children to therapy, she went to a lawyer and asked for the rights of her children. Leo came to me and confessed that since she was 18 he hadn’t loved her. He only married her because she got the abortion and he felt committed to her and grateful to her. So maybe he had been sending double messages for 20 years.
Jacqueline became very angry with him and with herself. We are now tapping for her to accept reality as it showed up and finally be free of these double messages that made her schizophrenic for 20 years. The good part of it is the two wonderful children who are really special and are doing the best they can to facilitate this difficult moment for Jacqueline and Leo.
We have more work to do. The important thing is that Jacqueline is working again in her profession. She could finally see that her husband was away for many years, although physically present.
I think the most important piece of this therapy was the possibility she opened for me to have a deep rapport with her while tapping. She started believing that she was a person, not a sickness, and as far as this occurred, her own family started to legitimate her as a mother, a professional, and a complete human being. She felt the self-confidence to restart her professional life. For 10 years her family and Leo’s family considered Leo the best husband, almost an angel, and Jacqueline was the crazy one, the problem.
The whole system around her changed when she changed. The truth showed up and she could see how she felt crazy also because her husband was sending double messages for a long time, maybe during all their marriage.
She is now living alone with her children. Leo left the house, and Jacqueline is very grounded, determined, not even feeling a victim. She said to me, “It’s time to turn the page: the page of my marriage, of my labels, of my poor self-esteem. I am ready to take care of me and my children, and all I want is for Leo to be happy, as far from me as possible.”
Some months ago she gave me a long written testimony (in Portuguese), about her issues and her treatment, confirming some of the results I have written here. Her intention was to help other people who could profit from her experience. On one of the last days, she completed the testimony verbally. I quote her words:
“For the first time in my life I feel peace in my heart. I have difficulties with my son and with my husband, but they don’t disturb my peace. I want to live like a normal woman and like a helper, for this I am praying and serving as a volunteer in a hospital.
“For the first time people trust me again. I was elected to the directory board of my club, and possibly I will be a candidate for a public position in the near future. I am free from the obsession for the priest. I know it because I went to see him in the church and could see him only as the priest he is. I don’t need smoking or the voices I used to listen to. I can remember the abortion without guilt. I couldn’t have a child for myself at that moment. I feel free from the double messages my husband used to send to me all the time, saying he loved me but excluding me from his life and problems and pleasures. I feel ready to take care of myself, and to take care of my children. I am living each day, not anticipating the worse like I used to. The pressure I felt in my heart is gone. I think I tried to protect my husband by accepting the double message without any protest, putting the guilt on myself. I feel as healthy as anyone in this life, even if I need therapy for some more time.”
I wrote in the computer while she was speaking. Her voice was soft. During her worse days, her voice was too acute and full of irony and arrogance. This day her eyes were tender, her voice was tender, her posture was elegant, her energy was kind and balanced.
In conclusion, I think that what was decisive was EFT plus the holding she felt because I could accept, without any judgment, her passion and fantasies for the priest, her wish to die, and her fear of getting crazy, and her deep pain out of any category or classification that could separate us.