Phoenix Notes 8:
Christine Sutton. February 2020
This article is taken from material presented at the EFT Gathering, 2020.
Many of us have had some experience of cancer, either personally or we have known someone close who has been affected. Just the word “Cancer” can evoke strong emotion in many people and the effects of cancer diagnosis reach into and disrupt every area of life. The experience of cancer changes lives in many ways. It really is a journey into Fear and back again but if the client is up for it and the practitioner is not afraid much can be achieved - it is possible to regain a sense of personal peace, no matter what happens along the way.
Where does Cancer come from?
The truth is that no one knows for certain where they come from but everyone develops multiple tumours during their lifetime. Mostly the immune system spots them and destroys them before they have a chance to get large enough to be noticed. Occasionally, for reasons that are not yet clear, the immune system does not cope, and the tumour settles in, makes itself at home, begins to grow and eventually becomes large enough to cause problems.
There are many theories about the origin of cancers. Here are just a few:
- It is just random, just bad luck – nothing we can do about it!
- It is environmental - Something in our food, something in the air, something in the water. Maybe we could do something about that?
- It is genetic. We are all born with an array of genes that might pre-dispose us to develop certain cancers. However we also know that not everyone who has those genes actually develops the cancer.
It seems that other “epigenetic” factors are also in play which moderate gene expression.
- Holistic theory says that the physical body does exactly what it is instructed to do by various levels of the mind. This is the concept of the Creative Triad: Thought> Word>Deed.
Our thoughts, conscious and unconscious, generate our words and also emotions.
Our thoughts, words and emotions are translated by the body into action as electrical or biochemical activity that creates states of health or non-health.
- EFT theory says unresolved traumatic core events disrupt energy flows to generate consequences such as thoughts and emotions. From these come the Writings on our Walls, Limiting Beliefs, Behavioural and coping strategies. All of these may interact to produce the conditions in which a serious disease such as cancer might arise.
It seems those early events plus our thoughts may have enormous power.
Those are definitely areas which EFT can reach. If we follow the theories through logically, then if we resolve those core events and change our thoughts we might also change the effects and consequences of those thoughts. If so, might a cancer go into remission or even resolve?
There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that resolution is possible and has happened in some cases, but as practitioners we can never and should never suggest that outcome. Even if those theories are true much would still depend upon the ability and willingness of the client to keep on engaging with the EFT process and see it through to the end, so we do what we can, as much as the client can handle or wants to allow at that time.
Interesting as these theories are it is always more productive to focus attention on what the client is bringing to each session. Maybe asking the client where they think the cancer comes from might open up interesting areas when and if the time is right.
Working with Clients:
The process of dealing with cancer, or helping someone else to deal with it, can seem huge, complex and overwhelming. EFT used as a complementary therapy alongside the normal medical treatments can be a superb tool for navigating through the whole cancer experience. It supplements whatever counselling or other therapy sessions may be available and aids resolution of whatever issues can be resolved along the way.
EFT Practitioners can help themselves or their clients though the whole journey through cancer. There is now a growing scientific basis for the efficacy of EFT. As a result many charities and organisations that support cancer patients now offer EFT sessions as part of their programme, e.g. The Breast Cancer Haven and other charities and many hospices. Many practitioners work in private practice.
To begin this work EFT practitioners don’t need to have expert knowledge of cancer and the various treatment regimes. However we do need good training and some experience in practice plus awareness of the legal and ethical guidelines for work with cancer patients. Some clients are hoping for a miracle so careful pre-framing at the start of EFT work can be used to manage expectations of how EFT might help. We can say that we are working with the emotional effects of cancer and cancer treatment but not that we are working directly with the cancer. We can set expectations of an increase in well-being and relaxation but not guarantee any particular outcome.
The factors underlying cancer are a complex system, but they can be picked apart into aspects and successfully handled with EFT. This is never “quick fix” work. It takes time to cover the multiple aspects and issues that show up plus willingness by the client to show up session after session and do the work.
For a client, working through the cancer process is frightening but when the process is underway, and they are dealing with it step by step, moment by moment, it is not uniformly awful. It is a truth that a person is never more alive than when they are staring the possibility of death in the face. Senses, emotional awareness and the preciousness of each “Now” moment are all heightened. It is a journey that will take the client through some deep emotional lows but there are also moments of laughter and some amazing highs when all of the fear suddenly drops away.
It is the ultimate roller-coaster ride, never dull and never routine! As EFT practitioners we go along with the client on the ride, borrowing benefits and learning as we go.
