Dear Friend and No IBS Program Participant,
Do you sometimes do things you don’t understand? Have you ever thought that those inexplicable behaviours might actually be helping you?
In this letter, we’re going to tell you a client story that reveals the real purpose behind some “odd” behaviours. We’ll also show you a gentle way to tap for big traumatic events to lower the emotional charge on them, first without revisiting them and then, when you are ready, an easy, gentle method to process and release the entire event.
Thirdly we will cover a powerful example of surrogate tapping. Surrogate Tapping is a method that allows you to process your emotional reaction to other peoples’ negative or stressful experiences.
At the very end, we’ve put the links to all the previous Support Letters, for quick access.
By now you will have completed most or all of the modules, depending on what pace you set for yourself. In Module 8, we talked about the part of the brain that controls your fight or flight reactions. This part of the brain is called the amygdala – a small area of the limbic system deep within the brain that has powerful effects on your behaviour and health.
The amygdala is the alarm center of the brain. When your brain believes that your survival is threatened – whether physical or emotional survival – the amygdala triggers a cascade of reactions within your body that include speeding up or shutting down your digestion. Yet the amygdala makes mistakes! It not only reacts to real-time events, such as a large dog running at you and barking, but also to frightening memories.
A memory cannot hurt you, physically, but your amygdala behaves as if it can. This is actually part of our human survival mechanism. Your brain remembers dangers so you can avoid them and stay alive. But too many of these memories put you into a constant state of anxiety and can trigger IBS symptoms or other chronic health conditions, as well as behaviour patterns.
The entire No IBS Program has been designed to help you defuse the memories and shut off the amygdala when it’s not needed, thus preventing symptoms. Traumatologist, Dr. Robert Scaer, says that, “When you are in the present, the amygdala is silent.” Meditation traditions have taught this for centuries.
What’s the catch? The catch is that not all of our memories are conscious. So we sometimes find ourselves behaving in ways we find confusing, even a little crazy.
Here’s an example.
Counting the squares on the sidewalk:
One IBS client suffered from high anxiety. He reported to me that whenever he walked on the sidewalk he found that he always counted something. Sometimes he counted cars or trees but mostly he looked down and counted the squares of the sidewalk. When he told me this he also shared that he felt like this was crazy behaviour and wondered if there was something wrong with him for doing it.
My response was just the opposite. I told him that this was likely a coping strategy to keep him feeling calm and safe while out in the world and walking down the street. This made sense to him and he felt relieved. This man had been in a serious car accident where a relative was killed. He knew he felt anxious being in a car, and that made sense to him, but he didn’t realize that he also felt anxious simply walking where he could hear the traffic.
It turned out that he was being triggered by the sight and sounds of the cars passing him. But when he focussed on counting the sidewalk squares, he remained in the present moment where it is virtually impossible to experience fear or anxiety. We tapped through the car accident event to clear the trauma and calm the anxiety, which made it easier for him to walk without counting.
What’s interesting about this story is that the man instinctively came up with this coping strategy to allow himself to be out in the world and walk down the street. Yet because he was not conscious of creating this strategy to calm his amygdala, the logical part of his brain had no idea what was going on and could only assume he was losing his marbles.
Do you have any “odd” behaviours that could actually be clever coping strategies allowing you to function in the world?
A Gentle Way to Tap for Bigger Events
If you’ve experienced a significantly traumatic event in your life, it is not necessary to recount all of the painful details to get relief from the triggers associated with the event.
You can start very gently with a general script without calling to mind the details. Once you’re ready, and only when you feel ready, you can use what EFT founder Gary Craig calls The Movie Technique to work very gently with the details. By the time you have tapped through Step 1, much of the intensity of the event will likely have dissipated.
Step 1 – General Script
Do not bring the details of the event into your mind. Just tap with these words:
KC: Even though that event happened, I accept myself and I want to bring healing to this. (Repeat 3 times)
Reminder Phrase: ‘the event’
EB: the event
Do 3 or 4 rounds of tapping using these simple words. If most of the intensity has dissipated and if you feel ready, you can move on to Step 2, The Movie Technique.
Step 2 – The Movie Technique
This technique involves running the details of the event through your mind like a movie, but in a very specific way, so that you will not feel upset by them.
Usually you start the movie at a point before the most difficult part of the event:
Here’s a story about one of our clients and how her body stored the trauma she experienced at the dinner table with her family of origin.
One of our clients – I’ll call her Roberta – has a keen eye for beauty and surrounds herself with art and antiques. She’s the kind of person who could make a dungeon look like a palace. But underneath, things aren’t so pretty.
Needless to say, this was very frightening to the three children. Roberta was so traumatized by the tension, she developed physical changes to her bowel which have plagued her ever since. By the age of ten, she was put on tranquilizers for nervous twitches.
The worst experience she remembered at the dinner table was one night in her early teens. Her father shrieked and cursed so violently, her 18-year-old brother jumped up and threatened to attack him. They were going to fight it out, right there in their elegant dining room amidst the antique furniture and bone china. Her brother felt very protective of his mother and sisters and could no longer tolerate the father’s abusiveness.
At this point, her older sister rushed out of the house and escaped to the park. Roberta remained in her chair, completely frozen, unable to move her lips to form the words, “Please don’t fight.” Tears ran down her cheeks. She told me she was so shocked, she couldn’t even react. It was the first time she could remember her father and brother getting to physical violence and she was terrified.
If you feel some tension reading Roberta’s story, remember that it happened over 40 years ago to people you’ve never met. If reading about or watching events that happened to complete strangers or TV characters affects you, you can use a technique called ‘surrogate tapping’ to relieve this stress. The tapping script below shows you how to tap for Roberta and in so doing, relieve the intensity you feel about reading the story.
Why is this helpful? Because when you feel intensity about someone else’s story, it may be that you experienced something similar. You may not have gone through the same events as Roberta, but you have probably known injustice, tension, shock, and the feeling of being frozen with fear or outrage. So tapping on her story will help to relieve some of your own stored trauma.
And as you know by now, relieving stored trauma means you are de-activating triggers of IBS symptoms.
KC: Even though Roberta was frozen with fear when her father and brother were fighting, she can still love and accept herself.
EB: Roberta was really afraid
Tap through these points several times until any intensity goes down and you feel more neutral about the story. Then tap the more positive round below.
EB: This happened to Roberta a long time ago
You may not have encountered the violent episodes Roberta witnessed. Children experience many types of discomfort and stress from adults and others including expectations, criticism, mockery, certain looks, the silence that says more than words, and so on. These stay in the unconscious memory where they can be triggered for the rest of time unless you do something to release them.
So use this surrogate tapping technique any time you feel discomfort hearing or reading a story or watching a show or movie. This will help neutralize and release the triggers that are stored in your body and mind that are being activated by the content you are exposing yourself to.
Well, that’s all for now, folks. Thank you for participating in The No IBS Program. You’ve come a long way since Module One and you now have all the tools you need to control your symptoms and feel better. Please send us a progress report on how you’re doing. We would love to hear from you!
If you would like personal coaching on any aspect of the program, or wish to work on a particular issue in more depth, please contact us.
We look forward to hearing from you and…
Good health to you always!
Karen & Kathy
Karen Alison and Kathy Raymond
P.S. Here are your links to the previous Support Letters:
Support Letter One
Support Letter Two
Support Letter Three
Support Letter Four
Support Letter Five
Support Letter Six