Emotional Freedom Techniques and Constellations
By Tamara Donn
Tamara is an award winning author, family constellatory, EFT Master Trainer, retreat facilitator, parenting mentor and international speaker.
Her book, Frazzled to Fabulous in 5 Minutes a Day, is the essential book for mums who are fed up with feeling stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted and want to learn a brilliantly simple way to stay calm, enjoy their kids more and get more done in just 5 minutes a day for 30 days. The book won Tamara the Janey Lee Grace Platinum Award.
Together with her husband, Peter Donn, they run the EFT training Centre, training people to become EFT practitioners internationally.
Tamara lives in Hertfordshire, UK and in her spare time, you will find her hanging out at her allotment, jogging mindfully while listening to inspiring talks or dancing round the kitchen!
Her website is tamaradonn.com
Emotional Freedom Techniques and Constellations
For many years I have been working with women’s groups. I used to run a monthly retreat for women called the Red Tent Retreat, to enable women to take time out from their busy lives to refresh, rejuvenate, relax and re-energise. The approach was based on the novel ‘The Red Tent’ by Anita Diamont exploring how in biblical times menstruating and birthing women spent time in a Red Tent being nurtured by other women, free for a time from looking after children or working.
One of the most common challenges women brought to the Red Tents was not being able to take time out. Barriers included the need to manage and hold too many things at a time, being on the go constantly, feeling guilty for taking time out and/or simply not being able to carve out time for themselves. In today’s societies, women are expected to fire on all cylinders every day of the month.
A BBC article published in October 2021 cited survey results from A Great Place to Work and the health-care start-up Maven which found that mothers in paid employment are 23% more likely to experience burnout than fathers in paid employment. An estimated 2.35 million working mothers in the US have suffered from burnout since the start of the pandemic, specifically “due to unequal demands of home and work”, the analysis showed.
Building on my experience as an Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and Systemic Constellations practitioner, I became extremely interested in the underlying subconscious beliefs that keep women stuck in a never ending cycle of being overwhelmed, stressed and exhausted.
What I experienced in the Red Tent resonated with the findings of a recent study, which states that burnout in mothers is rooted in fear. Be that the fear of not being a good enough mother or the fear of unlearning the need to control and experiencing discontinuity of one’s sense of self. The fear of not being a good enough mother in particular means that many mothers seek to anticipate and react to all of their children’s wishes.
These fears and belief systems are both rooted in women’s individual stories and experiences as well as in a wider societal system and culture and more often than not they are subconscious.
It is within this context that combining systemic constellation work and EFT can be a powerful way of addressing these issues.
My training in family constellations enables me to sense into and identify patterns of stuckness, entanglement and subconsciously held beliefs much quicker than through any other technique.
Whilst my constellation training helps to brings into view the individual’s experience and fate in their family, societal and historical realms, my EFT training has given me a more in-depth experience as to what kind of sentences are good to create movement and shift subconscious beliefs .
EFT originates from the Traditional Chinese Medicine system and is like acupuncture without the use of needles. It involves tapping on the acupuncture points to release negative emotions while repeating appropriate sentences that address deeply held, often subconscious patterns and beliefs. A round of EFT consists of repeating a statement 3 times while tapping on one’s hand (the karate chop point). It is very important that issue holders are completely aligned i.e. feel the truth of the sentences used.
In one women’s circle, Susan, a 38 year old mother of two children, came forward with the challenge of not being able to set healthy boundaries and constantly feeling she was sacrificing herself for her children and her husband’s career and life. We constellated her family revealing that she carried a war trauma on behalf of her mother and grandmother, which made her feel guilty and unable to recognise this was not her fate to carry.
Using EFT she repeated the following healing sentence out loud: “Out of loyalty to you mother I carried this burden, and now, with love and respect I hand this back to you.” I then guided her to tap on various points on her body while repeating a reminder phrase that kept her connected to the feelings. Suitable reminder phrases might include: “I can’t say that”, “I can’t bear her pain”, “I’d rather carry her burden than see her suffer”.
