Abandonment and Knuckle Pain
Angela Treat Lyon
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"Jon's" anger at being abandoned by his father came up as we a late lunch at his house one day, and he wanted to work on it. It took us 20 minutes at the outside, and freed him up of almost 60 years of pain.
Jon had carried this hatred of his father for all these years because he abandoned his family when Jon was only five years old.
Jon also resented how his mother had almost never been home--and when she was home from working, she was too exhausted to be a “proper” mother to him and his younger siblings.
Jon thought it was unfair that she had had to work so hard, and that he’d had to take care of his younger brothers. He hated the poverty in which he grew up, and he blamed it all on his absent father. He carried this anger towards his father for almost 60 years.
Jon had crippling pain in all of his right-hand knuckles. It was so bad that he’d had to learn how function left-handed. On really bad days, no amount of pain medication helped, and he had tried everything from arthritis meds to heavy-duty narcotics..
He told me he was “unendingly and unforgivingly” angry at his father.
I asked him how he knew he was angry at his father. He was surprised by the question.
“I just am!” he retorted, “I just know I am!”
“Well, how do you know it?” I asked. “What signs in your mind and body let you know what you are feeling?”
I explained to him that what we never learn as children is that the sensations we feel in our bodies are each messages to us. A pain, a tightness, a rush of chills, a rash, sudden heatčeach sensation is a message.
When you pay attention to these sensations, you can find deeper meaning than you thought possible than just the pain that’s there.
When I asked him how he knew he was angry at his father, he practically jumped out of his chair, got into a fighting stance, his face turned bright red and swelled up like a boxer dog, and he clenched his fists and said, “I know I’m angry because I want to slug the b*stard!”
I asked him to freeze in that position. Despite his rage, when he realized how threatening that position might seem to me, he started to apologize.
“No, stay like that, I’m alright,” I said, “and it’s really OK, because you’ve just shown me exactly where you store your rage about your father. Here. I’ll show you something.”
I stood at his side and softly pushed my hands against his lower back and his chest, helping him slowly straighten up. I gently unclenched his fists, and asked him to take three deep breaths.
I asked him, “Now are you angry?”
He checked within himself, and exclaimed, “Why no! I don’t feel it at all like I did before. I know intellectually that I’m angry at him, but I don’t feel it right now.”
So I had him resume that anger position, and asked him again if he felt angry.
“Yes, but not as much as before.”
I had him think about all of it, the years of hunger, the pain, and the cold, the abandonment, and see how he felt. Ah! There it was again! His face was even red again.
He could now see how his thoughts brought on the feelings, and then sensations and pain in his body.
He wanted to know how to escape from this pattern that he had been living with for all this time.
So I asked: “When you stand there in fighter’s stance with your fists ready to fight, what is the first thought that comes to mind?”
I watched as he considered, and could see that he’d had a thought and then tried to cover it up by saying, “I don’t know.”
After working with so many people, you get to see that there are certain similarities we all experience. This was one of them: your first thought is the truth of the situation for you. But, because there are lots of us, and society demands for us to live somewhat peaceably together, we have been trained to be “nice,” and “get along.” Thus, we’ve been trained to cover that first thought with a “nice” one:
If you can’t think of a nice thought, your social conditioning is to
cover that one with something like, “I don’t know!”
So I asked him again: “tell me the real truth now: what was your first thought?’
Jon blurted, “I want to kill him! I’ve wanted to kill him since I was five and the day he left. I want to punch his stupid face!”
As he said that, he swung his right hand out with such force that it would surely have been a lethal punch if it had landed on someone’s face. And he couldn’t figure out why his knuckles hurt? I didn’t say anything, though, as it hadn’t come home to him yet what was happening below the surface of his mind.
We sat back down on his couch.
I asked him to climb into his father’s body as if it was a suit he could wear.
He looked at me like I was insane, but nodded, and closed his eyes and imagined it. As Jon was feeling being in his father’s body, I asked him how old he was (as father). He said, “24.”
“Oh,” I said, casually, “then he must have been really world-wise and totally able to support a wife and three sons during the worst part of the depression.”
Jon’s body did a jolt. His eyes flung wide; he looked at me, and his face opened with realization: he’d never imagined his father as a young man, he’d imagined him as an older mančolder than himself by 19 years.
“Oh!” he cried. “My god! 24 with a wife and three kids! It must have been so hard!” He didn’t say a word. I let him sit and gaze into his past. He started to weep.
“Now I see,” he whispered. “It never fixed anything, and made things worse at home, but I see how he might have wanted to go out drinking instead of feeling so bad about himself and his life. But what a jerk! Drinking instead of working?”
I asked him, “What if there were no jobs, and no visible source of hope, Jon? What if he wasn’t as intelligent or as resourceful as you are? What if he had a really low opinion of himself and his abilities? What if your mother screamed at him and nagged him on top of it?
“Or what if he knew she was suffering silently, and felt helpless and guilty? Do you see how he might have run out of courage and ran away instead of sticking around where he felt so useless and powerless?”
Jon didn’t like it, but was able to see how that might have been true. “But what a wimp!” he said.
Now I had Jon recap all the physical sensations he had when he thought of how angry he was at his father:
- Tight fists
- Angry stance
- Red face
- Tight chest
- Fast-beating heart
- Tight belly
- Clenched jaws
And the thoughts he had:
- I’m going to kill him
- I want to punch his face
- How could he do that?
