The background story
I have not been raped. Neither have I been beaten or physically abused. I have not been in, or witnessed someone else's, serious road traffic accident.
I come from an averagely functional, professional family, and am not aware of any dark deeds in past or present lives. My background is materially privileged. On the surface, a perfect progression. During my early years I was brought up in the English countryside. I discovered music at a very young age and thus knew "what I wanted to do". At school I was academically successful and went on to university. I got good jobs then married. Two children came next. I have been more than adequately provided for, have a comfortable home, and am now a grandmother (and dog owner).
Trauma had occurred
The story is open to judgment, both by others and by the owner of the story. Now there is no doubt in my mind and heart that I have experienced Trauma and yet, years down the healing path, there is a little voice that says:
You are lucky! You have nothing to complain about...
What is omitted from the story above, however, are the various factors that contributed to the initial and subsequent traumatisation.
- Perfectionism and achiever tendencies
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Dissociation from reality
- Lack of confidence in and fear of relationships
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Chameleon-type and people-pleasing behaviour
- Conviction that the world was a very unsafe place
- A decades-long eating disorder
What was underneath it all?
To this day I am still discovering the nature of my own Trauma. I have reached the point where I am content that only what is necessary need be revealed, either to myself or to others. It was an important day, however, when I accepted that I had been seriously traumatised, however bland the external story might appear. At last I could respect and honour myself, in all the different parts that had striven to keep me safe all those years.
For those that are curious, some of the early contributory factors could have been:-
- My handicapped brother who took my parents' full attention.
- I was dispatched to boarding school aged 8, despite crying protestations.
- Another brother told me not to cry when my grandmother died because "you weren't close to her".
- I nearly drowned 3 times.
- There was a particularly harsh school report.
- The dismissive behaviour of my first teacher.
- I was told I was fat by the school bully when I was 6 years old.
- I was frequently one of the few pupils left in school on exeat weekends.
How did I know?
Two years ago, at the AAMET Conference in Manchester, Judy Byrne gave a wonderful talk on trauma. I had never before witnessed an 'abreaction', let alone experienced one. My sense of danger became highly activated. My body started shaking; I was hyperventilating; the tears flowed uncontrollably. It felt as though I was being both stabbed and strangled. It is hardly surprising that for decades my system had protected me from this depth of fear by enabling me to dissociate whenever I had felt under threat.
I am very grateful both to Judy and to those that rescued me in that moment. Tapping and Kindness reigned supreme.
Points to ponder
- Trauma is Trauma. Whatever sets up trauma in the first place is largely irrelevant. The traumatic response depends on a set of converging factors unique to the individual concerned. Look out for the emotional and somatic responses, however 'insignificant' the triggering events may appear to be.
- Self-judgment and judgment from others about what qualifies as a trigger is a matter of opinion only. Anything can trigger the traumatic response
- It is not your client's fault that they have been traumatised.
- Recovery from trauma can take a very long time. (I have myself been working intensively for over a decade, with numerous approaches from many good people).
- Validation and normalisation are key components in recovery.
- Never underestimate the power of being fully present with your client, with an accepting, open and loving heart.
- The quantity of tapping on a daily basis hastens and deepens the healing. (This has happened with my own recovery, since I have significantly increased the amount of tapping I have done. Did I mention my dog? Two hours' dog walking each day gives a great opportunity for continuous tapping on the finger points).
- Work with whatever a client presents. Our unconscious knows what we need at any given time. (Just recently I had a session discussing a potential house move. Since then, I have been in touch with and been able to process some very deep issues).
- Don't feel you have sole responsibility for 'fixing' your client. It is very affirming when your therapist has confidence in you. That approach confounds the limiting beliefs of 'wrongness' and 'unfixability'.
- Be careful with labels. Labels have the tendency to lead to categorising and generalising. The client who has been fighting an inner battle, maybe for a long time, doesn't need an extra story to add another layer to their own.
I have developed a childlike mantra that I tap round prior to seeing my own clients:-
Out of my own way,
Be there for you.
I say the words 4 times, whilst tapping round the face and upper body points. (For the OCD amongst you, it fits very nicely...). Trauma has been my teacher.
I cannot express strongly enough the gratitude I feel towards those who have been part of my ongoing recovery, for whatever length of time. I will not name you here, but you have all played a crucial part.
Sue is an EFT practitioner, musician and writer, specialising in performance anxiety and emotional eating issues. She assists with the editing of EFTi articles. She is also a practitioner in NLP, PET (Provocative Energy Techniques), life coaching and hypnotherapy.