By Steven Gottlieb
EFT coaching sessions can open ways to tap on deep emotional distress that are not evident at first. When I first began working with “Melinda” for her stress around cancer, she had already been dealing with her primary rounds of medical treatments. On top of that was everything else she still needed to deal with. Taking care of a busy household with her husband and three young kids demanded all her energy and attention. She was trying her best not to let her family feel too much impact from her situation, but she was beginning to feel the emotional stress of it all.
We began our session by reiterating that the main point of tapping when dealing with cancer is to ameliorate stress whenever we can. Asking about current stressful issues we might address, Melinda told me she was constantly distressed about her appearance. She had gained back the weight she had lost during chemo and put on another 12 pounds with the current treatments. "The medication is slowing my body down and I'm working hard to exercise because I don't want to be fat,” she said. “If I'm fat, I'll be unhappy. Every time I go to the doctor, they weigh me and I can't stand to see the numbers on the scale. I have to go tomorrow and I am already dreading the scale. I won't even want to look at it." She added, "I don't like my hair. I have lymphoma in my breasts and I don't like the way I look. I am unhappy with myself. I've taken to shopping as a distraction."
Before Melinda had the chance to expound on too many disturbances, I had her reflect on her feelings about not wanting to be fat. She said, "I've always had an eating disorder, according to the doctors. Before puberty, I was chubby and felt awkward. I still struggle with this and it’s upsetting." When I had her tune in to her upset, she said it was a 6 on the scale of 0 to 10. Using this as a starting point, we began to tap on her disturbance around the 12 pounds and the upcoming visit to the doctor:
Even though I don't want to be fat...
Even though they will weigh me at the doctor's...
Even though I can't stand to see the numbers on the scale...
Even though I've taken to shopping...
Even though I put on these additional 12 pounds...
Numbers on the scale...
Melinda now rated her disturbance level as a 5. Having her tune into her feelings of this 5, we began tapping again and continued into the 9 Gamut Procedure, which includes tapping with various eye circle movements, humming, and counting. After numerous eye circles, I asked Melinda to hum and she told me that she could not do it because she was too upset. The 9 Gamut eye circle action helped open deeply held emotions, different from and stronger than the 5 we had started tapping on.
We continued to tap through the basic sequence from the top of her head down through all the points for etwo rounds, using “these deep emotions” as a Reminder Phrase until Melinda felt the upset diminish. Apparently, the presenting issue of her weight was connected to a deeper emotional issue, as is so often the case in EFT. Sometimes tapping on a present disturbance brings up deeper levels of emotion, which in turn usually lead to the discovery of root issues and events.
I checked in with Melinda to see if she was okay enough and willing to discuss what she had just experienced. "I can't believe I still worry so much about these things,” she said. “I feel so embarrassed. I've been struggling with this all my life and can't seem to shake it." Apparently, she meant things like being upset with her weight.
We tapped a few more rounds on:
Struggling all my life
Still worry so much about these things
Then I had Melinda reflect back to an earlier time when she remembered feeling embarrassed in this way. Right away, she recounted a childhood event: "When I was young, I went to an all girl's Catholic school. They used to make us all strip down and line up so they could weigh us all the time. I didn't want to get weighed and I was embarrassed by my weight."
Could this have been the root of her eating disorder issues and her present adverse reaction to the doctor's scale? We tapped a few more rounds on:
Feeling chubby and awkward
Waiting in line to get weighed
Exhibiting a cognitive shift (obvious mental clarity after EFT tapping), Melinda told me that she realized she was no longer going to fit into a size 4, having borne three children and approaching middle age, so she works hard to stay at a size 8. She gets upset when her size 8 jeans get tight. She sees other mothers that look heavy, but they don't seem to care, so why should she? I added a little humor into our tapping script by suggesting that even if her house blew up, she would probably still be happy as long as her jeans fit loosely. She laughed and joked that this was probably true. We tapped to reinforce the laughter. We also tapped to acknowledge the experience of her little girl self being embarrassed stripped down and waiting in line, feeling chubby and awkward, and we tapped in some healing and compassionate words for that.
As our session ended, Melinda said she felt much better. I advised her to tap before going to the doctor and again before being weighed, and to continue to tap on anything else she noticed feeling stressful about. She understood a bit more about how past unresolved emotional distress can contribute to negative thoughts and feelings about herself in the present, and how this unnecessary additional stress might counter all her good efforts to get well. We also affirmed the good work we had done this day and made plans to continue to work on her worrisome stresses in future session work.
Melinda reported back a few days later to let me know that she had done much better at the doctor’s appointment, with much less stress about the scale.
So is the takeaway to this story about uncovering unresolved early childhood trauma connected to ongoing struggle with body image issues? Partly yes, but it all comes down again to stress.
In our next session, I was surprised to hear Melinda say that more than anything before or since her cancer diagnosis, her negative perception of herself and her weight (psycho-emotional) was the issue she struggled with most.
Stress of any kind and cancer recovery are undesirable mates.
We took a few more minutes and reviewed her history with this body image issue. When she was approaching puberty, Melinda had begun obsessing over substituting diet-this and low-fat-that wherever possible. She had developed early, meaning she was always one of the tallest in her class and always stood out. (Her high school classmates eventually caught up.) Certainly, the effects of puberty may have contributed to her emotional obsessions, but was there something else going on?
I asked Melinda if anything else aside from her chubbiness and awkwardness had been going on around the time of puberty. She immediately replied, My parents," and fell silent with a noticeable emotional disturbance. After a brief pause, she said, "I can't talk about this."
This is the cue to start tapping, and I guided her to tap, with no Setup or Reminder Phrases at first, and then adding the most basic Reminders:
Can't talk about this
and so on until the peak of her emotional disturbance subsided.
Note: When someone is already emotionally upset, there is no need to try and understand why in order to create an appropriate Setup Statement. Just start tapping and save the discussion for after the emotional flooding has ebbed.
After a moment, Melinda said that this was the first time she had realized any connection to her obsession about her weight with what had been going on back then with her parents. This was when she recognized the full value of her work with me as her EFT coach, guiding her to discover and resolve old psychological traumas she was not even aware were still there. Since our next session was in just a few days, we agreed that, for now, we had a new focus for our ongoing work.
If I could offer Melinda relief from this lifelong struggle, it would be the biggest gift, and I promised M that we could do it. My confidence comes from knowing the potential EFT has to open pathways to positive personal transformation and healing when we point it directly at root cause issues and resolve them once and for all.
Steven Gottlieb is a Certified Energy Psychology and EFT Practitioner and Personal Empowerment Coach with 15+ years’ experience helping people resolve all sorts of difficult life issues. He also facilitates support groups, classes, and workshops, and writes about his work as an EFT coach helping women with breast cancer.