September 1, 2010 by Thriving Now

Weak in the knees

This case report comes from Rue Hass (

I am a global, big picture kind of thinker, and I am always drawn to “first cause thinking.” When I work with someone I always find myself drawn to their deepest level, the spiritual identity. I end up with lots of notes, lots of fascinating insights and questions, and often an overwhelming amount of information, a very wide radar screen. I sometimes begin to wonder, where should I start with EFT in all of this?? There are so many issues, so many key emotions and events, all woven together. I often tell people that it doesn’t matter where we start, that it’s like picking up a corner of a fishing net – no matter where you pick it up and start hauling on it, the whole thing comes, including everything that is caught in it. I do believe that this is true, but—too often the catch is huge!

My client came in feeling “weak in the knees, a hurt, numb buzzy feeling.” When she was sitting down the sensation was a 3, but standing up, it was a 7. She said, “It feels like I want to collapse, you know, the feeling you get before you are about to faint.” She is in management in a large company, and she talked about having gone last week to a meeting on the east coast. Traveling had been a nightmare, with cancelled and rescheduled planes and missed connections, and people at the other end left hanging, and in addition to the stress of the journey she was feeling guilty and mad at herself because she had turned responsibility for the trip over to her colleague, who she had seen as a seasoned traveler. But he wasn’t as aware as he might have been, hence their difficulties.

“Jane” started feeling dizzy and weak kneed there in the airport, and those feelings increased over the challenging next few days of the scheduled meetings. She was able to stuff her usual feelings of frustration and inadequacy for the duration of the meetings, but she said, “I paid later.” When she began talking about an upcoming meeting where she feared she would be asked to take on a major national project, her discomfort in her knees went up to “at least an 8.”

Jane is a very successful, high achieving perfectionist, inclined to “push through” whatever she is feeling to get the job done right. She is also a highly sensitive introvert, if she were being who she really is, which she hasn’t been, and not surprisingly she has suffered from fibromyalgia for many years. She also had breast cancer two years ago. On her return from the earlier meeting she had taken her knees to a physical therapist who does myofascial release; the PT had said that her fascia is always tight in that area, and in fact all over her body.

Ignoring my usual tendency to go deeper and deeper with my always-on curiosity about the origin of these patterns, this time I just went to work right there with the knees, “these weak knees,” “hurt, numb and buzzing knees,” “ these wanting to collapse knees.” Her intensity rating went down by one point.

Thinking about knees metaphorically, I asked Jane to say more about feeling weakness in her knees, (“what is bringing you to your knees?”) and she started talking about another upcoming national meeting, where she was afraid they were going to ask her to take the lead on a major project, and she just didn’t feel “up” to doing that. Not enough “down” time, she would “end ‘up’ in pain,” “I’m not good at relating to all those ‘up’ sales guys,” “I don’t think well on my feet.” I am starting to notice a pattern here…

She went on, saying that she felt she didn’t have any choice, she really should lead this project, she hadn’t told anyone about the fibromyalgia (and wouldn’t have told anyone about the cancer, was planning to get right back to work after surgery, but then was forced to tell people about the chemotherapy), what will people think, they will think I am wimping out. So here were some good phrases to use in the set up and on the tapping points. SUDS going down to a 5.

Thinking about the physiological and metaphorical role of knees, we began to talk about standing up for oneself, speaking up for oneself, how hard that was for her. “I’m not good at asking for what I need, asking to be heard. It feels like I am ‘hollering into the night and no one is there.’ But,” she said, “I am finding that overachieving doesn’t bring the same satisfaction that it used to.”

I was wondering out loud how we could reframe and work with the idea of standing up for yourself. What actually holds you up? How could you reframe using your knees for holding yourself “up.” What did her knees want for her by wanting to fall “down,” and hurting when she wasn’t standing “up” for what was really true for her. We fell into one of those serendipitous conversational flows that seem to come when you open yourself to your intuition and wonder out loud and internally about something, and I got a great insight into and learning about fibromyalgia.

Jane had all her life been forcing herself to do things she didn’t feel comfortable with, and had developed a kind of rigid forcing tension throughout her body that became very painful. The pain came from chronically tense muscles, held in a protective, defensive readiness, which had led to contracted, tight, stiff fascia all over her body, creating constant pain.

Fascia is the tough, connective tissue web between the skin and the body’s underlying structure of muscle and bone. (It is what you see if you skin a raw chicken – that almost transparent sheet between the skin and the muscle) It surrounds every organ, duct, nerve, blood vessel, muscle and bone of the pelvic cavity. Fascia has a tensile strength of over 2,000 pounds per square inch. It can become severely bound by shock, trauma and stress. Unresolved emotional pain and trauma turns to physical tightness in the body. As the fascia tightens, the body must work harder and harder just to perform daily activities, leading to fatigue and feeling very like depression.

Medical Intuitive Carolyn Myss has said that “our biography becomes our biology.” Neuroscientist Bessel van der Kolk says, “The body keeps the score.” It occurred to me that the fascia is one of the scoreboards for the body.

Together, tapping and talking, Jane and I created an image of the fascia as having become a painful suit of armor that was trying to hold her up—all of the limiting beliefs that she carried about who she must be in the world to succeed: the “I should’s,” “I have to’s,” “ I have no choice,” “What will they think of me if I don’t ______,” all the pushing toward perfection and performance.

The fascia is meant to support, not hold us up. Tap tap tap… “this painful suit of armor… trying to help me stand up for myself… trying to protect me from being hurt, ignored, rejected… holding my Self tightly to keep it safe…this painful suit of armor in my knees…”

As we continued to tap through the points, sometimes pausing on one to talk, I asked Jane what would work better as a support for holding her up? And where would she feel that in her body? She said, “ It would be a feeling that I can just freely connect with others, and open to a flow of love and affection, letting that flow out to others and feeling it flow back into me, no longer feeling separate from them.” She felt this in her chest, as movement and flow going out and returning.

Tapping on the karate chop point, we walked through feeling a free flowing connection with people she loved, and then moved into experiencing the flow with others who were more challenging, even those “up” salesmen.

Suddenly she said, “When I go to that meeting, I really can’t take the lead in that project. I really am not up to it. But using the cancer experience as an excuse feels like I am trying to worm my way out of something.”

I asked her to find a way to frame it positively, and she flowed right into this wonderful, clear strong statement:

“I will say to them that I have had a lot of life experience, including being sick, and that has taught me what is really important in life, and what I can and can’t do – and what I want and don’t want to do – and I DON’T want to do this.”

Standing up for herself. Her knees felt fine!

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