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Articles & Ideas


Jewels in the junkyard--the prison population

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™.  Best wishes, Gary

Hi Everyone,

The prison system needs our help.

Prisons are warehouses (cages) for those brothers and sisters of ours that have made big mistakes. They are not places for rehabilitation, as we might like to think. Nor are they places for love and spiritual forgiveness which, arguably, are their true needs. Instead, they are monuments to fear, anger and guilt.

The motto within those walls is often "Do unto others before they do unto you." It's a way of survival. To be tough and mean is a badge within those walls. It's a way of "being somebody" to those "nobodies" who have been abused, traumatized, criticized and rejected since childhood. They have learned how to lie, bully, murder and steal to get what they want. Trust is very hard for them. They would much rather manipulate someone than develop trust and work toward mutual goals. For them, manipulation works. Trusting does not.

I have spent many hours with prisoners, both in groups and in individual sessions. Until you establish trust with them (not easy--it is the hardest part of the process), they can be an uncooperative group with "Don't Trespass" signs written all over their psyches. Once I gained their trust, however, they were most willing, even anxious, to get help.

When I was alone with them their protective walls came down and their tender hearts emerged from within their hardened shells. I watched their watery eyes as they discussed their crimes. I witnessed the emotional stings they felt about being disowned by their families. I saw the softened faces and heard the quiet voices as they spoke in reflection about how they ended up in prison. And I left with thank you's for the emotional relief I was able to give in our brief sessions together. These were not just perfunctory thank you's, either. They were genuine. It was as if I was the only one who had ever reached out to them with a helping hand and with nothing to gain but their friendship. Try that sometime. It is a very powerful place to come from and the profound sense of personal connection (the real pay) you get far transcends any other form of compensation.

One of my mentors was named Ben Feldman. He died a few years ago but left many useful echoes in my head. Among them is, "You make a living from what you get but you make a life from what you give."

Back to the prisoners. Realistically speaking, some prisoners are beyond our help--at least for now--and maintaining them in the human junkyard known as prison is our only practical solution. However, many prisoners (I think most of them) are very salvageable. They are jewels in the junkyard. At the core, they are tenderhearted people who desperately need the type of emotional and spiritual help that EFT can give them. They also need some vocational training and some assistance in getting adjusted to society. And all of this is do-able at a cost far less than warehousing these people for decades.

I have great admiration for those bringing energy healing techniques to prison inmates. Gene Douglas is one such prison practitioner who deserves our respect. He is taking on a very difficult population and writes--as he has written before--with some of his frustrations in this environment. He finds it (understandably) very difficult to see the jewels in the junkyard. His message is given below along with some of my comments.

Hugs, Gary


I'm having the same bad luck at the prison where I work, maybe a 50% success rate, as compared to maybe 90% success at the women's shelter and my private practice.

GC COMMENT: I am pleased that a "50% success rate" is now considered "bad luck." It shows how far we have come in recent years. I know we are used to higher success rates and, by comparison, maybe 50% ain't so good. But success 50% of the time is faaaarrr beyond what one might have expected with conventional techniques--especially with prison inmates that have a long list of severe emotional issues. Many of them have been badly abused as children and/or traumatized by war. They have been societal outcasts and labeled as "no good," "bad apples," or "scum." During EFT, they can easily shift from aspect to aspect or have major psychological reversal, secondary gains/losses, etc. all of which, unless effectively dealt with, can result in lowered success rates.

GENE CONTINUES: I have noticed that I have about 0% success where the inmate makes a disparaging remark. Yesterday, an inmate stopped tapping in the middle of a sequence, and said, "What the hell good is this supposed to do?" And his SUDS remained unchanged.

I kept repeating the topic he had complained about, "letting your son down," hoping I would keep the thought in his mind, rather than his resistance to a treatment that made no sense to him, but to no avail. It appears to be resistance to the idea which interferes with the treatment. This is coupled with the fact that many of them don't want counseling either, and are just using me as a gateway to the drug therapy they seek.

GC COMMENT: To me, it is natural for a client to make a disparaging remark if, in their perception, they are making no headway. There may be many reasons for making no progress and I cover them on our web site under the Frequently Asked Questions section (see When it doesn't work....????). I recommend that everyone, especially newcomers, read that section repeatedly until it is memorized. Basically, when it "isn't working" the causes are usually....

