When Melanie came to see me she had a fear of thunderstorms that had started when she was a child. Whenever she heard thunder she would feel extremely anxious, shaky, and tearful until the storm had passed. As an adult this could be embarrassing. For example, just a few years ago she had people over to visit during a big storm and tears kept streaming down her cheeks. When she heard about tapping, she was excited to see if it could work for this life-long fear.
We began with a memory from when she was seven years old living in the Midwest. While she was sitting in the bathroom, lightning struck right next to her house. She watched in horrified fascination as a bead of light came toward her and heard her mother cry out orders in a loud, scared voice. Nobody had been there to comfort the terrified child, so we used a tapping process to ease this fear decades later. When we began working on the memory, Melanie could hardly speak about it without cringing, but when we finished she felt calm and relieved.
She also remembered there had been a big cement silo with a large chunk that had been taken out by lightning. The child Melanie had been awed and terrified by the power of the lightning to do that kind of damage to such a powerful structure – and it made her sick to think of what it might do to her if she got in its way. We tapped on this sick-feeling of looking at this damaged silo until it shifted into a neutral – or even “cool” — memory.
We then tapped on the recent memory of having guests over during the big storm, until she felt calm and peaceful about that as well. When we reimagined the three memories, Melanie felt neutral rather than anxious. When we imagined what it might be like to be in a thunder storm again, she still felt at ease. She couldn’t believe it!
A few weeks after our session, she woke up to rolling thunder. She lifted her head and thought, “Oh… thunder.” She noticed her heart rate didn’t even increase and said to herself, “I guess this is the way most people feel.” And she went right back to sleep!
How did this happen?
The part of our brain that controls the storage of stressful, traumatic events is more primitive than our cognitive thinking brain. It actually pre-dates language and logic by a couple million years. Melanie logically knew she didn’t need to be afraid of thunderstorms anymore, but telling herself verbally didn’t do any good because the part of her brain she needed to have a conversation with doesn’t speak English.
Tapping on the meridian points, however, is a language this part of the brain can receive and respond to. It receives signals of calm and peace and it responds by deactivating the stress response and recategorizing past events.
When 7-year-old Melanie watched that bead of light come toward her she was shocked, surprised, overwhelmed, afraid, and alone. She had no strategy to cope with what she saw, so this more primitive part of her brain categorized it as “traumatic.” All of the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of this event remained in storage throughout her life, and were triggered by other thunder storms and continued to cause frightened 7-year-old reactions.
When we were able to call up the old memory while tapping on the meridian points Melanie was at last able to fully process this event. Her brain was finally able to let this traumatic event go and realize that it was actually an interesting experience that not many people get to have! In just 90 minutes her perspective on her old memories and reaction to future thunderstorms dramatically changed at a cellular level.