Healing "Missing Mother Syndrome" with EFT
By Carna Zacharias-Miller
When I had my very first EFT session as a client, we went straight back to my birth. I released a deep, very painful feeling of abandonment, since my schizophrenic mother was unable to bond with me from the beginning. It was a powerful experience, and it made a believer and an EFT practitioner out of me. So, what is this miracle technique called EFT?
EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), developed by Gary Craig, is an emotional form of acupressure. You tap with your fingertips to stimulate certain meridian energy points on your body while you are "tuned in" to your problem. The cause of every negative emotion lies in the disruption of the body's energy system. EFT is usually rapid, long-lasting and gentle. No need for drugs or equipment. It is easily learned by anyone, children included.
EFT works without practitioners needing to have firsthand experience of the condition we are treating, but it does add credibility to my work. When I tell a distressed client, "I know how you are feeling," it is not just a comforting phrase, and it encourages her to bring all these dark, very painful feelings into the open: Even though my selfish mother just walked away... Even though my mother did not want me... Even though I hate my mother... Even though my mother broke my heart...
Growing up without a loving, caring mother implies much more than lacking a same-sex role model. It is devastating. Since the mother is the first basic caretaker, losing her -in an emotional or a physical way - starts a nightmare of deprivation for a child. In a way, it never ends. Many negative conditions and feelings experienced later in life have their roots in this extremely traumatic experience.
The women who contact me recognize themselves with shocked amazement when they read the symptoms of what I coined "Missing Mother Syndrome." They feel lost, out of place, and unsafe in this world. There is an underlying deep sadness, even if there is nothing "wrong." They tend to feel lonely, especially in the company of others. They are very sensitive to rejection of any kind. They are angry. They feel ashamed of who they are. They strive to be "perfect," which causes constant stress. (I do make sure that they have not been diagnosed and are not being treated for any mental illness).
There are two basic, very powerful emotions that always come up - anger and deep sadness. Some women start with the anger, and we work through it to reach the underlying pain of abandonment and/or not being appreciated for who they are. Others start with the sadness and allow themselves to experience the anger.
When I facilitated seven sessions over the phone with "Lilly," she described herself as an overly compliant people-pleaser who did not dare express her artistic talents. She was very aware of the pain her alcoholic mother had caused her as a child. Tapping on the sadness brought up the powerful underlying anger: Even though Mom was gross and embarrassed me in front of my friends, and that still pisses me off... Even though I am so angry that we weren't as important as my violent stepfather... Even though nobody ever cared about me and my feelings...
"Rachel," on the other hand, a competitive, intelligent over-achiever ("I never cry"), needed to push through her anger at her abusive mother to reach the underlying pain (10 sessions). Even though I can't let my anger go because it is the only connection to my mother. If I can't have love, at least I have my anger... She did cry, and it was a relief.
There is no one-size-fits-all protocol for working with these women. It is a very personal process, and I go with the flow (of the pain). Sometimes we end up with missing fathers or financial scarcity. There are, however, certain techniques that I use over and over again such as Tell-a-Story for traumatic memories. I often use Guided Imagery before the tapping in order to get the client out of her head and into her heart, or to meet the Inner Child. I always ask where the anger and the emotional pain are felt in the body: Even though I have this black hole in my heart... Even though there is this constriction in my throat... Even though there is this burning fire in the pit of my stomach...
The best sessions happen when I get into the "zone." I start with the client's wording, and then "something" in me takes over, and a humorous exaggeration (Even my cat throws up when she sees me...), or some profound insight just pop up. For example, when working with "Maya," whose parents both were alive, we achieved a major breakthrough when I said out of the blue: I am an orphan.
At some point (not too early!), I start working with Pat Carrington's "Choices" method. This is a great way to end a therapy because it gives the client something positive to "take home." It is particularly useful when there are fewer sessions than actually needed, usually because of limited resources. Even though I have this belief that I don't deserve to be who I am... I choose to allow my spirit and my soul to dance anyway she wants to. Even though I sometimes feel like I've lost my faith in myself... I choose to trust myself and to find the light inside. I make a point of staying connected via a personal note, e-mails, my monthly newsletter, an online support group.
Healing the emotional wounds of a "Motherless Daughter" is a lifelong journey. However, the results achieved in just three to ten EFT sessions -mostly over the phone- are impressive. Clients report "wonderful changes" and "miracles" in their life. They are able to connect in a more loving way with their children, they react less defensively in relationships, there is less tension in their bodies, panic calms down, self-esteem and joy grow.
By the way, I never push "forgiveness" on anyone. Sometimes compassion for the (often also hurt) mother comes up, but most of the time the painful memories go to neutral. Anyone who has lived in an emotional war zone for most of his or her life knows how wonderful that feels. Ultimately, a "Motherless Daughter" finds healing when she learns to trust in the loving, caring power within. My vision is to help her recognize what that feels like.