Monday, August 29, 2011

Using EFT to dissolve trauma


Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone ~ Fred Rogers

Monday, August 22, 2011

The evolution of thoughts

Thoughts don't change anything unless they feel true. If you state a thought that you don't believe, you won't sense/feel it in your body and there will be no energetic charge. It will fall off you like water off a duck's back.


If you say “I'm a horrible person” and that thought/belief feels true, and you are muscle tested, the muscle being tested will remain strong, meaning your body is saying Yes to this belief, it senses and feels this as a truth. If you say “My name is Ann” when it is in fact Sarah, this won't feel true for you and your muscle will test weak.

The thought or belief would have no validity or influence without the sensation and feeling in the body that it is true.

What gives rise to a thought/belief such as “I am a horrible person”? Life events. Events in which we felt bad about our self. Initially this belief could have started out very early in life, as physical sensations, it might have felt like a sharp jab in our stomach. If the sensation becomes too overwhelming, we won't/can't feel it which creates a short circuit in our energy system. The sensation and later, the attached emotional charge become stuck. To make some sort of sense out of what is happening and to feel in some way safe and in control, we'll arrive at conclusions. If we need the person who is hurting us, we can't hold them responsible, so we'll come to the conclusion that we are to blame. There must be something wrong with us, for this to be happening, otherwise it does not make sense. Hence the belief “I'm a horrible person”.

Thoughts and beliefs affect and shape us when we sense and feel they are true. Positive affirmations won't work if they don't feel true. We need to address the underlying sensations, emotions and feelings that give rise to these thoughts and beliefs, not the other way around.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Stay with it

Stay with how you feel as much as you can. Know from experience that the more you stay with painful feelings, and feel them, that they will transform. It will get easier! Go as gently and slowly as you need to.

Pendulation is about the innate organismic rhythm of contraction and expansion. It is, in other words, about getting unstuck by knowing (sensing from the inside), perhaps for the first time, that no matter how horrible one is feeling, those feelings can and will change. Without this (experienced) knowledge, a person in a state of “stuckness” does not want to inhabit his or her body ~ Peter Levine, In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness

EFT short cut diagram and procedure
Anxiety audio
Pain audio

*To download the audio files right click on a PC, control click on a Mac.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Embodying presence

Being present is a practice that takes practice. I believe it is the most valuable practice we can have, because when we're present to ourself and others, we're showing love. Thich Nhat Hanh writes about the practice of mindful breathing to bring our mind and body together in his book, True Love. When you're breathing in say, “I know that I am breathing in” when you're breathing out, say, “I know that I am breathing out.” Constricted breathing technique


Our minds are often daydreaming or in a completely different place to our bodies. By practicing this simple exercise every day, as often as we can, we can bring our body and minds back together again. When we're in our bodies, or embodied and associated, we can feel, which is often the reason why we don't want to be in our bodies. It can feel too painful and we'll find numerous ways to distract our self. If we practice being present even for a few minutes every day, it gets easier and easier to be in our bodies. Very often when we suffer from anxiety and all the forms that anxiety takes, it is exactly because we can't stand to be in our bodies. We live in our heads where we try to control our thoughts so we don't feel so afraid and out of control. But thoughts will never change how we feel, only feeling can do that.

The capacity to self-regulate is another priceless benefit from practicing mindfulness and presence. Peter Levine writes, In An Unspoken Voice:

"In mammals, this capacity for self-regulation is essential. It endows the animal with the capability to make fluid shifts in internal bodily states to meet changes in the external environment. Animals with developed orbitofrontal systems have evolved the capacity to switch between different emotional states. This ability (known as affect regulation) allows animals to vary their emotions to appropriately match environmental demands. In humans, this highly evolved adaptive function, according to Schore and others, is the basis for the core sense of self. These same circuits in the orbitofrontal cortex receive inputs from the muscles, joints and viscera. The sensations that form the inner landscape of the body are mapped in the orbitofrontal portions of the brain. Hence, as we are able to change our body sensations, we change the highest function of our brains. Emotional regulation, our rudder through life, comes about through embodiment."

When we learn to be present with our self, we start to become friends with our sensations, emotions and feelings. We become less afraid of feeling uncomfortable and difficult sensations and emotions and as a direct result our resistance lessens. The amount of resistance is always in proportion to the amount of fear. Peter Levine calls this rocking back and forth between contraction and expansion, pendulation. He writes:

"I have named this shift from the feelings of dread, rage or whatever one likes to avoid toward “befriending” one's internal sensations pendulation, the intrinsic rhythm pulsing between the experienced polarities of contraction and expansion/openness."

Monday, August 08, 2011

Expanding ...

