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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

childhood decisions have affected my life

I have copied this story from Gary Craig's EFT site, as it resonates with my own feelings. I could be this "Ellen". I haven't asked Gary for permission but he generally approves of "spreading the word".

Note what Ellen's mother says towards the end of the piece:
: "When Ellen came home from seeing you, she said 'I am very happy'. It's the first time she has ever said such a thing."

By Nancy Porter-Steele, PhD

Hi, Gary.

I've written up this case because it is a particularly delightful example of the combination of Redecision Therapy with EFT.

Redecision Therapy is an elegant, effective theory and method developed by Dr. Robert Goulding and Mary Goulding in the late sixties and early seventies, with Transactional Analysis and Gestalt Therapy as underlying theory and method. In the session I've transcribed here, much of what I do uses core methods from Redecision Therapy. This includes the way in which I explore the problem with the client; the process of following the feeling back in time to early scenes; and having the client tell the scenes in present tense and then report what she is thinking and feeling at the culmination of each scene. We discover the "early decisions"—the conclusions the client arrived at in those scenes, to which she has loyally adhered ever since, to her detriment. Then, to achieve the "redecisions", we use EFT.

This is the first visit with this client. Her mother, an acquaintance, had suggested she come to me.

Ellen (not her real name): My main problem is shyness.
Nancy: Tell me more.
Ellen: Sometimes I won't do things. I don't have trouble with small groups of friends. With strangers, sometimes. I get flustered in class. I'm a very quiet person, too. I don't talk very much—not that I need to—I could be a better conversationalist than I am. I'm not out-going. I don't expect people to be interested in me or interested . . . (emotion is evident on her face).
Nancy: What are you feeling?
Ellen: A little sad. I feel sad that I don't make more opportunities for myself. I'm passive; when I'm with people I assume a role . . . (she purses her mouth).
Nancy: Your facial expression—what does that mean?
Ellen: I'm trying to figure out what I was assuming.
There's some skills I don't know, never learned—conversational skills. How to behave in groups, social situations. I don't like calling people on the phone, asking people for something.
Practical things cause me trouble: I'm going to a foreign country and have to find a place to live on my own.
If I have the opportunity to go out, I'd rather read a book.
Nancy: How is that a problem for you?
Ellen: I spend a lot of time by myself. That's not that fun. I get anxious about calling people. I have to make myself do it.
I get flustered and embarrassed.
Nancy: I want to make sure I understand something: I'm wondering whether you want to change for your own self, or whether it's because your family wants you to do things differently, or whether there's some other motive, like rebelliousness.
Ellen: Maybe it's some of each. I want richer relationships, similar to my sister's. She has so many friends and enjoys them so much.
Sometimes I want to go someplace but I frighten myself. In the college dining hall during my sophomore year I would go early and eat alone so I wouldn't have to talk to people. I felt bad about that. I did feel lonely, but it's dangerous to sit with people.
Nancy: What would the danger be?
Ellen: It might be awkward. It might be imposing myself on them. They might not want me there.
Nancy: Remember a time early in your life when you felt that way. Just let the feelings you're feeling now take you to that earlier scene. (She takes a little time to let the scene come to mind.) Now, tell it in present tense, as if it's happening now. Where are you? Who else is there? What's happening?
Ellen: I'm on the elementary school playground. I'm in third grade. It's before school starts. There are girls playing soccer. I sit and watch them.
Nancy: What are you feeling and thinking?
Ellen: I'm feeling out of place and like everyone's . . . not watching me, but aware I'm there and not participating. I'm scared and sad.
Nancy: The scare says?
Ellen: I'm scared that they're making fun of me or don't like me or are purposefully excluding me.
Nancy: What are you deciding you'll do in the future?
Ellen: I'll try to be still and pretend I'm autonomous and assured in myself.
Nancy: Does this remind you of something earlier in your life?
Ellen: I'm in first grade, on the playground. I have a rock-collecting thing. I'm collecting rocks alone (she laughs) the other kids are playing. This thing I'm doing has a purpose so I can be by myself. I'm doing something productive so it's fine I'm alone.
Nancy: And does this remind you of something even earlier?
Ellen: The kindergarten playground. There are hills we run up and down. I don't know . . . I remember . . . the teacher. The kids are rowdy. She's lying on the floor. She's saying something like "I can't wait to be rid of these kids."
Nancy: What are you feeling and thinking, hearing her say that?
Ellen: I'm shocked. I think, what's the matter with me? Why would she think that?
Nancy: What are you deciding you'll do in the future?
Ellen: I'll try to be good. I'll try to be better.
Nancy: You made those decisions, back then. Those decisions are still influencing you today, aren't they? (She agrees.) There's a method that may help you free yourself from those conclusions, called EFT. It's a sort of acupuncture without needles. Are you willing to try it out along with me?
Ellen: OK.

We do a round of EFT focusing on "This teacher wanting to be rid of us kids." Ellen feels relief. We do a round on her conclusions in each of the other scenes that Ellen has described, the first-grade playground "I have to do something productive and be alone", and the third-grade playground "They don't like me".

