July 2, 2015 by Thriving Now

Surrogate Tapping for Trauma – Jonathan and His Mother Jane

By Cathy Vartuli

Reminder: You will want to clear your own issues and blocks first. Tapping for others can seem easier than focusing on our own issues, and it can get in the way of doing our own work.

A number of people have asked about surrogate tapping techniques, and there are times when surrogate tapping is an appropriate, loving gift we can share with someone we care about.

Here is an introduction to surrogate tapping including an overview of some beautiful work Jane has done for her son, Jonathan* to help him release childhood traumas.

What is surrogate tapping?

This is Energy Tapping (EFT) done for another person or for animals (pets, racehorses, etc.). When we surrogate tap, we may (1) tap on ourselves while we imagine tapping on another person, or (2) we may start the tapping round by saying “I am Sue,” tap for her issues, and then end by reclaiming our energy and sense of identity by saying “I am me.”

I personally prefer the first method. It seems to allow more interaction and sense of being empowered as a helpmate rather than feeling overwhelmed by “taking on” the issue. If you are curious about this work, you can apply the techniques in our Inner Tapping video to other people. You may also find the article What Is Surrogate Tapping? helpful.

A fundamental key to successful surrogate tapping is to ALWAYS clear your own intensity around the issue. For example, if I am worried and concerned about my friend Molly smoking and I want to help her stop, I first tap on my concerns and fears about it. When we try to fix someone else to solve OUR OWN emotional distress, it doesn’t work well. People tend to resent and resist being forced.

I might tap on my fears for Molly’s health, the money she’s wasting, my dislike of the smell of cigarette smoke, my resentment that she gets breaks when I don’t… whatever distresses me about her smoking.

Once I’ve cleared all my feelings around needing Molly to stop smoking, I may see that she has her own path, and she gets to make her own choice. It may feel right to offer to tap with her in person, rather than using surrogate tapping. I may decide that I can love her no matter what… and leave it at that. Or I may decide to tap and focus in on what I believe may be keeping her stuck with this habit. I will generally have better luck if I target specific issues and old traumas that may keep Molly turning to cigarettes for comfort and support. The video on Trauma and the Primitive Brain may help with this.

Another important aspect of surrogate tapping is heart connection. In an article Rick posted on his personal blog, they talk about loving something and thinking about them to connect. It’s important to offer the tapping with an energy of love and care. If you’re tapping with anger, go back a step and clear YOUR distresses first. Why are you angry/sad/scared?

So if you clear your own stuff first, and surrogate tap, and it doesn’t work, does that mean that you didn’t have a strong enough heart connection? That you didn’t care enough or do enough?

No. We each have choice. We can send love and healing thoughts and energy to people, but they get to have their own path. We don’t get to decide how it will turn out.

If that upsets you, that’s a great thing to tap on! “Even though I can’t fix this, and that makes me feel ______, I’m open to seeing this a new way… and feeling surprisingly calm and confident anyway!”

Jane Taps for Jonathan

Jane shares her experience with surrogate tapping for her son. Please note that she courageously faced her fears and beliefs before surrogate tapping for him. We often spent most of the session clearing her pain and sadness around what happened. Only then did we do tapping for Jonathan.

She also has a strong, loving bond with him which helped immensely. Her intention was to help him feel safe and loved, without holding on to how he needed to express that.

Finally, Jonathan has a strong desire to connect and heal the traumas that were keeping him stuck. He is open to accepting the changes she is offering. Working with Jane has been a beautiful experience. Here are Jane’s words:

I’ve done 4 sessions of surrogate tapping for my son with the assistance of Cathy Vartuli from Thriving Now. The results have been amazing, and a bit surreal.

My son, we’ll call him Jonathan, is an international adoptee. His history includes 3 years of severe malnourishment and neglect followed by 1.5 years of orphanage care. Of course these years were filled with trauma, and since his brain was shaped by those severe events, he currently interprets mundane occurrences as traumatic.

He also relives traumatic memories continually, causing him to be an anxious and agitated child day and night. His play and dreams are dominated by themes of loss, grief, pain, and suffering.

He is so nervous that he is not able to concentrate enough to learn, and his already-delayed development is lagging further. After 2.5 years at home many of these fears subsided only marginally, and no amount of comforting or attachment parenting seemed to be able to break this cycle.

Unbelievably, our attachment and trauma therapist thought we were doing great considering my son’s background and commended us on our progress. And so my quest of healing Jonathan brought me to energy work and Thriving Now.

Although surrogate work sounded implausible, I was ready to try just about anything to help my son. With my input, Cathy crafted simple phrases for me to repeat while I imagined myself tapping on my son. I was astonished to see how quickly and completely Jonathan’s worries have subsided.

A few healing sequences stand out in my mind as being particularly amazing. During his first three years living with his birth family, Jonathan was left alone, hungry, and dirty most of the time. At the orphanage he was fed properly, but at three years of age he was not yet walking or talking due to the severe malnourishment and neglect he had suffered previously. This left him “scooting” on his bottom to get around and therefore he got very dirty. Years later he still had a profound need to be clean and covered with long sleeves, pant legs, and socks at all times day and night.

I happened to be doing a session with Cathy while we were on vacation at the beach. Jonathan loves the waves crashing against his body but would get very stressed about being dirty for any length of time. So we did a round of tapping in order to help him with the sandy environment as well as getting dirty in general.

