By Steven Gottlieb
“Linda” has a mental health history that is unusually severe compared to most of the breast cancer clients I work with as an Energy Psychology coach. The trauma of her breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments exacerbated the emotional pain from her history of psychological trauma.
In our first session, which was intended as a basic introduction to using EFT to help reduce stress, Linda told me she was currently being medicated for severe mental difficulties and had been hospitalized for the same. She suffered with a lot of emotional pain and depression and had attempted suicide before. She also told me that she had been diagnosed with complex PTSD, noting, “I have been abused forever.” She first started getting depressed 15 years ago, but a lot of her more difficult mental problems happened after her cancer diagnosis four years ago. Linda said that she went back to work after her initial cancer care, but said, “I quickly went downhill and had to leave my job.” A therapist subsequently told her, “You are beyond burnout.”
For most of this session, I discussed the potential benefits of using EFT and we practiced tapping, avoiding anything to do with her personal situation. As soon as I asked what we might try tapping on that was of specific concern to her, she reacted immediately with deep emotions that she described as “being close to crying.” We tapped on “these close to crying feelings” and her disturbance subsided in several tapping rounds. Seeing how effective EFT was at calming these emotions, Linda was interested in learning more and asked for links to EFT research and other information.
Our next session focused on the importance of tapping regularly as a way to address emotional stress as it arises in daily life. I explained how, in her situation, where her emotional state can easily be overwhelming, she would not want to tap by herself on a traumatic memory that would trigger a strong emotional reaction. We tapped several rounds for practice, using “strong emotions” as an example of a soft reminder phrase that would keep her emotionally safe. I also explained more about using the 9 Gamut Procedure.
As an example of how to apply EFT to a recent stressful event, rather than to a painful past psychological trauma that we were not yet ready to address, we tapped on an argument Linda had with her husband three weeks prior. As that argument had escalated, she had become enraged. We used the Tell the Story technique to find some key aspects with noticeable levels of present distress. Linda told me that as the argument intensified, her husband “kept raising the bar with insults to reach an extra level of horribleness” and that she reacted by throwing an important possession of his with the intent to damage it. Her therapist had told her she needed to accept a certain amount of responsibility and apologize; Linda was not sure why. We tapped a few rounds on all of this then Linda remembered a key trigger, which was her husband’s threat that he would leave her. We tapped another few rounds on her story, including this new information. She then reported feeling no further disturbance around this specific event.
Linda thanked me and would continue our sessions after she returned from a planned stay at a trauma recovery center to help with her mental health issues and complex PTSD.
Our next session was shortly after she returned home from the recovery center. Even though she appeared to be in a better place psychologically, she was upset that her stay at the center was too short. Her medical insurance would not authorize her to stay any longer, even after appeals from the center certifying her need to stay. Linda said, “It’s ridiculous! I finally found a place that was actually working for me. It was exactly where I needed to be to get my life started again. They [the insurance plan] had no problem covering all my breast cancer treatments, but they won’t support me with what is so obviously necessary for me to heal my life. I have so much early childhood trauma. The insurance kicked me out and I was not ready to go.”
We began our tapping using various Setup Statements about how the insurance kicked her out and her disappointment and frustration with the health care system. This opened up a discussion about the approach her other mental health practitioners were using with ongoing exposure therapy, which had not seemed very effective for her. I explained how tapping helps prevent the retraumatizing that can occur with exposure therapy alone and how tapping with exposure (which is the format of EFT tapping, exposure being the focus on the upset and statement of the problem) addresses PTSD more effectively. This is borne out by the latest findings of neuroscience. Linda then volunteered more about how “really big my early childhood trauma was.”
Linda said, “My father had a heart attack and died when I was 2. My brother was brutally murdered when I was 16. There were so many other events; I could go on and on, blah, blah, blah.” This was the first time she shared the nature of some of her significant traumas with me. Although I wondered, I had no intention of asking her at this time to expound on what she meant by “blah, blah, blah.” After a brief set of tapping rounds to acknowledge and work on what she had just told me, Linda segued into a specific present area of great disturbance that she described as body image issues from her mastectomy. Then she related the following story:
“When I was first being treated for breast cancer, having a lumpectomy with additional treatment was given to me as a promise by my medical team that this was all that was necessary. There was no conversation, and I had no idea, that losing my breasts was even a possibility. This turned out not to be the case and I was shocked to learn that a mastectomy with reconstructive surgery would be done. Six months afterward, an infection developed in my breast and the tissue expander (used in the reconstruction) had to be removed. I am completely flat now. What they explain to me about other cosmetic surgical options sounds like Frankenstein surgery. I have gained 30 pounds from the various cancer and psych meds. Now I have an alien body that I don’t know how to relate to.”
Linda described her disturbance around this as “super tension” she felt in her legs, abdomen, and chest with a present SUD of 8. We tapped one full round with the 9 Gamut for these physical aspects of “super tension.” When I checked in with her again, Linda reported that her physical SUD level had dropped to a 4, although she now felt anger at a SUD of 7. With EFT, it is most useful to tap on whatever disturbance registers as greater. Often, aspects shift from one tapping round to another as one layer of disturbance gives way to allow another to surface. Instead of always trying to bring down a specific disturbance to a 0, we follow where the disturbance leads. This approach often reveals a core disturbance, which can then be expanded on and brought as close to a SUD of 0 as possible. This is where real shifts happen in EFT.
This process and these effects are typical of most one-on-one EFT coaching sessions with a competently trained and experienced practitioner. Self tapping using one’s own (limited) perceptions or a generalized borrowing benefits script does not usually provide the necessary objective assessment of the specific issue nor easy access to specific enough underlying aspects to provide an actual energetic shift from the problem. If you or someone you know have tried EFT on an important personal issue and did not see any difference, this is most likely the reason.
We tapped one full round on Linda’s anger and then, while considering a closing Setup Statement that might help shift Linda with a positive reframe, I had the intuition to suggest that she try saying, “Even though It’s Not My Fault…” while tapping on the side of the hand point. This immediately brought up a very powerful emotional response and we tapped two additional rounds, including the 9 Gamut Procedure, without using any additional language. This brought all her emotional disturbances down to a negligible level. Note that no Setup or Reminder Phrase language is necessary when tapping on intensely felt emotions because the client is already fully associated with their emotions.
When I checked in with Linda about her experience of the tapping session, she said she was emotionally okay at the moment and remarked that the “it’s not my fault” statement was a big issue she had been struggling with. I acknowledged the depth of her emotional expression, reinforced how much we had covered in this session, and noted that we could address this issue more deeply in our sessions to follow. We brought this session to a close. Linda gave me permission to share this story, as it might be illustrative of how EFT can be so helpful for anyone suffering from unresolved emotional trauma and the trauma from difficult breast cancer treatment experiences.
Steven Gottlieb is an Intuitive Healer and Energy Psychology practitioner specializing in personal empowerment coaching for peak performance and for breast cancer thrivers.