Nancy: Now, think about being in the foreign country you're moving to, and finding a place on your own.
Ellen: People there will be glad to have me. There will be plenty of places to choose from. That's not going to be any kind of problem.
Nancy: Is there any other problem?
Ellen: I'm going to be taking a special course in voice—singing—and I worry that I won't be good enough.

"I won't be good enough" had of course been implied in the decisions to "try to be good, try to be better", but we hadn't worked with it specifically in that first round of EFT. We now do a round of EFT for "won't be good enough". Ellen feels some relief. The therapy time is up. I give Ellen a sheet which details the EFT procedure and suggest Ellen practice on her own, and then decide whether to have another session before she goes overseas.

Some days later, Ellen's mother tells me: "When Ellen came home from seeing you, she said 'I am very happy'. It's the first time she has ever said such a thing."

Ellen went to the foreign country, and has been doing well for many months now, without another therapy session.

Many thanks to EFT, as well as to the Gouldings and to all the great therapists and teachers whose work in the past makes a rapid and thorough result like this possible now.


Nancy Porter-Steele


  1. Interesting although I am little sceptical about the speed of the therapy. Just as myths about oneself take years (and millions of moments) to develop then deconstructing them both on a rational and emotional level also takes a long time. But better than nothing, of course.

  2. erithacus, some long-standing conditions can be resolved in a short time - even one session. Because a condition has been established for years does not, apparently, mean that it is necessarily going to take years to resolve it. Remember, the condition exists now, the past does not exist now. You have to forget the well-entrenched notion that a long-standing condition will take a long time to resolve, it is not necessarily true. Read more on the EFT site for confirmation of this.

    If your interest extends that far, you can order a couple of the DVD video sets from Gary's site, they are not expensive, extremely good value and some remarkable "one-minute wonders" are shown there. But of course there's no guarantee that a condition will be resolved in a short time, more often it takes a few sessions. So much depends on the skill of the therapist.

    By all means be skeptical, but if you do not investigate deeply, your skepticism will only amount to prejudice, in the face of contrary evidence.

  3. Hello Malcolm.
    The reason I posted this is because over the last 20 or so years I have been investigating various types of therapy including psychoanalysis, Gestalt, NLP and others.
    Some therapies (NLP for example) have dealt with some conditions very quickly but there seem to be other conditions that are the result of "myths", which exist now but have arisen from a series of intertwined causes - not just one.

    Often the problem lies with not with the problem (or condition) but with the perception of it. i.e. is it the condition that needs to be changed or how it is seen? If the condition is a phobia than a quick "cure" is extremely useful as it betters the person's quality of life. The condition, however, may be only symptomatic of other deeper causes that would do well to be explored -and that takes time. (e.g. panic attacks are unpleasant but if a person can learn to be with and accept the panic attack then maybe they will find out something extremely useful about where they are coming from).

    I suppose this is the old anaylsis vs. therapy debate.

    I agree with you completely about skepticism. Skepticism and investigating are not necessarily mutually exclusive but prejudice does arise when the doors are closed.

  4. erithacus, here is a good example of a long-standing condition being resolved in a short time.

  5. Hi Malcolm,...I just wanted to let you know i've added your blog to my blog list i hope thats ok. huggggs

  6. Hi Malcolm,

    Very interesting blog, although not exactly in my field (I am supposed to be a social anthropologist which is great because no-one knows what a SA is supposed to do!)

    I was interested in the rapid response recorded after one session: as I have never been 'in therapy' in the conventional sense, I can't really comment on that outcome. But, when I was recovering from a car crash that nearly killed me and killed off all my plans and life ambitions, I did talk on many occasions to a psychologist who was extremely helpful in enabling me to see that my life hadn't come to a total full stop with the crash. So I have mnarginal experience of this sort of thing, even if I am hopelessly ignorant on the finer points of psycho-analysis and the various therapies now available.

    Moving on, many thanks for reading my blog and specially for your comment. I appreciate it. I should be posting Part 2 later today.

    Looking at your profile, I see that we share a love of music. I recently discovered (and bought) an interesting CD which had slipped under the radar for me until I found it on eBay. It's Barbara Harbach playing solo harpsicord works by C18th Women Composers. It has some interesting pieces on it, specially Martinez Sonata in A Major.

    The CD number is Kingdom KCLCD 2010 but, as Kingdom is a UK label, you may be able to find easier access via Gasparo Records, USA who licensed it to Kingdom.

    Anyway I thought you might find it of interest.
    Bye now, jane.

  7. Jane, thank you for your very nice comment on my blog.

    I will try to find that record you recommend. If you are interested in the actual instruments, THere are some photos of harpsichords I have made here.

    Yes, EFT is a remarkable technique, very suited to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and similar conditions.

    Hope all is going well for you Jane, I like your photo very much by the way, you are a beautiful girl.


  8. Hi Malcolm,

    Good luck with that CD; it is really interesting and unusual.

    Unfortunately the link you left for pictures of your harpsichords only led me back to my own Blogger Dashboard; perhaps you could post the URL here as I'd be very interested to see your work.

    And also thanks for your remarks about my photos. It is always pleasant to be flattered by a 'gentleman of experience'.

    Hugs, jane.


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