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Approaching complex trauma with EFT - The Inner Theater

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated.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

Note: This article assumes you have a working knowledge of EFT. Newcomers can still learn from it but are advised to peruse our Free Gold Standard (Official) EFT Tutorial™ for a more complete understanding.

Hi Everyone,

Jade Barbee gives us the details of a complex trauma session wherein he uses "The Inner Theater" of the client. This case is a work in progress but you will find many useful ideas in this article. Jade says, "In my experience, this process offers a wealth of 'feeling content' for EFT to do what it does best."

Hugs, Gary

By Jade Barbee


I have a useful way to approach complex trauma with EFT. I think it's fair to say it is completely transforming my practice. By taking a highly imaginative, visual and gently facilitated approach (that I call Inner Theater), I'm getting profound results with every client.

I believe this is due largely because this approach allows for a client-created "safe space" framework where we can more naturally incorporate tried-and-true EFT strategies like The Movie Technique, Sneaking Up, Tell the Story and Tearless Trauma. Thus far, these journeys have mostly been initiated mid-session when I have asked a client if they would like to spend time in a 'healing room' or 'sacred space' that is all their own --- for the purpose of gentle healing. In this intentional space, the conscious mind is free to relax and the parts of us that need the most healing are allowed to naturally rise into conscious awareness.

In my experience, this process offers a wealth of 'feeling content' for EFT to do what it does best. Additionally, the feelings that rise up as a person even approaches creating or entering this 'inner space' often provide great information for us as well. I've written an account below with a follow-up, and I'm including notes for your personal edification.

A new client of mine (we'll call her Bonnie) came to me with a complex trauma history. In our intake call, she reported having experienced almost every type of therapy available over her lifetime. She indicated that despite the many tools in her healing toolbox, she had recently become aware of a severe physical abuse memory.

She knew it was negatively affecting her (giving her symptoms of heightened anxiety and fear, for example), but she did not know what to do with it. From the beginning, Bonnie was very clear that she was fearful of re-traumatizing herself (this had happened before), although she did surprise me by outlining this trauma on her intake form. Even so, I wanted to honor her wishes by 'sneaking up' however we could.

After some gentle questioning, which led to some tapping and establishing a rapport together, it was clear that she was experiencing many intense aspects (body shame, feeling unsafe, anger, sadness) which all required slow, systematic attention with EFT. While we were having good results removing the charge from Bonnie's many intense feelings (and there were many of these, including newly emerging ones like feeling vulnerable, ungrounded, blowing any direction in the wind, angry, "I lost my childhood" etc.), I intuitively felt that we were 'dancing' around something deeper. At this point, I felt that a gentle Inner Theater approach may help cut through the Gordian knot of aspects she was presenting and allow us get to what may be behind her many intense feelings.

When the right moment presented itself, I decided to ask Bonnie if she considered herself to be a highly visual person. She said yes, and I then asked if she would like to do a guided visualization to a safe place - her very own sacred space where she could trust that everything that happened would be for the purposes of gently healing her deepest emotional wounds. She liked this idea, so I asked her to close her eyes and with her "mind's eye" imagine a hidden doorway located somewhere in her office --- a doorway that would lead her to her very own personal healing space.

She immediately described a door that existed very clearly for her in the back of her closet. As she described the door in enthusiastic detail, it became clear that she was truly ready to take a visual healing journey.

At this point, I asked her to tap very gently through the EFT points as she entered the doorway. Let me tell you, her visual sense was quite acute! Without hesitation she began describing a patio garden "like Mexico, but different" with a portico and high ivy-covered walls. [Note: The scene was appearing to her without any direction from me, other than my checking in with "what's happening now?" Or "What are you feeling now?"] A wrought iron table and and two chairs clearly existed for her in the middle of the room and on the table was a candle surrounded by hurricane glass. She noted that the walls were high enough to allow her to feel protected and private, but also open enough to afford her a clear view of the sky and a Volcano in the distance! [Note: Her mind had now created a scenario where she felt absolutely safe.]

