How to Apply EFT When There Are No Clear, Specific Memories
When I was originally trained
in a technique called EMDR before learning EFT, the teacher made a very
interesting and useful comparison between what he called capital "T"
trauma and small "t" trauma. "T" trauma is what we normally think of as
trauma. It involves a single, overwhelmingly painful experience.
Childhood examples would include an episode of sexual or physical
abuse. Adult examples would be things like rape, mugging,
auto accident, or battle experience. A "T" trauma results in a lasting
impact on the person that affects his/her feelings and beliefs about
him/herself and makes the person very reactive when encountering
anything that is reminiscent of the traumatic experience.
Small "t" Traumas
Small "t" trauma, on the other hand, was described as consisting of a
series of upsetting experiences during childhood with a consistent
theme. While upsetting, none of the individual incidents were traumatic
in and of themselves, but these experiences were repeated enough times
that the cumulative effect was as impactful as a single "T" trauma.
We have all experienced these kinds of "t" traumas growing up, and they
are, in fact, the basis of most of our issues. An example will help
clarify what I'm talking about. Let's say that "John" grew up with a
mother who frequently let him know that whatever he did was not good
enough. For example, if he came home with a test score of 95%, his
mother would say, "Why didn't you get 100?"
The first time this kind of
thing happened it was upsetting but not traumatic, and he would have
recovered from it with no problem. However, after many experiences like
this, the cumulative effect would be as powerful as a "T" trauma. He
could develop strong feelings of shame and of not being "good enough."
He could come to expect negative reactions from others, regardless of
how well he did unless he was perfect. He might become afraid to try
things or become someone obsessively striving for the approval that he
never got. He would also become highly reactive to the slightest hint
Ironically, "T" traumas are simpler to work with than "t"
traumas. Unless there are repressed memories involved, "T" traumatic
memories are usually easy to remember and work with. We even have a
variety of techniques for minimizing the pain when working with them,
such as "chasing the pain," "sneaking up on the memory," the "tell the
story technique," and the "Tearless Trauma Technique." EFT works
extremely well when dealing with a clear specific memory with easily
accessed feelings associated with it.
Working with Unclear Memories
"t" traumas, on the other hand, can be more complicated to work with.
It is very common for clients to say that they cannot remember a single
specific memory related to the issue. They can remember the general
scenario or theme of what happened, but they can't remember a specific
memory. It is also fairly often the case that they have a hard time
getting in touch with much, if any, feeling associated with the general
"memories" They will report the nature of what happened with little
feeling. So, the question becomes, how does one apply EFT when there
are no clear, specific memories to tap on?
The key to EFT being effective is the person's ability to tune into the
energy disturbance associated with an issue. The challenge with "t"
traumatic memories is that this can be hard to do since there are no
individual memories, and the generalized memories tend to be vague and
hard to tune in to. We've gotten used to those experiences as being
part of our "normal" lives and learned to bury the pain associated
them. The trick, then, is to find some way to get at the energy
disturbance underlying those vague memories.
A past article on the national EFT web site suggested "making up a
memory" when a specific memory cannot be found. The idea is to make up
a memory or scenario that fits the general theme of the "t" traumatic
experiences. This is a good starting point, but I have found that it is
often not sufficient to really tune into the energy disturbance and be
What has worked for
me is to find some key element of the memories that contains
the greatest charge. There was usually a painful phrase that was spoken
in these scenes. And, more importantly than the words spoken, there was
a certain facial expression, tone of voice, and body language that was used. It was
the tone of voice, facial expression and/or body language of the parent
that most conveyed the feeling of disapproval, rejection,
blame, contempt and so on in the memory. It is,
therefore, those elements that contain the most charge and
give the most access to the underlying energy disturbance.
Rather than trying to recreate the whole scene,
I will work with my client to uncover the specific painful statement with it's
accompanying facial expression, tone of voice and body language. Often the
person won't have too much trouble remembering "that look" from the
parent and will start to feel his/her emotional reaction to it. We will then
use that statement, spoken in the present tense, tone of voice, facial
expression and body language as the "problem phrase" to tap on. I
will encourage the client to say the statement out loud while striving to
imitate the parent's tone of voice, facial expression and body language. The specific
act of really embodying the parent's message (imitating the tone of voice,
facial expression and body language) will usually help the person get quite in
touch with the buried feelings associated with those memories, and, therefore,
the energy disturbance. We are then in a position to effectively tap on those
feelings and heal the issue.
For instance, in the example above, a remembered phrase was "why didn't you get a 100?" The set-up would then be:
Even though "why didn't you get a 100?"
(said with his mother's tone of voice and facial expression),
I deeply and completely love and accept myself.
We would then say "why didn't
you a get a 100" at each tapping point striving to use the mother's
tone of voice, facial expression and body language. This keeps
the person tuned into the energy disturbance and allows us to clear it.
Using key phrases with their accompanying tone of voice, facial
expression and body language allows us to get at the hard to access
energy disturbance of "t" traumas when no specific memories can be
recalled and allows us to heal this challenging and common situation.
Hugs to all,
Expert EFT Practitioner, Trainer, and Love Coach
EFT never ceases to amaze me! The process is gentle and often provides benefits where other methods fail.
Dr. R. Vergini, MD
Your emotional health, your success in the world, and your level of joy can all be dramatically enhanced by shifting the energies that regulate them.
That is the promise of the fascinating new field of [EFT].
David Feinstein, PhD
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