War Trauma, Intra-Uterine Trauma and Energy Psychology Controversies

Repost from special articles section.

War Trauma, Intra-Uterine Trauma and
Energy Psychology Controversies
Maarten Aalberse
, Drs


Why did I go to Yugoslavia?

Personal reasons (friendship & I couldn’t stand watching CNN, knowing that quite something else was going on and had gone on before as well; some of this I will share with you during the presentation).

Humanitarian reasons.

I hope it also clarifies that therapy doesn’t take place in a vacuum, but that the process is largely shaped by social, cultural and political contexts.

And: it can be seen as a “field-experiment”. I hope to convince sceptical colleagues that EP works, also in much more challenging situations, such as in Yugoslavia, where a whole population has been terrorized and humiliated.

One example of how it has been received: a deeply depressed client that did a demo in the group, and then a follow-up session with his therapist asked: “Can we please use this energy-work again?”

His therapist was a highly competent practitioner and much loved by this client, already before his introduction to EP.

Later on I received many more reports such as these.

Well, if EP works in these very difficult situations, it really does deserve to be taken seriously, doesn’t it?


The error I made (will be told in greater detail during the presentation).

Being finally overwhelmed by “splitting mechanisms” (My colleague is all good, I’m all bad), I introduced a (very American-style) tape of Gary Craig, where he works with a Cambodian -vet (who bombed Cambodia!), without pre-framing this work by saying that this would be a very difficult tape to watch, given what everybody in Yugoslavia had gone through...

After the tape was over, there first was a deafening silence, then some people spoke in very incoherent fashion.

It all began to change when I said: “I realize that, by showing this video without a proper introduction, I have dropped an emotional bomb in this group”.

The following discussion was notably more coherent, and the group-dynamics changed further when my colleague led the group through a trauma-algorithm - a process in which I participated.

This was a turning point in the process: mutual distrust was transformed, my presentations and work was received much more fully than “before the incident”...

Sometimes, capital errors can be the best thing that can happen in a therapeutic process... (when these are acknowledged and processed as such, of course).


Why so much intra-uterine trauma?

When the womb of your mother country is being raped by “smart bombs”, when the water you drink, the food you eat, the air you breathe...

When you have tried to find shelter in a dark small cellar, or crouched under a table, while violence was all around you - this surely has resonances with intra-uterine traumatic states.

However, maybe something else was going on as well: the first time we went there, there was no way in which the collective shame (and the collective responsibility for what the Serbs had done) could be addressed.

I will show you a picture that shows how the posture, associated with shame, is almost identical with the foetus position. Now, this sheds a new light on this question...



Success and failure

As has been noted by some, rarely we find anything about failures in the literature, apart from mentioning that the client “had a deep reversal” or better still “had a deep ND”. Not only is this blaming the client, not only do we have (at least in principle) tools to correct these (WE have these, not “the establishment”). It also seems to suggest that failures are to be avoided.

I hope that my example of what happened in Yugoslavia illustrates another approach to failures...

Wouldn’t it be great if we can remain human, rather than aiming at “fail-proof technicians”?

And wouldn’t it be progress if, when somebody posts a failure case on one of the EP-lists, he gets other responses than: “I guess something like this happens to all of us every once in a while, but since I developed this wonderful new pattern, that’s something of the past”?

This is what happened to me, once. NB: NOBODY on the list protested against this response!

What are we to make of this?



that came up in Yugoslavia (and in other trainings).

I will just put down the questions here, hoping that some of you will “sit with these” a bit.


1) THE cause of emotional problems

It has been said over and over that: “The cause of emotional problems are perturbations in the thought field” (or blocks in the meridians, or some such).

If this is understood as “The client’s *own* energy causes, maintains, attracts the problems”, aren’t we hugely oversimplifying (what about ecological systems?)? Worse still aren’t we also promoting narcissistic omnipotence (“You are more powerful than everybody and everything around you”)?

And even though this is (*hopefully*) not our intention, how can we take care that the client doesn’t take it as such?

For those who are willing to be challenged here, please read (enjoy and blush!) Ken Wilber’s latest book “Boomeritis”.

If we understand the energy-field in a large sense (as the whole field), we end up saying something like: you problems are created by some dynamic somewhere (or even everywhere). How helpful is that as a working hypothesis?

Why not say just something like: “Stimulating specific acupoints while you think of your problem has been found to enable you to think of these in much more satisfying and creative ways?”

This is less esoteric, less sweeping, less mind-blowing... or is it, really?

Isn’t this all we know, isn’t that all a client needs to know, all our non-EP colleagues need to know?

And isn’t this what can get non-EP minded people interested?

And isn’t that in the interest of all?


2)  Causal diagnosis

The above also makes Callahan’s speaking (without blushing!) about “causal diagnosis meaningless.

How can we any way speak about “objective and causal diagnosis” in one paragraph, and in a next one use key-concepts from quantum physics...? The two are incompatible!

So, is it really strange that people who know a bit about recent fields of science shrug their shoulders when they read things like “objective causal diagnosis”?

