When Looking at the Past is Too Much

I’ve supported many people on their journey over the past eight years, most of whom were able to leave behind bothersome and often distressing memories by using energy psychologies. Indeed, if it were not for EFT and Matrix Reimprinting, I may still be struggling with debilitating symptoms of ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and, perhaps, still re-experiencing past trauma.

Mindful of the importance of experience when working with severe trauma, I tried hard to only work with small ‘t’ traumas in the early days of my EFT practice, but clients with experiences of war and disaster found their way to me from the start. It came as little surprise when, in 2010, I was invited to work be a part of a pilot project in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Our clients there had survived unimaginable horrors, over and over, day in day out, often for months and years. My colleague and I thought long and hard on if we were doing the right thing but knew they would continue to be being supported by the charity we volunteered with and so to Sarajevo we went.

It was an amazing and life changing two weeks. Some of the 18 clients we worked with were able to make huge changes during their sessions with us. Qualitative data from the study is of interest and showed significant change for some.

I was though left with questions and concerns. For us, and the charity, the study was always secondary. It was about people, each and every one of them.

What about those people for whom it didn’t work so well and those few who dropped out of the study. How was life for them now? If even one person may have been adversely affected, then was it worthwhile? Is it right to take people to specific past events, no matter how gently, when there are an overwhelming number of big T traumas? Questions and more questions. My gut said that something else was needed when working with people with complex trauma, especially when real threat to life may still be present.

I took a step back from my practice to have space to explore and try and find answers. I researched and learned more about trauma and other tools and techniques used for PTSD.

I had a dream of setting up an organisation that would help set free individuals and communities stuck and isolated in trauma and waited for the right tools, and right person, to come along. Then I met Sam and Vic Thorpe.

There are times when you just know that ‘it’ is right. Together, we made our way back to Bosnia but this time armed with combined knowledge and experience of working with PTSD with communities affected by war and disaster. We established a strong ethical framework of working, listening and respecting the needs of our clients, using and developing tools that very carefully do not take people to specific past events. Our clients in Bosnia tell us they do not want to look back and it is not for us to suggest otherwise.

From Sam, I have learned that, in order to make any lasting change, our bodies must first feel safe. We help groups and individuals learn how their bodies work, how they can self-regulate and bring themselves into coherence. Through using Heart Focused Breathing, Heart Focused Tapping and Heart Focused Laughing, they learn how to reconnect with self, with each other and with their communities. They find out how to feel more energised and positive. They then understand they have a choice in how they feel, and feel safe to put their skills into practice.

We have learned how amazing survivors are and that we are merely adding to their strength and resilience.

I still use Matrix Reimprinting and EFT in my practice here in the UK, they can be very effective tools for change. However, our work with communities affected by war and disaster has helped me understand there is more to the picture when working with trauma, and so for us all.

To help people make lasting change in communities living with the very real experience and threat of man-made and natural disaster requires a different approach. In our work at Community Resilience Network CIC, we have developed a carefully structured programme that can be used anywhere, that builds and integrates models for self-regulation. It does not require groups of people overwhelmed by the sheer number of traumas to revisit specific events but instead empowers each person to find peace and build resilience so, together, they can develop communities that thrive.


Caroline Rolling

Director at: Community Resilience Network CIC