I have had some amazing experiences of working with someone on the memory of an accident and discovering that pain they had had for years thereafter has suddenly and seemingly inexplicably gone away. Some have been demonstrations at workshops. Some have been private sessions. One recorded on one of my DVDs, is a woman who had had mega back pain after falling off a horse decades earlier.
I am intrigued about how this happens. So I was really interested to read that Professor Vania Apakarian at the Northwestern University in Chicago had investigated the link between chronic pain and the emotional response to the injury that caused it. What Professor Apakarian found was that in the year after injury causing back pain, emotional response to the injury seemed to influence who did and did not tip over from acute to chronic pain which persisted after the injury had healed. What particularly interested me was that this was not emotion as reported by the subjects on a 1- 10 scale as we use in EFT but neurological activity picked up in a succession of brain scans over that year.
It reminded me of some studies that challenged the conventional physical explanations for chronic back pain. Doctors often tell patients that damage to discs or other spine structure problems are causing their back pain. Yet in one study, it turned out that two-thirds of people who have never had serious back pain have the same levels of abnormalities or damage. And whether people continue to have back pain after surgical repair does not seem to correlate at all with the success of the surgery. There seems to be much more going on than physiology here.
I also remember years ago hearing Bob Tinkner talking about his work with people who had long lasting whiplash following road accidents. He found that if he used EMDR* on the memory of the accident the whiplash just went away. Did people tense and freeze at or a millisecond before impact and unconsciously decide it is safer to stay braced that way? Bob is just one of a number of people who have been trying to unpick the psychological from the physiological elements of whiplash. (The thriving industry in suing for whiplash after traffic accidents is another story.)
So how does doing EFT on a trauma memory get rid of pain that has been around for years? I cannot pretend to completely understand how this happens. But I have some clues.
Professor Apakarian did not get involved in what emotion people had about their accidents but he did show that the continued existence of negative emotion was relevant. From my own work with people who have had accidents and still have pain from them the emotions have typically included fear, anger with the person they felt was responsible, anger (with or without an urge to self-punishment) with themselves, anger or sadness about the consequences for themselves and other people. Sometimes the emotions were not about the actual accident but about something that was said or done, or not said or done, afterwards. When these emotions are cleared people are often also free of on-going pain or have it greatly reduced.
The thing is people often do not realize they still have the emotion until EFT puts them in touch with it. Doing EFT might start with working on something like seeing the headlights of a vehicle closing in, or the metallic sound of the impact or some aspect of the incident itself and only after tapping on that does the unconsciously stored emotion emerge and make itself available to tapping.
*EMDR is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.