Anyone who has suffered traumatic events has "stress." And, by expanding the terminology of PTSD, I think of all my EFT clients as having some form of "post-traumatic stress." And while military personnel have received the most attention in this regard, this is not exclusively a military problem. As an EFT practitioner, I work with the effects of past traumas with every client.
Traumatic events cause immediate disturbance in our energy system. The body downloads the trauma as in a cellular "jolt" or electrical shocks that ignite the sympathetic nervous system response. Without help with a release, this reflex will stay in the "on" position and cause a chain of aberrant emotional reactions, none of which involve inner peace or balance. As in postpartum depression, the severity of PTSD is dependent, to some extent, upon how much anxiety the person had before the traumatic event, perhaps explaining why some people are affected more than others. The more anxiety a person has internally, the less able they are to handle the overload.
This article is an example of how EFT rapidly and effectively helped one soldier and his wife, Nolan and Julia. They were already in the system for PSTD treatments but without the results they had hoped for. Julia took the initiative to find a better solution for their problems, off base. She had heard about how EFT was being used to help war veterans, and without even knowing where to begin, she Googled "EFT El Paso" and found my name.
In my opinion, this initial step of seeking help outside the base is, in itself, empowering. By removing one's self from the "cattle herd mentality" (Nolan's own words), it served to put some self-control back into their lives. Everyone has that choice. You can stay in one place and tread water, or you can find your own life preserver. In other words, "If what you're doing isn't working, do something else."
Nolan is a 35-year-old soldier, has been in the army for seven years, and had three combat deployments. Not long after returning from his third deployment to Iraq, Nolan checked himself into the William Beaumont Hospital for severe anxiety, having the feeling of wanting to "walk away from everything. " With thoughts of going AWOL from the army and his own family, he rationalized they would do better without him because he felt like a failure. He was admitted for "passive suicidal thoughts" and spent nine days on medications for insomnia, anxiety, depression, and art therapy to "express his emotions," all with no result. In fact, by his estimation, the anxiety medications "really, really freaked me out" by intensifying colors and lights. Nolan also said he lived his daily life like he was still deployed, always on alert. He couldn't get close to or trust anyone, including his wife, and expected her to leave him eventually. The thought of yet another deployment was overwhelming.
When Nolan and Julia came to my office, they had viewed a YouTube EFT demonstration, but never saw it used in person by an experienced practitioner. Nolan was quiet, inexpressive. After my grand EFT explanation, sat through his first tapping round only to say that it looked silly and was "just another bunch of crap." We addressed those beliefs next because it is strange looking and different from anything he'd been exposed to before. It is also a very important component during a treatment to express any internal resistance that stands in the way of the real healing work. After one tapping round of "this looks like a bunch of crap," he felt more relaxed, and it was easier to get through his prepared list of specific events. I had asked, during the initial phone consult for him, to prepare a list of bothersome memories to work on.
Even though he had been having problems falling asleep and staying asleep for more than an hour at a time, Nolan informed me that he had run out of his sleep medications two days prior. I knew once we chiseled away at the big chunks, sleep would follow, so we did not tap directly on his sleep problem.
Some of his main issues were as follows:
- The highest priority on the list was the recurrent image of his fellow soldier, an acquaintance, laying dead with his brain hanging out of his head.
- Because the next events happened serially, I asked for the first time each specific event (bothersome memory) happened.
- The first time he had to kick in a door in Iraq. (He was a door kicker).
- The sound of the first mortar fly-over.
- The sight and sound of the first mortar hit. (Loud noises made him agitated and angry.)
- Anger about feeling used, just following orders as a door kicker, and putting his life on the line. (Nobody cares). Note: see why later.
- The first visual memory of deplaning in Iraq, and the fear levels when he thinks of it now.
I thought it was a highly productive session, ending with Nolan feeling sleepy, a common physical relaxation response, and a good indication of issues being cleared.
On their ride home from my office, his wife noticed that his demeanor had changed and his face took on an appearance of complete relaxation, as if he had just returned from a well needed vacation.
Once we cleared out the current traumatic events, childhood issues came to the forefront. He had unresolved childhood issues involving his mother, who was indifferent and unavailable, and who had eventually abandoned her whole family, i.e., "she didn't care," just as the Army "didn't care" what happened to him. We addressed those issues at our second hour-long session. As it often happens, getting the worst memories out of the way allows similar issues to generalize away very quickly. After working on the issues about his mother, trust in his wife came back to balance.
After two sessions of EFT, Nolan feels he is completely over his PTSD and his life overall has improved tremendously. In his own words, here is his progress report.
"The image of my fellow soldier who was shot and killed in Iraq, that I couldn't get out of my head, was completely gone after about 10 minutes of EFT. It's been a couple of weeks since our first session, and if I do think of him now, it's when he was alive and healthy."
"I didn't like the fact of how I felt the army had just used me being a door kicker; I was just following orders and putting my life out there. I've gotten over that anger as well."
"El Paso used to disturb me because some of the areas look like Iraq, but now, it's just El Paso, and we didn't even cover that in our session, it's what put me in the hospital in the first place, I was always on alert-because of the visual reminder."
"I was on sleep medications and having a real hard time going to sleep and staying asleep, even while I was hospitalized. I stopped taking the medications altogether, and now I'm sleeping the whole night every night. It's really great sleeping better. I handle stress a lot better now, and I don't need any of my medications. I feel calmer, and haven't had any anxiety problems since."
