All posts by transformativetherapy

Sarah is a holistic therapist specializing in hypnotherapy, guided meditation, and energy clearing. She is a student of the chakras & meridians and their related emotions, as well as esoteric healing and spiritual principles.

Seven tips for going through a divorce

Half of marriages end in divorce, and most relationships do not end in marriage; we Americans stand a good chance of getting our hearts broken. We place a high value on romantic partnership, and we have significant expectations of what that romance is supposed to be. When our relationship falls short, it is easy to feel hopeless, helpless, guilty, and a whole range of big uncomfortable emotions.

And just when we are feeling our worst, we need to have our wits about us as we figure out how to divide the spoils of our life together and ensure that we are making choices that are just and equitable. When kids are involved, the stakes are even higher; we have to be on point. That can be very, extremely, intensely challenging.

Here are seven tips for going through a divorce to help guide you through the process.

1. Be sure that you are sure

If you are the one seeking a divorce, make sure you are sure. Often the “leaning out” partner has made their partner into a “bad guy” and may fail to recognize their own contribution to the problem. Search your heart. See how you may be contributing to the problem. Then choose.

2. Get a therapist

I am a therapist, so this may sound a bit self-serving, but hear me out. Divorce hurts, and you are going to be in pain for a while. Having a therapist gives you a time and place to process all of that emotion. So do it soon. You have a lot of important decisions looming ahead of you, and you need to have your head on as straight as you can as soon as possible in order to do this well. Often people rely on their divorce attorney or family and friends for counseling. This is not a good idea for several reasons:

  1. Divorce attorneys are not therapists, so going to them for “therapy” is not the best use of your time.
  2. Your divorce attorney charges many times higher an hourly rate than a therapist; using them for “therapy” is not the best use of your dollar.
  3. Your family and friends can’t (and won’t) be objective. While they may offer sympathy and even advice, therapy offers something much more helpful.

3. Consider a divorce coach

Consider hiring a divorce coach. Divorce coaches are experts at navigating the morass of divorce. You can think of them as a sort of doula for divorce. In the labor and delivery room, when doulas are present, births go better: fewer forceps and suction cups, less anesthesia. It’s the same with coaches in a divorce: lower legal fees, fewer complications, less medication 🙂 . In the Main Line area, Sheila Brennan is a great choice.

4. Put your kids first

And don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Letting your narcissistic ex, for example, “run over” you for the sake of your kids is not bad or weak; it is probably your best strategy. Your kids can’t be your therapist, and they need to believe in their other parent. In every situation, in choosing every action, think of the path of least pain and greatest harmony for your kids. Let that be your guiding light.

5. Get your finances in order

And talk to a financial advisor right away to start making a plan for yourself. Talk to that person again when the divorce has settled. Women are still in particular danger on the financial front following divorce. Take financial care of yourself now, and you will thank yourself later.

6. Let it go

We all know someone who never got over their divorce. They continue to be angry and bitter for years. This is not a healthy way to show up in your life, and cuts you off from the joy of living. Things happen; we can learn and grow from them, like these people did. This is your chance.

7. Forgive yourself

You are not a failure, and you are lovable. With time and attention, and not being the person in #6, you will heal. I promise you, honestly, you will look back on this time and kinda sorta remember how much it hurt…but it won’t hurt anymore. You won’t even remember 95% of the stuff you are upset about right now. The anger and the pain fade away. It gets better.

You are an energy field: a key to understanding and healing trauma

“Everything is energy” is an aphorism; what does this mean, practically, for you, for us, and for our emotional and physical wellbeing? The body is an energy field. You are an energy field. This holds the key to understanding our experience, and the key to understanding and healing trauma.

The good.

Most of your charge seems to come from the heart, which generates 60 to 1000 times more energy than the brain. The magnetic field of the heart, measured by a cardio magnetogram, extends about 12 ft around the body. An interesting study by the Institute of HeartMath showed that when a person was thinking loving thoughts about another, the heart rhythm of the “thinker” showed up in the brainwaves of the “thought of.” In another study, when two people consciously focus on thinking positive thoughts about each other, their heart rhythms synchronize. And the same magic happens with our pets. For example, a study found the heart rhythms of a boy and his dog synchronized when they were together. You can read about these studies here.

