Human Response to Trauma
In order to understand how CLEAR works, it is helpful to first examine how trauma
impacts humans. Trauma results from any experience that we want to push away from
ourselves or from which we want to retreat. Trauma may result from a physical experience
such as a car accident, or from an emotional incident such as being humiliated or
the untimely loss of a loved one. Trauma may occur to children who are required
to grow up before their time. It may occur because of repetitive negative events
such as being yelled at by an unhappy, emotionally unstable or angry parent. Or
it may be the result of something hurtful someone once said such as declaring that
you are ugly, stupid or ridiculous.
Humans respond to negative situations with
a hard-wired "fight-or-flight" response, and if we can’t fight or flee, we go into
the “immobility response.” All of these responses are survival mechanisms that protect
us—it is obvious how fight or flight keeps us safe—we are primed to run from or
fight the danger. The immobility response protects us because it dulls our senses
so that we don’t feel much during the ordeal. So if we see someone killed or we
are tortured, our senses are numbed and we don’t feel the pain so intensely.
To provide an example of fight, flight and immobility, it is helpful to picture
an animal, like an elk, being hunted by a cougar. The cat moves in for the kill
and fells the elk, which can no longer run and it can’t fight—it goes into immobility
so pain is dulled. Now imagine a person comes along and scares away the cougar.
The elk is not fatally wounded. It lies on the ground and its body twitches and
its eyes roll for a while. Eventually, it stands up and walks away. This natural
“processing” of the trauma prevents it from getting stuck in the animal’s body.
This is the normal way a body (be it human or mammal) deals with trauma. Imagine
after a traumatic incident, laying there and allowing your body to twitch. The desire
to get away from the danger stops us from being present in our bodies and allowing
processing of the trauma to occur. We want to get as far away as possible as fast
as possible, so it is highly unlikely we will lay there allowing our system to deal
with the ordeal by staying prone and twitching.
Because we humans block the complete processing of the response, the “trauma”
gets stuck in our body. We block the full processing of the response because we
don’t want to feel vulnerable, we don’t like how we feel, and we don’t want to feel
what we feel—in other words because we think. So we do something to remove ourselves
from the situation as quickly as possible.
When trauma is stuck in a human, and later we witness a situation that reminds
us of this past trauma, we react as though we are actually experiencing the trauma
again—with the powerful response of flight-or-fight, or with the immobility response.
Once we are "triggered" by a new event that resembles an old trauma, we have very
little control over our behavior because we react from the old, reptilian, survival
part of the brain. Fight, flight and immobility responses bypass the cognitive mind
and we react to the potential danger before we even have time to think. We have
little access to our neo cortex, so both emotional intelligence and logical thought
are limited and we don’t even realize how strong our reactions are.
A good indication that the past is impacting current behavior is when relationships
aren’t working; when we are depressed, anxious, or reactive to others. If you find
yourself strongly hurt, angered, saddened by, and reacting to another’s behavior,
chances are that incidents from the past are influencing the situation. This is
not to say that others don’t do things that negatively impact us and create negative
emotional response from us. They do. But we don’t have to personalize the behavior.
And if we do, our past is impacting our feelings.
Our reactive behavior is usually a predictable response, such as withdrawing,
being passive, attacking aggressively, spacing out, acting unconsciously, or disassociating.
Our response, in the original traumatizing incident, helped to keep us safe. But
it is a response that is not effective in the present because we are reacting from
the old trauma and not to the current situation. Our relationships suffer because
we are not responding in the moment to those with whom we are interacting.
How CLEAR Works
Let’s review how energy psychology works so you understand how CLEAR could help you.
CLEAR involves having the client touch particular acupressure points on the face,
body, and/or hands while thinking of the incident he or she experienced. Acupressure points,
when stimulated by touching, rubbing or tapping, transmit signals directly to the specific
areas of the brain that are associated with those emotions. Brain scans indicate that the
stimulation of the acupressure point inhibits the “alarm response” (fight/flight or immobility)
by sending appropriate signals directly to the amygdala (the control center for emotions in the brain).
Feinstein states that the energy therapies actually help change the chemistry in the amygdala.
Ronald Ruden, M.D., Ph.D. states that tapping on the acupressure points increases serotonin in
the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala thus extinguishing fear. Groesbeck states that EMDR & EFT
stimulate arousal of Delta waves (activated in deep sleep & master meditators), which helps us
discard emotions associated with negative memories and depotentiates neural pathways (they erase
negative neural pathways). Studies involving brain scans indicate significant decrease in intensity
and frequency of Generalized Anxiety Disorder after acupressure treatment.
My own observations of clients indicate that the change results in a “rewiring” that removes the
automatic response to trauma so clients are fully present to the situation at hand and respond from
full awareness. And this change is permanent as long as we are not re-traumatized. Clients who
utilize CLEAR show a steady evolution of their goals as they eliminate issues from the past. With
CLEAR, we have the power to remove the past from our systems so we can move forward productively
and creatively in our lives, becoming less stressed and more peaceful and aligned.
Feinstein, David, Eden, Donna,
and Craig, Gary, The Promise of Energy Psychology, New York,
Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2005
Gary Groesbeck, and Donna Bach,
Ronald A., M.D., Ph.D., WHY TAPPING WORKS: Speculations from the