Tapping for Children Suffering Trauma from War

War zone reflected in a child's eye

Question:

I will just summarize a rather lengthy question from an Israeli health worker acquainted with EFT Tapping (an Energy Psychology method that counteracts trauma). She and three of her colleagues were invited to work with a group of school children who lost classmates in an attack on their neighborhood. They will be allowed to use Tapping with these children, and she asks for suggestions with regard to a helpful way of doing this and for useful affirmations (possibly the Choices Method) to use for them — she doubts that the default self-acceptance phrase alone will do the whole job.

Answer:

This is an extremely difficult question to comment on in any general way because trauma work is so individual, and because it always carries with it certain risk factors. You want to avoid having those you are trying to help RE-LIVE their memories as they talk about them. For this reason, I think you would do well to stick to Gary Craig’s Tearless Trauma Technique when you work with children suffering trauma from war — this will help them to avoid the painful reenactment of the tragedy while they process it with EFT.

Dealing with Feelings of Revenge

With respect to the emotional reactions following a shock such as this, many of these children will have feelings of bewilderment, sadness, helplessness and a shattered sense of safety. Also, one of the responses that is hard-wired in humans and all animal species, is to respond to an attack with anger and a strong impulse to fight back. You will probably find a sense of outrage in many of the students at what happened to their classmates, and some of them they will have a strong impulse to retaliate. As you pointed out in your recent letter, one of these students even asked you, when preliminarily shown EFT, whether it was permissible to use the phrase “even though I want revenge” when doing EFT.

The need for revenge will be one of the things that will have to be addressed with these youngsters because it can easily become an obsession, obstructing their lives. Since Israeli children are generally able to trust that their government will take carefully considered action on their behalf, and are given many outlets for assisting their country during this national emergency, in a practical sense they do not need to carry around a personal vendetta in this respect and should be encouraged to channel their revenge impulses in an organized fashion.

What I see as important is to help the children to become calm, focused and able to go about their lives normally despite the impending danger that surrounds them. They need to channel their revenge drive constructively, do all that they can, and ideally put aside thoughts about this for the rest of the day.

Here are some EFT Choices that might help them to do this.

Even though I want revenge, I choose to be calm and strong inside, and go about my life normally.

Or,

Even though I want revenge, I choose to rely on my government to handle this, do what I can to help out, and have a calm good feeling inside.

When you are working with EFT one-on-one, you can help individuals customize their Choices so that they are precisely targeted, but you have to use more general Choices when dealing with groups. However, you can still supply flexibility of wording to groups too and they will need this.

Basically what we are doing when we use the Choices method is to make special use of the highly suggestible state created by EFT. This can help people, in this case traumatized children, to experience positive, helpful responses in place of the maladaptive ones that typically occur following a disaster.

For this reason, I believe it will be extremely important to have the children create EFT Reminder Cards to take home and use following their formal EFT session. I will comment on this later.

Survivor Guilt

Also, many of the children are likely to be suffering from what is known as Survivor Syndrome — this is a deep sense of guilt at having been the one who was NOT injured or killed but who is instead going about his or her life still alive and well. We can imagine that many of the children will feel guilty if they find themselves feeling normally good or happy or having fun, when their classmates died instead.I am going to suggest a few Choices that I think might be helpful for such guilt reactions in a moment, but first I want to comment on how you might best introduce EFT to these children.

In general, the SIMPLEST way will be the best. If I were conducting the meeting I would most likely open up by telling the group that I will be showing them something helpful that they can do FOR THEMSELVES when difficult or frightening things happen. I would explain this as a device which they can use at any time to comfort and steady themselves and to give them a safe and peaceful feeling, no matter what is happening around them.

I would also mention that this method has been very useful to people under all kinds of stressful circumstances, even during major disasters, and explain the way it works by saying that it makes use of a simple process that all us know already—namely, how to comfort ourselves with our own hands and with our own words. I would add that I want to show it to them so that they can carry it around with them and have it handy at any time they might want to use it.

