Who Else Wants to be Free of Arthritis Pain?
Dear EFT Community,
Dawson Church, PhD relates a moving experience with a young student at a Level 1 class. The 22-year-old woman had suffered from arthritis since the age of 2. Intense emotion surfaces and is dealt with in a caring and gentle way. Her plight had the whole room in tears.
By Dawson Church, PhD
A 22-year-old woman presented with arthritis on the first day of a EFT Level 1 class, and volunteered for a demonstration in front of the 60 participants present.
She reported that her first symptoms had appeared at the age of 2, and that the years between 2 and 16 were a "health crisis" for her. She had been treated in various ways, including hydrocortisone injections into her knees starting at the age of 2.
The symptoms had abated at the age of about 18, and then returned in full force two years before.
When asked for the current location of the pain, she reported pain in three locations: her right ankle, her left knee, and her left elbow. She was asked to rate the intensity of the pain using a Likert-type scale from 0 to 10 with 0 representing no pain, and 10 representing the greatest pain possible.
The pain in her elbow was 3, her knee 8, and her ankle 5.
One of the topics covered in the EFT Level 1 and 2 curriculum is "handling excessive intensity."
What do you do when a client begins crying uncontrollably, or shows other signs of extreme emotional distress? The answer is that you keep tapping. Usually, after a while, the emotion subsides, though it might take a few minutes, and can be very uncomfortable for both the EFT provider and the client in the meantime.
When asked to associate her physical symptoms with an emotional event, she was unable to find one. I asked what happened around the age of 2, when the symptoms began, and despite several probing questions, she was still unable to identify a specific event. I asked her about her relationships with her father and mother, and she said that they often fought.
She began to cry.
I asked her to remember a particular fight, and she could not identify one, so we tapped on "mom and dad fighting." While EFT is designed to work on specific emotional events, not on generalities like that one, there are several places during EFT training where you're taught to use generalities to "take the edge off" a big emotion. Once the client's degree of intensity has subsided enough for them to be able to think about specific events, you might then explore further for some.
In this case, after we'd tapped on the generality, and taken the edge off, she was still so upset she could hardly speak, and so I just made up likely phrases, such as "the big fight," and "all the fights mom and dad had" and "their raised voices" and "it's scary when parents fight" and "I don't feel safe when they're fighting" and so on. These are all obvious elements of parental conflict and a child's reaction to it, so we could make progress with EFT despite the lack of specific events to target.
During this session this woman spoke in a very low, hesitant voice.
She was very tall, with large brown eyes, long brown hair, and an open, childlike face. Her suffering was so great that many people in the room were moved.
Before the session, I had asked for permission to tap on her during the session, should the need arise, and she assented. She was in such distress that normally I would have begun tapping on her, as her hands were shaking, she was crying so hard she could not speak, and she was so deeply engrossed in her story that she was barely able to focus on the tapping points. However, I did not tap on her as planned. Not only was her emotion excessive, mine was too.
I simply had to keep tapping on myself to be able to handle my own emotional reaction to her suffering.
After the demonstration, which lasted about 25 minutes, she reported a reduction in pain to 1 in her elbow, 5 in her knee, and 3 in her ankle. I asked her to note any other changes in her symptoms during the course of the class. On the second day she reported no pain in her elbow and her ankle, but that there was still some pain in her knee. She said that she "feels it's not safe to let go of all the pain yet," and I encouraged her to let it go at her own pace, and not force the process.
This is important because when an EFT client has had an ego-identity linked to a physical symptom for a long time, that identity can feel lost and disoriented without the symptom.
It is prudent to allow time to allow a new self-concept to take root before the old one is extinguished.
That second day, her appearance had also changed noticeably. She smiled and participated light-heartedly, in contrast to the heavy sense of oppression she'd exhibited the day before.
Only the simplest form of EFT's Basic Recipe was used, since that was as far in the curriculum as the class had progressed.
It's important that EFT trainers stick to the curriculum, because it unfolds in a sequential progression. In a normal private session, I might have used many other interventions, including "empty chair" work from Gestalt Therapy, calming acupoints taught in Thought Field Therapy, meridian re-flow adjustment methods taught in Eden Energy Medicine, and visualizations from Transpersonal Psychology.
I also stressed to the class participants that, while many advanced EFT techniques are available, and that EFT is often combined with other methods in the therapeutic toolbox, even the simplest form of EFT’s Basic Recipe is effective in most situations, even those involving excessive emotion, and when working with severe emotional and physical pain.