Beginning With Samuel
In my several years exclusively using EFT with clients, I’ve seen many amazing things, but I think this is the most amazing and quick client transformation I’ve ever experienced. Below, I write about family roles (“EFT with Family of Origin Issues”, describing the case of “Jim,” who was in the Outcast role in his family.) “Samuel” (not his real name) came to me because he was going through the latest of a number of recurring episodes of extreme self-hatred, rage at everything and everyone, and thoughts that he should alienate his wife of many years so that she would kick him out and he could kill himself. As he described himself, it became clear that his world view and actions were typical of people who had grown up in the outcast role in their families: they are told and shown that they are “wrong” in some way and that they don’t “belong” in their families. They internalize this and learn to hate their families, themselves and the world. They feel compelled to act out either verbally or in actions to alienate themselves from their families and from any group of which they become a part. It’s a horrible life, full of anxiety and pain.
As soon as “Samuel” came into my office, he began to go into detail about a number of horrendous childhood stories of physical abuse at the hands of his mother and watching helplessly as she was beaten and sometimes almost killed by a series of boyfriends. He experienced her as believing and acting as if he were worthless, purposely bringing on her own beatings by boyfriends, and told me that she was a raging alcoholic from the age of 17. He told me he despised her and hated her so much that, when his sister asked him to come to his mother’s funeral, he told her “You don’t want me to do that because I’ll spit on her grave.” He also spoke of making veiled threats to kill his sister, of having fantasies of how good it would be to kill her husband, and of just recently smashing expensive equipment, without which he couldn’t work, because he was angry at a colleague. He told me sarcastically that the colleague was “playfully” punching him in the arm and showed me how he perceived it in his anger by taking his fist and suddenly smashing it into the arm of my couch with all his strength—admitting after a moment that his colleague probably didn’t do it that hard.
Finally, he felt that, for his wife’s sake, he should alienate her so that she would leave him and he could “blow my brains out.” (He did say that he didn’t think he’d actually do that) He felt that he was too awful to be with. Nevertheless, she had, for some reason, been with him for 30 years, and loved him to this day. I suggested there might be some good things about him. He said that she tells him he has love in his heart and that he brings joy to people—none of which he was feeling right then. I knew that I somehow needed to help him feel that he belonged again.
We started tapping:
“Even though I feel worthless and I want to retreat from society, I acknowledge this about myself and I realize that my wife loves me and feels I belong with her. (He couldn’t say he accepted himself or that he has compassion for himself). This lightened things a bit. He couldn’t tell me an intensity number.
He said that his wife loves him because, in her view, he thinks of other people and that he’s generous. He said that he never thinks of himself. For example, when he did a free-lance job with three other people, he divided their pay into three parts and gave them each a third, forgetting that he needed some money himself.
We tapped on
“Even though I feel worthless and want to retreat; even though I never think of myself and I leave myself out, I acknowledge this about myself.” He began to cry really hard, and I tapped on him, suggesting that he just stay with what was happening. I repeated similar phrases (above) and, when he could, in between crying, he repeated them. I added, “maybe I don’t need to keep leaving myself out; maybe I can think of myself.”
After a short time, the crying calmed and he looked much softer. He said that he felt much lighter and that the above were completely new ideas to him.
Samuel said that, since our first session, he continued to feel increasingly lighter and that, interestingly, a problem he’d had since he was in a car accident 1-1/2 years ago had gotten better, too. He had been hit in the head with a metal object that flew forwards from the back seat of the car and since then, he had had trouble forming words and sentences. He noted that, since our last session, his head was clearer and his sentences were clearer. And when his wife called him one day to see how he was doing, he told her “I feel good.” As far back as he could recall, he had never felt good nor told anyone he was feeling good—even after being in therapy for around 35 years.
He also said that he understands his mother was very sick and that he feels mostly pity for her. This was very different from the hatred and disgust he was expressing in the first session.
In this second session, we worked through one of the most horrible events of his childhood, which he had related with great negative intensity during the first session. We gave the event a name—“Belt”—and started with the Tearless Trauma Technique:
“Even though I have this “Belt” memory…” It started at a10 intensity.
