This week I have come to Deal, a small town in Kent. I’m here with three female cousins who I haven’t seen together for about twenty years. We’re renting a flat and and attending a course for the week, while the toddler/goblin plays with trains and paints with a childminder.
Every morning, toddler and I walk the coast road to the town hall. On the left there’s a line of grey sea mist, and on the right a line of pretty, old cottages with the occasional wooden boat in the window. I like peering in and imagining living there (with a nice fisherman of course).
It all feels dreamy and a bit of a crazy whim really. None of us can afford to be here but felt we couldn’t afford not to be either. Among us we are dealing with some of the most serious life challenges possible. This course offers nothing less than a promise of a way of healing ourselves, and others, of anything under the sun.
After one cousin’s Facebook recommendation, I’ve already dabbled. There are hundreds of clips on Youtube of the method we’re about to learn, called Faster EFT. I followed some of them and found them helpful enough to think there could be something interesting going on here.
But as we sit in the front row in the town hall, with about 50 others, I have my sceptics hat on. After all, if this really worked, why aren’t we all doing it already? The speaker is a charismatic American, Robert G Smith. He works the room with jokes, at the same time as imparting his philosophy of how our minds work, and how we can use the subconscious to overcome physical, mental and emotional problems.
One of the main principles is that ‘you are doing it to you’. This means that if there is anything unpleasant going on in your head, it’s your responsibility, because there is no-one else in there.
If we concentrate on the positive, Robert says, that’s what we’ll manifest in our lives and the same for the negative. I’ve heard that before and to be quite honest, it’s too airy-fairy for me. It sounds too glib and easy, and the implication seems to be that I wanted the difficulties of the past three years in my life. I didn’t. But Robert explains further, including how we can learn to release the negative, no matter how awful or deeply engrained.
He tells the entire hall that he is now too busy teaching to do private sessions, recounting how he told someone who had bugged him for months that if their list of memories/issues was entertaining enough he would see them. It wasn’t. He also describes himself as a bulldog when working. Sympathising is not part of this method, and after years of treating the most difficult problems imaginable, its creator is interested only in getting straight to the root.
When I’m not in the town hall, mulling over the powers of our subconscious, I’m sitting with my cousins having lunch in Deal’s delicious cake-filled cafes. My favourite is Pop Up Cafe. I’m so happy to be here, to have this time with these lovely women who share some of my root system.
As the week goes on I decide, despite my skepticism, that I need to give Robert my list, in case this really can help me change things for the better. I’m sweating as I hand it to him, garble something along the lines of could he have a look to see if it’s entertaining, and then scarper, relieved. He’ll say no but at least I’ll know I tried my best for my son.
I experience the method for the first time on Thursday, when another student practices on me. It’s a bit like swimming around in murky water, because I can’t feel anything. That’s normal for me, I cry a couple of times a year on average, but it’s frustrating because emotions are integral to the work. I console myself with custard creams in the coffee break. And then, looking out the window, notice I am actually crying.
On Friday, it’s my turn to work on someone, a woman with a mass of gorgeous curls and what she describes as pain all over her body. I’m guided by an experienced practitioner, who says we should choose one pain to start. We go for her foot, the worst. More than a decade ago a tendon in her right foot snapped, ending her dancing career. Walking has caused her pain ever since, and it’s getting progressively worse.
So, I do the stuff we’ve been taught. I ask for memories of when it happened, and what else was happening in her life. I identify the main emotions she was dealing with and then ask for earlier memories that also hold those emotions. There’s abandonment at the time of the injury, when her husband told her he had been having an affair and left her, and when she was tiny, being left at school for the first time.
Then we get going. I work for about 45 minutes. During this time, the woman’s feelings of abandonment disappear. She finds a teacher in her memory, who takes her hand in the classroom and makes her feel safe. I ask her to try to bring back the abandoned feeling. She can’t.
Then, we find her foot pain has gone. We watch her walk around the room going up on tippy toes, trying and failing to make it come back. She’s delighted. I am stunned and speechless and head for the custard creams. I am also terrified because Robert has just agreed that I can have a session the next day. Oh God.
Fast forward to a week later. It wasn’t that bad. I told Robert some major things I wanted to change, ‘So you basically want to sort out your life?’ ‘Err yes..’ We went through some early memories. I was still swimming through the murk but various sensations in my body dissolved. We found some sore spots, and I wanted to stand up and run for it a few times, but it felt gentle.
The next day, breathing was a different experience. I’ve had asthma since childhood and experienced a constant pressure in my chest. Not any more. When I got home and saw my family I felt ok. That, by the way, is an earthquake.
I tried it on Skype with an old school friend. She’d had messages from an abusive ex and was feeling pretty bad. I told her about what I’d learnt and she asked if I could just do it on her straight away. In seconds she was laughing.
A word just came back into my vocabulary. Hope.