Megan (not her real name), 43, came to me because she has a constant, intense fear of being visible on the dance floor. She says: “Dancing is my life!” and has been an amateur ballroom dancer for seven years, now performing on the International Open Gold level. Nevertheless, showing up in front of people, just for a lesson in the studio, is stressful for her.
While successful as a health care professional, she has problems finding a long-lasting romantic relationship and often feels isolated and rejected.
Megan’s childhood had been deeply unhappy. Her mother was mentally ill and mostly absent from her life, and the father did not see her, did not hear her and never gave her the feeling that she was important to him in any way. Megan: “As a child, I was begging for love and never got it. And nobody wanted my love which was even worse.”
We did three sessions over the phone.
I asked Megan: “What is the worst, emotionally most intense situation for you on the dance floor?” She responded: “When my pro, Mike, and I rehearse the entrance for a solo routine, and I have to stand in front of him.” (I call her teacher Mike, not his real name).
Megan: “I feel very self-conscious, actually completely and utterly exposed. I am scared that I will trip at any moment, and I look repeatedly down.
I really, really don’t like to be ‘showy’ although that is something you are supposed to be on the Gold level.”
After we talked in detail about her feelings and body sensations while she was imagining being in the “showy position” as she called it, we started the tapping. Her level of discomfort was at a 9 on a scale of 0-10.
Even though there is this pressure around my eyes, my shoulders fall forward, I just want to cave in, and I should disappear anyway, I accept every part of me
Even though I feel this humiliation and shame when I am in the “showy position”, I feel utterly exposed , and I want to hide, I treat myself with kindness and compassion
Even though I can’t do that, I really don’t want to be visible, and I am sure that people make fun of me, I allow myself to relax now
While tapping through the points, we used as Reminder Phrases:
Alone, exposed, unprotected
I can’t do that!
People look at me, that scares me to death
When I wear a form-fitting dress, it’s even worse
I should disappear from the face of the earth
I know I should, but I don’t like to express myself
I don’t want to be visible
Don’t want to be alone. It’s safer to be in the closed position with Mike
After taking a deep breath, Megan reported that the edge was off, and the intensity of her discomfort had dropped to a 6-7. However, she now felt a knot in her stomach and deep sadness in her heart. So we continued to tap on the thoughts and feelings that came up:
Others will judge me
I feel vulnerable
I don’t have the right to express myself
Who am I do stand up and be somebody in the world
I have no right to be there
Who do I think I am
After that round, the emotional intensity was at a 5, and I asked her a classic EFT question that often leads straight to the heart, means the underlying cause of the issue:
“What Does That Remind You Of?”
And there it was. Megan: “My dad when I was growing up. This constant anger, his yelling and screaming at me. He said that I was demanding and high maintenance every time I needed something, just basic things every child needs. After a while, I stopped asking him. I knew that I would never get it anyway because I was undeserving.”
When Megan is on the dance floor, she feels “attacked” and re-lives this old feeling of shame and humiliation she experienced with her father. In her mind, spectators are yelling: “You are just awful!” “Who the hell is dancing there!” “You suck!” “Go away!”
After tapping on these experiences and phrases, Megan’s intensity went to a 3-4, and she felt much more relaxed.
When I asked Megan to imagine herself in the “showy position” again, she reported that something had shifted, that the intense, deep fear was gone. However, anxiety of looking “stupid” and making a mistake came up.
So we tapped::
What if I mess up
What if I make a fool of myself
On the Gold level, I should be able to own the floor
I should give something to the audience
I should receive something from the audience
But I can’t own the floor
I fall over
I don’t look good
If only I were a better dancer
But I am inadequate
After that round, Megan actually felt much worse: “My stomach dropped, I am shaking all over, I feel panic rising!”
I said: “This sounds like shock, like post-traumatic stress. Do you remember a trauma that is related to making a mistake? Not on the dance floor, any trauma.”
Megan came up immediately with a trauma that she had suffered when she was 9 years old. She called it “The Mistake”. Its emotional intensity was at a 10.
She had walked home from school with her little sister. When she was close to her house, a man stopped his car, got out, and started talking to her. He was very nice and wanted her to come with him. Megan walked up to him, and he held out a handkerchief. When she reached out for it, he grabbed her hand and pulled her towards him. Megan yelled and screamed until the man got nervous and let her go. Megan ran with her little sister home, hid in the bathroom for a long time and did not tell anybody about this incident until she was 15 years old.
When we worked with this memory, Megan’s panic and shock symptoms disappeared, but she started to feel angry at herself: “I was so stupid! Why did I follow him, why did I reach for that handkerchief?” I started a series of reframes:
I was only 9 years old, I didn’t see the danger
I forgive myself
I did the right thing when I was yelling and screaming
That was smart
This is exactly what kids should do in a situation like that
I got my little sister home safely
I was protected by my Guardian Angel
The intensity went down to a 2.
I asked her to repeat the sentence: “If I make a mistake, I am a failure”, and it did not ring true to her. However, there was still a feeling of resignation left.
While the fear of making mistakes had decreased, the feeling of resignation was still strong for Megan. We came up with a string of limiting beliefs about herself as a dancer and tapped on these phrases.
I shouldn’t be dancing if I can’t be perfect
I have to be perfect to be loved
I take all these lessons, but I am not good enough
I am a failure
I never get there
Why do I bother
I don’t look good
I am a high level dancer, but I am not good enough
Everybody else is better than me
Guided by my intuition, I added: If I’m not perfect, I shouldn’t live
That sounded shockingly true to Megan, and she had an “instant biochemical release”.
When the intensity dropped from 9 to 5, I asked her what her insistence on these self-judgements was doing for her, and she said: “It protects me. If I say it first, you can’t hurt me.”
“And what does that remind you of?”
Megan: “Kids in Middle School bullying me. They sneered at me, they did not include me, they said I was gross, I had a pancake face.. . I felt that they were right, and that there was something seriously wrong with me. And there was nobody at my home who helped me with that. This is where the resignation feeling comes in, this sadness. Saying to myself: I already know what’s wrong with me, you don’t have to tell me. The kids had it right. There was something weird about me, not likable, unlovable.”
After we worked on this memory, I asked Megan to repeat the sentence: “I am a good dancer.” She responded: “I cannot say that, it is not true. I want to be a great dancer, but it is my experience that if I really want something, I won’t get it. There will be a crushing disappointment, and I won’t get it. So better not to say what I want. It is dangerous and unsafe.”
At this point (the session was coming to an end), I introduced a series of reframes to her:
I am free to be me
I allow myself to get better and better
Dancing is so much joy, and I have come far
I love doing it
If I make a mistake, so what
I allow myself to be a great dancer
I am a great dancer...
“No!” Megan exclaimed. “I can’t believe the last one.”
“O.k.”, I said: “How about: “I am a great dancer in training.”
Megan loved that, and I asked her to tap on that phrase every day, say it aloud, or write it on post-it notes.
I am a great dancer in training getting better and better.
Feel free to borrow.
Carna Zacharias-Miller is an EFT International Certified Advanced EFT practitioner in Tucson, Arizona. Her specialties are working with people who grew up in dysfunctional families, www.MissingMother.com, and introducing EFT into the dance community. Carna's new blog, www.sacredquestforlove, explores the spiritual side of emotions. You can also find her books on the site, The Way of the Ugly Duckling and, for dancers, It Takes Two To Tango.
From the EFTfree Archives, which are now a part of EFT International .
Originally published on April 6, 2013.