After one or two rounds, he said he felt like he was floating above the experience, and that he had more perspective. He was looking down on it instead of being in it. Now he guessed that the intensity would be a 1 or so if he went into details of the incident.
Then I asked him for emotions surrounding the event. He said he was angry at his sister, at a 10 level of intensity.
“Even though I’m angry at my sister for (I’m leaving out the content here—ZZ), I send my young self compassion.”
“Even though I’m angry at my sister for _______, I forgive myself for whatever I contributed to this “Belt” event and, so that I can get some release and relief, I forgive my sister for what she did to contribute to it. I understand she may have just been trying to survive in her own way.” After this, intensity was already at 1 or 2. He realized that what was left in intensity was because this memory was being fused together with all the other painful things that had happened while they lived in a specific house
“Even though I still have some of this anger toward my sister, and this memory is fusing together with all the other ones in that house, I choose to separate this memory out from all the others, I send my young self compassion and love, and I give myself permission to let heal from this memory.” This brought the anger toward his sister to a 0.
Then I asked him about anger toward his mother. This had already gone to a 1 or 2, without directly working on it.
Then we started on the actual abusive actions that his mother perpetrated on him (I’m not saying what they are, to protect readers from vicariously having to experience them). Again the intensity for the pain was a 10.
“Even though I remember how much it hurt and how anything I said was ignored; even though I felt so helpless because nothing I said stopped it, I send compassion to my young self and let him know I love him. I forgive myself for anything I did to contribute to this _______ and I forgive my mother. She was ill and had a lot of pain in herself. She was probably doing the best she could, given her background and life-experiences. Her best wasn’t good at all, but it was the best she could do.” He agreed with all of this. He said that the thinking and feeling part of him, which had been disconnected, now felt connected. Intensity was very low, 1 or 2. He realized that his mother probably needed more love in her life, and felt understanding, pity and compassion for her. And for himself.
Now he was thinking that it was amazing that he had survived so long without harming others, and, that it was just “unfortunate” to have gone through what she did to him. He said this feeling no charge at all.
We went to another part of the memory that had been so intense when he told it in the first session. He felt “neutral” about it. Then I had him tell the whole story out loud again in detail, and he stayed at a 0 intensity about it.
He told me that, in the many years he had been in therapy, nothing had ever really changed for him. In two sessions with EFT, he felt completely different.
He also said he had never felt any forgiveness toward his mother, and he had certainly never expressed forgiveness toward her to anyone. But now he totally felt it. He felt totally calm about the above incident, and released from the pain.
We worked on another event, which already had much lower intensity than it had had when he told it to me the first day. The only place that was still a sticking point was a 10 intensity regarding his bad feelings about himself in regard to feeling anger. After tapping, he was able to accept his anger and create a distinction between feeling anger—which is what he does, and acting out with violence, which his mother and her boyfriends regularly did. This was the first time, he said, that he was able to accept himself and his feelings of anger and rage without feeling that he would become just like them. A huge relief for him.
At the beginning of the fourth session, he said that he had been able, since the last session, to stop negative thoughts whenever they wanted to start. He had never been able to do that; before this, as soon as dark thoughts began, he would be compelled to obsess on them for a long time. He said he had been feeling really good since the last session—very unusual for him in the past. I brought up several incidents connected with his mother that he had told me in the first session with such great intensity. Only one had more than a 1 or 2 intensity—it was a 3. We worked on the one aspect of this incident with somewhat of a charge and got it down to a 0 in one round.
As I said before, this is amazing to me. I’ve worked with a number of people who have had several discrete painful or traumatic incidents in their lives and they were resolved in one or two sessions. And I’ve worked, and continue to work with, people who have had years of abuse or other painful experiences and we chip away at them gradually. I’ve never seen such a huge transformation in someone’s personality and such quick dissolving of huge swaths of trauma so quickly. EFT is often a very effective PTSD treatment.
Working with “Samuel” fills me with immense gratitude for EFT. I would have to say it verges on the miraculous at times.
Contact Zoe Zimmermann, MA, LPC, Certified EFT Practitioner
Office Address: 75 Manhattan Dr., Suite 206, Boulder, CO 80303
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