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Childhood molestation--using UNDERSTAND in the Set-up phrase

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated.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 EFT'ers weave the term "forgiveness" into the EFT Set-Up phrase. I've done it myself, even with entire audiences. This is especially useful in cases of abuse because, without it, the angers and resentments held by abuse victims will likely continue to seethe under the surface for many years--possibly even for a lifetime.

However, forgiveness comes in many shades and, for some, forgiveness is "impossible"--at least for the time being. Some clients dig in their heels at the mere mention of "forgiving that bastard" and will go no further if forgiveness is the goal.

What to do?

Dr. Patricia Carrington provides a quality solution in this article regarding the sexual molestation of her client "Marla". As the story unfolds, Pat is motivated to substitute the term "understand" for "forgive". As you will see, this made a major difference for Marla.

Pat summarizes this substitution as follows:

"To first direct oneself to UNDERSTAND what happened can pave the way for a more genuine and subjectively convincing kind of FORGIVENESS."

Hugs to all, Gary

By Patricia Carrington, PhD

Some things happen unexpectedly with EFT which lead to innovations and new ways to employ this remarkable tool. These surprise discoveries extend the use of EFT, making us even more able to help ourselves and others.

My client "Marla" entered my office with much self-recrimination because she had failed to report an incident wherein the actions of a neighbor could have affected one of their children.

Although no harm had come from this incident, Marla was still upset by her inability to report the incident and proceeded to report a memory which she connected to her present behavior. When she was nine years old she had been sexually molested by a close relative and two of his friends -- something that was extremely upsetting to her but which she hadn't dared mention to anyone at that time. She felt that this close-mouthed behavior had probably influenced her in many aspects of her life after that and might well be one of the reasons for her recent inability to speak about their neighbor's somewhat odd behavior.

In using EFT for this issue, we first addressed her childhood memory of the molestation which, incidentally, she had never mentioned in all of her time in therapy with me except only briefly in passing. Marla is very reluctant to talk about certain things and I have respected this need of hers since she has made great progress on many other problems for which she had consulted me.

So, we began to work on this.

Marla started out with a prolonged silence and it soon became apparent that revealing the details of the molestation was extremely difficult for her. Accordingly, I suggested she back track and first address her reluctance to TALK about this issue, rather than tackle the issue directly.

The set-up phrase she decided upon was:

"Even though I'm afraid to talk about what really happened then, I choose to feel confident and dignified when I talk about it."

I had suggested she use the word "dignified" because dignity is a component missing from the emotional response of most sexually abused persons-- it is usually conspicuous by its absence. Shame, guilt, and a sense of wanting to hide from the world predominate in such people. Interestingly, Marla spontaneously made the comment that my suggestion to include the word "dignified" in her set up phrase, "felt right".

Initially her 0-10 intensity was a full 10 when she thought about describing the traumatizing incident to me. After applying one round of the EFT Choices Trio to this issue (see Chapter 3 of my Choices Manual for full instructions for this variation of the EFT protocol--a brief description is also on the EFT web site at ) she had come down to a "6" in her 0-10 intensity rating but now felt suddenly overwhelmed by fatigue. She tapped for the fatigue and following that, tapped again for her fear of talking about the incident and did eventually come down to a "5". She was making some progress but somehow was not doing too well on this yet. Something was blocking it. Something else seemed needed.

I asked Marla how she FELT (what was the feeling she had) about the fact that she had never reported the molestation to her parents, and her immediate answer was "Oh! I feel Stupid!"

We then addressed her feeling of being stupid. It was obvious that some form of self-forgiveness was needed for this and it was then that a thought occurred to me about self-forgiveness and forgiveness in general that I had not had before. I wondered if, for Marla, UNDERSTANDING the behavior of her "child self" who had been afraid to tell anyone about the incident at the time, might be a key ingredient in allowing her to face the incident with ease and clear it once and for all.

To explore this possibility I suggested to her that she try the following wording:

"Even though I feel stupid for not telling anyone about it at that time, I deeply and complete UNDERSTAND why I didn't talk about it."

She had started with a 9-10 intensity for a "stupid" feeling. After one round of the Choices Trio, her rating had come down to a "2" on the scale, and she said the word "stupid" had changed to "silly" half way through the tapping sequence.

It's always interesting to watch the spontaneous changes in wording that occur when a person does EFT. They tell us much. In this instance, Marla's word "silly" was much lighter, more casual, less condemning than "stupid". I was not surprised to see her smile as she told me about it. "I like to say 'understand', it helps.", she said.

She had come far down in her rating on that the issue of not telling her family back then, but I knew how difficult it can be when one confronts the challenging present situation that represents a past issue. So I asked:

"How do you feel now about not telling your partner about the recent incident of your child's mother?"

When I asked this I saw Marla slump in her chair, her jaw tighten. What was she feeling about this?

"Not very good." she said. "about an 8 or 9." What was the actual feeling - was she still feeling "stupid" - or something else?

"I feel guilty." She said.

So, her new set-up phrase was:

"Even though I feel guilty about not reporting right away about our neighbor, I deeply and completely understand why I didn't and forgive myself."

One round of the Choices Trio and she was down to a "2" in the rating and looking perky again.

"I came down very quickly during the first few taps. I swooped right down to a "2" and stayed there." She said.

One more round, and Marla gave me the Thumbs Up gesture and had a broad smile on her face. Her concern about the present incident was completely cleared.

She and I are likely to be able to proceed with considerably more ease when we meet next and start work on the childhood abuse issue -- when and if she chooses to work on that.

About the word "understanding" which was used in Marla's set-up phrase and positive Choices phrases. After her session I have used the word "understanding" during EFT for several different people, including myself, and have found it to have a profound effect. It seems to pave the way for a more genuine and effective form of forgiveness for the person involved. This is not really surprising because forgiveness is, after all, an abstract concept and can often make little sense to the person saying it -- particularly if they must forgive themselves or others for something felt to be horrendous at the time.

To first direct oneself to understand what happened can pave the way for a more genuine and subjectively convincing kind of forgiveness. If you would like to try an experiment based on this idea, I suggest that you do the following:

Select some incident in your life which makes you feel uncomfortable when you think about it, one in which you somehow blame yourself or feel ashamed, and say to yourself (without tapping - just use the phrase):

"I forgive myself for (whatever it was)."

How does this feel to you? Does it ring true? Does it get to the core of your self-blame?

Now, say to yourself (still not tapping yet):

"I UNDERSTAND and forgive myself for (whatever it was)."

Does this do anything for the depth and convincingness of your forgiving? Is your reaction in any way different because you have added "understanding" to the equation?

Now complete this experiment by tapping on each of the above phrases and do a complete round or two of tapping the EFT points while saying each of the phrases -- and don't worry if you have no conscious understanding of why you did what you did! Just say the words. Understanding occurs on many different levels, some of them can be quite outside our conscious awareness.

In my own experience, evoking my own understanding through the use of this new phrasing in EFT gives me much comfort and support. I find it is much like having a critical parent or teacher at last understand me. This can be a warm, safe and relieving feeling. See what it does for you!

With warmest wishes,

Pat Carrington


Explore our newest advancement, Optimal EFT™, by reading my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™. More efficient. More powerful.