When June was 24, her high school sweetheart and then husband was killed in a traffic accident, the victim of a drunk driver. The loss was horrendous. She was depressed and almost inconsolable for the next two years. Eventually, however, she returned to school, started a new career, and was able to rebuild a meaningful life. At age 31, she met Ralph and, after dealing with her sense of being disloyal to her first husband, she allowed herself to fall deeply in love with him. They married and had two sons. June’s worry about their well-being became problematic. If Ralph was late coming home from work, she would be a bundle of frayed nerves by the time he arrived. It was very difficult for her to allow either of their sons to part from her sight, and their going to school was agony for her. She would ruminate about all the terrible things that might happen. Earlier in their relationship, Ralph had been very patient with June when her worry was primarily about him. He understood the loss she had suffered. But now her worry was stifling the boys as they became more independent, and he insisted that they attend therapy.
After taking a thorough history in the first session, it became clear to David that while June had received grief counseling following her husband’s death, and had healed in many important ways, the shock of learning of his death still reverberated within her in nightmarish proportions. As difficult as it might be, the treatment had to revisit that moment. Fortunately, with acupoint tapping, it is not necessary to vividly relive a trauma. A technique that our colleague Gary Craig calls “sneaking up on the problem” uses very general terms rather than the highly specific language that is usually suggested. When working with a devastating memory, you don’t need to relive it, only to activate it slightly. So June’s first round of tapping simply used the words “That horrible day.” Her SUD rating went from a 10 to a 7 after a few rounds, but then other losses came into her mind, specifically of her grandmother when she was eight and of a pet dog when she was in her teens. We focused on each until the emotional charge had dissipated and the memory of the joys each had brought into her life could be fully experienced without intrusion by unprocessed pain about their subsequent loss.
In the next session, we returned to the moment June learned of her first husband’s death. It had come back up to a 9 and was quickly lowered to a 6 after a bit of tapping, again using the reminder phrase “That horrible day.” At this point, the approach was refined. First June was asked to describe what she was doing just prior to learning of her husband’s death and to tell the story of that day. She had already done enough work that she was able to manage this, not without tears, but without being totally overwhelmed. Then we took the account she had just presented in stages, using language that was more specific than had been used in the earlier tapping. We began with her shopping in a grocery store prior to receiving the call on her cell phone. That was not hard to neutralize. Then hearing the cell phone ring and taking it out of her purse. She could recall exactly what aisle she was in. The distress triggered by this memory was neutralized within a couple of rounds of tapping. Then hearing the doctor identify himself and say the awful words, “I’m afraid your husband has been in an accident.” Everything that followed was addressed in segments, from the anxious drive to the hospital to learning he had died to insisting on seeing his disfigured body to the long and terrible night of being home alone after it was all over.
Because overwhelming emotion is not compatible with the signals sent to the brain during tapping, the signals turn off the emotion without distorting the memory. The memory becomes manageable and stops intruding into other areas of one’s life. This emotional processing and healing changes the person’s psychic landscape. From there, it was relatively easy to identify several of the most recent times that June had been obsessively worried about Ralph or one of the boys and to tap each down to zero. Finally, we worked with some situations that had not yet happened but which she imagined might be challenging. From that point on, she was able to send her men off to work or school with a smile on her face and a heart that was at peace.