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An extreme trauma with a severe abreaction--and what to do about it

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated.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,

Jayne Morgan-Kidd gives us the history of her traumatized client and then describes the client's extreme reaction at the beginning of her EFT session. People sometimes enter into such sessions with intense buried memories. Thus it should be no surprise that this intensity shows up during the session. It is vitally important to recognize this and I make a comment about it within the article. Note how Jayne "stayed with it" and brought peace to the process.

Hugs, Gary

By Jayne Morgan-Kidd

Background: Jenny grew up in a violent home in which her father physically abused her mother.  When Jenny was a young child, her mother tried to leave her father.  During her attempt to leave, Jenny’s father killed her mother, and Jenny witnessed this event.  Jenny told me she knew that this happened but had no memories about it.  She talked about the murder of her mother in a matter-of-fact manner.  No one in her family ever talked about her mother or her father or the death.  Jenny’s grandmother just “became Mommy after it happened” and that was that.  All of this was told to me with absolutely no emotion.

Jenny had married and had children with a man who was physically and psychologically abusive in order to control her, her behaviors, her beliefs, her freedom, her independence, and her self-esteem.  When she decided to divorce him, she developed fears about leaving and being killed by her husband as her mother had been, 

As the divorce date approached, she became more and more emotionally unstable and was eventually hospitalized.  She was treated and released but her husband gained custody of the children and presently was making it impossible for her to spend time with them unless he was present as well.  He was using the children as a means of persuading her to return to the relationship against her will.  She continued to be fearful of him, but would play by his rules so she could see her children. 

I taught Jenny how to do EFT and we tried some EFT on some simple body discomforts and some general feelings of anxiety.  She was impressed with this simple technique.  A few weeks later, we decided to begin work on the trauma.  I told her that we would be using a special EFT technique to minimize emotional pain, (The Tearless Trauma Technique) and I described how it works.  I told her we would approach the event in a general way to take the edge off the intensity and move toward it slowly and carefully.  I told her everything except what was actually going to happen…

I asked her if she had any nervousness or other concerns about the topic we were going to address.  I asked for any symptoms (body or emotional) that were present at this time but she had none.  I thought it would be good to begin with a general statement so I said something like Even though life has been hard for me ever since I was little… and we didn’t even get off the karate chop point.  She started to cry and covered her face with her hands.  I told her I was going to tap for her.  I began to tap on her head, as it was one of the few points that I could get to. 

When I tap for clients, I often hold one of their hands with one of mine as I tap on them with the other.  I took her hand and was continuing to tap on the points I could get to, including some of the finger points.  Then I began to feel her hand getting heavier and heavier in mine.  Her whole body was coming forward as she continued crying.  She started saying things like, “I remember it, I can see it, I see what he’s doing ….”  By this time she was on her knees on the floor and I was beside her, tapping her head and along her spinal column, saying things like ‘I’m safe now, it’s not happening now, this was a long time ago, nothing is happening now…” 

I could hear her making hard swallowing sounds, as though she might vomit.  I continued tapping and saying any calming phrase that came to me and after what seemed much longer than the 5 minutes it probably was, the abreaction subsided.  There were no more tears or crying and she looked calm.  She told me her throat was sore.  She said she felt she had purged a lot and having a sore throat seemed reasonable to her.  I told her we could tap on that sensation but she did not want to tap on it.  It was almost as if she was proud that she had been through this ‘purging’.  We ended the session by doing some tapping with some affirmations on self-acceptance and love. 

I called the next day to see how she was doing.  She told me her sore throat was gone when she woke up and that she continued to feel calm and relaxed.  More sessions were required to resolve all the aspects of this trauma.  But we had a start, albeit a bumpy one! 

Did that first round of tapping bring on the abreaction?  I would say yes it did.  I don’t think if I had simply suggested that “life has always been pretty hard for her” that she would have had the same reaction. 

GC COMMENT: It's important to recognize that EFT doesn't cause the memories that are behind this sort of abreaction. Why? Because the memories are already there. It is difficult to say whether they are brought out because the client is in a therapeutic environment or because EFT "loosened things up." Either way, I find it useful to have these real issues on the table so they can be dealt with. Otherwise, they stay hidden and seethe under the surface.

I’ve learned something else from this experience that I’d like to share with others who do this kind of work.  In the future, when I have a client with such an extremely traumatic event, I will include one other set of phrasing even if they say they have no physical sensations or emotions present as we begin.  I will tap for them anyway.  I think I would use some phrases like:

Even though I’m not feeling anything right now about this experience I had when I was little…

Even though I might have all kinds of feelings about this experience that I may have hidden from myself…

And I would probably do several minutes of this approach before I went on to anything closer to the event itself.

This experience also reminds me that it’s important to let the client know that extreme reactions are possible with EFT even when we are using techniques to minimize pain.  And it’s also important that you feel confident that you can stay with someone throughout an extreme reaction until it clears. 

Jayne Morgan-Kidd


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