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Ken Self

Ken Self

Marine Master Sergeant

As a coach for the Veterans Stress Project I worked with Ken, a Marine Master Sergeant who’s been back about 11 years.He did 2 tours in Iraq and 2 tours in Afghanistan. Ken asked me to tell his story to encourage other Veterans to try EFT.

His initial PTSD scores were very high for distrust, feeling mis-understood, being frequently triggered, hyper-vigilance, being emotionally distant, and having trouble concentrating, intrusive thoughts, insomnia and nightmares. I asked him to “tap along” with the EFT videos a friend had given him and with additional videos I mailed to him. As we live 3,000 miles apart, we worked via Skype.

Briefly, EFT consists of having the Vet trigger a relaxation response (by tapping) while thinking of a physical or emotional discomfort. To start generally, and to familiarize him with the process, we began the first session by tapping down his high levels of anger and frustration at people‘s lack of discipline and order. Ken came from a military family and since getting out of the service had experienced great frustration at people’s lack of discipline, inefficiency, and inability to think, communicate, or act. He said most people create chaos and described their lives as “one long train wreck.” We tapped this down to a 1 or 2 and finished up with a couple of eye rolls which took the emotional intensity to zero. Afterwards, his self -generated re-frame was: “That’s just the way some people are.”

His most traumatic memory was of having to shoot a child who was strapped with explosives and coming toward his company. His chest was tight at the thought of telling the story (which he had not done since getting out of the military,) so first we tapped the tightness down to a zero. We interrupted the telling of his story frequently to tap on the components of the memory: The feeling that something’s not right. Going into “full focus.” The sight of the child strapped with explosives. The sight of the child’s skinny arms. Ordering communication with the child by a member of his company who spoke the language. The child’s response. “But he kept coming.” The words and the sound of the voices as he communicated with his men: “Fall back.” The sound of the bolt being thrown on a rifle. The request: “Permission to fire.” “Permission denied.” A second request to fire and a second denial. Repeated warnings to the child. The decision to spare the men in his company the experience of direct responsibility for the child’s death. The understanding that he would personally “be the one to take home the baggage.” The need to put the child on his back (so that any explosion would be upward instead of forward): “I had to put him on his back.” “The feel of the rifle in my hands”. The fear on the child’s face. “The sight of the tears on his face through my rifle scope.” “The cross-hairs under his nose.” “The child kept coming like a zombie.”

Here we re-framed the child’s acting like a zombie. Everyone, including the child, knew what was going to happen next, and the child didn’t need to “stick around for the last act.” Ken said: “Smart kid.” and we both enjoyed tapping on “Smart kid” to reinforce this statement and the positive feelings around it. Next we tapped on the shooting itself, and the surprise at the silence and lack of response from the women who usually gather and wail. One of his three men slapped him on the back and said “That sucks, Sarge.” Another said “No shit.” We tapped on the feeling of the slap and the sound of each of his men’s voices, and their words, as well as the understanding and acknowledgement from the men and their appreciation of being spared the responsibility of shooting, and all that meant. Ken was then able to tell the story in detail without being triggered. Afterward, his self -generated re-frame was: “I was in charge. It was my responsibility and I did what I had to do to protect the lives of my men.”

I explained that EFT can do more than just remove pain. Once someone is out of pain because they’ve tapped DOWN a negative feeling, they can “tap UP the other side of the valley” by tapping on how they would prefer to feel. However, it may be impossible to see what they want until they’re first out of pain. I left him with homework to make a list of things he wanted to tap DOWN, to keep an open mind about things he might later want to tap UP, and to continue to tap along with the videos.

When we set up the next Skype session he felt “fabulous.” For over 10 years, even using alcohol he couldn’t get to sleep or stay asleep, had nightmares, and would wake to the smell of gun-powder and burning oil. He now “sleeps like a baby” and regularly gets 7+ hours of sleep. He said before EFT he “hadn’t had 7 hours of sober sleep in 20 years.”

Ken drank a 5th of alcohol a day. In our first phone conversations setting him up as a volunteer in the Stress Project, his speech was so slurred that I wondered how I would understand him during our Skype sessions. After starting to tap with the videos, he spontaneously stopped drinking. He said “something happened” while he was tapping along with a video of a session on fibromyalgia. At first it had ‘”weirded him out” when he noticed that he had forgotten to drink and realized that alcohol no longer had any emotional pull for him. He found it curious that, while he liked not drinking, quitting had not been a goal. About a month later he had a beer when he was out socially, and didn’t have a desire for a second one. He said told a friend that once a wound has healed, there just wasn’t any more reason to put a band-aid on it.

