By Sherry Rueger Banaka, Certified EFT Practitioner
Mariah (not her real name) was familiar with EFT and had used it with others as well as for herself. She came to me wanting to work on her fear of bugs. We had a total of three EFT sessions together.
In our first session, Mariah reported having a lot of “recent anxiety from seeing lots of bugs in the house.” She explained that when she was pregnant with her last child, and they were in process of moving, they had found bed bugs in their current home. Even though they bought new mattresses, they still found bed bugs in the new house because they were in the wood of the kids’ trundle bed. Mariah went on to say that she also has ants in the kitchen of the new house, which is near a pond, and she has seen all kinds of new bugs in this house. She said, “At the sight of bugs or ants, I freeze and then want to run. It still feels creepy to go into the kids’ room. I still want to check their room in the middle of the night. I’m on hyper-alert now.” Mariah’s SUD level was 10.
We tapped a round using the Basic Recipe on “Even though I’m on hyper-alert about bugs in my house, I still deeply and completely accept myself. Even though my husband did what he could, and we bought new mattresses, and we still had bed bugs in our new house, and even though it still feels creepy and I still want to check for bed bugs in the middle of the night, I’m okay right here, right now” with “I’m on hyper-alert,” “bed bugs,” and “bugs in my house” as Reminder Phrases.
After this round, Mariah’s SUD level dropped to 8, and she said, “I feel there’s a part of me that is addicted to being anxious and is used to having something to worry about, trying to hold something in place.”
I asked for her first memory of feeling anxious about bugs, and Mariah recalled an event when she was 10 years old: “My family had moved into an old house that had mice, dead birds in the attic, and a ‘gazillion bugs.’ There were water bugs and roaches in the kitchen. I turned the light on in the kitchen in the middle of the night, and saw the gazillion bugs dispersing.” Mariah’s SUD level on this memory was 8.
After tapping one round on “Even though I saw a gazillion bugs dispersing in the kitchen, and it was so creepy, I just froze,” with “gazillion bugs,” “so creepy,” “I froze” as the reminder phrases, the SUD level was 7, and Mariah said, “What is popping up now is the shock factor of seeing a gazillion bugs dispersing.” I asked where she felt this in her body, and Mariah said, “I feel anxiety in my chest, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, heaviness in my arms; they can’t move, they’re frozen in place.” She went on to say, “The weird thing is that bugs outside or in other people’s houses don’t bother me as much; it’s not the terror I feel in my own house.”
We tapped a round using the 9 Gamut Procedure on “Even though I saw a gazillion bugs dispersing in the kitchen, and it was so creepy I just froze, and my heart was beating so fast, and I was breathing so hard, and my arms were so heavy they couldn’t move, it was terrifying” with each of these aspects as a Reminder Phrase.
After this round, Mariah reported, “I feel good as far as this past memory goes.” I asked her to replay the movie of that scene in her mind from beginning to end. She said, “I have no emotional charge. My SUD level on terror at age 10 is 0, and I now just think ‘It’s gross.’ I don’t feel as worried about bed bugs, but I still have a SUD 5 of fear about having ants in the house because I saw them today.”
We were out of time, so we tapped a Sneak Away round on the work accomplished today and being okay to set it aside for now and work on it more later. We scheduled a second appointment.
In our second session, Mariah reported still having anxiety about bugs. She described a recent event: “An exterminator had been to the house, and I saw two ants after he left, so now I have a lack of trust that I won’t see more bugs.” Mariah explained further, “A previous exterminator had come out three times, and I hadn’t seen any bugs for a while. Then I began to miss them, and I thought, ‘This is like an addiction to the fear.’ This new house where we live now is near a pond. It’s beautiful, but I don’t like nature and animals. I saw raccoons on the deck, so now I don’t want to go on the deck at night. That’s okay with me, but it’s not okay to have ants in the kitchen. I’ve seen different bugs. I saw a huge one but only once, and I saw one cockroach. Ants are the only ones that I see on a regular basis. When I got rid of the bugs after the first exterminator, then I started obsessing over the raccoons. I’m just not at ease in this house. I feel like maybe I just don’t have enough going on. I haven’t felt right since my pregnancy. I’m not working much; I’m being a stay-at-home mom. It feels like maybe I’m creating stuff to worry about.”
Mariah’s SUD level on this “cortisol addiction” was 9. As we began tapping a round on “this cortisol addiction,” with “need to find things to stress about” as the Reminder Phrase, Mariah said, “I remember there was lots of anxiety in our house growing up. I remember that 14 years ago, my mom told a niece that she hated her job. My mother was a stay-at-home mom until I was 11 years old, and then she went to work outside the home and her stress began. I had to start cooking dinner for the family. One day, I fell asleep and woke to the smoke alarm going off. Mom wasn’t there, and I had to be responsible for all my siblings and figure out what to do.” Mariah’s SUD level on this fear was 5-6.
We tapped a round on “Even though when I was 11, my mom went to work, and I woke up to the smoke alarm going off, and I had to be the responsible one and figure everything out and keep everyone safe, and it was so scary, and even with all of that, I deeply and completely love and accept all of myself” with “woke up to the smoke alarm,” “so scary,” “I had to be responsible and keep everyone safe” as the Reminder Phrases.
Mariah then reported, “When I was pregnant with this last child, I told my mom about my anxiety over the bugs, and Mom said, ‘You’re like a little girl. You’re supposed to be the strong one.’ Then Mom stayed with me for two days over this past weekend, and I felt really safe when she was there. I was not even worried about the bugs when Mom was there, and when she said, ‘You’re like a little girl,’ it felt true. I did feel like a little girl who doesn’t feel safe.”
