CJ Puotinen
EFT Coach and Trainer


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Case Histories

Back Pain Relief in an EFT Workshop

by CJ Puotinen

(This report was published June 20, 2010, in the EFTUniverse online newsletter.)

In November 2009, I taught a three-day EFT workshop in New York. At the beginning of the first day, I asked whether anyone was experiencing pain or discomfort. Several people raised their hands and reported headaches, shoulder pain, neck pain, back pain, and knee pain ranging anywhere from 3 to 10 on the 0-to-10 scale. One woman, Cynthia, said her lower back hurt so much that she had decided to return home. “I know I just got here,” she said, “but on a scale of zero to 10, it’s a 22.”

I invited Cynthia to stay for a few minutes, after which if she didn’t feel better, she could certainly leave. She accepted, and we tapped as a group on behalf of everyone who was hurting. At the end of EFT’s Basic Recipe, most felt substantially better, including Cynthia. We then tapped for “this remaining pain,” which brought further improvement. Nearly all of the volunteers were either completely pain-free or close to it, and Cynthia’s pain level fell to a 2.

Then suddenly her pain rose to a 3. I said to the group, “This is interesting. Cynthia is probably tuning into a different aspect of her back pain problem.” Turning to Cynthia, I asked, “What were you thinking about when your pain moved up a notch?”

She said, “I was thinking that you were probably going to ask me to stand up and see how my pain had changed, and that made me nervous.” So we tapped on her apprehension about standing up. Soon Cynthia could barely find her pain.

I asked if she would be comfortable standing up now and she said yes. She gingerly stood and cautiously bent to the left, right, and back. Her movements were tentative and it was obvious that she expected to feel discomfort, especially when bending forward. “There’s no way I’m going to do that,” she said.

I asked, “Are you afraid?” and she said, “Yes!” So she sat back down and we tapped on:

Even though I’m afraid of falling down, afraid of hurting myself, afraid of the pain coming back, and I’m really afraid of bending forward, I deeply and completely accept myself.

At the end of that round of tapping, Cynthia was delighted to stand and bend forward a few inches, reporting that she felt much better.

We talked about back pain in general and someone mentioned Dr John Sarno, the author of several books about back pain. Dr Sarno’s theory is that none of the things that are blamed for back pain, like herniated discs, actually cause it. He shows his patients x-rays of backs with damaged or bulging discs and other problems that are supposed to cause pain, but all of them came from people who are pain-free. He says it isn’t the discs or old injuries that cause pain. Instead, he says, your back hurts because you’re angry. “Might you be angry about something?” I asked Cynthia.

“Yes!” she shouted. “I’m furious! I’m 63 years old, way too old to start over, and I’m in real estate, which is going nowhere these days. I have a horrible relationship with my partner of 17 years, who’s an alcoholic. I’m worried about my stepfather, who is elderly and frail and lives hundreds of miles away. I’m depressed and worried, and I have really serious financial problems.”

Wow, that was some list! Everyone in the class could see that Cynthia had several issues to choose from when it came to EFT tapping.

“Which of these would you like to start with?” I asked. “What would you most like to tap for?”

She thought for a moment, considering all the options, and then said, “I’d like to tap for my fear of failure.”

Cynthia had just given us a perfect example of a global issue, one that is so vague and general that it might or might not improve with EFT, and if it did, the tapping probably wouldn’t produce a dramatic change.

“Let’s aim for a specific event that has contributed to your fear of failure,” I suggested. “Think of all the things you’re angry about and give each one a title, like a movie. You don’t have to tell us what they are, but if you feel comfortable sharing one of them with us, the EFT will probably work faster. Let us know when you have a specific event that makes you angry.”

“I have one,” she said. “I’ll call it The Forgery.”

I had no idea what The Forgery was but it had to be big and was probably traumatic, so instead of asking Cynthia right away to tell us what happened, we started by taking the edge off, by tapping about The Forgery in general:

Even though I’m so angry about The Forgery that I can’t think straight, I deeply and completely accept myself. Even though The Forgery makes me furious, I deeply and completely accept myself. Even though no one can understand the terrible effect The Forgery has had on my life, I love and accept myself anyway.

