Heights

A seemingly simple height phobia with underlying causes

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Hi Everyone,

A few years ago I was visited by Maya DeVries at my home in California. I was impressed by her command of EFT...AND...the fact that she came clear from Germany to see me. How delightful. We have corresponded from time to time since then regarding her use of EFT and the workshops she runs in Germany.

Recently she sent me this informative case history on what seemed to be a simple height phobia. As it unfolds, however, it turns out to be quite complex. Please observe as Maya expertly discovers some specific events that form the underlying cause behind this phobia.

Hugs, Gary

P.S. I add some helpful comments within her message.


By Maya DeVries

Dear Gary,

The woman from Holland, I will call her Rosie, came for a session because of her fear of heights. I thought it would be a quickie but it turned out to be a very complex case.

Rosie was very height phobic, her main fear being going down a steep stairway. Now, you might not know this, but Holland is famous for its steep staircases, especially in those wonderful Amsterdam mansions along the canals.

I usually start by asking a client to give a 0-10 intensity rating for the general statement: "I am afraid of (in this case) heights". She gave herself a 9.9 for that. Then I asked her to give me her first association with that general statement and she started telling me about a recent visit she had with her dance teacher in Amsterdam. This woman lived on the third floor of a canal mansion. Going up the steep stairs Rosie already mentally panicked at the idea of having to descend again at the end of the evening.

I then asked her (thanks for that wonderful tip, Gary) to teach me how to be afraid of heights, thus forcing her to really describe in detail what thoughts go on in her head and monitor her body sensations.

GC COMMENT: This "teach me how to do it" technique is displayed in our video set "Steps toward becoming The Ultimate Therapist" in the session with "Craig and his Bashful Bladder." The idea is that the client can teach me to have the same problem s/he has, then I can get into the intricacies of their mental processes and be more efficient with EFT.

MAYA CONTINUES: She described her fear this way: "You are at the top of a staircase and you want your foot to go down towards the first step but you know that your legs will not respond to your will power. I don't even dare trying. My legs go weak. I am sucked into the deep." I noticed that her breathing got really shallow and quick when she explained the process of her fear to me.

GC COMMENT: A point of interest....sometimes the fear of heights (and staircases) is contributed to by the feeling of being sucked downward by the converging lines one sees from the top of a building or a staircase. A clue to this is the client's statement..."I am sucked into the deep."

MAYA CONTINUES: I then checked for fear of other height situations:-

1. flying (not nice; fear of the space underneath the airplane.)

2. balconies (really afraid; had to sit through an opera performance in the second balcony row lately)

3. mountains (fear of narrow footpaths; fear of driving serpentines in the Alps. "I don't trust myself; I will drive into a ravine; I will not be able to brake."

4. crossing bridges (fear of the empty space left and right; fear of crossing the small ridge between the two sides of a movable (pull-up bridge) on a bicycle - a very Dutch situation!)

But we came to the conclusion that the staircase was her highest fear.

We tapped a few rounds monitoring in on the stairs but didn't make much headway. I had asked her to be very attentive and tell me if any other emotions besides fear came up. By then I realized this one wasn't going to be as easy as the regular fear of heights client.

All at sudden tears came to Rosie's eyes and she told me about a traumatic event which happened when she was 14 years old. While waiting for the train at some railway station in Holland she and her friends had been jumping over a chain which hung between two poles. Just as the train arrived and the other girls were already moving away, Rosie decided to take one more jump. Somehow her knapsack hooked onto one of the poles, she stumbled over the chain and came down face first on the pavement, smashing her front teeth. She lost consciousness and when she came to again the first thing she asked her friends who were standing in a circle around her was: "Am I not dead?".

We tapped for her sadness about this event. We tapped for her personal truths: "Falling is dangerous", "if I fall I might die", and: "falling can destroy". She quickly went from 8 to zero for her sadness. Then I had grown-up Rosie forgive teenage Rosie for her recklessness. After this she was able to just look at the event as something unfortunate which happened to her when she was young.

I then expected to be able to tap down her fear of heights in a few rounds but something else came up while we were struggling to get lower 0-10 intensity ratings.

She told me another story about a traumatic event when she was in third grade. Her class went on a trip to Utrecht (large city in the center of Holland) to see the cathedral. They went up to the tower - by this time I was smiling inwardly because I personally had my first fear of heights experience on that very same tower in second grade! Once they were at the top of the tower, however, she was unable to look over the balustrade because she was too short. Her teacher noticed how she was trying to see the view of the surrounding old part of the city and picked her up from behind holding her, pressing her waist against the stone balustrade (breathing restriction!). Rosie asked her teacher to put her down again but he told her to enjoy the view some more because they would be going down soon. When he finally put her down she had to press herself against the secure center tower wall away from the balcony. From this her height phobia was born.

We tapped for anger at her teacher and then for the fear she experienced during the event.

We could now go back to the Amsterdam staircase and all of a sudden I got the picture: Her height phobia was pending and kept at bay between these two traumatic events: her third grade teacher holding her back ("my legs wil not respond to my will power"!) and near death unconsciousness waiting for her once she would lift up one foot from the floor to descend ("I am sucked into the deep").

I had her really tune in to this picture and tapped with her. Magically her 0-10 intensity went down very fast. She was beaming and told me that she could now see herself actually going down the Amsterdam stairs.

I had her imagine herself in an airplane, driving in the mountains, on a balcony etc. Only the gap in the bridge still needed another round of EFT ("I can now put my foot on the gap!")

I love to do an immediate success check if I can. I so happen to live in a 3-story house with a balcony on the top floor. I suggested she could accompany me upstairs if she wanted to (two flights of stairs, not too steep). We first looked outside with the door balcony door closed and she told me she wanted to try to go outside. I stepped onto the balcony and observed her as she carefully stepped towards the balustrade. She stood there completely free of any fear and was able to get really close and look all the way down.

GC COMMENT: I'm a great fan of testing whenever possible. This is what lets you know if you are successful...OR...if you have more work to do. The ultimate test in this case, of course, is to go back to the previous locations that were causative of the phobia. This is not always possible, of course, but, if you can, it will likely bring up the remaining aspects (if any).

MAYA CONTINUES: That was a very fulfilling Sunday afternoon indeed.

Love from Germany

Maya de Vries

 

 

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