So we see that our loving thoughts affect others, and we connect to each other in subtle, energetic ways which have real impacts. But what happens when there is a disruption in our energy field?

The bad and the ugly.

Not surprisingly, physical and emotional disruptions will follow. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study was conducted by Kaiser Health and the CDC. It examined the childhood traumas of 17,000 (mostly white, middle- and upper-middle class, college educated) people. Researchers found a big correlation between traumas and both mental health and physical health issues. In fact, people who scored 4 or more on the ACE quiz are several times more likely to develop chronic disease and depression. They are ten times more likely to commit suicide. (If you are interested in taking the ACE quiz, you can do so here.)

When we talk about traumatic experiences, it is important to note that it is not only the big traumas, such as the ones measured on the ACE study, which stay with us. Even small “traumas”, like being laughed at by our classmates or yelled at by our parents, can have a lasting impact. When situations similar to the original trauma come up, it is easy for us to resonate with and even re-experience the trauma.

Key to understanding and healing trauma

Knowing that childhood traumas, and indeed all traumatic experiences, seem to become trapped in the body leads us to an important question: What can we do about it?

Thankfully we have tools to heal. But the way to heal is not based on insight, understanding, or figuring things out.  This is because the rational mind is not where trauma exists. Trauma is emotional/energetic, so effective therapies need to work on the emotional/energetic levels. Peter Levine discusses this concept in this video.

Energy psychology techniques are a group of therapies which includes the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), Thought Field Therapy (TFT), the Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT), and the Emotion Code/Body Code. Each of these approaches utilize the meridian system to release energy blockages caused by traumatic experiences: tapping or holding meridian points (EFT, TFT, TAT) or tracing the Governing Vessel (Emotion/Body Code). Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), and its offshoot, EMDR, use eye patterns and imagery to release trauma. In every case, the focus is not on understanding what happened, but on getting to the emotional/energetic pattern that we need to release in order for us to heal.

A case in point

I was working with a client who has a high ACE score – he experienced a lot of trauma when he was growing up. Several months ago, he came to session extremely upset. He had recovered a memory of a particularly ugly, traumatic incident from his childhood. We used an EFT protocol to heal the trauma impact from this memory. Understand and heal trauma

At the beginning of our session, I asked him to rate his experience on a 0-10 scale, and it was “more than a 10.” By the end of the hour, he was able to recall what had happened without feeling upset. When I asked him to rate the incident on the same 0-10 scale, it was a 0. He and I were both grateful for this amazing tool of healing.

A few months later, he came to session upset about other things. I asked him how he felt about the incident. He stopped and looked surprised for a moment, and then replied that he had not even thought about it. Interestingly, he still felt calm and detached when he remembered it.

He, and many others, still have a lot of trauma to resolve. But they can, and I am determined to help. Not just working with my clients, but spreading the word about the impact of trauma and ways to work through it. We, I, you are an energy field: a key to understanding and healing trauma.

We have ways to heal. People need to know this stuff.

Healing Trauma

Many of my clients have experienced trauma, whether it is losing a loved one, getting divorced, or being diagnosed with a serious illness. Traumatic experiences are part-and-parcel of our human experience. They can be the defining moments of our lives, and how we deal with them – or don’t – has a tremendous impact on what happens next. We used to think that PTSD was “incurable;” now we know that healing trauma is possible, and relatively straightforward.

Short term and long term impacts

In the short term, surviving a traumatic experience changes how we see ourselves. We are not as safe, and the world is not as trustworthy, as before, leaving us feeling powerless, isolated, and afraid. The haunting memories of trauma can come up unbidden and disturb our peace, leaving us to wonder if we will ever be at ease.

The longer term impact of a trauma is determined by how significant the trauma was, how many stressors and traumas we have previously experienced, and whether we have resources to help us release the trauma.

Hot memories

There is some evidence that small pieces of a traumatic episode live in our memory in a “hot”, emotion-laden way; they have split off from the rest of the trauma story. These pieces of trauma memory are the grist for flashbacks and re-experiencing. Knitting the hot pieces back into the story as a whole seems to cool them down and helps reduce flashbacks and other trauma responses.