I invited her and other participants to take part in the tapping routine. This benefited the individual personally and helped to shift stuckness in the field and in representatives. After the round of EFT I checked in with her to see how she felt. She reported back to me that she felt free, and that she was able to be herself in a way that she hadn’t experienced before.
Another way in which our work in the Red Tent helped to address overwhelm and exhaustion was through constellating ‘busy-ness’ and ‘stillness’ as archetypes. Stepping in as a representative for each archetype, women begin to explore their relationship with each archetype in a completely different way. It helped reveal what judgements and beliefs are attached to each concept, as well as what feelings and energy arises in relationship to both. Through this simple constellation women’s awareness around the issues not only increased but opened up pathways and opportunities to act differently.
Another process that is powerful, is for clients or group participants to explore their relationship with their menstrual cycle. I place 4 different coloured felts in a circle on the floor to represent the 4 stages of our cycles. Inspired by Alexandra Pope, I then work with the different seasons within the cycle as well as the cardinal directions. The 12:00 position represents menstruation and is the season of winter; 3:00 is spring and represents moving towards ovulation; 6:00 represents ovulation and summer; and autumn is at 9:00 and represents moving towards menstruation (when women often experience PMS). The qualities of summer and ovulation is movement, energy moving outwards: excitement, passion, and sex. During the winter or menstruation phase, qualities included stillness, withdrawal, energy contracting and reflection.
Three years ago, Shivaun came to me for EFT because her periods were irregular, and she wanted to work on recent mood swings before her period. At the start of the session, she told me how her periods had been regular until 3 years ago.
I invited Shivaun to visualise the menstrual cycle and see herself moving in a clockwise direction around the circle while taking notice of what she sees/ feels/ senses. She was very surprised that around 6:00 (ovulation) there was a brightness but around the area of 12:00 (menstruation) there was blackness and although she could see what was going on there, she couldn’t feel anything.
When women ignore their need for stillness or slowing down during menstruation, in my experience, it can give rise to period pain or difficult emotions during that time.
Shivaun expressed that even during menstruation she needed to soldier on, something she felt was a recurring theme or underlying belief in her life. When I asked her what she was avoiding, she said she was scared of being vulnerable which increased the risk of getting hurt. We explored the first time she felt vulnerable and hurt, going back to a situation when she was 15 and her mother put her down for expressing her femininity. From that moment onwards she felt it was safer to repress her femininity. On a scale from 0 to 10 (where 0 meant she rejected the belief and 10 meant complete belief), I asked Shivaun how strongly she believed she could not express her femininity and she said 8.
Using EFT for both the adult and teenage Shivaun, we tapped while she expressed to her mum how she felt as a result of that incident. What emerged was that Shivaun had a yearning for approval from her mum, so I suggested that she say to her mum “Please see me”. Shivaun seemed angry and said that it didn’t feel right because her mum should already be able to see her, so I changed the sentence to “Mum, I’m angry” and that felt true although she had not been aware of this before. Simply acknowledging her anger towards her mum, she was able to start allowing and releasing it, which brought relief.
At the end of the session, Shivaun felt ready to express her femininity and her belief in “I am not allowed to express my femininity” was down to 0. I asked her to have another look at the circle of menstruation and this time she was able to see and feel around the whole circle and felt more peaceful.
My work with women shows me that women strive for equality with men but inevitably end up taking more responsibility for childcare. With that desire for equality, many have pushed through their monthly bleeds and have stopped listening to the wisdom of their menstrual cycles that can guide them to know when to stop and take stock and when to glide forward. If more people understood the ebb and flow of women’s cycles together with the fact that humans were not designed to bring up children alone, women would not feel so overwhelmed with the demands on them.
By doing the inner work using Family Constellations and EFT, women release the stress that stops them from looking after themselves. They begin to recognise their limiting beliefs and where they come from, as more often than not, they don’t belong to them. Instead the work enables them to create new, supportive and more empowering beliefs that tune into their bodily wisdom with more compassion and understanding.
Using these two approaches, it continuous to amaze me how accessible our subconscious beliefs become, and how long-term patterns and physical disharmony can gradually dissolve through expressing the underlying emotions and addressing entanglements.