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PTSD and EFT

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Written By: Liam Modlin

Typical symptoms of combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, to name a few, include survivors guilt, distrust, loneliness, suicidal feelings, preoccupation with thoughts of the enemy, revenge fantasies and resignation (“don’t care”).

According to the US Defence Department and the New England Journal of Medicine “1 in 6 soldiers returning from Iraq suffers from PTSD, interviews with those at risk showed that only 23 percent to 40 percent sought professional help.”

1. PTSD, a testimonial

Winter 2006. It is a Friday night, several months after the war, and I am once again a civilian. I am, according to the doctors, making my first steps towards what could be described as “feeling normal again”.

After the traditional Friday night meal, my family turns in for the night. I hug my mother and wish her good night. I am to go out and meet up with some friends for a drink- not the easiest feat for a person who just a few months earlier, while still in active service, was officially diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; a common and well known mental condition amongst service men and women.

The house is quiet, only a few lights are left on downstairs. I shower and get dressed. I am just about to leave, shuffling the car keys in my hands, when I inadvertently glimpse into the mirror. I am startled to find that standing behind me, as reflected in the mirror, is a fully armed and battle ready Palestinian combatant holding a knife. I freeze. My heart is racing and my palms are sweating. I feel that old and familiar knot forming swiftly in my stomach, anticipating the worst. I am finding it very hard to breath. I turn around quickly, completely prepared for what I thought was to be a hand-to-hand combat situation. While turning around I remember thinking that if I could deliver a quick disabling blow to his throat or groin I could get to the kitchen in time to draw out a knife and come out of this life threatening situation victorious.

With my back to the mirror, I quickly realize that no one else is present in the room. I scan the living room and listen for any strange and out of place noises. I crouch and look under the dining room table and the sofa; the house is empty. But it is not. I know this, with certainty. I saw him. He looked at me. I could smell him. He was preparing to make his move.

I was trying desperately to catch my breath, but then my training took over. I got underneath the dining room table and spent a few minutes surveying the now “perimeter”, as if I was in a military operation in the West Bank. The house I grew up in, where my friends and I celebrated birthdays, where I shared my first kiss and played the guitar for hours on end, transformed itself into a battle zone, and we were all in great danger.

I gradually become aware of a dual reality. It was as if half of my brain was processing and reacting to a situation the other half knew was not actually real. “This must be what insanity feels like”. I try to focus on all that seems to be real; family photos, my wristwatch. I try to breathe. I remind myself of other occasions where the enemy was not there, where I did not need to hide, where I did not need to fight.

An eternity later my heart rate and breathing stabilizes and I regain control of myself. I calm down. Drink some water to relieve the pain in my throat and smile. Embarrassed. Confused. Alone.

I did not go out that night and spent the next few days indoors. At home, within walls I tried so very much to trust.

2. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)

My name is Liam Modlin, and 10 years ago I was that person, that veteran, experiencing “flashbacks”, nightmares, anxiety and depression as a result of my PTSD.

I can now say “my PTSD” because, after a challenging, demanding but invaluable journey of recovery and healing, I am able, ready and willing to take full responsibility over both my mental and physical wellbeing. This priceless, life-transforming journey, has taken me around the world in search of both new and ancient healing modalities and practices. Today, I wish to speak to you about one of the most powerful techniques I encountered, one that has helped me to such a degree, that I decided to train and learn more about it, in order to work with people suffering from difficult and enduring mental health conditions. This method is called Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT (often known as Tapping or EFT Tapping).

Ancient Chinese medicinal practices put a great amount of emphasis on Energy (Chi or Qi in Chinese or Prana in Vedantic philosophy) that flows around the body through a system of Meridians or in modern Western terms: “an intricate network of connective tissue, known as Cytoskeleton, which allows subtle energy to be transmitted throughout it”. EFT makes groundbreaking use of this knowledge and by gently tapping with one’s fingertips on the end points of specific energy Meridians (situated just beneath the surface of the skin) those who practice the technique are able to tune in with, engage and thus rectify, safely and simply, any imbalances or blockages in the Energy system.