Before we started on him, Cathy checked in with me to see how my body was feeling.  I recognized a pain in my heart – grief that my son had ever been in such squalid conditions.  Interestingly, after a few rounds of tapping only a small ache in my heart remained. Cathy led me on a visualization exercise where I bathed and comforted him while holding my left hand over my heart. The intervention on my son’s behalf, if only imaginary, empowered me and allowed the remaining heaviness in my heart to lift.

During the tapping for Jonathan, we reinforced the idea that he is in a new environment now, with a loving family there to help him. Even if he gets dirty he can now get clean quickly, and it can even be fun to get dirty sometimes!

Surrogate Tapping for Trauma - Jonathan at Beach
Jonathan walking barefoot in the sand after the tapping on getting dirty.

By coincidence we took a boat ride the next day to an uninhabited island to view the wildlife. We asked Jonathan to take off his shoes and socks to walk in the sand barefoot, and to our amazement he did with absolutely no protest! This was a miracle after having insisted on absolute cleanliness for two years!

Another healing moment stands out in my mind. As Jonathan has been growing, his language and play have been more accurately portraying his internal struggles and torment. About five months ago Jonathan started “sliding” his toy train, mimicking the out of control train slipping on the ice depicted in the Polar Express movie. His play version includes him being stuck in the caboose, alone and missing Mama.

This was clearly a metaphor for Jonathan’s own life which had been scary and out of control while he was stuck in the orphanage without his Mama. Jonathan would spend hours “slipping” his train daily, trying to work through how deeply disturbing it was to feel so alone and vulnerable… left by the people he loved.

After a surrogate tapping session with Cathy, I was amazed to see that Jonathan abruptly gave up playing with his train. During his first moment with his train after the session, he hesitated, looked thoughtful and said “Jonathan is hungry.” After playing with it for a short while he looked bored, put it away, and played with other toys.

I was flabbergasted.

Then I remembered my session with Cathy. We had focused on a scene where my husband and I had to say goodbye to Jonathan at the orphanage after our four month stay. The departure was necessary to adopt him.

After tapping on my own grief and trauma related to leaving Jonathan at the orphanage we surrogate tapped on the imaginary Jonathan in that scene. We tapped on being left in that unsafe place, reinforcing the idea that there were no other alternatives and that we were not allowed to just “kidnap” him.

We tapped on the ideas that the other children and caregivers were overwhelmed and didn’t have enough resources, thereby causing their inhumane treatment of others. We also tapped on the thought that we did come back to the orphanage and we did get him out of there, and that he is safe now.

It is hard to fathom how this imaginary tapping could transform Jonathan so deeply on such traumatic memories. But it has.

With these heavy feelings lifted, he is more engaged in his life and significantly less stuck reliving the past. He has been engaging in more appropriate imaginary play and his development is accelerating. Surrogate tapping is allowing me to break the cycle… to interrupt the grip his previous trauma has on his brain. Of course, there is much more healing to be done, and one day soon he will be tapping for himself.

My own healing has been essential in creating a healing path for Jonathan.  Parenting a troubled child has magnified my own primitive brain’s reactions to stress.  Before we tap for Jonathan, Cathy always checks in with me to see how my own body is reacting to our discussion.

Clearing my own blocks has been a blessing.  As my sessions with Cathy progress, I’ve been increasingly able to see my son’s behavior objectively, allowing me to react more positively and thoughtfully.

Being able to clear my own pain relating to the adoption has helped me remain calmer when discussing the past. Healing some issues from my childhood has helped me to become the mother I always wanted to be, instead of repeating the patterns from my past. And when looking at our daily lives, I am no longer overwhelmed, but know that we have the tools available to heal, when each one of us is ready.

– Jane

I hope you can hear Jane’s deep love of Jonathan in her words. Please note that her main focus was to help him release old traumas, rather than for him to behave in a certain way. She approached each issue with acceptance and caring for Jonathan just as he was, with the intention to help him feel safer and empowered. Her courage has been beautiful to see.

Jane continues to give Jonathan support, love, and acceptance (as hard as that can be when your child is suffering). This is a very healing combination. If you would like more support, caring, and acceptance in your life, you may find our Group Coaching Program the perfect fit.

*Jonathan’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.

  • Rachel McEneaney says:

    Could parents EFTsurrogate their child afflicted with autism to help them recover? Any case studies of this?

    • We believe that the energy of the people responding to any child, including ones with special circumstances, evokes different energies in the child. If the adults are scared, or worried, or frustrated… the child is affected by the energy. That’s why we start with creating a balanced, curious energy in the parents and caregivers. Then we move to the space where anything is Possible, and use that calm, intuitive curiosity to let your tapping lead you to the “heart of the matter” and see what comes forth.


      P.S. Your might search autism and EFT in google and see what you find.

  • Beverley Louis says:

    Thank you for posting that Rick and Cathy.  Jane and Jonathan’s situation seems an ideal way to stop patterns repeating and Jane has written beautifully of the differences she noticed.

    In a completely different way, I have surrogately tapped for my cat on myself.  But I see now that I was still carrying my worried energy and others as well in relation to what my cat was doing.

    Many thanks

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