(1) psychological reversal is still in place,

(2) the client is actually making headway but switching aspects behind the scenes,

(3) you haven't found the core issue yet and/or

(4) the problem is being addressed too globally.

My reaction to the "letting your son down" issue is that it may be too global. There may have been many instances of letting his son down and each such specific tree (event) in that negative forest needs to be addressed.

GENE CONTINUES: It almost seems as if many of the inmates actually want to hold on to their grudges and self-pity, and see drug therapy as a way to have it both ways, reserving the right to resent while not feeling the pain.

I am also puzzled by the inmates who can list symptoms, insomnia, loss of appetite, irritability, but can not think of anything particularly bothering or worrying them. They seem to present it as if the symptoms arise for no reason, and from nowhere at all.

GC COMMENT: I really haven't had the problems you outline here. Perhaps I don't have as much experience in the prison system as you, Gene, or maybe the population I was dealing with was more cooperative than those you see. Although I have dealt primarily with "lifers" (including murderers and serial murderers), I have found them generally cooperative and have had a very high success rate with them (over 90%) on the specific issues we worked with). However, an advantage I had here was that they did not see me as a pathway to drugs or as someone who could "rat" on them or pose a threat in any way. The setup was that I was simply someone from the outside that was not connected to the prison in any way. I was simply a friend trying to help. Once they trusted that, they were quite open with me--even appreciative. That trust thing was probably the most important ingredient.

GENE CONTINUES: However, I once had a client with irritable bowel syndrome, who went down a list of things bothering her, and then informed me that she was experiencing pain at that moment, which had not subsided, even though the problems agitating her were treated. At her suggestion, we tapped on the pain itself, and it disappeared.

I am wondering what kind of luck you have had in tapping simply on the symptom itself.

GC COMMENT: I've had great success tapping on the symptom itself. I do this with large groups of people in my EFT workshops and the vast majority of them report progress. The EFT Course is loaded with cases where we tapped on the physical symptom only. Examples are shoulder pain, tightness in the jaw, asthma, heart arrhythmia, headaches, back pain, irritable bowel syndrome, lupus, multiple sclerosis and many others.

Sometimes I suggest tapping for the underlying emotion instead of directly on the symptom (pain). This is usually in cases where tapping on the symptom isn't doing the job. It's another approach.

GENE CONTINUES: It's hard to get a SUDS on insomnia and loss of appetite, or even irritability if the person can't give me an example, or says he feels nothing just telling about it. But maybe the person could tell me later if there was a change.

GC COMMENT: These types of ailments are usually global in nature and require some digging to find the negative trees (events) in the forest that contribute to the problem. These are typically considered "tough cases" because they aren't among EFT's "one minute wonders." They require persistence and skill and are opportunities in disguise because they provide the practitioner with the motivation to push their own envelope.

GENE CONTINUES: (signed) Gene Douglas

MORE COMMENTS BY GC: As I look back on my prison experiences, I think it was my "internal attitude" that contributed more than anything else to the rapport and trust that was so necessary in delivering EFT effectively to this population.

By "internal attitude" I mean my self talk regarding prisoners. My spiritual persuasion is that we are all equal children of our creator. Thus all prisoners are the same as me with the only exception being their experiences and beliefs (writing on their walls) that has caused them to make such severe mistakes. I'm not saying I'm right about that, by the way. Rather, I'm saying that is my mental set--my genuinely held belief--that radiates between us. We all radiate our true beliefs and others pick up on those beliefs in subliminal ways. This radiation is one of our most persuasive forms of communication. Unfortunately, it communicates both the negative and the positive.

If, instead, my beliefs were that prisoners were resistant, walled off, impossible to reach and were only interested in using me for their own selfish needs, then that is what I would radiate. They would pick that up, of course, and act accordingly. If I see them as junk, that is how they will behave. If I see them as jewels, then the glitter will soon appear. This idea is not unique to prisoners, by the way. In my experience, it applies to every relationship. People tend to live up to your truly held beliefs about them. If you genuinely see your spouse, co-workers, clients, children, etc. as jewels then, at least around you, that's what they will become. If you want someone to behave more positively around you, then adopt more loving and forgiving thoughts about them. This is not simplistic rah rah, by the way. It is the reality of relationships.

Incidentally, if you want to know the quality of what you radiate, just observe how people respond to you. They are your mirror.

Love, Gary


Explore our newest advancement, Optimal EFT™, by reading my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™. More efficient. More powerful.