PHOBIAS - Tunnel Phobia
This case is about a tunnel phobia that went away without addressing the tunnel phobia at all.
At one of my Borrowing Benefits evening groups, one of the participants (I'll call her Marie) said she would like to work on her phobia of tunnels. She was going on a ski holiday to Switzerland in two week's time and anyone who has driven through Switzerland knows that it sometimes involves driving through up to a dozen tunnels. Marie said that when she thought of the St Gotthard tunnel (the second longest tunnel in the world) her level of anxiety was extremely high and that she would be capable of cancelling her holiday.
I asked her to tell me how high her intensity would be on a scale from 0 to 10 if she would imagine the tunnel in front of her she said that her intensity was at a 10. I asked her what she felt in her body and she said she felt like she was being smothered. Her whole body was tense and her hands were moist. She said she had all sorts of negative thoughts such as "I'll get stuck in the tunnel, it's dark, I'm closed in and I can't breathe"
I asked her if she had already felt this particular feeling before.
She answered "It all started when my mom was sick and dying of cancer. I remember a particular incident when we had an appointment to see the doctor who would be taking care of her at the hospital". Upon saying this, tears came to her eyes and I could see that her SUDs level had shot right up.
So we did a few rounds of silent tapping until she was visibly calmer (tears receded, facial expression calmer and body position more relaxed).
I asked her how she felt about going through this issue in front of the group and she said that her anxiety about breaking down in front of the tapping group was about an 8. So I then applied the "sneaking up on the problem" technique,
"Even though I wasn't expecting this memory to come up…"
"Even though I feel a bit awkward about talking about it in front of strangers…"
"Even though I'm afraid to break down in front of everyone…"
until her SUD level came down enough (about a 3) for her to be comfortable telling her story.
I told her to then start telling me her story but to stop as soon as she felt any intensity.
She then went on to say "My mother was very weak and they hadn't even thought to bring her a wheelchair. They even made a mistake and sent us upstairs and then back down again and my mom was completely out of breath.
"There was also a long corridor, and also, a professor (senior doctor) who intimidated me. I was so emotional that I couldn't answer his questions which were very simple such as my mother's date of birth and I was afraid of what he would think of me"
She had a lot of anger towards the doctors and towards medicine in general and her anger was at a 10.
Despite the fact that she was at a 10 I felt she was so "pissed off" that she just needed to get in there and tell her story.
As she had expressed two main aspects saying this (anger and embarrassment), I decided to address the anger aspect first and then to check in on the embarrassment issue later.
So we started by doing a few rounds on:
"Even though I'm so angry because they didn't even think of bringing her a wheelchair…"
"Even though they made us go upstairs and mom couldn't breathe…"
"Even though it's their job to know how to treat patients better"
Her intensity went down to a 5.
She then said "I'm also angry at her doctor for being so incapable and irresponsible" so we did several rounds on:
"Even though her doctor was incompetent and irresponsible …"
"Even though he's supposed to know how to look after his patients…"
"Even though he should have given better care to mom…"
After these rounds her intensity was still at 5. I asked her if anything new had come up and she said "He didn't listen to her even though she told him she wasn't feeling well and I'm so angry at him for that."
I had the sense that despite this new content her intensity should have gone down and I wondered what could be the reason why she might be still hanging on to this anger and that maybe the true reason for her anger was hiding behind this one.
So I asked her if it had been her mom's choice to go to this doctor who was incompetent and who didn't listen.
She answered "Yes, that's true" I then asked her if her and her family had suggested she went to another doctor. She answered "Why, yes, come to think of it!" I when asked "And did your mother listen to you?" she answered "No, she didn't. She just did what whatever she wanted". Her intensity went up to a 7 so we started tapping on:
"Even though maybe I'm angry at mom for not listening to us…" and she nodded her head in agreement.
"Even though I'm angry at her for being so stubborn because if she had listened to us and chosen another doctor she may still be alive today…"
"Even though maybe I'm angry at myself too for being angry at mom and I can't do that because, she suffered and she died, so how could I allow myself to do such a thing?, well, I love and accept myself, because I'm a human being after all and I'm doing the best I can"
This brought the intensity down to a 3 and she exclaimed "I had no idea I had been so angry at my mother!"
As there was still a little anger left so I said "I'm going to try something so just tell me if you agree with what I say or not"
So we started tapping:
"Even though I'm angry at mom for leaving me when I still needed her…" Upon saying this, her intensity shot right back up again to a 7 but this time it was sadness.
"Even though I know it was her choice to die but I can't accept it…"
Her intensity went down to a 3 again but then she started to cry and when I asked her what had come up and she said "I have a picture of when my grandmother when she passed away and I was so sad and I'm thinking of my daughter. She barely got to know her grandmother". So we tapped on:
"Even though I would have liked Sarah to have a grandmother…"
"Even though it would have been so nice if mom could have seen Sarah grow up…"
I then asked her: "Does Sarah miss her grandmother? Does she suffer from that now?" and she answered:
"No, she doesn't come to think of it. I mean she's got a bit of nostalgia but she doesn't get sad when we mention her grandmother. It was just me placing my sadness onto her."
When I asked what intensity she was at she said 0 with a broad smile.
I asked her to go back to the hospital scene and to run over the film in detail including the scene with the long corridor and the professor and to tell me if she had any intensity.
She burst out laughing and said "When I picture the scene again the professor is so small! And he doesn't impress me at all!"
Her intensity was still 0.
After making sure that everything about this issue was clear I then asked her to imagine she was in her car facing the St Gotthard tunnel and to look at the black hole of the opening and to tell me how she felt.
She answered "It's ok now. I can see myself going into it and even travelling through it. And even if the traffic stops I say to myself that it's ok because I know it'll pick up again and we'll move on".
Her intensity had gone down to a 0 even though we hadn't addressed her tunnel phobia at all!
Here's an email I got from Marie a few weeks later:
I would like to thank you for allowing me to discover EFT.
I went to Switzerland as planned with my daughter and, are there ever a lot of tunnels… I went through them all without the slightest anxiety! And I've been working on this tunnel issue for such a long time (14 years!) with all sorts of techniques but this time it's clear that something really happened.
Something else happened since my session: I have been meaning to book an appointment for the past six years for some medical tests that involve undergoing general anesthesia, but I kept putting it off because I had the same fear of anesthesia as for tunnels.
The very next day after our session I picked up the phone and booked an appointment!*
Today, I've gone through all of the tests and everything went PERFECTLY WELL and I experienced it without any anxiety.
Again, a big THANK YOU!
* (See "Generalization Effect" in the Glossary of EFT Terms)