Hi there! You may recall that I was away the first part of November working with the Wounded Warriors Project. On the Project Odyssey, warriors who have PTSD (and often traumatic brain injuries) are encouraged to connect with nature and peers in an outdoors rehabilitative retreat. On the Odyssey, there are usually 10-15 warriors and 3-4 staff, including the GiveAnHour therapist (my role). During the Odyssey, warriors are asked to challenge themselves to do things they might never have done: ride a horse, swim with dolphins, go deep sea fishing, go ziplining, water or snow ski, hike up a mountain, go canoeing or kayaking, ride an ATV….
These might seem like no big deal to you, and you might think a combat veteran should certainly not feel fear or trepidation to try these things. But for anyone who has PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), almost anything can trigger intense fear. Sounds, smells, physical movement- almost anything can cause anxiety to well up with intensity. Anxiety is the dark passenger they live with.
When I was with the latest group of warriors, one of our activities was to go snorkeling with manatees. Seems pretty innocuous, right? Well, as excited as the warriors were, some unexpectedly began to have anxiety once they put on their snorkel masks and entered the water. One warrior even froze up, and had to re-enter the boat, due to a panic attack. When she told me she was freaked out by the mask, I knew she had been triggered into a flashback.
Sometimes our bodies hold memories about the past; experiences that are lodged in our cells and that our bodies only remember when we get triggered by a smell, a sound, a tactile feeling (like a face mask). No one likes being triggered. And everyone with PTSD can easily get triggered (actually we can all get triggered about the past). But often it seems to come from nowhere.
Back on the pontoon boat, when the female warrior told me she was freaking out, I decided to quickly do some EFT/Tapping with her. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is a simple tool that can quickly re-wire your brain from being freaked out to be emotionally present and steady. So, we began to do some tapping, stating phrases like: “Even though I feel freaked out about the mask on my face, I came here to see manatees and I choose calm” (repeated a variation 3x). Then while moving through the tapping points on the head, face and body, we acknowledged her fears and reactions “This fear… I don’t like how it feels… this fear… it freaked me out… It reminds me of something (she then said “Iraq”)…”
When she identified the memory, even with one word,, we were able to say “It reminds my body of something from Iraq….I didn’t like what happened… It reminds me of something that happened.. I don’t like what happened…..” and as we tapped (really, for not more than 5-6 minutes), the anxiety abated. In just a few minutes- it was gone!
And then we were able to enjoy the manatees– yay! Hooray for brains and bodies and hearts healing! That is what happened. That is the power of this great intervention and tool called Tapping, that anyone can use and use with good effect– you just have to keep tapping and staying with the emotion. It will abate.
The pics above are from the WWP couples retreat I worked on in New Hampshire in August 2015. I taught them about Tapping too. You can learn about it easily, by going to The Tapping Solution or EFT Universe — these are excellent resources for free scripts, audios and videos on “how to” use EFT Tapping and how it can change your life. I am a believer. I am grateful for this tool and I hope if you are curious you will call me to ask me more about it and how I can help you heal anxiety, trauma and sorrows and so much more.
Peace be with you. Namaste!