Aspects of Trauma from Accidents

By Patricia Carrington

A therapist who is a newcomer to EFT poses the following question:

Question:   What are your thoughts about the interval between a traumatic event and the appropriate use of EFT?  My initial thoughts on this are that there has to be an appropriate interval to allow the mind to do its normal processing, and that the appropriate interval will vary, depending on the intensity of the trauma, circumstances etc.  One of my clients was involved in a car accident earlier this year.  It was sudden and shocking but not her fault, so there are no financial or legal repercussions.  She was taken to the hospital but not detained

There are some remaining but diminishing problems due to whiplash injury, but she has now lost much of her former confidence in driving, and at work. Before the accident she used to ride her horse, but is now too nervous to do so, and one of her main fears is being alone at home, she fears there might be an accident and no-one to help her.  Could I treat each of her fears, which are well defined by her, as an Aspect, and seek to clear each one using EFT?  I would appreciate your views on this.

Answer Your question is a very good one, and let me first say that I think you are correct — the dust has to settle a bit before an intervention like EFT can be at its most effective for working in depth — but a week or two of internal processing after an accident is all that is usually required for this.  Used right after the accident or disaster, EFT can be very useful in reducing the immediate stress and sense of shock, so it should certainly be applied on the spot wherever possible even if you have to tap FOR the person experiencing the trauma. However, if EFT is used directly following a trauma, I find that it is not nearly as likely to get at deep underlying issues as when it is reapplied a bit later.

I think the case you describe is ideally suited for the use of EFT.

You will surely know after the first session when you use it with her whether your client is going to be one of what I call the “EFT Responders”.  Responders constitute the large majority of people who learn this method, however there are occasional people who just don’t take to EFT, and it is worth finding out about this in the very first session.

If the person you are working with goes down in their Intensity Rating (also known as the SUDS rating) on the issue you are working with, even if they don’t get all the way down to a zero or a one, you will know that they ARE a Responder, and that the technique is working for them.  This is essentially all that you need to know to make a decision to apply it to their problem.  If your client is an EFT Responder, with your help the chances are good that she will eventually be able to discover the key issues to work on, and eventually should get substantial relief from doing so.

By the way, when a person responds by lowering their Intensity Rating in the first session (many people of course do so dramatically, but some merely creep down) I find it very useful to tell them, if their progress is slow and step by step, that, “We now know that you respond to the technique, and that’s all we need to know at this point.  This means that we can really get somewhere with EFT in terms of your problem, we just have to do it systematically.”  This is very encouraging to people.

If the person does respond, then often the sky’s the limit.  It’s when they don’t that you may decide that this technique is either not for them, or that getting anywhere with it will be like pulling teeth because the progress will be so laborious, and so it may not be worth it to try.  In my experience the latter does happen, but rarely.

Now let me try to clarify Aspects.  Notice that I capitalize the word Aspects here –– this is to differentiate the EFT use of that word from its common use in everyday speech.  EFT Aspects are a very special concept, and identifying the various Aspects that may underlie any one issue is often a key to the successful use of EFT.

Gary Craig repeatedly reminds us of the importance of identifying and working with Aspects when doing EFT, and his classic tape, “Dave’s Fear of Water”, is an excellent example of the key role of this concept.  It is for this reason that I devote much space to clarifying just what an Aspect is, how to search for it, and how to use it, in my new EFT Beginner’s tapes which are actually intended for those who have never been introduced to EFT before.  My intent is to get newcomers accustomed to looking for Aspects right at the very beginning of their experience with EFT.  Happily, I am noticing that the newcomers who have used the tapes thus far are now automatically searching for Aspects. This could be a great time saver for us therapists.

But let me first say something about what Aspects are NOT.

When a person has many different symptoms as a result of a trauma (as your client does) each SYMPTOM is not an Aspect in the strict sense of this term, rather I would consider the symptom to be a different (although related) ISSUE to be worked on.

The term Aspects refers to the various CAUSES of a problem.  They are the tributaries that flow into the river which is the issue, and which give the issue its power.  Looking at it another way, Aspects could be said to constitute the “Family Tree” of any particular problem. Unlike the symptoms, which are overt expressions of the problem, the Aspects are often hidden or not clearly remembered, and won’t become evident until you dig for them.

For example, some Aspects of your client’s post-accident trauma might be:

  • the feeling of having been out of control when the car collided
  • the sound of the crash
  • the sound of screeching brakes
  • the glare of the headlights coming at her before the crash
  • the shock and bewilderment of the impact
  • her fear as she waited, perhaps helplessly, for an ambulance
  • something a rescue worker may have said that frightened her, (such as, “I don’t know if we can handle this”).

Although someone’s chance remark such as the above might not have been referring to her at all but perhaps to some mechanical difficulty with the ambulance etc. — a traumatized patient can misinterpret ANY remark they hear and apply it to themselves.  It will then be responded to much like a post hypnotic suggestion because of the altered state the person is in at the time.

I could continue the above list, but I think you get the idea.  Aspects are specific CONTRIBUTORS to a symptom, or to a distress, which the person is experiencing.  They often need to be unearthed by strategic questioning such as:

“Is there anything ELSE about the accident that particularly bothered you (frightened you, etc.)?”

One by one, these important details can be unearthed and the more specific they are the better because then you can test to see if the intensity level is being reduced when you work on them.

Another type of Aspect that may be pertinent to investigate with your client is whether there were any past accidents (say in childhood) that this present one may have triggered.  These need not be accidents to herself, they could have been accidents that happened to someone close to her that she heard about, or accidents she witnessed (even ones she saw on TV) etc.

In the case of your client, you will also want to unearth what dreads were activated by this happening.  At some point along the line she may even need to tap on, “Even though I might have been killed in this accident, I choose to know that I am SAFE now.”  Or, “I choose to know that I am still ALIVE and that I am safe now.”

Not realizing that one is presently safe, or in some cases not realizing on a gut level that one is still even ALIVE, is an aftermath of trauma that can cause tremendous difficulty for the victim of an accident or disaster, even though this reaction is not recognized or dealt with by many trauma specialists. I have found that formulating EFT Choices to deal with these fundamental doubts about one’s own safety or existence is especially healing for trauma victims.

To summarize, EFT for accident victims requires careful attention to the many Aspects that may be involved in their reactions.  When this is attended to, many related symptoms may collapse all at once and cease to bother the person.

Dr. Patricia Carrington


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