Tapping and meditation are my guilty secret
There’s a thing that I have been keeping quiet about and I’m not sure why.
Many years ago, when I was finishing five years of therapy with my wonderful therapist, Ruthie, she looked at me and said: “You realise that we’ve been working together all these years and you have never – not once – mentioned your television work?”
I was shocked. But it was true. And – as often happens in my life – the glass around a dissociated part seemed to shatter and suddenly there it was: completely clear, completely visible in the fresh air. I had airbrushed my TV career out of my therapy.
The thing most people found interesting I found most embarrassing
Somehow television wasn’t spiritual enough, wasn’t interesting enough. I was weirdly ashamed of it. The thing that most people found the most interesting thing about me was the thing I found most embarrassing.
But it took Ruthie pointing it out to me to see that whole silent substructure in my mind.
Subsequently, I have come to be very proud and fond of my television work. Though I still know, it doesn’t compare to the depth and richness of my work as a therapist or my work as a meditation teacher. But that’s OK.
Compared to the wild excess of Aya, tapping seemed mainstream
However, that’s not the thing that I’ve been keeping quiet about. But it is something that I learned from Ruthie, which is energy psychology.
When I first encountered “tapping” or EFT I was working with Ayahuasca in Brazil. And compared to the wild hallucinogenic excess of the Plant, tapping seemed fairly mainstream. However, back in the non-psychedelic world of psychotherapy training, it felt a little edgy.
I guess I silently ingested this discomfort about these practices, even though I found them profoundly useful.
Silencing embarrassment formed around energy psychology
Ruthie worked almost exclusively with AIT which is a form of energy psychology developed by Asha Clinton and it had a deep impact on our work together. Working with this technique we worked through a number of very fundamental traumas from my early life and I found startling relief when we did so.
Still, it wasn’t an ‘official’ form of therapy and even though I wrote some academic essays on the field, I didn’t go ahead and do my closing MA dissertation on the subject because my research supervisor advised me that it would probably not be accepted as a valid subject.
Subtly, a form of silencing embarrassment formed around energy psychology in the same way that it had formed around my lucrative television career.
Working with trauma in a non-cognitive way
But what is this thing, energy psychology?
Energy psychology is the umbrella term given to a number of therapeutic techniques that work with the energetic body rather than the thinking mind. That is to say, it works using the meridian points and chakras described by the Tibetan and Indian therapist many hundreds of years ago but it a radically psychological way.
Basically, you can understand it as a method of working with trauma in a non-cognitive way. It works directly with the energetic ‘knots’ that trauma leaves in almost all human lives. But it doesn’t force the sufferer to revisit or ‘cathart’ the painful memories.
A brief detour into trauma theory
I’m going to make a brief detour into trauma theory. Most of our psychological suffering as human beings comes from unprocessed shocks to the system (often when we very young). In a healthy organism, we get attacked or shocked and then the body naturally processes that shock. It is metabolised back into a healthy state. But when that shock is too much and metabolisation is not possible, then we end up with unresolved trauma.
With unresolved trauma, two things happen. One, a lot of energy is put into tying up the trauma in the body so that the pain and shock are not registered. Two, the thinking mind starts to make adjustments to avoid anything that will go near that traumatic knot. In this way, the trauma starts to shape our ‘personality’. We are scared of the water, we don’t like bearded men, we are a ‘clean freak’.
Usually, this is not a problem. But sometimes our avoidant tics become so extreme they start to impact our behaviour in ways that are not socially acceptable. We have panic attacks by the sea, we start attacking bearded men, we wash our hands 100 times a day.
The radioactive nature of the trauma seems to fade
Where energy psychology is revolutionary is that instead of tackling the symptoms (panic attacks, irrational hatred, OCD) it works directly with the initiating trauma.
By bring physical pressure (tapping) to various energy points in the body while recalling the painful memory, then the radioactive nature of the trauma seems to fade.
It’s not that the traumatic event is erased from the memory, which would be repression. You can still recall the painful event, but its toxic power seems to be removed. And it is removed very quickly compared to ‘conventional’ therapy.
The NHS has recently approved energy psychology as best practice
The National Institute for Clinal Excellence (NICE) gives the stamp of approval to medical and therapeutic treatments for the UK’s National Health Service. In a wonderful development, it has recently given the official thumbs up to energy psychology which it calls ‘somatic and cognitive therapy’.
From being a fringe treatment it has become officially recognised as one of the most effective ways of working with PTSD in the mental health field.
It’s partly this that has woken me up to the importance of these treatments in my life. It’s partly this official stamp of approval that has allowed me to acknowledge that I use EFT and occasionally AIT with a great number of my psychotherapy clients.
However, it’s also dawning on me how important these practices have been in my meditation life as well.
Tapping and meditation – the ultimate marriage
Reggie, my teacher, talks at length about the importance of acknowledging these traumatic knots when we practice deep meditation. Using meditative techniques to calm or soothe the mind takes us some distance but inevitably on the path of meditation, we are going to come up against the symptoms or indeed the raw material of traumata – great or small.
He doesn’t speak about working with them therapeutically but he does talk about the importance of creating a space where the material of the traumatised body enters consciousness and completes itself. How this process unfolds is left unclear. Sometimes he recommends working with a therapist for deep and lasting trauma. Sometimes he counsels simply holding an open and expansive space of awareness within which the trauma can unknot itself. It’s like the fakir’s knotted snake that unknots itself when thrown into the air.
Waking up with vengeful rage at my husband
Intuitively or perhaps through inspiration, there have been a number of meditations that have led me spontaneously to work with EFT or AIT to clear what has become visible in the clear space of awareness. I may have sat a session of ‘pure awareness practice’ and viscerally experienced the pain of a certain traumatic pattern. Once the session is over I am then inspired to sit further and work with that pattern using EFT (or more often AIT).
For example, recently I was aware of a pattern that repeated over and over with my husband-to-be. I would wake up filled with rageful, judgemental thoughts. They were really compelling and relentless. Sitting with them and really feeling the embodied shape of them I recognised a part of me that had been styled from childhood. I trained myself to ferociously judge before I could be judged myself. Occupying that judgey stance in the meditation I could see its roots and the frantic intensity of it. And when I cleared it by tapping, it was gone completely.
I was directing my anger at my partner, but it wasn’t really about him, it was about an ancient pattern of self-defensive fury that had much older roots. Clearing the roots, cleared the rage.
Finally sharing my knowledge of tapping and meditation
Recognising how interwoven these practices are in my personal practice seems like an important part of my teaching. For many years, I have always stopped short of sharing them in the context of meditation practice. They felt out of place or not-kosher in the Buddhist framework. But increasingly I see that they are a bone fide tool in lessening suffering. As a Mahayana Buddhist, I have made a vow to follow help decrease suffering as far as I can.
So this June I am finally ‘coming out’ as an energy psychologist AND a meditator. I’m teaching a weekend course in London to share the marriage between these two ways of working with human suffering. Hopefully, I will transmit something of my learning. I also intend to integrate them into my courses on anxiety in the future.
The great thing about both meditation and EFT is they are non-proprietorial. No one owns them and they are freely shared and practised for free. Anyone can do them on their own and they are safe and conducive to greater sanity, so I feel that it is important to explore them widely. Please do let me know if you have had experiences with energy psychology. And especially of using energy psychology alongside or within your meditation practice…