On Surviving–Inner Work Exercise

Here’s a fun thing to do that’s also very instructive—a kind of inner work. You notice what’s bothering you and you let yourself first focus on it, on what about it is really bothering you. Then, keeping that in the background, you let yourself get kind of fuzzy and diffuse and notice what happens. Just stay with it without trying to be rational or “think” about it. Just notice what happens and let the images come. Here are a couple of examples:

 My Partner Can’t Make up his Mind

One day I was miffed that my partner was so indecisive. “Why is this bothering me so much?” I wondered.  Sensing that the source of my irritation was actually something in me trying to come to awareness, I decided to find inside me the one that wobbled so much (instead of putting it on my partner). I closed my eyes, left everyday consciousness behind, and traveled way into my center, letting the visions come.

 I moved from side to side within a picture frame and suddenly found myself dodging bullets!  They whizzed beside my ear like target-bees and sang the air near shoulder, arm, and thigh.  They missiled toward my toes and periled near my nose.  To avoid them, I found I was spending my entire life alert and jerking to and fro.  “I have to focus my whole and only attention on survival!” Suddenly, I felt free. For me, this was a powerful realization. “I’m allowed to look out solely for my own survival!”  Rather than all the time worrying about “how will this affect him; what will she think of that; will they be happy if I say this or that?”  It blew me away. 

I Am Alone

Another time I went into the pain of separation and aloneness.  Of being left, not being wanted.  When I let my imagination go where it went, I was all of a sudden the son of a ghetto mother, left by her boyfriend to work for nothing and over the years to suckle and diaper and teach to walk and walk to school and cook a meager meal and give lessons in manners to a baby-young-child-teen.

Of course, she couldn’t do this all alone, and so she didn’t.  She left me, her son, alone—sometimes for days—when she despaired and wandered the streets in search of a way out for herself.  At first, I was afraid, constantly afraid and crying.  No one heard my hunger, my fear at night. No one saw my dirty face, the shredded clothes I wore.

After a while like that I understood:  this is what is. I became tough, hard, cold.  I knew what I needed; I knew what I wanted.  I knew what to do to get it, and I did what I had to do.  I roamed the streets.  I learned everything about those streets and the people that roamed them, too.  I learned about the shopkeepers and how to get them to give me food.  If they wouldn’t, I knew what time they left for the night and how to steal in to their stores and to steal out with the food.  I knew where to find clothes and warmth and even luxuries.  And I did.  “I do what I need to do; I am a survivor!  You can’t stop me, because I know all about you.  I’m smarter than you.  I’ve watched you, and you have never watched me!”


CreatingTherapeutic Fairy Tales: Here’s Another One

I’m always amazed how working metaphorically helps evoke what’s deep inside clients to unearth solutions. It almost feels magical sometimes. For a while now, I’ve been excited as a new way of using EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) has been creating itself for me and my clients.

Here’s What We Do

It works really well with long-term patterns that have created emotional pain over the years, but it also works with just about anything. Often, these patterns developed because of negative childhood family dynamics.

I ask my clients to describe what happens when this pattern occurs in their lives, and to describe their experience when it happens. As they’re describing all of this, I watch out for images. If the image that strikes me also seems important to the client, we start to create a metaphorical story—more like a fairy tale in that it uses images and metaphor rather than literal events.

At the beginning, there’s just the original image. We use EFT Tapping on that. As a result, more and more of the story emerges and finally a solution to the problem emerges in the form of a metaphor. From that, clients frequently realize how they can manifest the solution literally in their lives. We continue with EFT Tapping until it’s really anchored in. Then, often, changes start to happen!

Client With Painful Childhood Family Dynamics

The story below was co-created with a client (identifying details changed) who was subjected to repeated physical abuse and emotional abuse and who had seen her siblings beaten, too. She felt powerless to help her siblings and to stop the abuse. As a result, in her current life, she often went through times where she spiraled down into depression.

Here’s the Therapeutic Story That Emerged:


There is a powerful, murky swirling whirlpool in the middle of a deep river. It pulls in everything that comes near. Swirling and roiling in the whirlpool are jagged shards of broken glass; twisted pieces of metal sharp as knives; huge broken tree branches; poisons from a hundred factories and—a tiny baby boy, arms flailing, unbelievably keeping his head above water—just barely.