At this point, I would follow Gary Craig’s important advice, namely that when using EFT for trauma work, especially with a group, one should approach the issue at hand in a very general and indirect way AT FIRST in order to “take the edge off” off the trauma. He suggests that we start with very general wording, such as, “Even though this TERRIBLE THING happened….,” rather than mentioning any specific thing that happened which might be too painful for a traumatized person to recall at this point.

In your upcoming meeting, this would mean teaching the children EFT near the start of the meeting, and letting them do a number of rounds of EFT in this more general (less specific) manner first to remove some of the horror of the trauma before starting to have the children discuss the issue. Gary calls this “sneaking up on the trauma” because, rather than making the person confront it directly before they are ready to (and thereby risking serious repercussions) you allow them to do enough tapping while they are one step removed from the event in their minds, so that when they DO start to discuss it, this will be less painful.

While the discussion is underway, Gary (whom I spoke with for his input on this) suggests that you have the children continuously tap DURING THE WHOLE TIME THEY ARE TALKING (and also while listening to other children talk) about the distressing event. They can sit there and just tap-tap-tap their way through the entire discussion period, and in that way neutralize the various aspects of this issue AS THEY ARISE. This can be a tremendously effective way to use EFT with trauma.

With respect to the affirmations to use, one effective set-up phrases for a disaster of this sort might be:

Even though this terrible thing happened, I have peace in my heart.” Or, “Even though there is danger in our land, I have peace in my heart.

When they are saying these phrases, you might have the children place their hand or hands over their heart — this can be very comforting.

An excellent way to counteract Survivor Guilt is to foster a deep self-acceptance and some possible ways of doing this might be to use set-up phrases such as:

Even though this terrible thing happened, I’m a great child.” Or add, “…I’m a great child INSIDE.” for somehow, deep within us, we all know that we are indeed wonderful INSIDE, as a living being — so this is not an unrealistic concept.

Another comforting self-acceptance phrase might be,” Even though this terrible thing happened, I have many great friends (my family is great, etc.).”

I have also a number of other Choices that can be used in times of disaster in Chapters 11 and 12 of my  Choices Manual — and you may want to use some of those phrases as well.

Along somewhat different lines, other possible phrases might be:

Even though I feel terribly sad (cry a lot, etc.) I know that I am honoring them by being sad (crying, etc.), and that someday this sadness will stop.

Even though I feel helpless, I choose to be calm and strong, no matter what.

Even though I’m terribly angry (furious, etc.), I choose to be calm and confident.

Even though I feel bewildered (confused, etc.), I choose to be stronger than ever because of this.

Even though I’m frightened by this, I choose to feel wonderful courage.

Even though this impossible thing happened, I know I’m doing the best that I can.

You will notice that I haven’t used only “Choices” as the form of affirmation suggested here. This is because children are less critical about the exact authenticity of a statement, than are adults. The simple wording of direct affirmations may therefore reach them in a more immediate and effective manner. Adults often need to add the words “I choose” before an affirmation to make it believable, and they also benefit especially from the sense of empowerment that these words bring. Both ways of wording the EFT affirmations can be very useful.

Perhaps it would help if I were to tell you what I would do if I were working with these children. After they had done a round or two of EFT using the NEGATIVE reminder phrase, I would have them follow this each time by at least one complete round of tapping during which they would repeat only the POSITIVE reminder phrase (the affirmation) at each tapping point. This would serve to install the positive affirmation in a deeper, more lasting manner.

I would also suggest to the children that they make “EFT Reminder Cards” to take home and use daily. These would be 3″ by 5″ index cards on which they would write their EFT set-up phrases (one phrase per card). I would ask them to read each card OUT LOUD to themselves just before going to bed at night, and again first thing in the morning. Doing this simple act daily should greatly reinforce the positive effect of the affirmations they have learned.

I hope that these suggestions will be helpful to you.

We all send you our deepest wishes, prayers, and hopes for the success of your work with children suffering trauma from war.

Pat Carrington

2 Comments:

  1. This was very helpful. Thank you very much. I like the idea with the reminder cards.

  2. Pat ,thank you so much for putting this together as you have. I I think it is excellent and I appreciate you reminding us of how Gary uses the idea of sneaking up on the trauma. That makes so much sense.

    Sadly now so much trauma is affecting so many people. . Any chance we could get our politicians to do EFT?

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