WHY NOT TAP ON GRIEF?

I don’t often read a book that catapults me into as profound a rethink as The Truth About Grief has.   It is not a particularly riveting book.  It will never make it on to my top 20 greatest reads.   But it is making me question how I ever came to accept Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief as if handed down from above on tablets of stone.

One reason, I suspect,  is that before I encountered them as a therapy student I had already absorbed them through the pores of my skin. They have become part of our culture.   And then later, when EFT became the core tool of my therapy, I made decisions about whether/when tapping was appropriate for grief on the basis that that description of grief was a prescription – that it was normal and inevitable and to be messed with or missed out at our peril.  I thought it was fact, not merely belief.

And I also taught that.

So when I was in the gym and stumbled across an old BBC podcast on my iPod in which author Ruth Davis Kongsberg was interviewed about the lack of evidence for Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief and about more recent evidence that actually discredits them, I was online to Amazon to order her book quicker than you could say “workout over.”

Kubler-Ross’s original book was about how the dying face death, not how those left behind deal with it.  It grew out of unstructured interviews with terminally ill patients – not necessarily a sound methodology because not everyone is asked the same questions and questions reflect the questioner’s bias rather than the interviewee’s experience.  Kubler-Ross was initially more interested to understand better how the medical establishment dealt with death than how the dying, let alone the bereaved, did. That all came later.

It became a book when an editorial assistant at a publishing company, which had recognized a gap on its list for a book on death, read an article she had written and offered her a deal. She had three months to deliver.  And, in her autobiography, Kubler-Ross said it took her three weeks of late nights struggling to formulate a concept.  Then it hit her she said  – everyone who faces a loss including her dying patients went through the same stages.

The trouble, as I am now seeing it, is:  a) the stages getting to be seen as gospel  b) not just for the dying but also for those left behind c) and then for all losses including jobs and contact lenses d) giving rise to a culture, especially among professionals, that people need to go through these stages or they will be sorry later.   And it follows that e) if we professionals intervene, other than to listen and tell them what they are experiencing is normal, we do so at their peril.

In fact, Kubler-Ross never put her theory to any test.  She did not do research and have it published in a peer-reviewed journal.  She never pointed out that her theory was about how people faced death, not how those left behind coped with it.

In an interview with Playboy magazine in 1981 she said: “Even though I called it the stages of dying, it is really a natural adjustment to loss. Some people go through it if they only lose their contact lens.”

So where am I now?  I retain some old certainties.   When a death is traumatic, using EFT to process the trauma can be an extremely helpful way to move someone from the shock of the trauma to whatever comes next for them.  That has not changed.  And if grieving is unusually prolonged and disabling and the grief-stricken person wanted help I have never had reservations about tapping with them.

But the territory in between, the time I believed people needed to go through this “natural” process with support but without interference, is now a big question mark for me.   If there is no evidence for the validity or universality of the stages and there is no evidence that there will be detrimental effects of people do not go through them, why not just tap on what people are experiencing and want not to, just as we would with any other client?

My rethink is freeing me up to think it is okay to follow the philosophy I have always had with all clients – with the single exception of this group  –  that my job as a therapist is to get into the world of the client sitting with me as much as I can and work out together what would be helpful for them.

It doesn’t mean people will not grieve, that they will not continue to miss the person who died for the rest of their lives. It does not mean that sadness will not keep coming back from time to time for a long time, and possibly for as long as they live.

It just means that I no longer feel that bereaved clients should be deprived of the benefits of EFT just because they are bereaved, or therapists constrained by a belief about grief that an author dreamed up to meet a publishing deadline all those years ago.

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How do you do that?

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 time.

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 sorts 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.

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.

That is what I so love about EFT. It always seems to know where to go….Image

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That’s the wonder …

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.

That is what I so love about EFT and why I so love teaching it. . It always seems to know where to go….Image

*EMDR is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.

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MINDFULNESS – WHAT IS IT?

I have been pondering on what Mindfulness actually is.

The evidence that it is something we should be taking very     seriously is so convincing.  It has had such amazingly good outcome results I don’t think any therapist can now ignore it.   Doctors who do Mindfulness meditation burn out less than those who do not.  Mindfulness reduces the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and of Multiple Sclerosis.  It helps with pain management.  Breast Cancer survivors who use it have less depression, less fear the cancer will return, and higher energy.  I could go on…

Studies at UCLA and Harvard show there are actual structural changes in the brains of people who practice Mindfulness meditation.  For therapists, it is particularly seductive that those changes are in the parts of the brain we need to support empathy with other people.

Outcome and neurological research have combined to convince me that I want some of this and I want my clients to have it, too.

So I have been trying to find out more of what it is and whether everyone means the same thing by it. And I have put a short new getting-started mini Mindfulness audio on my website www.judybyrne.co.uk (right down at the bottom of the home page.)  It is less than seven minutes long.

I had a model in my head of using Mindfulness meditation to discover how to regulate my attention and my emotions and to be aware of who I am and what my body is experiencing.  And that, as well as using meditation, doing things mindfully, with a present moment awareness of exactly what it is that I am doing, and what I am experiencing as I do it, as a part of the path.

Mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn defines it as: “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, to the present moment and without judgment.”  Trauma expert Pat Ogden says it paying attention to particular elements of internal experience (body sensation, movement, emotion, five-sense perception, cognition) considered important to therapeutic goals.

In pursuit of a deeper understanding of what it is and how to incorporate it into our work, my EFT training colleague Richard Mark and I recently went to a workshop on Teaching Mindfulness to Clients and I have been digesting it since.  At times it challenged my working  definition or Mindfulness.  It seemed to be difficult to separate it from CBT.  And it has, of course, become big in CBT circles.  One particular demonstration that seemed to blur the distinction in my head was having an agitated client retell what had upset her in a completely factual way.   No comment. No feelings. No judgment.   Just the facts.

I have just had the chance to try it on myself.   And I must say the effect it had did surprise me.

It began in the supermarket car park when I pointed out to a young woman with no blue badge that she had taken a blue badge space and there were no disabled parking spaces left free for people who needed them – like a man I had just watched get out of his wheelchair, stow it in the boot, and get himself into the car.  She did not think it mattered because there were plenty of other spaces free. She did not get it that disabled parking spaces are not just near the door.  They are also wide to accommodate people who need to open car doors wider than the rest of us to get in and out.   I am not sure how she failed to get that because her justification for using the space was that she needed a wide bay because she had a baby to get in and out of the car.

I showed her that there was parent and child parking and where it was.  She switched from : “How dare you speak to me like this when I have my baby in my arms” to being extremely personally insulting.  And when her partner came out of the supermarket, she redirected her abusive rant about me from me to him.   She left me feeling extremely shaken, angry, and with all the things I stopped myself saying running round and round my head. As they do.  (Especially this bit: Her “How dare you speak to me about this when I have my baby in my arms.” Me: “ I don’t think your baby would have had any idea what I was saying in a quiet and quite measured way but your baby has certainly picked up the feelings of your rage as you scream at me.” )

I tried imagining tapping while I shopped.  Since I had no list and was menu-planning and buying for on the hoof, it was not easy to do both at the same time.

So driving home, I told myself the story out loud in a completely factual way. I really felt so much better.  I could actually laugh about one bit of it.

My lessons?  Whether I would call this Mindfulness or CBT or telling the story Mindfully and therefore either or both I don’t know –  but it worked for me.  I am glad I had had a shower mindfully before I went.  Otherwise I might not have thought to try it.

And if I see anyone else taking a blue badge space they are not entitled to I will say something again. Mindfully, of course.

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This time they’ll find me out

I see a lot of clients who would rather have their fingernails removed one at a time than make a presentation but who perceive that all possible promotion is being removed from their futures by the fact that they cannot. Their current job may even be under threat.

I have always thought (and taught) that it is a cardinal mistake for a therapist to think: “I know what that feels like. That has happened to me.”  Something similar may have happened to us but we never have any idea how it feels for someone else and the only possible  insight, such as it is,  comes from really listening to the clients, not from using ourselves for reference.

So the fact that I like presenting doesn’t make me feel disqualified from working with people for whom it is an ordeal.  But if I want to tap into my empathy,  I have only to think of my  own dysfunctional relationship with my DVDs and recordings.

I found myself a little while ago accidentally watching again the first EFT DVD I made.  It was filmed at my presentation at the first-ever EFT Masterclass in London in 2006. I had mixed feelings about it when I saw it again.  (Could have been better/better than I thought.) And  I was surprised how relaxed I was in front of the camera.  It didn’t throw me even when  a bit of microphone went down my trousers.   It was probably the day I discovered I am actually a ham.

But I hate watching or listening to myself afterwards .  When I originally got that first DVD,  I tapped and tapped and put it off and tapped some more.  It was weeks before I watched it.  I am still a work in progress on this.  I still dread seeing or hearing myself . It took me an age to look at my three DVDs on using EFT in Therapy and Healing the Past with EFT, even though I had had a ball making them with a great bunch of EFTers at Studley Castle in Warwickshire.  More tapping.  And still more when I got the DVD of Working with Trauma from my presentation at the 2009 EFT Masterclass.

Which is why I was anticipating the recent Innovations special weekend of free audios on the EFT Hub with mixed feelings.   I was really looking forward to listening to the other six Masterclass presenters (EFT Masters Jaqui Crooks, Ann Ross, Sue Beer, Emma Roberts, Tania Prince, and Gwyneth Moss). I was really dreading listening to myself.  I might be boring or inept or irrelevant or dull.   This might be the time I really get found out.

And now the recording is available again, free, on the Masterclass 2011 website http://www.eftevents.com .  All seven are.   Go there now to listen or to book or both.   The Masterclass is in York on October 22/23 and the early booking price lasts only until the end of August. I am really looking forward to presenting there.