All of these setups made sense to Cynthia, who nodded throughout. If the statements hadn’t made sense to her, we would have switched to something else, but her body language made her agreement clear. For anyone working with trauma issues, the Setup Phrase “No one understands how I feel about this” is usually a safe and effective place to start. After a round of this generalized tapping, Cynthia began to relax. She also began to elaborate, which is a normal reaction to effective tapping. “Here’s what happened,” she said. “My partner, ‘John,’ forged my signature and cleaned out my retirement account. That’s why I’m angry.”

We tapped for her raided retirement account, for her anger toward John, for the terrible things he did with her money (most of it went to liquor stores), for her anger toward herself for allowing this to happen, and for her fear of a penniless future. Gradually the tension in her face relaxed, her sense of humor came back, and she laughed at some of the Setups we used, like, “Even though I’m 63 years old and have one foot in the grave and my life is over… and even though I’ll be homeless for sure, I’ll be living in a cardboard box….”

After another round of tapping, I asked Cynthia how she felt. “Well, now I’m not angry any more,” she said. “Now I feel sad.”

This was a new aspect and one that reflected a cognitive shift. Cynthia was looking at her event from a different perspective. We tapped for everything that Cynthia felt sad about. Throughout the tapping, I encouraged Cynthia to say whatever was on her mind, which made it easy to create Setup Phrases that used her own words.

At the end of that round of tapping, she said, “I don’t feel sad any more. Now I think about John and I feel pity.”

Cynthia agreed that she was still light years away from forgiving John for ruining her life, but she was one step closer to considering the possibility of one day doing so. This led to a discussion about forgiveness (one of Gary Craig’s favorite themes) and grudges and how healing occurs. Cynthia agreed that letting go of the pain-producing anger she had brought to the workshop was already helping her think more clearly about her situation, so that she felt resourceful rather than defeated. Then Cynthia jumped to her feet and said, “Watch this!” She bent her back in all directions and effortlessly touched her toes.

Because the workshop lasted three days, we had plenty of opportunities to test Cynthia’s progress. Her back continued to feel terrific and in fact felt more and more flexible and free. On the second day, after reviewing her tapping experience for the class, Cynthia was able to tell us The Forgery story without hesitation and without any emotional discomfort. When I asked whether she would feel comfortable telling us how she discovered the forgery, she described without hesitation how she got a phone call from a credit card company saying that her payment was late and that in fact several months had passed without payment.

“I said that’s impossible,” Cynthia told us. “John had been paying all my bills for years and they were always paid on time. But the person on the phone kept insisting that my account was in arrears. I knew there had to be a mistake so I went to my bank and asked for copies of my recent statements. And there it was in black and white. Most of the checks were made out to a liquor store or to cash. He’d been stealing from me for months. And when he ran out of ready cash, he forged my signature on the retirement account and cleaned me out completely.”

“Yesterday at the beginning of the workshop,” I asked, “did it occur to you that you would be telling us about what happened or any of the details about how you learned about it?”

“Absolutely not,” she said, “I would have died of embarrassment. In fact, I still can’t believe I’m doing this. But it’s amazing. I feel completely comfortable.”

My husband, Stephen, is a psychiatrist. He was able to attend the November workshop, and he observed Cynthia’s transformation with interest. “While watching Cynthia’s response to EFT,” he says, “I couldn’t help but consider what might have happened if she had gone to a physician with her complaint of severe back pain. This symptom would have been considered as presumptive evidence of an anatomic abnormality causing inflammation and muscle spasm, and she likely would have been subjected to radiologic investigations, most likely CT or MRI scanning of her back looking for disc pathology. Then Cynthia would have been given anti-inflammatory medications to take by mouth, and, depending upon the findings of the scans, she might have been subjected to injections or referral to a physical therapist, with attempts to stretch contracted muscles and to build her core muscle strength in her abdominal muscles. It seems unlikely that a physician would consider that there might be any connection to her emotions, and her shame about what had happened in her relationship would have inhibited her from mentioning her finances or her exploitation by her partner. If this information did come out, she would have been referred to a counselor or psychiatrist, with the inevitable waiting period, followed by appointments in which she would be encouraged to discuss the events and her feelings, possibly followed by a conclusion that she was depressed, with antidepressant medication considered and prescribed. Many medical practitioners believe that rapid relief of back pain is not possible, and they assume that this symptom is probably going to be chronic and is not likely to respond much to treatment.”

Seven weeks later, when I asked Cynthia for an update, she replied, “Since our workshop I have continued to tap twice a day and I am happy to report that I am still completely mobile and have let go of the back pain to the point where I have resumed my normal routines at my local gym. If I experience 'stress moments' in between my tapping times, I silently massage the sore spot on my chest (when in public) or go directly to the tapping points that I have discovered are most effective for me, which are under my eyes and on my collar bone, and that helps me stay balanced and focused.

