Part of my work with people involves helping them free themselves from old identities, ideas and feelings about themselves that are no longer useful. This extract from a client session describes the Identity Relief process that I use as part of that work.
I have been working with Leslie (not her real name) for a little while on issues to do with her lack of self acceptance and powerful inner critics. As part of our ongoing discussions she told me that a lot of her time was spent comparing herself to other women and finding herself wanting. At one point she said: "I feel second best", because she said this with such intensity I asked her to say it out loud to have a sense of how true that statement was and then I asked her to say "I am second best" out loud.
There is a big difference between feeling something and being something, our feelings can pass but who we think we are forms the bedrock of our attitudes and behaviours.
She told me that "I am second best" had a 10 out of 10 score for her. If you have the fixed idea about yourself that you are second best it is not surprising that you spend a lot of time comparing yourself to others.
When someone has a strong and unhelpful identity belief (sense of I am …) like this, I use the Identity Relief process to update this collection of ideas, thoughts and feelings about ourselves to something more realistic. The Identity Relief process identifies the time when this idea about ourselves was formed, often in early childhood, and uses a visualisation of that younger self and EFT to neutralise the strong negative feelings associated with that time, finally, that younger self is immersed in the compassionate acceptance that was probably missing at the time that these ideas were formed and is invited to update that understanding in the light of new experience.
When I asked her to say "I am second best" she told me that it scored a 10 out of 10 as truth.
Then I asked her: "How old is the 'I' in I am second best".
She immediately answered: "Tiny … pre-talk"
I asked her to imagine that "tiny" self outside herself on the other side of the room.
When she nodded that she had done so, I asked her: "What is going on for that tiny self?"
"There's a feeling of awfulness …"
So we started with just the first thing that Leslie said, using a set-up statement to acknowledge acceptance of that younger self. At all times I only use straightforward 'vanilla' EFT, using the clients words as part of the tapping statement, no clever reframing, choices or other techniques. The purpose of this part of the process is to release the negative emotions.
"Even though there is this feeling of awfulness, I accept her and how she feels."
Notice that the acceptance statement is "I accept her and how she feels", rather than the "I accept myself of standard EFT", so we can accept this younger self.
After a round of tapping using "feeling of awfulness" as a reminder phrase, I asked what was going on for that younger self now. Leslie said that the feeling was worse. She said she could see her younger self turning her head away from being fed. So we continued using this for a new round of tapping. In each case I just used the words that Leslie gave.
"Even though she is turning away, I accept her and how she feels."
After a few rounds of tapping on "she is turning away". Leslie said: "It's as if there is something really wrong or as if she could do better."
"Even though there is something really wrong, I accept her and how she feels"
After two rounds of tapping on "there is something really wrong" and "she could do better". She told me that her younger self looked "collapsed".
"Even though she is collapsed, I accept her and how she feels"
Then more rounds of tapping
"Even though there is huge upset in her and her mother, I accept them both and how they feel"
"Even though she feels like a failure, I accept her and how she feels"
"Even though she is in the wrong place and the wrong family, I accept her and how she feels".
After a few rounds of "she is in the wrong place and the wrong family" she said her younger self had a strong, profound sadness at a level of 8 out of 10
"Even though she has this strong sadness I accept her and how she feels."
"Even though she has tears, I accept her and how she feels"
"Even though she is not pleasing her mother and her mother is crying, I accept her and how she feels"
"Even though she has this sadness I accept her and how she feels."
"Even though she's failed, I accept her and how she feels"
"Even though she's failed and she can't do anything about it, I accept her and how she feels"
We tapped a few rounds on "she knows she's failed and she can't do anything about it" then Leslie said that the awful feeling that we had started with returned.
"Even though she feels awful, I accept her and how she feels."
Tapping away the awfulness feeling in her younger self took several rounds of tapping. When we had finished Leslie said that her younger self looked calm even though the circumstances hadn't changed.
I like to be very thorough at this stage to make sure there are no lingering unhelpful feelings or thoughts so I asked Leslie if there was anything else that we could tap on for her younger self. She thought for a moment and said that "she's been wanting to please" which was at a 7.
"Even though she's been wanting to please I accept her and how she feels."
Just one round of "she's been wanting" to please brought this to zero.
I suggested to Leslie that it was time to use the Compassion Bubble which is a simple visualisation to send compassionate acceptance to that younger self.
I invited her to go back to a memory where she felt compassionate acceptance for another being, she closed her eyes and nodded when she found one, settling into the memory I asked her to connect with the feeling of compassionate acceptance.
When she had done that I asked her to allow that feeling of compassionate acceptance to grow and develop, then flow down one of her arms into an upturned palm of her choice. After a few seconds she turned up her right hand.
I asked her to imagine the compassionate acceptance pooling in the palm of her hand. I asked: "If it had a colour what would it be?"
"Pink", she replied
I said "Allow that 'pink' compassionate acceptance to grow and develop into a bubble of pink compassionate acceptance on the palm of your hand.
She paused for a moment then nodded. I asked her to allow that bubble of pink compassionate acceptance to float off her hand and travel over to her younger self completely surrounding that younger self.
I suggested that the compassionate acceptance could seep into that younger self and do its work, and that, although she might not know what changes were occurring, she would know when the process had finished .
After a little while she nodded to let me know that the compassion bubble had done it's job then I asked her to bring that younger self back into herself in whatever way seemed appropriate to her. Since we 'put' that younger self on the outside to help her, we now need to 'bring her back in' to complete the process.
When she had done that I asked her to invite that younger self to grow up and take advantage of all the wisdom and experience that she had had since. It is as if these inner parts have stopped growing at the age at which they were formed, isolated from all other experience that has happened since. "Growing up" the part, allows that younger identity to add to its understandings and resources and finally to merge with the adult self.
When Leslie had done this I asked her to repeat the original statement "I am second best", she did, thought about it for a moment and told me that it was no longer true.
A few days later I contacted Leslie to find out what the result of this process had been.
She wrote back:
"[Identity] Relief is a very apt word to describe this process. Now ‘I am second best‘ holds nil emotional charge. I feel completely equal and adequate and the making of comparisons has ceased. It feels very different to how I used to feel and I am still getting used to it.
My lack of self acceptance was extreme and causing anger towards myself due to my perceive failure(s). The feeling of anger and failure have now dissipated.
This has made an enormous difference to my life and I am fully accepting myself and my life as it is today. This work went right to the core, the source , of the issues.
I feel much calmer now. I no longer make negative comparisons and there is a noticeable reduction in my desire to please others.
I now love my young self; she was perfect in every way. What happened in the past is something that merely happened !
The ‘ can’t do anything about it’ phase is pivotal concerning self acceptance. It still holds some sadness for me and a little frustration but now if another person puts me down, treats me unfairly, treats me as an inferior or blames me something I haven’t done (and I can’t do anything about) – I no longer react with the same level of emotional intensity. I know the truth. I know the reality.
I believe nothing could have fixed this issue except EFT. I was stuck in it and with it. Now I am no longer second best."
Many thanks to Leslie for allowing me to share this.