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Using EFT with a Survivor of Domestic Violence
This detailed article by Jayne Morgan-Kidd illustrates the skillful use of EFT in an all-too-common case of domestic violence. Please note how Jayne approaches the issue globally to "take the edge off" and then gets down to an important SPECIFIC EVENT. She also displays creative ways to test her work. This is an important article for serious students who want the skills necessary to deal with intense cases.
Background: I met 'Berica' (not her real name) this year as a result of a Child Protective Service intervention. CPS took her 6 month old daughter from the home because of discovered drug use by both Berica and her husband. During the course of the investigation, CPS found that Berica was a victim of domestic violence by her husband and so ordered her into counseling as part of a prescribed program to follow in hopes of regaining custody of her daughter. Berica's husband was arrested and jailed on drug charges during this time and Berica began divorce proceedings.
Berica is a woman in her 30's who grew up with an extremely controlling and violent father. Her mother, sister and brother also fell victim to this man's rage and violent behavior. Berica was exposed regularly to this brutalization of her entire family throughout her childhood and teenage years. As an adult, she married twice to violent and dangerous men whom she ultimately left. She has been stalked by both and she continues to fear retaliation from them for leaving.
During these marriages in which violence was a recurring feature, her major coping mechanism was drugs. At present, she no longer uses drugs to numb her feelings. Berica suffers from chronic PTSD symptoms including recurring nightmares, sleep problems, hypervigilance and an exaggerated startle response.
Her main symptom: One of her most pronounced and visible symptoms is her inability to tolerate another person coming into her personal space without physically shaking and becoming tearful. (The only exceptions are her children and her brother.) This response is easily measured as I, myself could not come close to her without provoking the shaking and tears. Rather than using the 0-10 intensity rating, we used her physical response to my entering her personal space.
In my office, I sit about five feet from my clients. I had her permission to come closer to her. I took one step and waited for her to tell me if I could come closer. We continued this way until I was standing directly in front of her. At that point, she asked me to stop. Her hands and knees were shaking and tears were streaming down her cheeks. I sat back in my chair and we began:
Even though I feel scared when people get close to me....
At the points, I used phrases like:
People scare me.
I've been hurt before.
Don't know who to trust.
People are scary.
Don't get too close to me.
GC COMMENT: Please note how Jayne starts with more generalized, or global, approaches. This often helps to "take the edge off" of intense issues. Later, you will see that Jayne zeroes in on a SPECIFIC EVENT. This is often a very useful approach.
JAYNE CONTINUES: After that round, we tried our experiment again. This time, I got as far as sitting on the arm of the chair she was in. There wasn't any crying at this point but the shaking in her knees and hands continued, although both had diminished considerably.
I sat back in my chair and asked about other symptoms. She said she had trouble sleeping because of recurring nightmares. I decided to try some EFT with one of the nightmares, using the Movie Technique. We did one round on the first emotional peak at the beginning of the nightmare when she shifted into a vivid real-life memory related to the nightmare. She had 'buried' this memory for years, she said. We then did several EFT rounds on the fear provoked by the memory, stopping and assessing our progress after each round by my moving closer to her.
GC COMMENT: This memory became a very important SPECIFIC EVENT that Jayne skillfully approaches from several different angles. Note how the memory showed up during the EFT process. This happens frequently.
Even though it scares me when I think about dad chasing me with that stick… (After this round, less tears but still lots of shaking, especially in the hands)
Even though I still feel scared when I remember my brother saving me from dad and then dad started beating my brother… (no tears, continued shaking)
Even though I still feel scared as I remember running through the field and getting stickers in my feet…going as fast as I could to get to a phone to call the cops so I could save my brother… (no tears, visibly less shaking)
Even though the police didn't take dad away, they just told dad to leave the house and we were still so scared… (no tears, continued milder shaking)
On the last round, I used more self empowering phrases:
Even though I still feel scared, I accept myself for my feelings about that memory and I know it was a long time ago, and dad can't hurt me anymore…And I won't ever let my children be around dad… and I will warn my children about dad in case they ever want to meet him when they get older…
At the end of the last round, we again tested her ability to allow me into her personal space. I moved toward her slowly as she directed and eventually sat on the arm of her chair without bringing about any tears or any visible shaking. She said she could still feel herself 'shaking a tiny bit on the inside'. I also tested for the feelings of fear provoked by this memory, which had subsided as well.
GC COMMENT: Testing one's work like this is very important. It lets us know where we are in the process and gives us clues as to what is left to address.
At the end of the session, I asked her to be aware and make note of how she was feeling in any situation that would normally provoke tears and shaking to see if this effect will generalize to other people.
Next session about 3 weeks later:
When Berica came in, I asked if we could check to see how she felt about having me in her personal space. I moved toward her as before, and sat on the arm of the chair. She had no problem with this at all and as an added improvement, there was no internal shaking. This time I asked if I could touch her hand. She agreed and as I did so, her hands began to shake.
I sat back down and asked about how it had been for her to be around others these past 3 weeks. She described a situation where someone (known to her) had startled her and although her initial reaction was to run, she was able to stop herself and respond more normally. She talked about being around her co-workers and feeling more at ease. She also said she had visited her father for the first time in many years and no longer felt any fear of him. She was able to hug him and tell him she hopes he is doing better. A forward step indeed.
We did some other less intense work (and tapping) on some communication problems she has with her mother, saving the more difficult topic for last. After making good headway on the mom issue, we began talking about her fears of having to come face to face with her present husband in court next week. He has been extremely physically abusive toward her and has threatened her and, although she has a protective order against him for herself, none exists for the baby and this causes her a lot of worry. She is very afraid of him and her experience with him has given her reason to be fearful. But her fear is so extreme that it rules her life. She decided that reducing her fear to a 3 or 4 would be okay, but no lower. Her 0-10 intensity level on the fear of seeing him in court was a 8. We started tapping on:
Even though he terrifies me, I accept myself and I am open to the possibility that I could release some of this fear.
Even though I need to keep some of my fear of him, I choose to release the excess fear that I have.
After these rounds, she said her fear was at a '4' and she was satisfied with that. I asked if I could test again for her ability to have me in her space and touch her. This time as I sat on the arm of her chair, I touched her hands, then her shoulders, her back, and her head. All this occurred without shaking (inside or out) and without tears. To me, this is an example of how connected we are in every way, emotionally, physically and through time. We did not do any more tapping specifically for the shaking upon being touched, but after working on other things, this problem subsided as well.