If your everyday practice is to open to your emotions, to all the people you meet, to all the situations you encounter, without closing down, trusting that you can do that - then that will take you as far as you can go. And then you'll understand all the teachings that anyone has ever taught ~ Pema Chödrön

I have gotten to the stage where the meaning of letting go, vulnerability, powerlessness, helplessness and surrender feel the same for me. What they all amount to is an acceptance of how I'm feeling. Knowing you can enter and exit these difficult states by pendulating (see last week's post) will give you the courage to feel and even embrace difficult feelings. By experiencing pendulation we become less afraid and are able to dissolve any overwhelm, which so often keeps us trapped in the cycle of repetition and re-enactment. There is an important distinction between feeling an emotion, expressing (acting out) an emotion and wallowing in an emotion. When we don't fight and resist how we feel, we can move through the most uncomfortable and difficult emotions. It's not always easy, but it is necessary if we want to move forward. The following phrases are probably going to bring up a lot of great stuff to tap on. Take as long as you need to on each statement. EFT short cut diagram and procedure.

video 

I can let go/accept
I can feel vulnerable
I can feel powerless
I can feel helpless
I can surrender

I am willing to let go/accept
I am willing to feel vulnerable
I am willing to feel powerless
I am willing to feel helpless
I am willing to surrender

It is safe to let go/accept
It is safe to feel vulnerable
It is safe to feel powerless
It is safe to feel helpless
It is safe to surrender

When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something. We might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch in on that throbbing quality ~  Pema Chödrön

Monday, August 01, 2011

Pendulation

I've been reading In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, by Peter Levine. It is an excellent book. The lasting impression this book has made on me is one of hope. There is a way out of trauma and our own body has the innate capacity to transform it. What really got me excited about this book was how he described pendulation*. Pendulation “is about the innate organismic rhythm of contraction and expansion. It is, in other words, about getting unstuck by knowing (sensing from the inside), perhaps for the first time, that no matter how horrible one is feeling, those feelings can and will change. Without this (experienced) knowledge, a person in a state of “stuckness” does not want to inhabit his or her body.”


Therein, lies the hope and potential that trauma and its effects can and will change. We can find our way out of the (seemingly) never ending, cyclical, closed loop of repetition and re-enactment which inevitably leads to overwhelm and hopelessness. I have heard the same information in a million different ways, but it was the concept of pendulation that I really “got”. While reading about pendulation an image came to me of being on a swing, swinging back and forth between helplessness, dread, paralysis and rage and no matter how high I swung or how out of control I might feel, the swing eventually comes to a natural stop when we don't push, fight or resist it.

Entering immobility can feel excruciating, unbearably vulnerable, helpless and can fill us with the most awful dread. It can feel as if we're going to die if we allow ourself to enter this “collapsed” state. It's no wonder we avoid it and find ways to sedate the pain. Then, as we exit immobility, it can feel like we have an enormous volcano of rage inside. We're afraid of this powerful rage erupting, sometimes that fear can help dampen the rage, but other times we act on it, which can make us feel deep shame. Both entering and exiting immobility can feel like the proverbial black hole which could annihilate us if we were to go anywhere near it, so we stay away from these unbelievably difficult feelings. And we stay away and we stay away, until we can't any more. Our bodies and minds won't and can't carry any more pain and they start to buckle under the weight of trauma. Who actually wants to experience these feelings? None of us do. But that's exactly what we need to do. Peter Levine writes:

"Successful trauma therapy helps people resolve trauma symptoms. The feedback loop is broken by uncoupling fear from immobility. Effective therapy breaks, or depotentiates, this trauma-fear feedback loop by helping a person safely learn to “contain” his or her powerful sensations, emotions and impulses without becoming overwhelmed.

In the short run, the suppression of immobility sensations appears (to our denial-biased mind) to keep the paralysis and helplessness at bay. However, in time, it becomes apparent that evasive maneuvers are an abject failure. This “sweeping under the rug” not only prolongs the inevitable, it often makes the eventual encounter with immobility even more frightening. It is as if the mind recognizes the extent of our resistance and in response interprets it as further evidence of peril. If, on the other hand, one is able to utilize the vital assistance of titration [small doses] and pendulation, one can touch gently and briefly into that deathlike void without coming undone. Hence the immobility response can move ahead in time toward its natural conclusion, self-paced termination."

Uncoupling the fear from immobility is absolutely necessary because unless and until we do that, we will not enter immobility because it's too frightening and consequently the likelihood of being flooded, overwhelmed and even retraumatised is very high. We get tastes of what it's like when we're triggered, we'll feel some of the fear or dread, get scared and then feel rage that we can't escape our situation, which leads to hopelessness which can then descend into blaming and shaming our self for not being able to help our self. And so we push our pain down as much as possible, until the next time. It is the experience of pendulation, the rocking back and forth between contraction (fear, collapse, rage etc) and expansion (feeling empowered, calm etc) that gives us hope, and resiliency. It breaks the closed loop of feeling trapped and we can move forward. He writes:

"The shifting (between the fear/resistance and the unadulterated physical sensations of immobility) evokes one of the most important reconnections to the body's innate wisdom: the experience of pendulation, the body's natural restorative rhythm of contraction and expansion that tells us whatever is felt is time-limited ... that suffering will not last forever. Pendulation carries all living creatures through difficult sensations and emotions."

* He describes the same process in the brilliant Waking the Tiger, but does not call it pendulation.

It is the first purpose of hope to make hopelessness bearable ~ Robert Brault