Tapping Uncovers Childhood Sexual Abuse
By Dawson Church
A woman, let's call her Claire, really wanted urgently to be a demonstration subject in an EFT class I was teaching. I try to pick subjects whose issues can be positively affected in the brief amount of time available for a demo, usually 15 to 30 minutes, but it had taken Claire three days of class time to pluck up the courage to ask to be a subject, and though she was clearly taking on a big issue, she was also clearly determined to come out the other side of the healing journey.
She began shaking and crying as soon as she sat down opposite me in front of the class. She knew something bad happened when she was very young, but she couldn't remember what it was. Yet she was certain it had affected her whole life. "I don't trust my father," she said, "He has a weird sexual vibe toward me. I keep him at arm's length."
I began tapping myself, and without me having to give her any instructions, she began tapping on herself as well. We had recently covered the Tell the Story Technique in the workshop, so everyone was familiar with it.
One of the nice characteristics of EFT is that you can tap on a feeling even when you can't remember an event clearly, and I've found that such tapping often brings up a memory of the event. So we began tapping on "Even though something bad happened when I was 3, and I can't remember what it was, I deeply and completely accept myself. I accept myself without remembering." Though we are encouraged in EFT to drill down to the specific events that underlie a feeling, general tapping can help "take the edge off" intense emotions. There's a time to be very directive, and there's a time to be patient and allow a client to go at their own pace. I also chose not to interrupt Claire by asking for an initial SUD level, since she was clearly at maximum emotional charge.
After tapping for a while on not being able to remember the bad thing, Claire began to cry again, and said that she feels totally shut down from waist down. We tapped on that feeling, using her exact words. "Even though I'm totally shut down from the waist down, I deeply and completely accept myself."
At this point I decided it was time to search for a specific event, so I asked her at what age she became shut down. "It was when I was 3. The bad thing happened, and it cut off my energy from the waist down."
As we kept tapping, she said, "Pieces of it are coming to me. My uncle did something. He's in the room. I'm little. He's taking his penis out of his pants. He's putting it in my mouth."
I asked her to tell me what the penis looked like. She said, "It's red and wrinkly. "It's a huge gross penis that fills my entire body. It's in every part of me, there's no part of my body that's not being filled up with it. I can never get rid of it."
As she began to tap, more aspects began to arise spontaneously. Claire tapped on, "The penis is always inside me. It gets in the way of my relationships with men, I can never trust them."
We tapped on each aspect as it came up. We used reminder phrases that employed her exact words, such as "I can never trust men. There's no part of my body that's not filled up with the penis," and so on. As each aspect went to a low SUD number, we picked a new aspect.
We were now about 15 minutes into the demonstration, and I asked if I could tap on her if necessary, because at times she was so distraught she couldn't even speak, let alone tap. She nodded through her tears that it was OK. I reminded that class that it's essential to ask for permission to tap on another person, and not assume that touching is OK with them. This is especially true for a coach of the opposite gender working with a client who has experienced sexual violence. A gross physical invasion is a form of unwanted touching, and tapping without permission can echo the original trauma.
I deliberately couch the above paragraph in gender-neutral language, because it's not just women and girls who are the victims of sexual abuse. It is estimated that one in three girls is sexually abused, but what is little know is that one in five boys is sexually abused. So in a classroom with fifty people, the chances are that about fifteen of them have had experiences similar to that of Claire. In EFT trainings, we emphasize this to practitioner candidates. Even if you're just doing business success coaching, you're almost certainly going to run into this issue.
It's also important to be aware of the professional requirements of your jurisdiction; for instance, in California, where I live, psychologists are not permitted to touch their clients in the course of therapy. Other professional licenses, such as massage therapy, do permit touching.
One of the beauties of EFT is that it can be used with many other techniques. I decided to use a technique drawn from Transpersonal Psychology called Inner Counselor. Inner Counselor was developed by Ann Nunley, PhD, a brilliant therapist and healer I got to know personally when she served on my doctoral dissertation committee. Ann has been instrumental in developing Holos University, which offers a rigorous academic program in energy medicine.
I chose Inner Counselor because it uses visual images to facilitate the healing process, and Claire had such a strong image of the giant red penis. Inner Counselor has you find a safe space within yourself, and a guide. With your guide, and in safety, you go out and find a second image, one of healing.
Claire had no trouble finding her healing place, a Caribbean beach, and a guide, a dolphin, and together they quickly found a healing image, which was a pool of warm turquoise water. She and the dolphin were on the beach swimming in the water. As Claire tapped and journeyed, the water filled the penis and they merged together. In the Inner Counselor technique, you look for a merging of the old image and the new one; this is believed to be a sign of digesting the traumatic experience, and integrating it into the personality.
After we ran though the Inner Counselor routine, I asked Claire about the huge red penis again, using the most graphic terms I could. These are "knee-wobbling" questions; they are so confrontive that the might cause the client's knees to shake if any aspect of the trauma remains. Claire was calm, and her SUD remained low. She said that the material level penis was gone, but there was an "energy penis" still present. So we tapped on, "Even though this energy penis is still there," and then she said, "The dolphin guide is making it black and solid. Now it's crumbling into sand. It's become a beautiful black sand beach by the turquoise water."
I looked at my notes, and read back to her the statements she'd made about her father, and about keeping him at arms length. She gave me what I call the "Apex look," as if to say, "Are you crazy?" If you've done EFT for even a few sessions, you know about the Apex Effect, how after EFT, people quickly forget how triggered they were earlier. Claire spoke about her father in tender tones, saying, "He's so old and frail now, I love him so much."
I asked about her energy being cut off from the waist. She said, "Energy is flowing up through me now. I can be big."
I wondered what more I could to do test her. I remembered some of the tests from EFT DVDs, such as ending a demonstration of someone who's afraid of public speaking by having him give a speech to the other workshop participants.
I asked Claire if she'd be willing to turn toward the whole class and tell them she could be big. That brought up another aspect, she said she couldn't. I asked her if she could tell just me that she could be big, and she tapped and whispered, "Dawson, I can be big," over and over again, her voice getting stronger. Then, spontaneously, she turned to the class, and said to everyone," I can be big!" I asked her to stand up and say it, and she began to enthusiastically proclaim, "I can be big!"
The whole class had been riveted by the demonstration. Everyone had been tapping, and most had been crying along with Claire. At that point, with her SUD zero on the penis, zero on the blockage at her waist, and zero on her dad, I thought we might wrap up with one last test that might be fun for Claire and the class. So I pulled up a chair in front of the whole class, and invited her to stand on it. She jumped up onto the chair enthusiastically, laughing, tapping, and shouting out, "I can be big!" It was a fantastic end to that module of the workshop, and everyone left the room for the tea break feeling elated!
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Follow-up: A couple of months later, I received this email from Claire:
Hi Dawson, I want to say THANK YOU! You supported me in clearing trauma in the workshop. Much of the clearing had to do with my dad. He unexpectedly ended up in the hospital about 1 week after I got home and died two weeks later. Because of the work you did with me, the time I spent with him before he died will never be forgotten. There was so much love and caring. I actually held his hand most of the time which was a miracle in itself. I am so grateful for the work we did and for the gift of being complete and grateful for my relationship with my dad. I thank you again for giving me the gift of clearing the trauma. I don't believe I would be at peace with all of this had it not been for EFT and the work I did so thank you, thank you, thank you!