How about seeing these “diagnostic” interventions as very powerful (suggestive) interventions? Wouldn’t that suffice to understand why Callahan’s diagnostic protocols have a higher success-rate than his algorithms?

So, when would it be appropriate to deliver indirect suggestions through these “diagnostic” procedures, and... when wouldn’t it?


3)         Muscle testing

I agree that sometimes the muscle test is the best we have, and yet some questions need to be asked:

What do we ask a client to do: to resist pressure,, to push back, to keep it strong, to hold?

And how can we know that the client is focusing on his problem, rather than on the way he has been instructed to resist the testers pressure?

Maybe the client just loves (unconsciously) to resist the therapist, because of what the latter said ten minutes ago? Or to give in to the therapist (and so “tests weak”)?


How can we know that the client is tuned into his problem at the precise moment of muscle testing? And how can we know that the client doesn’t think of the positive aspect of his problem, while the intention is to transform some negative aspect?

So what does it mean when the client tests strong? That the issue has been resolved, or...

Is the thought field of the client a closed field?

What does it mean, that the tester shouldn’t smile, while conducting the MT?

What about all the data about unconscious mutual influence?

So, how do we know to what extent the MT is influenced by the tester’s unconscious intentions (his counter-transference) - and what do we conclude from that?


So, what does it mean, when a client’s muscle tests weak (or strong, for that matter)?


How many among you have witnessed that, because the outcome of the test seemed so weird, the tester decided to “verify” and test once more? And on what basis this decision? And what message does the tester give, when he decides to verify?


4)            Reversal

What is reversed? Has it ever been seriously demonstrated that the “energy flows in a reversed direction?”

Who is “reversed”?

Reversed, in response to what?

Why speak about reversal (an incomprehensible concept, IMO based on dubious theory) while we have a concept that describes it so much better: “Incongruency” - and that most colleagues will understand :much better...?


5)         SUDs

Is change really such a linear process?

Aren’t there more comprehensive ways of measuring change?

If a client remains on a SUD-score of let’s say 8, does that mean that nothing has changed?

If we are aiming to go towards “zero SUD”, what is the implicit suggestion we are giving? And is that a wise suggestion?

If many client’s major problem frequently is a problem with communicating his emotional states creatively and adequately (this is not a wild hypothesis, I’d say), how much help does he get there when he learns to communicate his states in terms of numbers?


6)         Set-ups, affirmations and choices

What do we suggest to the client when we say: “You don’t have to believe this, just say it”?

If it is true that lack of self-acceptance is at the core of most problems, how accepting are WE (therapist) when we urge the client to say “I accept myself...”?

And what happens with the client’s shame (lack of self-acceptance), when he is urged to say: “I accept myself...”?


The choices-method (originally developed by Christine Sutherland) seems to avoid some of these problems, and is IMO a better alternative.

And yet, here too some questions need to be asked: who is the one that makes the choices? When the client has accessed a problem of his, is that the best state from which to make ecological choices?

And when, after EP treatment without choices (or other set-ups) the client comes to a more resourceful state, and then makes a choice that neither the client nor the therapist had considered before treatment (something I do find frequently), what do we conclude from that?

So, when to propose a “choice set-up”, and... when not?


1)                  Intentions

Most EP practitioners know that the intention with which EP is practiced, has a big influence on the outcome.

So why is it, that there has been so little mention of transference and counter-transference?

Or can we really believe that it are only the conscious intentions that count (when properly held); that these can override unconscious intentions (and thus transference/counter-transference dynamics).

Can somebody please show me some research that supports this “overriding potential”? I only know of research that contradicts it!



Meridian-and movement therapy

A “rebalanced energy system” will also lead to new and more coherent intention-movements.

However it is not sure at all that these new intention movements (and new bodily postures) get integrated in real life.

When the client “falls back” in his old movement-patterns, his “energy-system” will get unbalanced again - at least to some extent.

Therefore, I like to include movement work in the meridian-work, and encourage the client to practice the sequence of gestures at home (and work with what this brings up, the next session).

Here’s a simple PROTOCOL

1)      Identify the issue you want to explore

2)      Put the issue to the side for the moment, and do “balanced breathing” for two minutes

3)      Describe your bodily sensations

4)      Notice what shifts in your body, when you put the problem again in front of you

5)      Find the gesture that naturally evolves from this felt shift, feel this gesture ‘from the inside’, ‘taste’ it in as much detail as possible (felt gesture 1)

6)      Tap on the issue

7)      Notice what’s different in your body now, and find the corresponding gesture (felt gesture 2)

8)      Review: “I moved from gesture 1 to gesture 2. Notice that the more mindfully you move, the more slowly you’ll move, and vice versa.

9)      Tap on what emerges from here, feel what’s different, find new gesture, review the three gestures

10)  Proceed until it seems enough

11)  Review the sequence of gestures, and streamline the transitions

If there is enough time left, I will share a bit more of the osteopathic background of this gestural work.

Please note, that this work requires a lot of trust from the client, and that for many clients a minimally visible gesture can represent a huge internal shift. So don’t go for theater, go for mindfulness!


Maarten Aalberse

27 rue d’Esbly

F 77240 Cesson, France

Tel: + 33 1 64 41 96 36

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