“I tap in the morning and at night. The morning ritual is just for me. My evening tapping is as much for other people, and it takes place after my quiet time of prayer and meditation. This tapping is done on a vision board of family and friends. I tap for all of them but especially for those who are physically or mentally struggling. Also on that vision board is my daughter's cat, Bubba, whom you might remember from the first workshop I attended last year, when I asked everyone to tap for him. Well, Bubba is still alive and going strong, and the vet has dubbed Bubba the miracle cat.

“To be honest with you,” she concluded, “I don't think about the forgery at all anymore. There is no anger, resentment, anxiety, or now that I am specifically trying to think of it, no feelings whatsoever. It’s almost as though all emotion about the forgery has been erased from my mind. It's merely something that happened. How great is that???!!!!”

At an EFT workshop the following June, Cynthia brought the class up to date, explaining that her former partner no longer lived with her but now her stepfather did, the future was looking brighter, and she continued to feel well and free from pain.

And this week (January 2011), over a year after the workshop that helped change her life, Cynthia wrote, “My back is fantastic!!! I have absolutely NO physical limitations. I bend, stretch, and lift heavy objects, and best of all I continue to tap every single day. In the morning it is a ritual with me, and I tap as needed through the day. As you may know, I am a member of AlAnon, which has strict guidelines of using only their literature at meetings. On several occasions I have observed a person in extreme distress and after the meetings have shared EFT with them. It is amazing to watch someone go from frantic to relaxed in a matter of minutes. I am so blessed to have been exposed to EFT and am able to continue to use it for my own energy and share it with others.”

Regarding her relationship with her partner, she added, “The months following our November workshop were difficult. My partner's behavior become increasingly erratic and I was coping with the additional stress of worrying about my stepfather in Indiana, who had been successfully living on a feeding tube for 10 years. However, after the death of my mother, he seemed to 'shift' his needs to me. I found myself traveling back and forth to Indiana every other month. Each time I traveled I returned home to a new crisis. Once on a return trip the bank actually called me in Indiana to say my mortgage had not been paid. Foolishly I had left the money with John for him to take to the bank while I was away.

“Finally in April, Dad moved in with us in New Jersey. Even though this move was sanctioned by my partner, things did not go well. John’s behavior became more bizarre. His drinking increased, but always in secret. He worked the overnight shift as a security guard at an adult community. His job was at the main gate house. He would disappear for several hours each day, claiming he was chatting with friends. I later found out he was visiting a female massage service ... if you can interpret my indication. When he returned home he would sleep for an hour or so, get up, eat something, go back to bed, and the routine would go on like this until he left for work. The household became a prison for Dad and me. We tiptoed around, spoke in whispers, and stayed out of the house as much as possible.

“The last straw came when John called from work late one evening to fight with me. I told him I would be sleeping on the couch. He told me if I wasn't in bed when he came home, he was going to throw me off the balcony. I hung up the phone and called the police. They advised me to leave the house for the evening. So we packed up Dad's feeding pole and went to my daughter’s house. The next day I applied for a restraining order, which John violated, and he was taken to jail. I now have a permanent restraining order against him.”

Cynthia’s life became more stressful when her stepfather was hit by a truck while he was crossing a pedestrian crosswalk. Because of his age (82) and the seriousness of his condition (many broken bones), he has been moved several times from hospital to nursing home and back again. “But he is doing well,” she says, “and the doctor thinks that another six to eight weeks of physical therapy will enable him to come home and be able to walk with a walker.

“As far as recovering any monies that I lost ” she says, “I was advised by an attorney that I relinquished all those rights when I was forced to refinance my condo. Interesting how the law works ... or doesn't ... isn't it? I’m grateful to EFT for helping me deal with stressful moments. It has helped me cope with the things I can change and the things I can’t. Since my very first exposure to EFT, tapping has become a way of life for me. Just like coffee or tea in the morning. I am addicted to my daily dose of centering myself and getting my instant energy boost. I also tap during the day while at work and in times of stress. I do a quick body scan to find the EFT spot that seems to be seeking attention and silently tap that spot. It's amazing how something so simple can give produce such an immediate response. I am a happy tapper and am forever grateful to you for teaching me the process.”

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