But one day I'll have to explain about my nightmares. Why they came. Why they won't ever really go away.- Katniss, Mockingjay
Why does everyone in The Hunger Games need the Emotional Freedom Technique? Well for starters, when you read the case studies in The Promise of Energy Psychology by David Feinstein, Donna Eden, and Gary Craig, it reads like a litany of traumas experienced by characters in The Hunger Games: veterans with PTSD so severe they can't sleep at night, victims of ethnic violence from Kosovo who have seen their families murdered and endured torture and rape, even a case study of a middle-aged woman who was ritualistically abused with electric shocks as a child (reminiscent of Johanna Mason in Mockingjay). The amazing thing is that all of these people were able to experience a healing with EFT that allowed them to no longer be bothered and disturbed by the terrible memories of what they had experienced, often within relatively short periods of time. On the more every day side, it has also helped a number of people with phobias, depression, anxiety, addictions, and food issues.
EFT is based on a couple of key principles:
1. The amygdala often hijacks the body and brain after a traumatic or stressful event. The amygdala is the part of our brain that is activated when we experience something stressful or traumatic. The amygdala sends messages to our body to help us deal with stress (fight, flight or freeze). Unfortunately, after the trauma has already past and is no longer a threat, the electrical pathways of our brain often stay routed towards the amygdala meaning that that stress response stays switched on triggering that fight, flight or freeze reaction over and over and over again, even when we're not actually being threatened. When a war veteran hears a loud noise and finds that he's smashed a chair through a window, that's an over active amygdala. When a victim of a violent crime sees, hears, or smells something harmless that reminds her of the incident and freezes up, that's an over active amygdala. Even though we're not actually being threatened, when we experience something that brings up some memory of a stressful or traumatic event, the electrical impulses of our brain trace the familiar route to the amygdala and we react as if we are in imminent danger.
2. We can re-route these electrical impulses away from the amygdala by applying repeated pressure (in the form of tapping) to acupuncture/acupressure certain points on the body. And here is where most Westerners get turned off. We're always interested in hearing about the next drug that is available, but we turn up our noses when people start using more Eastern terms like "energy" or "meridian" or "chakra". But for just a moment, let's at least consider that modalities that have been successfully employed for thousands of years by physicians in Eastern countries just might be as relevant as the latest psychotropic drug to hit the market that comes with a list of warnings about side effects. EFT is actually very similar to cognitive behavioral therapy, something I was working with on my own when I first started this blog. The main difference is that EFT adds the additional step of tapping to re-route electrical impulses of the brain. A therapist working with EFT will do a bit more set-up to help you work through a particular memory and its accompanying emotional layers and aspects, but in its most basic sense, EFT involves recalling a traumatic event, repeating an affirmation to help you re-focus your emotions and tapping pressure points to interrupt the flow of electrical impulses and re-direct them away from the amygdala. The memory then stays with you, it doesn't go away, but it no longer activates the stress response.
So what have I been doing with this?
Well, a few weeks ago when we decided that things had gotten so bad with Malamute's job that we needed to quit and that as unstable as his boss is, we knew we wouldn't get paid for any of the time he worked that month, my friend Emily told me about EFT. I looked for a book at the library and found one, but it had a pretty long wait list. I placed a hold anyway and it showed up about the time I found out that Baby #2 is on the way. I must confess that I didn't even read for a couple of days. Then I picked it up and WOW!
I have been tapping for everything from my appetite issues to things I remember from junior high. I tap when I'm feeling anxious or depressed. I tap on Duckling when he has tantrums. I feel a lot better and even Malamute has noticed how much my mood has improved. Tapping has stopped a few of Duckling's tantrums very quickly. I've also slept better at night too. Often when I wake up to go to the bathroom, my mind starts wandering to all these stressful things and I have trouble getting to sleep again. I find the tapping and repeating affirmations has been very effective in calming me down and getting me back to sleep.