In our second session, I was stunned that Ken had completely diffused his second most traumatic memory by tapping entirely on his own. He said since getting over “the kid” incident, and being without alcohol, and being able to sleep, he’d been tapping for himself and could now willingly (i.e. painlessly) think about the death of one of his closest friends. This friend (who was in his company in “the kid” story) had been blown apart by a rocket propelled grenade when their transport took a direct hit.

Ken laughed and said he expected me to try to “push his buttons” to test if he had completely resolved that traumatic memory. He said from our first session and from the watching 6 Days at the VA video he figured to do the process painlessly he should “tap on EVERYTHING no matter how minute because you never know what’s going to be important.” I tapped on myself as he told me the story. He said he’d tapped on every aspect he could think of, including: The smell of the camel crap. Being in the transport. The words being said and the feeling of his friend’s hand on his back pushing him forward as his friend tried to protect him from a rocket propelled grenade. The sound of the soldier’s voice. Being hit. Coming to consciousness outside of the transport. The smell of burning oil. The smell of gunpowder. Not being able to move due to his injuries, including having both shoulders dislocated. Looking for his friends. Hearing that his friend was dead; Hearing the words “K___’s down.” Calling for support. Having one of his company help him re-set one of his dis-located shoulders so he could shoot, since they were still under fire. “He’s still out there.” The sound of the words “Got him” when one of his company shot the man with the grenade launcher. Taking a memento from his dead friend’s body. The sight of his friend’s body as they waited for the Medevac. After resolving this memory himself, his self generated re-frame was: “We were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Practitioners will find it interesting that this Veteran was able to trouble-shoot his own tapping process. After tapping on the details of the story, it took tapping on the words “and then we were hit” for the story to lose the last of its charge. He said though the words weren’t part of the original story, he figured they had since become a trigger. Thorough testing showed his SUDS to be zero throughout. When asked if he had ANY intensity, he said that he absolutely had intensity and feelings, but now they were good feelings. For over 10 years “every part of the day was off limits because it was a chain of thoughts and once you started you couldn’t stop and it would always end badly.” He said that EFT had given him his friend back because now he has access to all of the good memories of their times together. He said he was tapping back up the other side of the valley.

After 3 hours of EFT coaching (and some obviously very effective personal work), his assessment scores show him to be free of PTSD symptoms (i.e., he has substantially sub-clinical PCL-M and SA 45 scores, with no insomnia.)

He explained that Vets diagnosed with PTSD are forced to either take drugs or take mandatory talk therapy, but that Vets don’t like to be told what to do. Specifically many don’t want to either be forced to take drugs or to be forced into talk therapy. In his personal experience of mandatory talk therapy, “they want you to tell all the details of the story over and over no matter how bad it feels, but with EFT you’re just never even allowed to get uncomfortable.”

He says Veterans are smart people who will take things in their own hands, given the tools. This explanation, together with Ken’s example, have changed my view of what is possible. I now tell new Veterans about Ken’s view of the willingness, capacity and self-reliance usually present in Vets. Anyone who’s been exposed to EFT can help put the tools in a Veterans hands by referring that Vet to the Veterans Stress Project for free EFT sessions. Ken asks “Where was this 11 years ago?”

In Ken’s words: “The war is just a training mission compared to the real battle: the personal combat that that starts when Vets come home and without EFT you go in unarmed.” He calls this experience with EFT “his Personal Stand Down” through which he’s finally been able to stop fighting the dreaming and stop fighting the memories. Ken credits his success to the high level of information provided and being given the DVD’s with which to tap along. He now practices EFT as a life skill and taps down his daily stressors.

This Veteran received help because a friend told him about EFT and the free sessions he could receive through the Stress Project. The Stress Project needs more volunteers to complete and publish the strong statistical proof of EFT’s effectiveness. I don’t know who receives the most benefit here, or Ken, or the Stress Project, or the Vets who’ll hear about EFT because of Ken, but it’s an interesting point to ponder.

In Ken’s word: “There’s no limit to how often a soldier will risk his life to bring an injured soldier back in from a battlefield.” He feels the same way about Veterans with PTSD. “If they have PTSD, they’re still out there, and we need to bring them back in.” He encourages any Veteran to try EFT and is available to talk with anyone about his own experience with EFT. For Ken’s phone number, contact Veterans Stress Project Coach Marilyn McWilliams at 503-281-0195 (Pacific Time) or email at

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