We began tapping a round on “Even though I need my mommy to feel safe” and Mariah stopped and said, “What comes up is, ‘I need someone here for support.’ I felt safe when my brother was here, too. My husband works a lot, and I don’t feel nurtured and supported by him. I found a box of cereal full of ants and called my husband for help, and he said, ‘Get it yourself!’ So I called my brother, and he came and got the cereal box and took it out of the house. Then my husband said to my brother, ‘She called you over here for that?! I don’t believe it!’” Mariah’s SUD level on what her husband said was 10. She said she understands him, but she needs emotional support.
We tapped a round on “Even though I don’t get the emotional support I need from my husband, and he is sarcastic and not supportive, I deeply and completely love and accept myself,” with “he’s sarcastic” and “he doesn’t nurture me” as the Reminder Phrases. Mariah’s SUD level dropped to 7. We tapped another round, adding, “I can help others with tapping, but I can’t seem to help myself, and it’s embarrassing, and I feel vulnerable.” Mariah then said she doesn’t totally blame her husband or expect him to understand, and she will try talking to him about it while tapping herself. She said her SUD level is “0 for now.” We scheduled another appointment.
In our third and final session, Mariah told me, “I feel that loneliness is the issue behind my need to create stress around ants and bugs in the house. Relatives from out of town have been visiting, and I was feeling okay about the ants until a time when my relatives had gone out for a while. I went into the kitchen and saw a centipede. I screamed and felt panicked! I sprayed the centipede and put it in the garbage. I was starting to feel safe until this event happened. I feel like I’m creating this. My husband is gone on business, and I feel like loneliness is the issue. In our former house, my sister lived 3 minutes away. I’m more isolated in this house. My new neighbors are older. I have no close friends nearby. I’m also an introvert. My father always told me, ‘You don’t have any friends.’ I do have people I associate with but no really close friends, and I’m feeling I want to change that. My father always told me that I didn’t have any friends, and I remember now that was because he was, and still is, paranoid because his sister was murdered by a friend. So now none of us, not me or my siblings, have any good, true, deep friendships.”
Mariah went on to describe a memory of when she was about 12 years old and had asked her dad if she could go to a friend’s house. His response was, “You don’t have any friends. People don’t care about you. They will cut your throat!”
I asked Mariah if she could tell me more details about this event, such as the look on her father’s face. She said, “I can’t remember his face, other than a worried expression. But I was excited to see my friend, and when he told me I don’t have any friends, I thought, ‘Yes, I do!’ I felt confused and sad.” Mariah’s SUD level on confusion was 10, and her SUD level on sad was 7.
We tapped a round using the 9 Gamut technique, starting with the Setup Statement “Even though I have this ‘Don’t have any friends’ movie, I deeply and completely love and accept myself,” with “don’t have any friends movie” as the Reminder Phrase. Mariah’s SUD on sad dropped to 0, her SUD on confusion dropped to 6, and she gave a big yawn.
We did another round on “this remaining level 6 of confusion,” and Mariah’s SUD level dropped to 3. When I asked, she said nothing else had popped up. I asked, “How do you know you have a level 3 of confusion?” Mariah responded, “I feel it in my heart area as a ‘red, racing heart’ with the question, ‘Why?!’ I know now this was because of my dad’s experience, not my own experience, but as a 12-year-old, my question was ‘Why?!’”
We tapped a Basic Recipe round, using Mariah’s words as a reframe: “Even though I have this remaining level 3 of confusion, I know what my dad said was based on his own experience, not my experience, and even though I did have a friend, and I was excited to go visit her, and I didn’t have any concerns that she would cut my throat, I was confused by what my dad said, and even though I have carried that confusion all these years, I am ready to release it now.” Mariah’s SUD on confusion dropped to 0.
We tapped a reinforcement round on “Even though my 12-year-old self has this old belief that it isn’t safe to have close friends, I am ready to release this old belief now and move forward, and I acknowledge and thank this belief for keeping me safe all these years, and I am ready to release this old belief now and move forward.”
After this round, Mariah was able to review the “Don’t have any friends” movie without any emotional crescendos, and her VOC on “It isn’t safe to have close friends” was 0. (VOC stands for Validity of Cognition, or how true a statement feels on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being not at all true and 10 being very true.)
Mariah wanted to tap a closing round on her present fear of going into the kitchen and seeing ants or bugs in it. She said she feels okay if she sees them outside but not inside her house or crawling on her. However, she said had a thought today that “These bugs are God’s creatures and I’m going to send them some love.”
So we tapped a round using the Choices Method, first on “Even though I have this fear of seeing ants and bugs in my kitchen,” with “ants and bugs in my kitchen” as the Reminder Phrase; then alternating this negative with the positive, “Ants and bugs are God’s creatures,” “I have this fear of ants and bugs,” “They’re God’s creatures, too; we’re all in this together”; and then a positive round, “Even though I have this fear of ants and bugs, I choose to see them as God’s creatures, and I choose to send them love, and I deeply and completely love and accept myself even with all of this.” After this round, Mariah said, “I feel calm for now. We’ll see how this goes after my relatives have left.”
Follow-up, 1 year later: When giving me her permission to publish this case, Mariah told me she does still have some remaining fear of bugs, SUD 5, but she no longer freezes, and her bed bug paranoia is completely gone.