But excuse me now.  I have to start tapping about that audio again.  I was just up to:  “Even though they might find me out …“

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THANK YOU, THANK YOU, EFT

This is a blog about a blog.  It is also a blog about one of the things that has most moved me in my  working life.   It is a blog that began in my head under the shower this morning after reading an email which said:  “Your tapping on the Inner  four- year- old child is amazing.  The whole world needs this.  It has lifted a great burden from my shoulders and given me peace.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

People have said “thank you” before.  But somehow this from someone I have never met, who found a recording I made a long time ago on a website and took the trouble to find my contact details to tell me that it had made such a difference in her life kept resonating in my head. And it set me thinking about a lot of aspects of our EFT work in a different way.

The facts: The recording was part of the World Tapping Summit 2010.  There had been feedback when it went out.  But I was mystified at first when I started getting a lot of emails about it again a couple of weeks ago.  I got curious and did some detecting and found that Nick Ortner (who with his sister Jessica has created the world tapping summits) had posted it on his blog*.  Under it were a string of comments.

They included: “This presentation has really made a difference in my life… This tapping and information gave me the tools to change my way of thinking and I feel very happy.” And “What a great release of sad and hurtful memories happened very quickly.”    There were many more.  And the email I quoted above was not the only one I had from complete strangers not asking for anything.  Just taking time and trouble to say: “Thank you.”

It really is humbling to discover that something you have done has had such an impact on people you do not know and never will in countries you will probably never visit.  It reminded me why I think doing therapy is the best job and the greatest privilege in the world.  It also reminded me why this is such a great time is to be working in it.

A lot about the virtual reality of 21st century life is, I believe,  pretty psychologically damaging.  Instant everything is changing how we function in our relationships, and in our own inner lives.  Usually it is not changes for the better.  But this, it now seems to me, is the upside.  To be able to have an idea about what might be useful for people, to record it, to have it out there – in no previous age could it have got so far so fast and been able to be helpful to so many.  That is true for so many of us who work in ways beyond the limitations of  traditional therapy-in-the-room.

I have always felt the phenomenal spread of EFT – Gary Craig’s newsletter attracted half a million subscribers in less than 20 years – could only have happened in an age of instant Internet.  It  is a therapy tool for and of its time.  Paradoxically so, since it is based on such ancient foundations.  The idea of meridians goes back 6,000 years.

I am just so glad that I got past the this-is-too-whacky-for -serious-therapy barrier.   And that so many others have done and are doing so, too. But then we were lucky.  When we felt skeptical about it or silly doing it or scared that our colleagues would think we had lost the plot or afraid that our clients would think we were too lightweight to be credible, we could tap and move on.

Thank heaven for EFT.

*You can find the recording it via http://tinyurl.com/4yksgxl

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BORROWING EFT BENEFITS

One of the most intriguing things about EFT is what is called Borrowing Benefits.  It  describes the way we can literally borrow benefits when we tap with someone else on their  problem and find we have , incidentally, cleared something of our own at the same time.

EFT founder, Gary Craig , formulated Borrowing Benefits after practitioners noticed that when they tapped with clients they got rid of things of their own.  Since good practitioners deliberately put their own stuff elsewhere while they are working with clients this seems truly remarkable.  But most tapping practitioners will tell you the same thing ..

My first experience of Borrowing Benefits was in a group f 15 EFTers who went together to California back in 2003 to do advanced training with Gary Craig in his own home.  The deal was that, as Gary did not want to come here, we would go there. He would teach us free and  he would demonstrate what he was teaching us by working with us one at a time while everyone else tapped.  He would video the sessions for the Borrowing Benefits series of DVDs he was putting together at the time, ready to launch the concept worldwide.  (In the end, only one session from that week made the cut. The others were cursed by sound problems. )

I have always suspected Borrowing Benefits might be at its most efficient when the tapping had a theme that was relevant to everyone in the group, even if the specific aspects were not.   And so it has proved in a series of sessions I have just finished.   I have done them with two people wanting to work on issues about eating, weight and body image.  They both tapped on what they wanted to clear, as well as what the other did, and found it surprising how often something changed even when they were just joining in with the other person, rather than staying their own path.

I have recorded the sessions so others can also use them tap along with these two clients as a way of clearing their own related issues.  They come with  a bonus free eWorkbook which is not a programme , but a way of provoking thought about the theme.  Experience tells us that we borrow benefits most efficiently when, even though  we are not focussing on our own stuff at the time,  we have paid some attention to it before we put it back on the back burner.

If you would like to try them, the link to my tapping shop is http://www.judybyrne.co.uk /products.htm.  If you decided to try them I would appreciate any feedback you are willing to share.

Masterclass update.  The EFT Masterclass 2011 now has a Facebook notice board you are welcome to join  (http://tinyurl.com/6g9yx6r) if you want to be kept posted about developments.   The latest is that, besides presentations by me and six other EFT Masters – Sue Beer, Emma Roberts, Ann Ross, Tania Prince, Gwyneth Moss, and Jaqui Crooks,  we are using the eighth session for group mentoring.  Which means you can ask anything you want to know more about from any or all of us.  ( I wonder if any question will get seven completely different answers.)

The Masterclass is in York on October 22/23 and if you want the best accommodation deals don’t leave it late to book.  York is a popular half-term destination, even when it doesn’t also have a Masterclass to offer as well.

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