His mother, wanting to be rid of him and not knowing who he was, threw him into the whirlpool, thinking that would be the end of him. But the baby woke up suddenly, gasping, drowning, totally panicked. He had barely started life and, as happens with babies, it now seems that this IS his life: this gasping, drowning, whirling and swirling amid broken glass, knife-sharp twists of metal, huge logs of wood and murky brown poison sludge. And the noise! The roar of the water drowns him even more than the water itself.

He swirls so quickly that soon he begins to whirl around his own axis, like a tiny flailing world inside the whirling of the water-galaxy. Soon even the contents of his head are whirling and swirling inside his skull. He realizes that his mother threw him into this whirlpool and that he is meant to be dead. But “HAH!” he thinks, “I’m not dead! I’m still here.”

With this thought, even though he’s still whirling in the roiling water along with everything else, the inside of his head is no longer spinning. Although his whole universe is still a giant roaring whirlpool, he’s no longer whirling around his own axis like a tiny world in a water-galaxy.

Suddenly, his glance is caught by something in the distance, something outside his universe: a huge, 200-foot tall tree, with many branches thick as giants’ legs and leaves luscious green, the tree solid and deeply rooted into the earth beside the river. The baby is riveted by the sight of something so solid, so REALLY THERE.

“Oh, how I wish I could be there!” he thinks. And with the thought, the tree bends one of its long branches to the middle of the river, and, as the baby rushes by, he reaches out his arms and grabs hold of the branch. At the same time, the tree raises its branch and lifts the baby out of the whirlpool and sets him safely into the crook of a branch, and holds it in its tree-arms.

No longer deafened by roaring water, the baby hears an amazing new sound. It’s coming from tiny birds sitting on the tree’s branches: warbling and tweeting and chirping.

“Wow!” thinks the baby. He’s totally charmed.

The birds check out the newcomer and, finding him harmless and rather cute, gather twigs as a community and build a nest around him. It takes a whole bird community because babies are way bigger than birds.

He also hears a chittering and looks up. Squirrels are running up and down the trunk of the tree. They gather nuts and berries and fruits and lay them in the baby’s nest. The birds and squirrels can tell he’s pretty useless when it comes to feeding himself, so they do it for him, dropping things into his mouth. He laughs whenever they do that.

Eventually, the baby learns to crawl along the branches of the tree. Whenever he misses a handhold and starts to fall, the tree catches him with its branches and lifts him right back up to his nest. After a while, he’s a limb-crawling expert, and he’s peering through the leaves and branches way, way down to the bottom of the tree.

“I wonder what’s down there,” he asks no one in particular. He’s noticed the squirrels seem to be able to make it all the way down to the ground. He jumps carefully from branch to lower branch, spiraling all the way down and with a thump lands on his feet on the ground at the bottom of the tree. The ground feels really solid and HUGE. It seems to go on and on forever.

The squirrels and birds, knowing what was coming, have made him a knapsack out of a huge leaf. It’s stuffed full of nuts and berries, and soon so are his pockets.

He throws his arms around the tree and gives it a giant hug. He pats the tiny heads of the squirrels and birds, gives them a big wave and strides off into the world. As he fades off into the distance, suddenly, several boulders in the river shift their position, and the river runs swift and clean.

© Zoë Zimmermann, 2012

Wishing you a free and joyous life,

Creating Therapeutic Fairy Tales

In my many years as a Boulder psychotherapist, I’ve been fortunate to be able to incorporate many creative methods into helping clients heal emotional pain. Something I learned a number of years ago, from my training and practice in Process Work (created by Arnold Mindell), is to create fairy tales out of issues coming up in therapy. This can be especially useful when dealing with dysfunctional childhood family patterns.

Combining Process Work and EFT

As we begin co-create our fairy tale, EFT Tapping helps it continue to create itself, laying out the problem and then, organically, the solution tends to present itself. Here is such a story:

The Mirror Princess

Once upon a time, there was a castle surrounded by beautiful rolling hills, crystal lakes and a magical forest in which lived unicorns and talking deer and other magical creatures. In this castle lived a young prince and his step-sister, Nettle. The King was adored by his parents the King and Queen, but Nettle found no favor in their eyes. She was ignored and treated with disdain. When the prince became King, and was adored by all the realm, Nettle was so enraged that she stormed into the dining parlor one dinner and screamed, “Your daughter shall be cursed to be as a mirror to others. When they face her, they will see in her all that they love about themselves and will take that for themselves. Then they will look behind themselves and see all that they hate in themselves and will see it as hers, and will hate her, scorn her and mock her. She will be unseen and alone for all the days of her life, unless someone should come who loves himself completely and without condition. Such a person will be able to see through the mirror and will see the princess as she truly is.”