Wishing we could forget

Most people who have experienced trauma try to forget that it ever happened. The problem is that trying to forget is ineffective; forgetting is impossible. Fortunately, there are some very effective techniques to help with healing trauma. They all involve purposefully remembering the traumatic incident in detail from beginning to end.

Here are some strategies that are effective in healing from trauma:

The first three strategies are out-of-the-box approaches to healing trauma that are gaining traction. I have used them in practice and my clients are finding them to be super helpful:

Narrative exposure therapy

NETis a storytelling technique that was created to help people in war-torn countries recover from trauma. In this simple approach, people tell their trauma story in detail, over and over again, until they can tell the story without feeling upset. When I use a version of this with my clients, they become calm and the memory loses its “hotness,” usually in one sitting.

Neurolinguistic Programming’s Trauma Cure

The NLP trauma cure involves some form of watching the memory as if it were a movie, starting before the trauma and ending after the trauma, in fast-forward and rewind. They way that I use it in my practice includes adding a funny element to the memory. This is a brief technique, and my clients find it super helpful. Clients might start out being barely able to tell me what happened, and end up smiling about it. And that is something to smile about!

Meridian Tapping Therapies

Techniques like EFT help to put the trauma highlights into a cool context. In EFT, we tap on meridian points while talking about our emotion. (To learn more about EFT, check out my posts here.) Clients start by telling their story, and as soon as they get to a hot spot, we stop and tap. They move on to tell the next part of the story, and again we tap when they get to a hot spot. I always ask my clients to rate their trauma on a 10-scale, and even if they start out by saying, “it’s a 100”, by the end of our session, they are usually at a “0.”

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: A mainstream approach to healing trauma

The CBT approach to healing from trauma is similar to the narrative exposure therapy described above. With CBT, you the story to a compassionate listener, starting at the beginning and ending at the end. It is an evidence-based approach to treating trauma.

Many paths, same mountain

There are many effective approaches to healing trauma, and they are so simple and effective, it is a real shame that people continue to suffer. Together, maybe we can create a shift. If you know of someone who is suffering, please tell them that help is available. There is a database of EFT and energy psychology practitioners here; there is a list of NLP practitioners here; and Psychology Today has a list of practitioners that is searchable by type of therapy and issues addressed.

Healing trauma is possible. Let’s spread the word.

How to get over your ex and get on with your life

The painful experience of a breakup can stick with us, preventing us from showing up fully for our lives and creating a great life that we can be excited about. There are a couple of patterns that we can get stuck in: We can find ourselves pining after our ex, idealizing our past relationship and believing that this person was perfect for us. Alternatively, we can believe they were the worst, and hold on to resentment for what they did to us. Neither of these patterns allows us to be present. Fortunately, you can learn to get over your ex and get on with your life.

Keeping the old flame alive

Guy (names are changed for privacy) was convinced that Laura was the only woman for him. He had never really fallen in love before, he was ready to have a “real” relationship, and he felt like she was the perfect person for him to share life with. When Laura broke up with him, she broke his heart. For weeks that turned into months, his friends noticed that he was struggling, and they were surprised, as they had never seen him so vulnerable. His first instinct was to try to win her back. They faltered for a few more months, but finally it became clear that they were not going to make it. He suffered, and then he realized he had two choices: hang on to idealizing Laura, living in the past; or let her go, realize that their relationships was not as perfect as he wanted to believe, and move forward with his life. He finally chose the second option. He started going out with friends, then started dating, and in about six months he was ready to open up to the possibility of falling in love again.

Holding on to a hot coal

Grace was so angry with her ex; she felt betrayed and was sure that she would never forgive him. He had cheated on her and broken up their family. She told him that she would hate him till the day she died, and she meant it. When she ran into him at their children’s sporting events, she gave him dirty looks, barely spoke to him, and made it clear to everyone who saw them that she despised him. Her children couldn’t help but notice, either.

None of this made the situation easier or healthier for anyone involved ― especially the children. Grace didn’t care. Finally she realized that she was stuck in the past, and that this was not serving her. She realized that her children were hurting because of her animosity toward their dad. Grace understood that she would never be able to open up to a new love if she held on to this anger. Buddha said that holding on to anger is like holding onto a hot coal: we are the one getting burned. Grace understood this, and chose to let her anger, and her ex, go.

