Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Would you, if you could?

If you could eliminate the emotional pain of a difficult or traumatic event in your past (without actually getting rid of the memory), would you do it? Think of the worst, most difficult, tragic, painful experience you've evre had and the ways in which it still affects you today. What if you could still remember but you could neutralize the emotions attached to the memory? You could get rid of the depression/anxiety/tears/pain/fear/embarrassment or whatever it is that comes with the memory. It seems so often that the emotions attached to traumatic or difficult experiences affect our ability to live a whole and healthy life. We make poor choices out of the woundedness and scars.

I'm reading a book called The Promise of Energy Psychology, which claims that through the stimulation of a sequence of accupressure points, the scenario I just described in the previous paragraph can happen - remember the trauma without the emotions. A person can eliminate phobias, anxiety and post traumatic stress by calling up the memory while interrupting the emotional response of the limbic system by massaging or tapping pressure points. Those with experience in this type of therapy say that the whole procedure takes only a few minutes and the effects are long lasting. People who have been through this type of therapy report that they are still free of their emotional distress even 2 years later.

At first, this seems entirely too good to be true. My first response was to say OF COURSE I want to get rid of the anxiety and depression I experience. OF COURSE, I want to stop feeling the upset whenever I recall particular instances of childhood trauma. I want to stop living with the drive to be perfect and the fear that I'm going to totally mess things up. I know that much of the fear is driven by painful life experiences. What if I could interrupt the emotional response and, thereby, the unhealthy behaviors?

The book gives examples of energy therapy working to relieve phobias. This seems pretty wise to me. And, yet, the book also mentions that people who have been treated for phobias often end up with even less of an emotional response to the object of the phobia than the general population. For example, a person with a fear of heights might eliminate their phobia and then some. Generally, people have some physiological response to heights, keeping them alert and cautious. The book says that the treated person with have less response then most of us but still have a healthy caution. This leads me to 2 questions. First, HOW does the treatment stop at a "healthy caution?" Who defines that? How do we know what degree of caution is healthy? And, second, what if the response of the average person is actually healthy and a certain degree of fear is necessary to keep us safe? Do we really want to deprogram our hard-earned responses that have taught us how to be safe? Of course, phobias are generally unhealthy, and we want a more balanced response, but can we garuntee that this type of therapy automatically stops at a good balance, a healthy place?

The book also gives an example of a woman who was raped by her stepfather at a young age. In one meeting with her energy therapist she went from shaking, flushed, crying, rapid breathing, and over-all very upset to calmly stating that the rape was a long time ago, it didn't have power over her any more, she is old enough to protect herself now, and she is able to protect her own children. Basically she went from very upset to telling herself and her therapist that there was really nothing to be upset about and she's over it now. Two years later the therapist followed up with her, and she still had no emotional response to recalling the rape. She had been able to "move on" with no depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress.

This last story seems ideal on the one hand and scares me to pieces on the other. It doesn't seem right somehow. It seems to take some of the humanity out of the person. We were made to feel. God created us with a limbic system, an emotional response system, with the capacity for love and joy...and pain and sadness. And feelings serve a purpose - to protect us, to teach us, to connect us to others. What happens to a person's compassion if they disconnect or neutralize their emotions related to pain or trauma? I'm entirely in favor a balance and learning to come to a balanced place with emotional responses. I do see how getting lost in the haze of our emotional over-response leads to unhealthy and even destructive choices sometimes. I get that there are sometimes reasons to take medication to balance emotional responses. I understand that brain chemistry is a powerful thing. I'm scared stiff by a therapy that ELIMINATES the negative emotions. How can it do that?

Even considering the possibility that this might be possible brought me to some conclusions that I feel somewhat ambivalent about. I've learned a lot. I guess it upsets me that I had to endure some kind of trauma to come to some profound realizations, but it seems to be the case. I've learned things about God and faith, life, community, families, and even my own capacity for love, joy and sacrifice through the really painful things in my life. And much of the learning has happened through actually feeling the pain. If I had done some energy work to change my emotional response, I'd feel fine, but I wouldn't be the same person I am today. I wouldn't think as hard about things. I wouldn't know the depth that's out there, that's available to me.

And there's something else, too. If I hadn't been wading my way through so many tough emotions, I wouldn't have experienced the love and compassion of my Mango in the same way. I wouldn't know the depth of his love for me. I wouldn't know about love so deep and fierce, so patient and gentle, so persistent and unwavering. I wouldn't know who he really is on the inside. Maybe he learned something, too, about his own capacity for love and sacrifice.

Yes, I think people were made to feel. And nothing about feeling is clean and neat or simple.

I still have a lot of questions. I mean, if God made us with pressure points that change the flow of energy in our bodies and neutralize emotional reactions, maybe there's something valuable to be had there. Maybe it's not so all or nothing as the vibe I'm getting from the book I'm reading. It probably isn't. It's been a journey for me to process this, though...to think about the role that broken and desperately painful emotions have played in my life. I know I haven't experienced the worst pain out there, either, and I wouldn't ever fault anyone for seeking salve for their wounds, balm for their bleeding emotions. Who could find fault with that? I can only say what I say here from the other side, for the most part. More days than not, I'm free from the emotional fallout of painful memories. What if I hadn't found the other side yet? What if no other side was in sight? Ultimately, I am left with more questions that answers.

What would you do?


  1. Maybe the best time to use this is when you can't let something go and it is affecting your entire life. And you keep getting bogged down by it. Maybe it's for those who don't know how to move forward. This would let them get their lives back.

  2. I have been using CLEAR (a method that combines acupressure points and bilateral stimulation or EMDR) for over 10 years now. It does exactly what you say--removing the traumatic effects of past experiences without taking away the memory. I use it on myself and with clients. I have witnessed it heal depression, PTSD, anxiety, phobias, lack of motivation, limiting beliefs, and even physical symptoms. Julie Roberts, Ph.D.

  3. Thanks, Julie, for affirming that I understand this method correctly. It sounds so good and so amazing. When I read about something like this, I can't help but wonder if it really is as right and good as it seems. I'm not really hear to judge whether it is or not...just using my blog as a sounding board.

    Tesha, I think you're probably right. As with all things in life, I think balance is necessary and appropriate. I don't think it's probably all one way or all the other. There are circumstances where energy psychology certainly seems the most logical...and the most merciful. And there have absolutely been times in my life when I wished I could just "be better already." I don't know how I would be different if that wish had been granted.

    Part of the reason I want to sort this out is because it seems, potentially, very powerful and the book gives very clear instructions on how to use it. I'm considering whether this is a good route to go with the continuing anxiety that I can't seem to shake. I'm also considering whether this might be useful for Vespera's extreme test anxiety. The more I think about it, the more I'm able to argue both sides...which, um, isn't exactly helpful.

  4. it does seem like a good idea...i'm not sure so i'd be comfortable with it, though. i mean, i've had my share (and then some) of traumatic stuff happen in my life but i'm not sure that i'd take away any of the things that i've felt or learned through the process of healing. i do think healing is a lifetime process, though...much like addicts are never "recovered" always "recovering", are we ever "healing" or will we always be "healing"?!

    everytime i have a rough patch in my healing process, i learn something new about myself...i come one step closer to being the me that i want to be...

    just a couple things i had on my mind...


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