Reading The Body Keeps the Score, the best-selling book by Bessel Van der Kolk, could potentially help you to understand why you would want to explore EFT tapping (or the Emotional Freedom Technique) for releasing stress or trauma, if you haven’t already done so.
I was delighted to find how much The Body Keeps the Score supports the case for EFT tapping. The book is a treasure trove of research, stories and case studies. While the author’s work is mainly based on those who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders, I find his recommendations applicable for us all since we are governed by the same fight-flight-freeze stress response.
Bessel van der Kolk is a Boston-based psychiatrist who has worked with a wide range of clients, from veterans to sexual assault survivors. The Body Keeps the Score reveals how trauma is stored in the body and that, for therapy to be effective, it needs to take the physiological changes that occur into account. He talks about how talk therapy alone is not adequate for dealing with trauma and shows us the studies to support this.
“Psychologists usually try to help people use insight and understanding to manage their behavior. However, neuroscience research shows that very few psychological problems are the result of defects in understanding; most originate in pressures from deeper regions in the brain that drive our perception and attention. When the alarm bell of the emotional brain keeps signaling that you are in danger, no amount of insight will silence it.”
Bessel says that for survivors of sexual assault and other big traumas, the amygdala, which initiates the body’s fight, flight or freeze response system whenever it perceives danger, can remain activated long after the threat has subsided. Their brains are unable to discern that the fragmented images, sounds and emotion belong to the past. And so, in the present, the survivors relive their traumas.
“To people who are reliving a trauma, nothing makes sense; they are trapped in a life-or-death situation, a state of paralyzing fear or blind rage. Mind and body are constantly aroused, as if they are in imminent danger. They startle in response to the slightest noises and are frustrated by small irritations. Their sleep is chronically disturbed, and food often loses its sensual pleasures. This in turn can trigger desperate attempts to shut those feelings down by freezing and dissociation.”
“Nobody can ‘treat’ a war, or abuse, rape, molestation, or any other horrendous event, for that matter; what has happened cannot be undone. But what can be dealt with are the imprints of the trauma on body, mind, and soul: the crushing sensations in your chest that you may label as anxiety or depression; the fear of losing control; always being on alert for danger or rejection; the self-loathing; the nightmares and flashbacks; the fog that keeps you from staying on task and from engaging fully in what you are doing; being unable to fully open your heart to another human being.”
The Body Keeps the Score for Stress
Although his work mostly centers on working with clients suffering with extreme trauma, it has relevance for us all. After all, stress and “relatively smaller traumas” affect everyone. And often enough, we have reacted in the same manner of fight, flight or freeze to our perceived threats. If we see ourselves as interconnected, then we all in this together.
I was shocked to read the stats that Bessel reports about the US population:
- 1 in 5 have been sexually molested as child
- 1 in 4 have been beaten by a parent to point of having a physical mark
- 1 in 3 couples have experienced some form of physical violence
- 1 in 4 have an alcoholic relative
- 1 in 8 have witnessed their mother being hit.
It is startling to find out how “trauma” is more prevalent than what I had realised. This could mean that we pretty much live in the past, if we have not found a way to resolve it.
“Trauma affects the entire human organism—body, mind, and brain. In PTSD the body continues to defend against a threat that belongs to the past.”
While The Body Keeps the Score did not specifically focus on stressful experiences that start from conception in the womb, I would think that the period when we form our first attachments as vital to building our core resilience in dealing with stress for the rest of our life. Hence, we cannot ignore healing from trauma at root cause, where no nourishing love or support from our parents were forthcoming. Read this article on Healing Birth Trauma in the Matrix and on Rose who healed from a sense of unwantedness in the mother’s womb that I wrote previously.
“If your parents’ faces never lit up when they looked at you, it’s hard to know what it feels like to be loved and cherished.”
Not just trauma, so long as we have experienced some form of stress in the past and it remains unresolved, it can continue to haunt us. Family disturbance or generalised neglect cause us to be on high alert, our stressed bodies tuned to fight or flight from a young age. And as children, if we can’t fight or flee, we go into freeze or collapse. We would then carry the same responses to perceived threats in our bodies, resulting in illnesses or emotional issues years later.
“Over the years our research team has repeatedly found that chronic emotional abuse and neglect can be just as devastating as physical abuse and sexual molestation. Sherry turned out to be a living example of these findings: Not being seen, not being known, and having nowhere to turn to feel safe is devastating at any age, but it is particularly destructive for young children, who are still trying to find their place in the world.”
Towards Recovery: The Case for Mindfulness and EFT Tapping
Fortunately, Bessel has discovered that traumatic stress can be treated by mindfulness mediation, yoga and bodywork, and any modality which includes an awareness of breath as a fundamental part of the work.
“In our early therapy sessions, we focused on calming the physiological chaos within. We used every technique that I have learned over the years, like breathing, with a focus on the outbreath, which activates the relaxing parasympathetic nervous system.
I also taught her to use her fingers to tap the sequence of acupressure points on various parts of her body, a practice often taught under the name EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique, which has been shown to help patients stay within the window of tolerance and often has positive effects on PTSD symptoms.”
“In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.”
“Practicing mindfulness calms down the sympathetic nervous system, so that you are less likely to be thrown into fight-or-flight. Learning to observe and tolerate your physical reactions is a prerequisite for safely revisiting the past.”
How EFT Tapping Helps to Release Trauma and Stress from the Body
Bessel in The Body Keeps the Score, states that the aim of any treatment for trauma is to enable us to become more fully present with life. We struggle at times with being fully present, especially with more painful emotions. Hence, learning how to be more present, is of crucial importance!
Indeed, as we work through our disruptions, it helps to be reminded by Bessel on what Rumi has to share…
“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”
With all that has been said and bringing me to…
We can apply EFT tapping where the Body keeps the Score!
As it is, EFT is a therapeutic holistic process involving the following 6 elements that is precisely supported by what Bessel recommends in his book…..
(1) a space of safety as we tap in a step-by-step manner to face our fears and the past
(2) mindful awareness of the physical sensations in our body
(3) verbalising of statements on self-love and acceptance
(4) with the use of finger tips to tap on specific end meridian points on ourselves, physical action is involved for releasing stored and unresolved disruptive energies in the body
(5) tapping sending a calming signal to the amygdala that governs the fight-flight and freeze stress response before engaging cognitive processing
(6) breathing to center ourselves in the present while releasing past trauma.
Love and abundance always,
The post How EFT Tapping Can Help When the Body Keeps the Score appeared first on Abundance Coach for Women in Business | Evelyn Lim.