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EFT and the Threat Response: Tapping for Feeling Powerless

by Virginia Voigt

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Dear EFT Community,

Virginia Voigt discusses an important issue in the mechanism of trauma. Most people are familiar with the fight-or-flight response to a perceived threat, that is, the body’s involuntary mobilization to fight or flee when threatened. Not everyone is aware that there is a third option in the body’s stress response: freeze. When the brain determines that fighting or fleeing is hopeless, the last resort is to freeze, in hopes of escaping notice. Virginia points to the importance of tapping on the feelings of powerlessness and immobilization that accompany the freeze response to a threat.

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I have a dental issue that, unless it heals itself, will result in an extraction. I have tapped this issue to exhaustion – the fear, the pain, the assault, and everything else I could think of – without substantial result. Today I returned to the endodontist for his evaluation.

After tapping away the remaining fear before I went, I realized that there was still a very real threat if he did not see improvement. The threat felt like powerlessness and immobilization.

Then I realized threat always feels like that to me.

Where did this begin? When I was about 8 years old, I was confined in a basement room where a steam pipe near the ceiling burst. I was terrified that I would be scalded to death (the steam stayed near the ceiling). I was unharmed, but the threat response never left me.

I have clients who have suffered similar threats. One was held at gunpoint as a young child by another child with the question, “Don’t you want to meet God?”

Both children being from religious families, that question was impossible to answer. Another client was tied to her bed as a child by her brother and sister and then left alone. Being from an abusive household, she was terrified. After several hours, she was released unharmed. Another client’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when the client was six years old.

The mother died when my client was 17 but not before my client’s father died suddenly of a heart attack.

Many people have experienced similarly threatening events in their lives, but even those who have undergone more subtle threats, such as ongoing disapproval from parents for unacceptable behaviors or fear of failing at things like tests in schools, may suffer from this debilitating feeling.

I hope to be of greater service since I’ve seen this new “aspect” to tap on.