Letter to Gary Craig
I know that you always stress the importance of testing, testing, and re-testing, even after we believe we have collapsed an issue with a client. Much has also been said about working through the “fear of the fear” of any phobia since it can be just as strong as the presenting fear or phobia. I’ve recently seen firsthand the need for this piece of validation.
Mary called me ostensibly to work on her infertility issues which she had been attempting to work through using conventional methods. After a few minutes it became clear to me that her greatest challenge was emetophobia, which had been plaguing her for many years. Emetophobia is the irrational fear of vomit, including seeing vomit or fearing that you may vomit.
This woman’s phobia was so severe that she had lost a significant amount of weight and was down to 95 pounds simply because the feeling of fullness in her stomach had made her worry about having to vomit. I immediately felt that this was connected to her inability to bear children; morning sickness, infant spit up, etc.
Using some intuitive detective work I found that Mary had been sexually abused at age 7 and when I asked her to describe the emotions behind that incident she said she felt “disgusted with herself.” We then did a number of rounds of tapping on,
Even though I feel disgusted with myself because ___ touched me here…
Even though I blame myself for the abuse, I forgive myself.
Next we worked directly on the phobia itself and I was relatively sure that the fear was gone. I asked her to test herself by watching the Exorcist and she mentioned the movie Fifty First Dates which has a particularly gruesome scene where a walrus throws up a hundred pounds of fish in a veterinarian’s office.
We had a follow-up session where I felt that the fear was in fact gone and she had started to gain weight. However, she wasn’t so sure about this because she still had not experienced a real vomiting situation without experiencing the fear response. To me, she had the “fear of the fear” and that would be the case until she had the real experience.
Mary called me recently to tell me that she had been in a bar when a man next to her suddenly leaned over his bar stool and vomited all over her while she remained calm. A week later she helped a sick co-worker in a stall of their office by holding her head as this woman hurled her lunch. Mary was thrilled that she finally had proof that this incapacitating fear was really gone. (As an aside, Mary just became pregnant!).
I was struck by the timing of that call when a few days later I had the opportunity to see the same fear of the fear with a child, “Tessa” whom I had helped last year with her fear of snakes. I felt that this was a pretty straightforward fear and made sure to cover all the aspects as you demonstrate with Dave (fear of water) in your DVDs covering phobias.
First we tapped on the general idea of the snake, then on the slithering, then on the sudden movements a snake can make, and even on the fear of the snake’s forked tongue. I felt she had reached emotional freedom from this issue but couldn’t find a way to prove it right then and there.
I did ask her to go to a local pet shop to test herself. The snake fear was only a minor side issue we worked on that day and quite frankly it seemed so minor that I felt fine about not having tested her as thoroughly as I normally would have.
A few days ago I went as an adult chaperone with this girl’s class to the zoo. Tessa had told her little friends that she was worried about seeing snakes at the zoo (the fear of the fear). All morning her friends warmly hugged Tessa and they took turns looking ahead at the exhibits making sure that poor Tessa wouldn’t run into any surprises. Could this be a secondary benefit I wondered?
At the end of the day we were at the very last exhibit and there in a glass case was the dreaded object of Tessa’s terror. Just then I had a moment to talk to Tessa off to the side away from her guardians. I reminded Tessa that she and I had worked on this fear and that I thought she would be fine and asked her if she was ready to have a look. The feeling of relief was obvious as she took my hand and saw the creature. A big smile arose as she said, “Cool!”
Moral of this story is test, test, test, and don’t forget to work on the fear of the fear which can sometimes be as powerful (if not more so) than the fear itself.