Long standing fears fade for a 19 year old gymnast

By Carol Look, EFT Master

I was recently referred a nationally ranked gymnast who has been struggling with an intense fear/phobia of back tumbling which is a major part of her gymnastics routine. She is 19 years old and has been competing in gymnastics since age 8. The executive coach hired by her parents to address the phobia referred her to me after hearing about my EFT work. In one 90-minute session, the young gymnast recovered from a 9 year-long phobia.

While the following is not an exact transcript of my session with Ann, it accurately reflects the sequence, the essence, the descriptions and details of our work together. I thought it would be helpful written in this format.

August 22, 2000

CAROL: Your coach told me you have a lot of fear about your back tumbling routine. Tell me what happens to you and what it feels like.

ANN: I just got the shivers when you asked me that. That’s how bad it is.

CAROL: On a scale of 0-10, where does it fit?

ANN: I would rate it a full “10” when I think about it now.

CAROL: Even though you’re not performing now?

ANN: Right. At least a “10.” Way up there.

—We started tapping as follows:

“Even though I’m afraid of back tumbling…” (one round, no 9-gamut)

CAROL: Now check in and reevaluate the “10” you felt before.

ANN: It’s definitely gone down to about an “8.”

CAROL: Good. Now tell me anything else that seems different about the fear when you imagine yourself doing your back tumbling.

ANN: Okay. Now I’m standing at the tumbling strip, my coach is saying ‘let’s go’ and I can see myself lifting up my arms to start, returning them to my sides, pressing my hands down, and taking the deep breath I take before I begin.

CAROL: What is all that?

ANN: That’s what I do in preparation, my pre-tuimbling moves.

CAROL: This is different than before?

ANN: Yes, before I could only see myself standing there, feeling afraid. Oh, and now I can see some of my teammates around me.

—Next round of tapping:

“Even though I’m still afraid of back tumbling and losing control…”

CAROL: Now tell me what’s happened to the “8” and tell me if anything else has changed.

ANN: It definitely went down again. Maybe a “6” or so. Okay, we’re in season now, because I can see we’re in a mock meet and all of my teammates are around me. My coach says, ‘let’s go” and I raise my arms, return them to my sides, take a deep breath and then take my first step to do my back flips. (I didn’t expect her to continue narrating her improvement by progressing through a positive frame-by-frame visualization of her routine.)

CAROL: And what’s significant about this scene?

ANN: I can actually see myself competing without being afraid. It also means I’m comfortable enough to be with my teammates. I’m usually too embarrassed when they see my fears.

—For the next two rounds we tapped for “Even though I dread doing back tumbling…and losing control…I deeply and completely accept myself.”

CAROL: Return to the same scene and tell me what you notice.

ANN: Now we’re all standing in a circle with our hands in the middle because we’re in competition! My coach says, ‘be great’ and I’m up first.

CAROL: Is that unusual?

ANN: Yes, I never go first.

CAROL: Okay, then what?

ANN: I make my salute to the judge, and I COMPLETE MY ROUTINE, and I’m really excited! I did it!

At first Ann’s face looked totally different. She was beaming.

Then she started crying with relief. She said she hadn’t felt this good since she was 10 years old. We did not rate any remaining fear; clearly her distress had subsided.

I then asked her to tell me what happened when she was 10. She reported that her coach had been verbally abusive, demanding that she do 100 situps whenever she felt afraid or hesitated at the back tumbling. She was able to talk about her coach without too much agitation until she linked her with her mother. Then she burst out crying and revealed how her mother had relentlessly pushed her, screamed at her, and punished her when she didn’t complete her routines. She described how her mother would wait for her every day during practice, looking through a window into the gym. Ann said she never understood what she had done wrong when her mother would scream at her in the car. She held out her hand and said, “Look, I’m shaking just telling you about it.” Her mother said phrases such as “You’re pathetic that you can’t do better…You do the same @#%# every day….You’re not the only one who’s going through this you know…”

—We tapped as follows:

“Even though I don’t understand why my mother made me feel this way…

“Even though I was afraid of her yelling at me…

“Even though I felt helpless against my mother…

“Even though the pitch of her voice was unbelievable…

—We tapped for several rounds. Then I asked her for a reevaluation, even though I had forgotten to get a SUD’s (0-10 intensity) level before tapping.

ANN: Now I’m not looking at her. I get into the car, turn on the music, ride home with her and go upstairs to do my homework.

CAROL: And tell me what’s significant about that.

ANN: It never went that way, but it makes me feel in control…like I have a choice…and my stomache just released the way my shoulders released during the first round. My face feels better too. It usually gets really tight when I’m upset.

CAROL: What’s next?

—We tapped for several more rounds on incidents between Ann and her mother that still left her shaking. Again, she narrated new scenes and felt in control.

ANN: The new images give me power and control, what I’ve been so afraid of losing since I was 10. I think that’s why I developed the phobia around that time.

CAROL: Okay. Now picture yourself in your gym back at college and tell me about anything that comes up that is disturbing or uncomfortable.

ANN: I don’t see myself as very confident., maybe only a “4” out of a possible “10.”

—We tapped on “Even though I have terrible self-doubts about my gymnastic talent…” We continued to tap until she could picture herself confidently completing her routine in her gym.

ANN: Now I’m wearing my favorite leotard, my head is up, I see my coaches’ pride, and the new freshmen say “you look great.” I’m at a “10” for confidence.