Cultivate the opposite

Yoga sutra book 2, sutra 33 tells us that when a negative thought is present, we should cultivate its opposite. Guy and Grace both chose to recognize their negative thoughts and to replace them with the opposite. Guy reframed his experience, practicing telling himself that Laura was not perfect for him. If he wanted a relationship, he would certainly find another love. Grace practiced telling herself that while her ex’s actions were hurtful and destructive, she choose to let it go anyway. She chose to leave the past in the past, and allow herself to be happy for what she had. This created the opening for new love.

During the first months after a loss, it is perfectly healthy and normal to feel the full range of feelings: denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression. For more on the stages of grief after a breakup, read my last post here. Eventually we need to get to the place of acceptance. This allows us to show up in a big way in our lives, be fully present with the people we love, and make the contributions we are here to make.

Breakups hurt. They also make us stronger, if we let them. You can get through it!

The stages of grief over a breakup

The loss of a significant relationship throws us inelegantly into a deep grieving process. The stages of grief over a  breakup are sometimes thought of as unfolding in a neat, linear progression, with one step following after the other to their inevitable conclusion of acceptance.

That’s not how it works. Grieving is messy. Its stages are circular, not linear, as we move back and forth among them and visit them again and again. There are probably more than the five stages Elizabeth Kubler Ross set forth. How many among us, for example, have felt guilt after a breakup? At the very outset, how many of us experience shock?  Most importantly, some people can get stuck in a stage (often anger or depression) without ever experiencing acceptance and hope.

The stages of grief over a breakup

It can be helpful to have a sense of the terrain ahead, in order to know you are not alone, and you certainly are not crazy, as the grieving process moves through you. Here are some pointers:

Shock.

No matter how bad things were, when the relationship comes to an end you might be in shock, especially if you are the one being left. You may find yourself literally shaking, experiencing a physical manifestation of shock. It can be very hard to assimilate your new reality. Be kind to yourself. This is a painful stage and one that you will not likely stay in for long, or revisit very often.

Denial.

This can be denial of the breakup, or denial of your pain. When we experience denial, our subconscious mind is protecting us from our new reality. As Pooh said, you are braver than you think, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. And you will get through this.

Guilt.

It is actually important to acknowledge the ways in which we contributed to our relationship’s demise, or we will be doomed to repeat the pattern. As we know, our lessons become more painful until we finally learn them. On the other hand, holding on to feelings of guilt causes stagnation. Better to learn the lesson and leave the guilt behind. In the final analysis, you and your ex came together in order to teach and learn, and grow and then …go.

Anger.

Oh, how anger makes us feel powerful! It is ego; our real strength comes from our spiritual side. Yet anger is a very useful stage in our healing process. Go ahead and get mad, especially if you are uncomfortable with anger.  Anger can fuel action and help us set boundaries. It is not a healthy place to stay, but it certainly can be a useful emotion to access when we need to draw on it.

Bargaining.

When we are bargaining, we tell ourselves we would do whatever they wanted. “It was all my fault. I will never leave a pile of clothes on the floor again; I will pick a better therapist; I will answer your texts right away; I will be your perfect mate.” When we are in the bargaining stage, we over-own our part in the relationship’s demise. This is illusion, and you wouldn’t have liked it that way in the long run. Be real with yourself, and kind to yourself. It’s just a phase.

Depression.

It is natural and normal to feel depressed after a breakup. You can move through this phase more quickly and smoothly when you engage in activity (walk, run, learn a new sport); set goals (set out to accomplish something meaningful, train for a race, learn guitar); turn to friends (join a meetup, a hiking club); and to recognize, again and again, that this too shall pass.

Acceptance and hope.

After working through all the stages of grieving after a breakup, we find ourselves in the stage of acceptance, with renewed hope for our future. This final stage is not a given, however; people can stay in the anger stage, feeling like a victim of their ex; this prevents healthy growth, forming new relationships, and does not lead to a happy, productive life. Or we can get stuck in depression, closing our hearts and shutting down our energy field, cutting ourselves off from Life. But if you are brave, strong, and smart, then you can dig in and show up for your learning. As you move through the process you will find that you are better off than you were before.

