Witnessing a murder is a specific traumatic event. It produces post-traumatic stress, yet oftentimes it’s much faster to achieve resolution with EFT because it is one specific event. In contrast, soldiers in combat generally experience more than one traumatic event, which takes more time to deconstruct and diffuse.
Because EFT collapses specific traumatic events so thoroughly, I customarily have my clients fill out a standard questionnaire form for PTSD as a tracking device for areas and levels of distress. As a follow-up, I have them fill out the same form within a few months after our session for comparison, and check for any lingering aspects. Showing the client the contrast between the two leaves little room for the Apex Affect to be manifest.
Freemont, a 51-year-old man, witnessed an attempted armed robbery and murder at a local restaurant in El Paso, Texas 18 years ago. Freemont had attended one of my introductory lectures about EFT months before he actually presented to my office for help. He sat down in the chair in my office and said, “I witnessed a murder, and I’m ready to let this go now. It was a random act of violence, and I just happened to be there.”
The levels of distress from 0-5 on the PTSD checklist form revealed that he had a 2 level of repeated, disturbing memories, 3 level disturbing dreams, 2 level at reliving it, moderate physical reactions with subtle reminders of the event, 4 level at thinking or talking about it, 2 level avoiding activities that remind him of the event, no trouble at all remembering the details of the event, a moderate loss of interest in things he used to enjoy, and felt distant from other people. Irritability and angry outbursts, difficulty concentrating, feeling on guard, and being easily startled were all at a 2 level.
This was Freemont’s first experience with EFT, so I gave him tapping instructions, asked him to be aware of any body sensations during the tapping sequence, and told him how to recognize physical energy releases, such as yawning, sighing, belching, etc. I offered Freemont a round of tapping beforehand to defuse the intensity of the memory and make it easier for him, but he assured me that we didn’t need to sidestep because it happened a long time ago, and didn’t feel as intense as it used to be.
Men in general tend to play down their reactions and emotions, so as a precaution, I decided to initiate the session with “The Tearless Trauma Technique,” I instructed him not to step into the event yet, just give the event a title along with the current intensity if he could guess, which, according to him, was about a 1 or a 2. He called it “The Day of Change” and we proceeded.
“I can accept myself, even though I had this Day of Change.” Immediately, I noticed facial flushing, more rapid breathing, and a light sweat across his face. We kept tapping until that subsided. He then felt a heaviness-type feeling in his chest, so we tapped long enough to ease off “this feeling in my chest.”
With that accomplished, I proceeded to the “The Movie Technique,” where there is a prelude leading up to the beginning (the safest place to start), the crescendo (the worst part) and an end. In all, Freemont said the movie took about a minute to run through. When he felt comfortable enough, I had him narrate the movie, clip by clip, stopping for any intensity, however minute.
In order, we started with the cast of characters of the movie, and any intensity just thinking about them, then the drive to the restaurant, with the imminent result looming in the distance, the actual dinner, and finally, along with the people he had dinner with, going to the register to pay his friend, who worked in his family’s restaurant. Stopping right there, I asked him to give this part a title to bring down the intensity before the actual narration. He called it “pandemonium.” Just the word pandemonium triggered an extreme highly-charged emotional response, and with his hands covering his face, I gently took one hand and tapped on his fingers, gamut point, and any other available meridian end-point other than his face until he calmed down – calm enough to narrate, and tell exactly what “pandemonium” meant.
In his words:
“The doors flew open and two men with guns came charging in; instinctively, we all held our hands up. I heard gunshots, and heard a bullet fly past my ear, and saw my friend, Tommy, fall to the floor. Everyone scattered and people were overturning tables, screaming, and ducking for cover. I was the only one who stayed with Tommy. I laid him across my lap and tried to find where he was bleeding. I found a bullet hole under his armpit, and put my fingers inside the wound to try to stop the bleeding. Do you know what blood smells like? I can still smell the blood. I still remember the shock of seeing that much blood. I can still feel the blood flowing through my fingers. I can still feel his pulse weakening; I felt his life slipping away. I was helpless to stop it because the wound was so severe. My friend died in my lap.”
The words “my friend died in my lap” brought about another highly-charged emotional response. Again, I tapped until the wave subsided.
With regard to the length of this article, more than one crescendo were deconstructed and diffused, bit by bit, piece by piece, addressing the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures until each had a zero intensity.
What was left behind all of this was the anger at the situation since, according to Freemont, it was a random act of violence. What really made him angry was that his friend’s own family, who was working there that night, stayed hidden and didn’t go to his aid.
Prematurely, and on purpose, I offered a reframe just to see where we were at. I said, “You know, it’s a place of honor to be there at the time to comfort someone who’s dying, especially a friend.” He said, “No, it was awful. I don’t know why it happened to me.” My extended setup phrase was “Even though it was awful, I don’t know why it happened to me, what’s true is, if not for me, Tommy could have bled to death alone, and even though I risked my life to be there for him, I was a friend to him to the end.”
The cognitive shift was immediate, we never got past the karate chop point with the setup, when he said, “That’s true! I’m glad I was there to comfort him. Maybe it wasn’t such a random act after all, it was his time to die, and his way to exit. I was supposed to be there for him, because it set off a major change of events in my life for the better. I stopped doing what other people expected of me and followed my own dreams. At least he went quickly; that’s the best anyone can hope for.” The physical and emotional relief on his face and in his affect was obvious, and when he left the session, he said he was going to go home and take a nap.
In all, this session was under one hour’s time, but the reverberations afterward were nothing short of miraculous for Freemont. In previous conversations with Freemont prior to our session, he had admitted to specific “blockages” in both right and left-brain activities. His musical abilities, for example, and certain math equations (he’s a mathematician) that he just didn’t feel like “tackling.” In a one-month follow-up, he was joyfully working on advanced math equations that he couldn’t “tackle” before, and more avenues involving his music, both playing, writing, and learning traditional songs were becoming more fluid. He told me he felt so much lighter, more energetic than he can remember when, and didn’t dream “old clips” about the event anymore. “Is that unusual?” I asked, and he said, “Absolutely!”
Eight weeks later, his PTSD questionnaire is outstanding. Only two questions “Trouble falling or stay asleep” and “Feeling irritable or having angry outbursts” were answered with a number 2, meaning; “A little bit.” The remainder of the questions were answered “none at all.”
If we live consciously, we should all call ourselves a work in process. Since Freemont’s first and only EFT session behind him, eight weeks prior, it’s entirely possible the questionnaire reflects the remnants of other emotional issues yet addressed. Nevertheless, Freemont’s EFT experience was one of visual and physical acuity. It cleared his head after eighteen years, and simultaneously relaxed his body in the process. In his words “It’s like letting go of your suitcase after a very long trek. You fall into complete relaxation and relief.”