It was a prominent American clinical psychologist by the name of Dr. Roger J. Callahan that, after becoming frustrated and disillusioned by the poor results he and his colleagues were producing in regards to treating their patients troubling psychological conditions, began to look for new psychotherapeutic approaches and techniques. In his own words “Like many psychotherapists, I wanted my clients to get better. I wanted to deliver them from the distress in their lives and help them function normally again. But I felt strongly, that as a profession, modern psychotherapy was letting patients down. Whether we were treating them for depression, phobias, or a shattered relationship, too many clients seemed entrapped in years of expensive psychotherapy, talking endlessly about their life circumstances. I sometimes felt that my fellow therapists and I were teaching patients only that they could take a hell of a lot more misery than they had thought they could…”

It was this deep sense of despair combined with a naturally inquisitive and curious mind that eventually led Dr. Callahan to research and experiment with different therapeutic methods during the 1980’s.

Callahan, being familiar with acupuncture and the theory behind the Chinese energy meridian system, decided during a session with a long-term patient named Mary to try something a little different. For years Mary had been dealing with a severe and debilitating water related phobia – she kept her contact with water to an absolute minimum. She could not even bathe her children.

Desperate and frustrated by the lack of progress she was making he suggested to Mary to gently tap under her eye (whilst deliberately thinking about water, the cause for her anxiety and distress) after she reported that even the thought of water caused her a great discomfort in her stomach. Mary did as he asked.
Callahan was aware that the meridian point under the eye is connected to the digestive system and sure enough, after only a few rounds of tapping, the discomfort in her stomach completely disappeared. Furthermore, and to Callahan’s great surprise (and concern) Mary left his therapy room and started walking towards the outdoor pool in his garden. Startled, Callahan, attempted to stop Mary but she reached the pool, kneeled before it, and proceeded to splash water all over her face – an action that moments earlier would have been absolutely impossible. That same day, Mary travelled to the Californian seaside and for the first time in decades, went into the water. Her water phobia was “completely gone”.

This incident sparked two decades worth of research, both clinical and experiential, into the intricate and hidden relationship between the body’s energy system and our emotional wellbeing. Callahan’s developed a technique he calls thought field therapy (TFT) and it is because of his work and discovery that the development and practice of EFT was made possible.

Gary Craig, the founder of EFT, sought to ensure that Callahan’s discovery and rather complex form of TFT, could be practiced by a wide range of individuals in order to improve both their emotional and physical well-being. Emotional freedom techniques was designed to serve as a simplified and more accessible form of tapping therapy; a powerful and transformative self-help tool.

“The cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system” is EFT’s ‘discovery statement’ and it is this understanding of the human body and mind that guides the therapeutic process.

EFT is a powerful tool that works by rebalancing the body’s energy system and its practice can be both extremely rejuvenating and extraordinarily profound. I believe strongly that it is the ultimate combination of Eastern and Western approaches to psycho-emotional and physical healing and that its potential to transform the lives of those who experience it is vast and far-reaching. It can be applied to a broad spectrum of issues, from day-to-day ‘mundane’ worries and stresses, to distressing and traumatic events such as the loss of a loved one or a relationship breakdown, to long term psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety and past trauma.

EFT contributes to a greater Mind-Body communication (better known as mindfulness) and by working in accordance to the understanding that “our negative emotions are caused by a disruption in the body’s energy system” EFT tends to and addresses a wide range of psycho-emotional conditions (negative thought patterns, traumatic memories and phobias to name a few). Furthermore, EFT practitioners around the world are applying the technique to a broad spectrum of physical conditions (from individuals suffering from Chronic Pain to those recovering from ME/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and are reporting incredibly positive (but not surprising) results.

Since its inception in the 1990’s, EFT has caught the attention of psychotherapists and clinical physicians as one and has been subject to countless clinical studies and trials. News agencies and mental health magazines such The Telegraph, Washington Post and Psychology Today, to name a few, have all written about the effectiveness and popularity of the technique.

It is indeed a complementary therapy and should not replace the need to seek the guidance and consultation of a licensed medical physician but within this paradigm of healing, within this real demand for greater quality of emotional wellbeing, it is a highly effective and result-driven method that may produce long-lasting and positive change in those individuals that encounter it.

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