Final thoughts

When we lean in to the grieving process and do our work, we have a tremendous opportunity for growth. It hurts… but in time, it doesn’t hurt so much. When we are brave, and strong, and smart about our breakup, we find ourselves on the other side, braver, stronger and smarter than ever before.

One last thought: ask yourself, why would you want to be with someone who doesn’t make you feel wonderful about yourself? You deserve better!

Five ways to soothe your heart after a breakup

If you are grieving over the breakup of your marriage or significant relationship, take heart: When you arm yourself with the tools to get through this crisis, you will find yourself on the other side, happier, healthier, and stronger than you thought you could be. It helps to have strategies and a plan. Here are five ideas to get you started.

  1. Remember the bigger picture. We humans grow through pain. (Ugh.) Of course, not everyone takes advantage of the opportunity for growth that our painful experiences contain. More’s the pity. For those of us who lean in to our experience, hold ourselves to account, and ask ourselves, “What am I meant to learn from this? How do I want to be after going through this?” there is a terrific opportunity to become more of the best of what we already are. Reframing your breakup or divorce in this light helps keep things in a healthier perspective.
  2. Take care of yourself. Going through the pain of a breakup or divorce might be the best time in your life to get good self-care: regular massage or facials, to get back to your yoga mat, to try Reiki or Healing Touch or SRT or energy work or energy psychology. Take a class. Paint. Play the guitar. However you choose to do it, make time and commitment to take care of yourself. You deserve it.
  3. Call a friend. But be careful about which friend you call. There are those who talk us off the ledge, and those who make us want to jump. Pick the calming ones. And be sure to ask them about how they are doing. It is so helpful to think about someone else’s problems, instead of our own. And it makes us a better friend.
  4. Be patient with yourself. Healing takes time. Even when you are giving it your best effort, it still takes time. Some days you will feel better, and then on other days you will feel worse again. That’s how it goes. But little by little, your heart is healing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other. You hurt, you cry, and then you feel happy, and you laugh…And that’s how life goes. After the darkness comes the light.
  5. I know, it’s hard under the best of circumstances, and when we are in pain, it seems impossible to connect and sustain our attention. Try anyway. Your Higher Self will appreciate your effort, and you will find that you are sustained by your Source, even if you think you can’t “get there.” The effort is more important than the apparent result. Luckily there are so many great guided meditations available on line today, you don’t have to work so hard. In fact, this can be a great time to take up the practice, and start to connect more deeply to Who you really Are. Pretty cool.

Every crisis contains the seeds for growth and transformation. Going through a breakup or divorce is certainly a crisis: painful, common, and growth-promoting. The practices suggested here are like tilling, watering, and adding sunlight. Do this, and we can grow into something amazing, healthy, strong, and resilient. And that is beautiful.

How to heal from a breakup and create a life to be excited about!

Do you know someone whose heart is hurting because of a breakup? With half of marriages ending in divorce, and most relationships not ending in marriage, the chances are that you do, and that person is hurting. Learn techniques to heal from a breakup to make the process a little smoother, and a little shorter.

The grieving process

Fortunately we have tools and strategies to help the healing process. Simply learning about what to expect as we go through the grieving process can be helpful. The stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), so brilliantly identified by Elizabeth Kubler Ross back in 1969, are not steps we go through sequentially. When we are grieving, we sometimes feel better, but then may feel worse again. We may feel depressed, and then angry. We may also feel shock, and guilt. Knowing the emotional landscape can help us to be patient with ourselves as we keep moving forward, one (painful) step at a time.

Reframe: a great strategy to heal from a breakup

One of the best strategies to heal is to put our pain in a bigger context. What is it all for? Why is this happening? What am I to learn from this? How is this making me stronger, wiser, better than I was before? What have I gained, that I would not otherwise have gained? These questions help us take a longer view, and put our pain in a bigger context. The result: we feel empowered.