After several years, a beautiful baby daughter was born to the King and Queen. They looked upon her and adored her dark hair, rosy cheeks and gentle disposition. They took these for themselves, so that they too had dark hair, rosy cheeks and gentle dispositions. Then they began to walk away and looked back at her. The air shimmered around the baby. The King saw cowardice and the Queen saw selfishness. “She is so selfish!” said the Queen. “She is so cowardly,” said the King and shuddered.

Ever after, whoever came to face the young princess would take the wonderful characteristics they saw in her and take them as their own. Then, upon walking away, they would be compelled to look back. The air would shimmer and they would see ugly traits. They would be repelled by what they saw and see these traits as her traits. Soon, all the kingdom scorned and mocked and hated her.

Soon, everyone in the realm looked much like the princess. And yet, the princess was all alone. She didn’t know why everyone hated her and mocked her. She tried so hard to be good and kind and generous, but nothing changed how people reacted to her.

Only when she was in the forest surrounding the castle did she feel loved. Whenever she walked there, the deer walked beside her and they talked and laughed together. When she sat down to rest, a unicorn came to sit beside her. Soon, she was surrounded by the smallest and largest of animals and all were peaceful around her.

One day, on her 18th birthday, she ran into the forest in tears. Again and again, someone had come near her and seemed to change to take on her positive characteristics. As she did every time, she felt hope rising that this time, she would be seen and loved. But then, again and again, each person began to walk away and looked back at her. Suddenly, their expressions changed. They spewed hatred and scorn upon her. She felt so alone and rejected. As she wept in the forest, despairing, she cried to the animals to help her. They sent up a loud wailing around her in empathy for her pain.

There was a very old small brown mole who had, for all these years, hidden in his little hole. Startled out of sleep, he clambered out of his hole. “What is all this wailing?” he asked. The princess told him of her despair. No one knew how to ease her pain.

“Why of course I know what has happened, and how to solve it!” He was not a very modest sort. He told them of the step-sister’s curse.

“All you have to do is find one person who loves himself completely and without condition, and bring him to her.”

“But why is it to be a “him?” asked the animals.

“How should I know? That was the step-sister’s condition to break the curse. It’s not my condition,” the mole snapped back.

“But where will we find such a rare person?” wailed the animals.

“That is not my problem,” snorted the mole grumpily and dove back into his hole for a nap.

“You go back to the castle,” the animals urged the princess, “and we will scour the realm for the one who loves himself completely and without condition. We will bring him to you.”

For a year, the animals scoured the realm, interviewing and testing many many boys and men to find one who loved himself completely and without condition. Always, upon further questioning, each one hated or doubted something about himself.

But on the princess’ 19th birthday, the princess heard through her bedroom window a loud noise. All the animals were calling to her. Alarmed, she ran out through the castle door, over the moat and into the forest. Before her stood a beautiful young man. He looked at her and smiled. He took her hand and kissed it. She smiled back. They walked together and talked with each other. She noticed that the young man did not begin to look like her, nor did he seem to take on her character traits. He stayed looking like himself and being himself.

After a time, the day began to darken and the princess told him she had to go back to the castle. He leapt upon his horse, turned to look back, gave her a long look, smiled and waved. “I will return tomorrow,” he called.

The princess returned to the castle. Whoever she passed looked upon her and a change went over them. One by one, within moments were transformed from looking much like her to looking quite different from her. They shook themselves and greeted her. When they looked back at her, the air did not shimmer. They smiled and waved at her, and she waved back. For the first time, they saw the princess as she was.

The next day, the young man, who turned out to be the prince of a neighboring realm, came to the castle to ask for the princess. Over time, they grew to love each other and married.

EFT and Therapeutic Fairy Tales

There are many creative ways to use EFT Tapping and to combine Process Work and EFT for emotional healing. To find out more about EFT and my psychotherapy practices, see my website, EFT-Emotionalfreedom.com.

Wishing you a free and joyous life,