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Articles & Ideas


Psychiatrist gets to the real reason his patient couldn't say "NO"

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™.  Best wishes, Gary

Hi Everyone,

Many people have difficulty saying "NO" but the reasons for it are quite diverse. Accordingly, just using EFT for "Even though I can't say no..." is not nearly as likely to generate results as aiming at the true reason(s). Listen in as Curtis Steele, MD uses his detective skills to achieve success in this area.

Hugs, Gary

By Curtis Steele, MD 

Hi Gary,

I want to share a very inspiring case I just worked with. 

            The patient is a 68-year-old lady. I’ll call her Thelma (not her real name). She’s had a life-long history of depression. When Thelma requested this appointment, she said she wanted a psychiatrist she could talk to (instead of just being given pills). 

            From my background in Transactional Analysis, I always begin work by finding out what goal the patient has in mind, so as to be certain that we agree on what we’re doing together. When I asked Thelma what outcome she wanted from this interview, she said she was worn out, and inwardly angry, from the experience of caring for a relative over an extended time.  Now her goal was to live her own life and do what she wants to do.

            The big obstacle to achieving this goal, Thelma said, was that she knew she couldn’t resist if an appeal for help came from anyone in her extended family. She had never been able to say “no” to anyone in the family. She’d had lots of advice like: “Mom, you just have to say ‘NO!’” but it hadn’t helped. In fact she kept telling herself the same message, with no effect.

            A patient often presents a problem as if it’s obvious she or he wants to change, but that isn’t always the case. If there is reluctance to change, or ambivalence about changing, I want to know that. So I asked Thelma if she was ready to change, and she said she definitely was.

            To introduce EFT, I explained it as a form of psychological acupuncture without needles (thank you for that wonderful phrase, Gary). 

            Her stated goal was to live her own life and do what she wants to do; her obstacle was “I can’t say no”, and that is the door I chose to enter through. I asked her to tell me about the feeling she got when she wanted to say “no” but couldn’t.  She identified a sensation in her chest.  With her permission for me to tap on her, I kept the focus on that feeling in her chest, doing the affirmation and the EFT short-cut algorithm.  Immediately, Thelma reported the feeling had diminished.  I did several more rounds for “this remaining feeling”, with further benefit at each round. 

            I know from experience that these issues are rarely new, and usually go back a long way in a person’s life.  I asked if this reminded her of anything earlier.  She told me when she was 18 she had a baby and her mother said, “You’re going to have the baby, you won’t get to see it and you’ll give it up for adoption!”  She did get to give the baby a name but did not set eyes on her.  “This year Brenda Lee (not her real name) is 50 years old.” It appeared that she had not been able to grieve the loss of her baby. We did EFT to facilitate various aspects of the grieving process.

            I then explored aspects of her feelings about having no choice in the matter of giving up the baby, and tapped for these.  I inquired about anger toward her mother and toward the doctor who went along with mother, and applied EFT to these feelings.

            At this point, she told me spontaneously that when she was five years old, she and her mother were coming back from somewhere in the car, and mother said: “If you tell where we went, I’ll kill you!”

            Young children take what their parents say completely literally. They can’t distinguish hyperbole, exaggeration for emphasis, as different from fact. Furthermore, they are always working to understand how to live in this world, so they take one-off statements as if they were general rules.

            So what five-year-old Thelma understood from her mother was that if she didn’t do as she was told, she’d be killed. How could she ever say “no”?

            I asked her to imagine being five years old, and I tapped for her feelings as mother is saying that, doing it in present tense. Using present tense is powerful, and helps uncover conclusions the patient arrived at during the event, which she is still following, outside of her awareness. This is an example of combining EFT with Redecision Therapy, another extremely effective therapeutic approach. 

            Thelma looked and sounded great at the end. She is to come back to see me if she needs to, but my hunch is that she’s finished. EFT alleviated the cause of her not saying “no”: she no longer fears she’ll be killed. She can live her own life and do what she wants to do.




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