Reality Check

There is a tendency to glorify the past. We look at what we lost through rose-colored glasses. We idealize our ex, and the life we feel we have left behind. This is natural — but it is not necessarily true! If your relationship had been wonderful, you would still be in it. Your ex was not perfect for you; your ex is not the only man or woman in the world that you could ever love. Think about it — the loving feelings you experienced were, after all, YOUR feelings. You can feel them again, right now, if you let yourself go there. Your ex is not needed! And since those feelings are yours, you can bestow that grace on someone else, when the time is right, when you have learned what you needed.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a choice: a choice that empowers us, and can set us free. Forgive your ex, and you can cut those ties that are binding you to the past. Forgive yourself, and you will have grown by leaps and bounds. Forgiveness puts things in order. Practicing forgiveness is giving yourself the keys to the kingdom. Forgiveness does not mean that nothing was “wrong” or that you are condoning being mistreated. It doesn’t mean you want to continue in the relationship. It means that the wiser part of you recognizes that everyone is pretty much doing the best they know how to do, given their unhealed wounds and traumas from the past. Feeling hurt, we are called to remember: forgiveness is divine.

Heal from a breakup and create a life to be excited about!

When we take our grieving in hand, and shepherd ourselves through the process, we avoid the pitfall of wallowing in self-pity, of anger, of victimhood, of disempowerment. We can turn our pain into something of meaning; we can have more compassion for others; we find out we are stronger and more resilient than we would otherwise have believed. We are able to fill ourselves up with grace and optimism and empowerment. From that place, we can create a life that we can be excited about.

If you know someone who is going through a breakup, please share these thoughts. Having one’s heart broken is awful. It is also common. Knowing that we are not alone, and that someone cares, can go a long way toward healing. For a little extra help, check out my Udemy course, Healing from a Breakup. I explore these ideas and support each module with energy psychology and guided meditations. The video course allows me to “walk beside” people who are healing from heartache, and guide them through their healing process. And when you need more help, you might like to work with me.

With many blessings for peace and healing,

Sarah

PS- the image is by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Hypnotherapy and guided imagery for cancer care

Research has demonstrated that mental health therapy is helpful for people who have been diagnosed with cancer. Transformative Therapy is a private therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, PA. We specialize in supporting clients who have cancer and other serious illnesses.

Our integrative approach includes hypnosis, guided imagery, relaxation, and visualization to promote healing and recovery.

Research shows that guided imagery and hypnotherapy can help :

  • Increase feelings of well-being
  • Reduce feelings of depression
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Reduce side effects of cancer treatment
  • Improve quality of life
  • Reduce fear and anxiety prior to surgery
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce pain, including post-operative pain
  • Temporarily increase numbers of immune system cells
  • Reduce blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and pain
  • Create relaxing brain wave patterns
  • Reduce anticipatory nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy
  • Reduce cancer pain and distress
  • Reduce pain, nausea, fatigue, discomfort, and emotional upset

Sources:  The American Cancer Society Cancer.org; The Mayo Clinic; Breastcancer.org; Anesthesia and Analgesia

Breast cancer and the LoA: Please don’t be afraid to feel afraid

In my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, I work with women who have breast cancer. They are often afraid of their fear: the Law of Attraction has become a monster for them. The issue is the LoA and how it applies – and does not apply – to getting and fighting cancer.

I have studied the LoA for years. There is a lot of (I believe rather immature) stuff on the internet about the LoA. “Think well and you will be well”, the teaching goes. I think it grossly oversimplifies the case.

And worse, I think it freaks people out.

Is there nothing to fear but fear itself?

So many women I work with are freaking out because they are scared, and they are scared of being scared. This puts them in a bind. They can’t begin to grapple with the fear, move through it, and let it move through them, because they are afraid that in being afraid they are making themselves sicker.

Because they are afraid of the power of their fear they don’t allow themselves to express it. Consequently, their fear has no way out. It grows in the darkness. And worse, these women feel shame because they have fear.

For most of us, a cancer diagnosis is @%*&# scary.

And then things get better. Most of the time – by far, most of the time – my clients do, too. They learn about treatment options and they start the marathon. They find out that the sun still rises and they still laugh and have fun.

The marathon ends and they reflect on how much they have gained: they know a lot about mindfulness and meditation, complementary therapies, nutrition and natural beauty products. They have learned to tell the people they love that they love them. They don’t sweat the small stuff.

