People remember and handle events in a very individualized way, even if they're both present at the very same event. Why is that?
Of my many favorite scientific authors is Dr. Robert Scaer; he studied this kind of question for decades, and has steadily added to our understanding of how some events become encoded as traumatic.
The Danger of an Incomplete Threat Cycle
Humans go through a natural cycle when their mid-brain limbic system determines a 'threat.' When a person's system is not allowed - or cannot manage - to complete its 'threat cycle,' the body's design is to store all the details in what he calls a 'trauma capsule'. When a threat cycle is 'incomplete', a person can easily be triggered into 're-living the event,' complete with all of the event's sensory detail. That's convenient if one survived a tiger attack and here we are, presented with another tiger. It's NOT very helpful in our tiger-less urban environment.
This is one of the most powerful truths about EFT: we can help a person 're-tell instead of re-live' their troubling memory.
Memories with high emotion become part of our personal biology as well as our autobiography; they have important implications for our survival, both real and perceived. Intense, negative experiences shape our sense of self, and along with it, our physical and emotional health. Untreated, these details can literally keep us 'stuck' in the past.
The Features that Determine a Traumatic Event
So what causes an experience to become encoded as a 'traumatic event' for some, and not others?
There are 4 categories, or ‘features' we currently understand that determines whether an event is encoded as ‘traumatic.’ Today I deliberately use words and terms crafted to be simply accessible for everyday, conversational understanding, instead of textbook designations:
1. It’s Sudden, Unexpected. (Physically, emotionally, or cognitively)
We were just watching TV, when a tree crashed through our roof
Tests were usually easy, but out of the blue, I just couldn’t remember a thing.
The deer just appeared across my windshield, and I froze.
2. It’s isolating. (Could be physical, emotional, cognitive or even metaphorical)
I was out in the middle of nowhere, and had no idea how to find help.
In the middle of that huge party, I’ve never felt so small or alone or vulnerable.
He told me this had to be our secret, and if I told, no one would believe me.
3. It’s about Survival. (It could be physical, mental, emotional or even a threat to our identity.)
I thought I was going to die; I thought this was it.
No one will ever believe me; I’m going to lose my job.
He said he’d kill me and my family, if I ever breathed a word of this.
I’d begun to lose hope that anyone would find me in time.
4. Powerlessness. (And/or no idea of what to do.)
I was trapped! I couldn’t see a thing - couldn't even scream.
I went blank; I couldn’t think.
I was helpless; and he was coming straight for me
Focus on Correcting the 'Incomplete Threat Cycle'
By having a better understanding of the four common features of how events become 'traumatic,' we become better able to help ourselves and others. We begin to see things differently, such as 'what happened?,' instead of 'what's wrong with you?'
Actively listening for these features help us understand that a person's traumatic reaction or memory means their 'threat cycle' is incomplete, and needs addressing, as soon as they're feeling safe enough to do so.
Clearing 'little t' and 'Big T' Traumas alike
Professionally-trained EFT users will be able to provide safe, gentle, rapid relief from the many 'little t' traumas that each person's life brings, even if they've graduated to 'big T' traumas. Help yourself and another by recognizing the signs, and offer your expert Tapping help, as appropriate to your experience. Seek more help from those trained in specifics of the problem, or more experienced in this kind of work, the moment you feel out of your depth or scope of practice.
Used properly, EFT is an amazingly elegant and simple set of techniques that liberate us from whatever holds us back, and restore our quality of Life.
Jondi Whitis is an AAMET Accredited Advanced Practitioner, Master Trainer & Trainer of Trainers, with a private practice in NYC, USA. Her motto is FEEL BETTER FAST, which she happily teaches clients and students, alike. A member of the AAMET International Training Board, and the former lead trainer and mentor for the Community Trauma Relief Project, established in Newtown, CT, USA. Visit Jondi's AAMET profile