Case Study: EFT Tapping for PTSD
A young woman – let’s call her “Jane” - witnessed a suicide by tube train in a busy underground (referred to as “the tube”) station in London. When I visited her at home the day following the incident, she was in deep shock, hyper vigilant, constantly “flashing” on the sight of the train hitting the young man who died, had hardly slept the previous night and what sleep she had had was disturbed by nightmares of the scene replaying.
Everything about the incident was tangled together – the pictures, her feelings, sights, sounds, and smells. In order to be able to make progress, I decided the best approach would be to start globally, take the edge off the worst of the emotional charge and then untangle each of the strands of the experience in order to collapse them separately.
Since the shock was so profound, I decided to address that first by gently encouraging her to “tell the story”, as she had when making statements to the emergency services immediately after the event the previous night. Tapping directly on her (with permission) using all the EFT points on face, upper body and fingers calmed her enough for us to begin working in a more structured way, starting with:
“Even though something horrible happened and my whole system is in shock … “
As she began to shake and cry, I again tapped directly on her continuously, this time using the shortcut method, until the shaking and crying stopped. At the beginning of the session it had been clear that her adrenalin “fight/flight/freeze” response had been “freeze” - she had been rigid, eyes staring at the inner pictures she was flashing. Now, however, her body was beginning to relax and tears were flowing for the first time since the event, indicating that she was beginning to come out of shock. Her SUDS level – which had been way off the charts – reduced to around 9, which was still very high.
At this point, since she was flashing pictures, we decided to use the Movie Technique and begin globally:
“Even though I have this Guy Committing Suicide movie, I deeply and completely love and accept myself … and I’m safe now”
Beginning with global phrases for the whole movie on the tapping points - “I’ll never forgive him”, “how could he do that to all those people?”, “how could he do that to the driver?”, “how could he do that to ME?”, “I’ll never be safe again”, “I feel so angry”, “this fear” - brought the SUDS level down one point to an 8. I asked Jane if she could imagine forgiving the young man. She replied she would rather “bop him on the nose!”. This animation was a sign we were making some progress – anger has more energy to it than the “nothing” of the freeze response.
“Even though I feel so angry … and there’s no way I’ll ever forgive that guy, I’m safe now and I deeply and completely accept myself”
After this round, when asked if she could imagine forgiving the young man, she closed her eyes, seeing him in front of her and recognising that, although he had thought this was the end of his problems, they were only just beginning. She visualised the young man’s confusion at still being there (in spirit) and how sorry he was to have caused her, the train driver, his family, Jane’s family and his own family so much pain. She smiled at him and let him turn and leave her.
Her SUDS level was now down to a 7 and we began to work on Jane’s movie frame by frame, tapping down the emotions associated with the sound of the tube train in the tunnel, the feeling of the associated breeze on the platform (I blew on her face without warning to test this), the sound of a woman’s scream. The scream had attracted Jane’s attention, causing her to turn towards the sound, just in time to see the young man in the air, then hit the train, having taken a running leap in front of the train. It was this that kept flashing in her mind. By this time, she had made enough progress to be watching the flash from the platform a few feet behind herself. This was replaying in her mind over and over.
We did several rounds on the picture, but did not seem to be getting very far. We talked about how Jane could not see very much of the movie before it rewound and replayed. I asked Jane if she ever watched horror movies, like “Saw” for example. Apparently she often went to see horror movies and “Saw” was one of her favourites. We discussed briefly how the real life horror movie was nothing like the fiction – and the thought occurred that Jane was not able to make meaning from her experience since she had nothing to compare it with in real life.
“Even though this Guy Committing Suicide Movie is nothing like as good as Saw … “
EB: “no music”
SE: “no special effects”
UE: “no slo mo”
UN: “London Transport are rubbish at making movies” (giggle)
CH: “and I paid to see this” (more giggles)
CB: “this rubbish horror movie” (outright laughter)
UA: “it’s far too short – only 15 seconds!”(more laughter)
TH: “this rubbish horror movie is nothing like as good as Saw” (more laughter)
We did more rounds on the comparison with Saw and as we did so, Jane relaxed, laughed – and the whole inner movie untangled, so that by the end of these rounds she could see all of it clearly as if she was sitting in an auditorium watching the movie with no emotional charge, simply not enjoying it very much, deciding it was a rubbish movie she didn’t want to watch any more.
Humans are amazing – as we go through life we acquire experiences, grouping them together, adapting each new one into our map of the world. Unfortunately, when we have a traumatic experience we can’t group with anything else, our systems replay it over and over in the hope of finding a resolution. Helping Jane to connect the traumatic memory with non threatening, fictional memories shifted her perspective dramatically, allowing her to group the traumatic incident with other non threatening experiences. She was able to impose her own meaning on the event and set it aside as not very pleasant, but something that she could put down and leave behind.
On the principle that we should test to make sure that all the aspects are collapsed, Jane and I then visited the local tube station, got on a train a couple of stops, went for a coffee and then returned, again by tube, without incident.