The Cancer Process:
Usually when a cancer has been suspected by a patient or a doctor, a well defined sequence is triggered and the person becomes part of the ongoing cancer process, willingly or not.
There may be:
- Initial appointments with the GP.....Waiting time
- Referral to a specialist.....Waiting time
- Multiple diagnostic appointments and procedures.....Waiting time
- Choices to be made about treatment....Waiting time
- Stages of treatment, maybe surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or more recently immunotherapy....Waiting time
- Maybe more tests and more treatment.....Waiting time
- Treatment over.....what now?
The process varies slightly for different types of cancer but overall it is a structured process that rolls along like a conveyer belt. UK Government guidelines give maximum times that should elapse between the stages, but frequently these are not met. People are swept along by the process. They frequently feel that it is going on forever and they have little control of anything.
The level of stress generated by this process is huge, long lasting and toxic. The aim of EFT sessions is to reduce it substantially, introduce some coping strategies and encourage a return to a relaxed and well-resourced state.
Ideally an EFT Practitioner should teach and encourage the client to tap for themselves as early as possible in the process. Self-tapping can be very simple – the client just notices how they feel in that moment and taps with no words, or using very simple words. Often the set up is not needed. Tapping around the points saying “I`m scared.....” or “I feel sick....” or “I feel angry....” is enough to reduce that uncomfortable feeling.
Even that very simple level of engagement helps the client to regain some sense of control of a chaotic situation. Clients who are prepared to engage and help themselves with tapping seem to handle the physical and emotional effects of treatment much better than those who are not willing to engage.
It seems that taking responsibility for our own well-being is very much a part of the healing journey!
Working with someone who is going through cancer is essentially a 2-phase process:
Phase 1: Diagnosis and Treatment.
Working with a client in this phase is mostly “fire-fighting”, dealing with the immediate concerns raised by the diagnosis and treatment processes and reactions to those processes.
Phase 2: Post treatment - After the “Conveyer belt stops!
This stage of work only happens if the client is willing to continue after their medical treatment has ended.
Some are not and will leave the process thinking that the problem is solved. If they stay in the process the work is still with immediate concerns, but now there may also be time and opportunity to explore the trauma history and other factors, past and current, that may have encouraged the development of cancer. This stage requires persistence by the client and encouragement and validation by the practitioner.
The types of issues that might come up during the 2 phases of work are:
- Strong reactions to the word “cancer” – the Writing on the Walls about this from media hype can be very powerful
- Volatile emotions about what is happening and the possibility of death.
g. anger, fear, frustration, anxiety, guilt, betrayal
- Awareness of feeling stressed in body and mind
- Physical effects, e.g. pain, nausea, restricted movement, digestive issues, fuzzy head, insomnia, nightmares, restless legs syndrome, nerve pain, tingly fingertips and toes.
- Issues about relationships, family and friends – they do not always react as expected or desired.
- Traumatic events, e.g. Biopsies, The diagnosis, Surgery, Treatment sessions. The body shock from these events can linger for a long time. PTSD is a possibility.
- Core events from earlier timeframes and their consequences.
- Limiting Beliefs triggered by media hype and “what the doctors said” (Nocebos)
- Issues with body image after surgery or chemotherapy.
- Expectations (their own and other people`s) of how the client should feel and act.
- Loneliness and Isolation
- A need to re-evaluate self, life and all relationships – Who am I now? How am I now?
Key Skills needed by the Practitioner are:
- The willingness to meet the client exactly where they are in the moment.
- The ability to listen deeply and accurately reflect what is said.
- The ability to ask good, open or clean questions to find more information.
- The patience to wait for the client to fill the gaps in conversation with their own words.
- The grace to keep self out of the way and avoid any judgment or pressure as the client`s journey unfolds in perfect order, guided by the knowledge embedded in their subconscious levels of mind.
- Knowing what to say. Usually the way the client talks about the situation gives some clues.
Some may buy into the media hype about “the fight”, “the battle”, “cancer as a hostile takeover”. Some may prefer to communicate with the problem area and work with it peacefully and lovingly. Mostly clients just want to know that you are there for them and that they are free to express how they are feeling, no matter what that might be, without judgment or censure.
- Flexibility of approach and flexibility of access
- The sense to match the work attempted to the capacity of the client and the time available – client safety is paramount at all times.
So, are you up for this as a practitioner?
It is not going to be a quick-fix; persistence and skill are required to see it through as far as the client will allow.
You may never know just how much has been achieved, but it is entirely possible that you may help to save a life!