Ann had brought a 5 minute videotape of her gymnastic routines that she used as a type of performance portfolio to get into colleges. We viewed it 4 times in my office. I asked her to stop it anytime she felt a spike in her anxiety so we could tap for it. During the first viewing, she pointed out how her fear made her move too slowly in the forward tumbling and hesitate on the balance beam.

She tapped for her self-doubts and hesitation. The second time we viewed the tape, she tapped for her hesitation in the back tumbling. We tapped together until she said it looked like a past chapter in her life. She felt confident she no longer needed to tumble in a timid manner. While watching the tape for the third time, Ann tapped under her eye, her favorite spot, without using the reminder phrase, to clear out any remaining anxiety. The fourth and final time we watched the tape, she had me stop it when a friend landed off “the horse.”

ANN: Look there, see how my friend landed? Recently, she blew out both her knees because of how she landed and I still have nightmares about it. I’m afraid I’m going to do the same thing.

“Even though I’m afraid of blowing out my knees…

—“Even though I have this memory of my friend blowing out her knees…

We tapped until Ann could watch the whole tape without any feelings of discomfort or anxiety. (NOTE: I didn’t tell Ann that I no longer FAINT when I hear about someone’s knee injuries…a problem that has apparently faded even though I have never tapped for it directly. I had seen a friend high jump in 6th grade and “blow” her kneecap out. Unfortunately, I was still watching when the coach knocked her kneecap back in place. I’ve fainted 3 times in my adult life over “knee problems…”)

Ann practically did back flips when she left my office. She felt completely confident to return to college and compete on her gymnastics team. She left her tape with me and I gave her my one-page quick reference guide for EFT. She was exhilarated and said she planned to tell her OLYMPIC friends about the technique.

AUGUST 28, 2000

One week follow-up:

Ann called from college to ask a question about applying EFT to her doubts. She informed me she had her first practice that day.

CAROL: How did you do?

ANN: I was awesome!

CAROL: Great. What did your coaches think?

ANN: Only one female coach was there. When I finished my routine, she was blown away. She couldn’t stop talking about it. She said, “Who was that up there on the beam? You look like a new gymnast. What happened to you this summer? And where did you get all this confidence?


I thought this would be an informative follow-up to my post on Ann the gymnast.

After approximately 3 weeks of excellent gymnastics practices, Ann called me in a panic, telling me she had a “horrible” practice that day and had no idea what went wrong.

I asked Ann to describe what “horrible” meant to her. She said “I wasn’t myself” and had pushed herself relentlessly to do a back tumbling routine instead of admitting that she was having a “bad day.” She would not allow herself to back off and try again tomorrow. (This was the first time since our session that she had felt any hesitation or fear.) The experience spooked her, made her feel deeply fearful about future performances, and left her baffled as to why she would have had such a terrible practice. She also feared that all our work on her original phobic response had been “undone.”

We explored what happened during the day that might have contributed to her fears. She said she had become intimidated after noticing an extremely talented freshman gymnast. She was unable to shake the feeling of intimidation and became determined to “compete” despite her better judgment. As a result, Ann didn’t allow herself to back away from the tumbling mat when she should have, as she admitted all professional athletes need to do from time to time. She said she ignored her instinct to “call it a day” rather than push herself too far.

After we continued talking about her day, it seemed as if noticing the freshman gymnast was the only new emotional data that might have upset her and her energy system, however it still seemed unusual that she had such a strong reaction and was unable to calm herself down from obsessive competitive thoughts and feelings of inadequacy.

We tapped as follows:

“Even though I’m intimidated by Cathy, I deeply and completely accept myself….”

“Even though I’m afraid I’m not good enough, I deeply…”

“Even though I’m afraid of the competition, I deeply…”

“Even though I’m afraid to be beaten, I deeply…”

“Even though I need to be perfect all the time, I deeply…”

“Even though I hate myself for hesitating…”

“Even though I’m ashamed of myself for not being perfect…”

“Even though I feel inadequate…”

Throughout these rounds of setups and tapping, Ann narrated her progress the way she had in our original session. She eventually landed in an emotional place of “feeling happy for Cathy” and “saw” herself cheering her on in the gym, unafraid of any rivalry. Ann said she now had a feeling that “there was enough to go around” and felt fully confident in her own abilities.

We talked about why seeing the freshman’s performance had so unnerved her. She could not understand the strength of her reaction. It certainly was not the first time another superb gymnast had practiced with her.

Searching for an energy toxin, I asked Ann the following questions: “Have you eaten anything odd today, or used a new shampoo? Have you changed your perfume or were you wearing a new leotard?”

Ann replied, “That’s funny you should ask. I accidentally put on my friend’s cologne in the gym instead of my own and I couldn’t get the smell off of me all day. It was awful.”

We had stumbled upon the culprit, a foreign scent, that had disrupted Ann’s energy system so deeply that once she felt intimidated, she could no longer soothe herself with any of her traditional resources (including her new tool of EFT). While the feelings of fear and intimidation were real and needed tapping, the energy toxin had reversed her in such a deep way that she couldn’t correct her own energy system. In effect, she no longer had her wits about her, and had admitted “I didn’t feel like myself.”

We never actually tapped for the toxin itself. The tapping we did (over the telephone) left her feeling completely calm, reassured, and hopeful about her future performances. Ann no longer felt intimidated, scared, or self-hating (in fact she had a hard time thinking about the freshman gymnast and decided that the whole experience was trivial rather than traumatic) and was fascinated to learn about the power of energy toxins.



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