Using EFT to Calm the Fight, Flight, and Freeze Response When Learning About
“Caged” Children and Separated Families
The stories of separating children from parents because of US government policies has had a deep effect on my ability to remain self-regulated as I go through my daily routines. Seeing agonized faces evokes my own agonized expression when I was taken from my mother at two and placed in a five-sided crib – essentially a cage – when we were quarantined for tuberculosis, I for seven months, she for two years.
The year was 1947. Medical experts believed this was the best treatment for TB at the time.
As a seventy-two-year-old woman, I believed I had completed my work with this early trauma. This current political practice of separating parents from children and “caging” them, is teaching me otherwise. Some wounds, especially our early ones, become our True North. We learn, time and time again, we are in a partnership of healing that will likely last a lifetime. So it is for me as I take in the magnitude of suffering separated family members are feeling today.
My first tapping experience with this major human tragedy centred on my numbness to this unfolding story. As I tapped on my side-of-hand point, I said,
Even though I feel nothing right now, I’m okay.
Even though whatever is going on inside of me is so deep I’m not yet aware of it, I am here now, safe, and feel my feet on the floor. I am in my home, in the midst of the familiar, my kitty, Prince, my books, my photos and pictures, my deepest connections to others. I am here, in this sacred space I have made with my beloved partner who loves and accepts every part of me. I am safe. I am safe to feel for these families, these caged children.
Even though I thought I had completed this work, this numbness teaches me otherwise, and I am open to the next layer of healing; I am safe. I can do this.
I tapped through the points quite methodically, three times, feeling this uncharacteristic numbness as I said,
This numbness. I know a part of me must be very frightened. This numbness. I know that beautiful two-year-old part of me has gone to ground. This numbness.
After the third round, I stopped, tuned into my body, and felt the sensation of warmth creep out from my heart into my lungs. As soon as these sensations made it through to my awareness, my eyes filled, my lips pulled into that familiar expression of grief, and I began to weep.
Far from being unbearable, this expression of deep sorrow enlivened my emotional connection to families experiencing what I and my family had experienced so long ago. Once I opened to my deep, deep grief, I also felt my familiar human responses replace the terrifying numbness that had kept me from feeling empathy for others who suffer sudden, shocking displacement and isolation. These responses included outrage, the desperate need to help, and my very familiar default emotion in the face of great tragedy, helplessness. I tapped on each of these, with most of my time devoted to the overwhelming sense of helplessness that has dogged me my entire adult life, especially in the face of human suffering. Slowly but surely, after several rounds of tapping on my helplessness in the face of the unimaginable anguish of these families, I reclaimed my sense of efficacy.
I have been tapping for my own personal issues since 2006 when I sought out Betty Moore-Hafter to help me prepare for my mother’s death. After our quarantine, our shattered mother-child bond and our lack of knowledge and skill kept us from the loving relationship we both yearned to create. All that changed when I faced my early trauma in therapy. I was in my mid-thirties and living the life I wanted to live; I was a mother of two beautiful children, my husband and I were relating in nurturing ways, and my first novel was in the process of being published. Despite these happy circumstances, I had the sudden urge to die. Because of my chidlren who awakened in me the ferocity of mother-love, I sought a therapist who immediately suggested I read John Bowlby’s Attachment and Loss. I had minored in psychology as an undergrade and was glad to do so. About four pages into that seminal work something burst in my chest.
I cried as I had never cried before, not for my personal suffering – I was months away from feeling safe enough to move into my own experiences – but for all the babies separated from their families during Blitz.
This is how recovery from early trauma goes sometimes. We move crabwise, through healing Presence, to the suffering of others, until we find that sacred wound, the one we know it is our life’s work to clean, to dress, to dance and sing and draw, until the work of mending is well on its way to completion.
Since tapping on my very potent reactions to anguished, separated families, far from moving on, I do my best to carry the children and their family members in my heart. Surrogate Tapping is the most potent form of prayer I know. Sometimes I say nothing at all, only weep for the suffering I know they are going through. Sometimes I send out my word: “Let their sense of isolation meet Love at every turn.” Sometimes I send out Trust that each little body’s “knowing how” – to mend, to thrive – will find the kindness and acceptance it takes to move through the pain of early separation. And sometimes I tap for all of us as we learn to Love rather than to fear.