But for many women, the road to recovery is fraught with the boogey man named LoA. They come to me and cry: I am afraid, and I am afraid that my fear is killing me. If I let myself feel afraid, am I making my cancer grow? I am afraid to let myself feel afraid, and I’m still afraid. I have no power over this fear. It feels like life and death.

Don’t suppress your emotions.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But I know my clients. I read the research. I talk to people. I listen. And I can tell you that there is not a shred of evidence that feeling afraid makes people sicker. On the other hand, there is research, including a study of 94 women with recurrent or metastatic breast cancer, showing that unprocessed trauma hurts.

David Spiegel, M.D., one of the study authors, says “people do better in the aftermath of traumatic stress if they deal with it directly. Facing, rather than fleeing it, is important… In other words, don’t suppress your emotions.”

Please. Don’t. Suppress. Your. Emotions.

Emotions are not “good” or “bad”. What we do with them, however, has consequences. Suppressed emotions can cause some serious mischief. Keeping our fear pushed down is exhausting. And it’s inauthentic. And we can’t heal what we can’t allow ourselves to feel.

I think that having a dialogue with our feelings is healthy. In English we say “I AM afraid”. Other languages express it as “I HAVE fear”, and there is a certain mindful distancing that comes from framing our emotions this way.

What I want to say to my clients, to all the women who are fighting the fight, to you, is this:

Please don’t punish yourself by fearing your fear. Let yourself feel your feelings. Let the fear move through you. You will find yourself on the other side of that feeling and see how much you have grown.

EFT Quick Start Guide

EFT, the Emotional Freedom Techniques, is a member of the energy psychology (EP) family of psychotherapies. These therapies combine Western psychology methods, mainly drawing on cognitive and behavior principles, with Eastern energy-based healing principles, including acupoint stimulation and chakra balancing. This mind-body approach allows EP techniques to facilitate rapid, positive change. EFT involves acupoint tapping with exposure to an emotionally-charged memory. In my therapy practice in Bryn Mawr, clients are making big changes with EFT.

What is EFT?

EFT combines acupoint stimulation with exposure to an emotionally-charged memory or experience. EFT is built on the theory that every emotional problem is rooted in a block in the energy system because any traumatic event, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can cause a blockage in an energy meridian. This blockage can be thought of as similar to a droplet of water inside a drinking straw. Just as we can tap on a straw to release a trapped water droplet, we can tap on an acupoint to remove a block from the meridian.

EFT can be used as a self-help tool as well as in clinical therapeutic settings. It is an effective tool for working with specific traumatic events, such as accidents and medical diagnoses, as well as more broad-based and seemingly intractable issues, such as depression or low self-esteem. We conceptualize this type of broader issue as a “table top” which is supported by traumatic, though often seemingly insignificant, life events or “table legs”. Using EFT, we remove each of the table legs until the table top collapses.

The EFT Protocol

In EFT, we tap on the side of the hand while repeating a setup statement: “Even though I have this problem, I deeply and completely accept myself.” Then we tap on a series of points while just repeating the problem: “But I have this problem.” Before tapping, we assess our subjective units of distress (SUDS). After one round, or several rounds, of tapping, the SUDS will lower to a 0 or 1.

What Does the Research Say?

Researchers in Seoul, South Korea have identified a physical substrate in the body, composed of very small blood vessels, which correspond with the acupuncture meridian system. These vessels comprise what researchers have named the primo vascular system, and seem to transport biophotons, or biologically emitted photon beams of light. This may be the first scientific explanation of the flow of chi.

While researchers in the East have been studying the body’s energy system, researchers in the West have been studying the effects of EP, including EFT. More than 100 studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals, and 98% have found energy psychology modalities to be effective. To date, four meta-analyses have been conducted, demonstrating a moderate to strong effect size. In the past five years alone, more than fifty studies have found EFT and similar meridian-tapping therapies to be effective for treating depression, PTSD, other anxiety disorders, food cravings, pain, and other physiological symptoms, including blood sugar management and side effects of cancer treatment drugs.

The Takeaway

EFT involves tapping on acupoints while remembering a traumatic event from the past, or while experiencing upset in the present. It is safe and easy to learn, and is an effective tool to relieve many forms of emotional and even physical distress. It may be the best psychotherapy you’d never heard of! Ready to learn more? Get in touch to start your journey to a happier life today.