After some gentle tapping around her feelings about being in the garden, I asked her how she felt about inviting the most wounded part of her to join us there in some way. She indicated comfort with this idea and was soon describing a "giant black wobbly angel" moving closer to her through the trees. We tapped specifically using the shortcut) on her feelings about the angel (sadness, loss) and also for the angel's feelings. She again brought up 'blowing any direction in the wind' and began quoting the angel, saying "Do you like me? Is it all right to be here? Have I broken a rule?" She described that the angel's form was changing as we were tapping. During this exchange, I was asking that she tune in to both her personal feelings and those of the angel, while tapping both globally and specifically and doing full rounds of EFT (minus the 9-gamut).

I asked her where the angel was now. She said it was sitting across the table from her. I asked her what it looked like now. She described that it was an outline of herself, but like 'Casper the Friendly Ghost' without much definition. Incidentally, I have found that I can introduce something new to the scene sometimes to help move things along. In this case, I felt a version of the Movie Technique might be of assistance, so I suggested that there might be a giant magic telescreen available across the garden for them both to watch something healing.

Bonnie then indicated that she could see the screen, but there was nothing showing. I took a chance and again did what I call 'making an offer', asking her to notice if there was a remote control nearby. She told me there was. I asked which person was closest to it. She now indicated that it was sitting in front of her on the table 'on her side of the candle'. Since I could sense intuitively that she was OK doing this, I asked her to turn on the TV.

If she had indicated reluctance, we would have tapped on that! Bonnie now described a scene on the screen slowly coming to life. Long story short, the scene reminded her of a loving uncle who had passed away. She felt intense sadness mixed with gratitude at this scene. She expressed (while doing a continuous, gentle tapping) that she was experiencing a profound feeling that both she and her daughters had been truly loved by this person in her life, and that a tender gratitude was flooding over her. Once we had tapped through and acknowledged all her feelings around this man (very specifically), the screen went dark, and she indicated that there was nothing to see anymore.

I asked her now to turn and look at the 'angel' part of her. As she did so, she reported that the 'ghost' had morphed into a black and white vision of herself around the age of 5 years old - surrounded by a green aura. The interplay here becomes very important. I asked her to tell me how the little girl was feeling. Again the quotes "Do you like me? Is it all right to be here? Have I broken a rule?" came back, although I could tell from her voice that the feelings behind the words had become less intense. We did several full rounds of tapping just repeating those words, until the emotion subsided and more information bubbled into her awareness.

Note: I've found that tapping with these visuals in the narrative seldom requires me to take any kind of intensity level and that 'jumping aspects' seems to slow down. In my experience, the next part of the journey will not be easily apparent if there is too much intensity remaining. At this point, the black and white girl became a real little girl, in full color. This realization prompted Bonnie to break down in tears of appreciation mixed with a tender sadness for how beautiful this child part of her appeared. [Note: I assume she was continuing to gently tap. The scene was so moving; I had forgotten to remind her to do so!]

I've noticed in other sessions that as the child part becomes heard (and cleared of negative feelings with EFT), the child can tap for the adult and each can heal the other as if both are agreeing to naturally work towards wholeness and resolution. [Note: Again, no direction from me other than offering the back and forth tapping (with no small amount of linguistic dexterity on my part).

Long story short, Bonnie was able to make peace with that 'little girl' part of her during the next 15 minutes of taking turns tapping back and forth. As we were winding things down, I asked her if there was a gift she could take back with her to remind her of this journey and if she would feel comfortable leaving something behind. The gift she received was a rose, and the gift she left behind was a small, white handkerchief, which she left deliberately folded on her chair.

A few days later, Bonnie reported that she had listened to the whole recorded session and could not find much intensity at all around anything we had covered. Six weeks later, she reports that she remains "a lot better" than before our session. I am not surprised. The quality and breadth of emotional content that surfaced in the visual part of our session was pretty phenomenal. And the ease with which healing doorways opened for us was astonishing, considering the dearth of aspects she was still presenting mid-session.

Loving this work - thanks for everything,

Jade Barbee

Follow-up: Here is a recent email from Bonnie..."Before our session I could not leave the house. I was embarrassed. Now I am no longer stuck on just remembering. I am much more able to be functional. That session helped me put myself back together."


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