Please note that this story contains sensitive subject matter pertaining to sexual assault.
By Z. Zimmermann
As a teenager, "Christina" (not her real name) had been coerced into sex and then raped repeatedly by her much older boyfriend.
She was intimidated by him and afraid of him, and so had a hard time ending the relationship.
In subsequent relationships, she felt that all she was good for was sex; her self esteem was way down. Ten years later, she was still traumatized, becoming upset and teary whenever she thought about that time, or tried to talk about it.
When she began to talk about the relationship and various times during it, she became agitated and also showed signs of trauma: the room seemed foggy to her and she was spacey and "fuzzy." We started by trying to bring down these symptoms of trauma. I've found that simply tapping on the symptoms themselves doesn't tend to work - they tend to get stronger rather than weaker, and tapping doesn't bring them down.
What I've found works, is to tap on the underlying sense of overwhelm:
"Even though a part of me is overwhelmed by all of what happened, I know I'm safe now."
"Even though a part of me just wants to hide in a corner and doesn't want to deal with any of this; it's too big, I deeply and completely accept myself. I remind myself that I'm sitting right here on this couch and I'm safe now."
This brought the fuzzy, spacey feeling and the fogginess in the room down to a 1.
Now we moved to the Tearless Trauma Technique. She decided she'd like to work on the first time her boyfriend sexually assaulted her. I had her give the incident a name and to guess, if she were to think about the details, without doing it, how intense it would be for her. She guessed it would be a SUD Level of intensity of 10.
Even though I have this (title of event) memory, I deeply and completely accept myself and remind myself that I'm safe now.
Even though I have this (title of event) anxiety, and it's stayed with me all these years, I deeply and completely accept myself and remind myself that I'm safe now. That's in the past.
After the first round, she felt sad, at a 6 intensity. When we tapped on the sadness, she no longer felt any intensity and guessed it would be a 1 or 2 if she thought about the details.
Then we went into the details, picking out the place with the highest intensity. She felt a heavy pressure on her chest. The first thing that came up was that she wasn't able to forgive herself. This was at an 8-9.
Even though I can't forgive myself, and I don't deserve to be forgiven, because I think I've brought this on myself and I deeply and completely accept myself.
Then came shame and guilt, still with some of the heavy pressure on the chest.
Even though I feel shame and guilt when I think about (details), I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I don't forgive myself and I believe I let it happen, why didn't I stop him? I deeply and completely accept myself and I forgive myself anyway.
The intensity went down a couple of points, but then went up to a 10 when she realized she felt powerless and disrespected. She realized that she had given up on trying to stop him.
Upon questioning, it became clear that she had been coerced by him sexually in other ways for quite a while before she was actually raped.
We tapped on the whole issue of powerlessness in general in regard to him, and then focused again on the event we were working on.
Even though I felt powerless and disrespected, and I still do, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I gave up; I didn't try to stop him anymore; I deeply and completely accept myself anyway, I forgive myself. I was doing the very best I could.
Now we were down to a 5.
Even though I believe it was my fault for being in the situation; how did I let myself get into this situation? I deeply and completely accept myself.
She realized that she had gotten involved with him because he told her she was intelligent and beautiful.
Then we added some more parts to the acceptance phrases: that he was older than she was. That possibly he knew how to get a younger person to do what he wanted, and he was willing to do that. That she had been blaming herself all these years; maybe he was the one that took advantage of a younger person. All of this brought the intensity down to a 2-3.
There was still a little pain and sadness and the fuzziness was still at a 1.
Even though I still feel this 2-3 guilt; it's my fault, I should have pushed him off me; I gave up on fighting, I let myself down, I betrayed myself, I forgive myself and allow myself to heal and move on.
At this point, she said that the guilt was gone and her heart was no longer heavy at all. She felt disconnected from the event. She felt she had let it go and was letting herself forgive herself.
She called a week later and told me she feels wonderful.
She said, "This stuff really works!" I agreed heartily.