*Note: Its important to note that by law I cannot and do not advise any of my clients to stop their medications, and always refer them to their medical doctors for supervision.
Nolan and Julia attended our EFT Level 1 workshop shortly after his second session. Although she went there to support Nolan, during that time Julia discovered the roots of her own issues, and why Nolan's issues pressed so many buttons inside of her. One of them was the look on his face when he was heavily medicated. As a gift to all our attendees, we offer them a free half hour session with me as a jump-start on their own Personal Peace Procedure.
Julia, having had a close look at her husband's PTSD symptoms, was reminded of the daily traumatic stresses she endured as a child living with a heroin addict mother. Nolan's facial expressions, under the influence of psychotropic drugs was, to her, eerily similar to her moms when she was high. Highly resilient naturally, she had been suppressing her past throughout their marriage until the drugged face of her husband pushed an old button.
This is Julia's own testimonial after her half hour private session.
"I now feel like I'm more "at one" with myself-more balanced, I don't feel so scattered. After the session, I went home and felt just like Nolan did when he left from his first session. I could see how relaxed he was, and for me, everything was just slower, like life just slowed down. I felt more content, and for the very first time in my whole world, I was able to start and finish a task. At first, I was very reluctant to say anything to anyone because it almost seemed too quick and too good to be true! I was able to feel content, focus in on one thing at a time and finish it. And it happened again the very next day. By the third day, I was on the phone to my dad and telling him I had actually started and finished five different projects around my house, and it was a really good feeling."
In my world, I consider myself a leader, and I can "fake it" by assigning other people on the teams that I'm on to make up for my weaknesses, so I don't appear so scattered. At home, my own family knows that I'm all over the place and for the first time ever, I know what balance feels like."
"Internally, I've always had quite a bit of anger, and I can say now, those levels are now down to about a 3, I might even say a 1 or a 2, and I feel very relaxed and excited for my day. Overall, I feel very relaxed. It's been great!"
"I've had really bad attention problems. I couldn't finish anything and felt scattered and always overwhelmed. When we were at the EFT class, I was able to see more clearly how just much discontent I've always felt. My attention problems were so bad that I could never sit down with my husband and watch a movie-but I watched one the other day-very unusual!"
"I have never been able to wake up my three kids after infant/toddler age. It's been a huge issue that I don't feel like I was ever aware of until my husband's PTSD showed up, and they started medicating him, which caused flashes of old memories seeing the drugged look on his face. Sleep faces remind me of my mother who was a heroin addict. My father who raised me was a pothead. I grew up hating sleep because it meant that I was alone and isolated."
"My oldest child is 13 years old, and I have never been able to go to her room and wake her up seeing her sleepy. Once my children got to that age I would yell at them from a distance "It's time to wake up!" If I didn't get immediate responses from them, and if they weren't lined up like soldiers at the top of the stairs at attention, then I was irritated, mad, and then yelling for having to wake them up myself. The hostility would surface, but I thought I was doing them a big favor by restraining my real anger. After my first session, I found the habit of standing at the top of the stairs to wake them still there, but the anger is completely gone."
"Before my first session and after the EFT workshop, I went all the way up the stairs just to test it. It took more time for me to get mad. With each step I could feel it building internally, I thought, "I'm going to see the sleep face" and a few seconds later I could feel the hostility build. After my private session, I told myself I'm going up there again, I did it, and I was fine. I was able to have a conversation with my daughter and had a zero intensity of anger. I was absolutely able to stand there and look at her groggy face! My daughter and I look just like my mother, it was unbelievable that I was able to stand there and have a conversation with her while she was waking up. Its sad to me that I used to get angry at my own daughter. In ten years I have never been able to see her wake up! This is huge progress! The only thing remaining is for me to get rid of the weird habit of going to the edge of the stairs."
"I never realized I hated looking at my kids sleeping-who says that? After this all unraveled with EFT I realized that my problems were very deep-I was really running from my mom's sleeping face, I've been running for years."
Specific events we worked on:
I was afraid mom wouldn't wake up.
I was alone when she nodded off.
I felt betrayed each time she got high.
Mom didn't love me.
Mom didn't see me.
Sleep means lazy.
Nolan and Julia now have EFT as a tool to handle the normal, ongoing stresses of life and to explore releasing long-held blocks to their happiness. They are part of a small but growing number of military PTSD victims who have taken the initiative to remove themselves from the rigidly conservative and ineffective approaches used by the Army.
The old guard has always resisted new approaches, and perhaps rightfully so since much that is "new" turns out to be of little use in the long run. Today's soldiers are in the unique position of purposely placing themselves in stressful situations. In many of these situations, they react to activities that are unnatural (freedom to kill humans and destroy property without corporal punishment). When they return home, they are expected to come back to "normal" and function "normally" again.
With almost 20 years of a track record in the treatment of stress-related conditions, EFT deserves more than a second look, it deserves to be recognized as a true "weapon" in the fight against PTSD. As essentially a self-help technique, it could be taught to soldiers and used in the field as needed. In the meantime, even though acceptance is slow and progress in treating PTSD conventionally even slower, EFT will forge ahead as a powerful treatment for those willing to move outside the "system" for their own sakes. As long as we're here, there will be help for anyone who seeks it.