- He’s a jerk!
- How come he left my poor ma?
- I had to be the “man of the family”
- I was way too young
- I hate him!
- I’ll never forgive him!
- I missed out on so much because of him!
- So did my poor ma
- She was always too tired to read to us
- She never had anything nice until we grew up
- What a wimp!
Now I had him imagine his dad in front of him.
It wasn’t difficult--his mother said Jon and his dad look almost identical, so he could even have looked in a mirror.
Next, I showed him the karate chop point and the main EFT points. We both tapped on the Karate Chop Point, with him repeating after me:
Even though I have these:
I’m willing to see another viewpoint, and maybe even let this go because I’m a good person at heart, and I’m choosing to like myself as I am.
Then, because I was short on time and had to go soon and didn’t have time to go through the other points, I just had him tap on his collarbone tips as he said:
I’m going to kill him
I want to punch his face
How could he do that?
He’s a jerk!
How come he left my poor ma?
I had to be the “man of the family”
I was way too young
I hate him!
I’ll never forgive him!
I missed out on so much because of him!
So did my poor ma
She was always too tired to read to us
She never had anything nice until we grew up
What a wimp!
I’m choosing to recognize that I’m OK just as I am, and I get to choose what to do with my energy.
We started to tap that segment again, but he stopped. Jon looked at me and said, “It’s gone!”
I asked him, “what’s gone?”
His anger! He didn’t feel any at all! He frowned and looked at me like I had tricked him.
“No, I didn’t trick you. You just chose to let go of all the charge on all those thoughts and beliefs about your father that held you to the pain. It wouldn’t let you go until you could acknowledge your understanding of him and where he was at as a very troubled and desperate young man.”
I was frankly surprised that only one round had got rid of the anger. I had expected it to take longer. We checked all the aspects, and sure enough--gone.
His right hand still hurt.
So we had a little conversation with it. This is something I encourage everyone to do when you have pain in your body and can’t seem to get free of it.
Ask the hurting part of you directly what it wants.
Jon thought it was silly, but encouraged by the anger disappearing so fast, he was willing to accommodate. He mentally asked his hand. Looking smug, he then said his hand wanted revenge.
“Are you sure?” I asked. I could almost see a tight-balled fist
with its arms crossed and a big frown on its face as it declared vengeance.
Jon laughed at that and said, “yeah, that’s what it’s like.”
“OK, then why does it want that?” I asked him.
“Because it will keep anyone else from hurting me or my family!” he said.
“Are you sure?”
“Well,” Jon said, “that doesn’t make much sense, does it?”
He asked again. “Ah,” Jon said. “It says it never got to do what it wanted when I was young and it’s mad and wants to hurt who did it.”
“OK,” I said. “Tap on your collarbone. It was just trying to help, wasn’t it?” Jon nodded.
I asked him, “What if your hand was able to take that same mad-revenge energy and use it for something more fun or more creative--would it do that for you instead of focusing on revenge?”
Jon closed his eyes and considered, and then said yes. He looked confused for a second, and then excited:
“It’s saying it wants to play the guitar!”
“I never even thought about playing an instrument when I was younger--we never had the money for it!”
He looked at me and said, “This is nuts--am I really talking to my fist?”
We laughed hard at that, and I said yes, we really are, and it’s OK to be a little nuts now and then--especially if it can get you out of pain, right?
Then I pushed it a bit further, and asked him if he would consider getting an inexpensive guitar and taking basic lessons. I knew the pain in his hand was gone because I didn’t feel it, myself. I wanted him to discover it first, though, so I said nothing.
“Close your eyes again and see yourself strumming the strings slowly. Can you hear it?” Jon nodded. I asked, “How does it feel?”
He was quiet for a long time. I saw a big tear start to come out of the corner of his eye, and watched it, and others, fall into his lap.
“All those years!” he whispered. “Such a waste!”
I put my hand on his and said, “You can look at it like that, or you can just say, “that’s how it was and I can’t change it, but I can certainly use this transformed grief energy for my guitar lessons,” can’t you?
“Which would you prefer--slumping into grief, or using that same energy to play and have fun?” I asked.
“It’s just energy. It’s your energy. What will you choose to do with it?”
Jon’s no dummy. He got it right off. “Ohhhh. That’s what you do!” he exclaimed.
“It’s just energy. So every time I feel bad, or ill or in pain, I can just say, yeah, I feel bad about this, this or this; and it’s only energy, it’s MY energy and I have a choice: I can use it for what I want instead of the old stuck stuff. Right? And I can feel its intensity and know that the more intense it is, the more energy there is?”
He looked at me as if he had just emerged from a dark cave, with eyes that weren’t quite used to the light. He got it. It’s just energy and he gets to choose.
“My knuckles don’t hurt,” he said.
He said it so quietly I almost didn’t hear him. Then he focused right on my eyes and said, quite loud, “My knuckles don’t hurt! I don’t believe it!”
Almost 60 years of pain--gone in 20 minutes.
Awesome. What better day could I have had after that? Do I need to say I love EFT?
Angela Treat Lyon
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© Angela Treat Lyon 2006.
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Posted January 24, 2010 12:55 PM
Excellent article Angela!
I appreciate the time you've taken to put this together and share.
Glenda Gibbs, Coaching, Counseling & Facilitator
Glenda assists people with change.
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