by Robert Schwarz, PsyD, DCEP
I recently gave a 20 minute TED-style talk on energy psychology at the Psychotherapy Networker conference. One of the major differences of an energy psychology approach is in the recognition that traumatic events are not the real source of clients’ problems. It is not the event itself that causes the problem. If it were, the resulting PTSD or other symptoms could never be healed. The real source of the problem is an energy disruption in the system.
“Traumatic events” are events whose “objective” characteristics are highly likely to create energy disruptions. This includes acts of violence, for instance. But what does that relationship between the characteristics of an event and the formation of energy disruptions look like? Some people experience very traumatic events and seem to be “okay” whereas others experience relatively minor events that create massive difficulties.
While preparing for the talk, I was reflecting on a simple way to explain this phenomena when I realized that it could be expressed in a mathematical formula!
Let’s unpack this.
ET E stands for event and the superscript T is the degree of traumatic intensity. This variable is a measure of the “objective” traumatic intensity of a given event. Being violently raped is more objectively negative than being yelled at by your mother.
RAP R stands for resources. AP refers to resources available to the person at the time of the ET.
In the formula above, we see a ratio of the amount of negativity/toxicity in a given event and the amount of positive resources available to process the event. If there are not enough resources available to process the event, an energy disruption in the system forms.
The more that ratio goes above one the greater the intensity of the energy disruption. This is expressed below. (ED = energy disruption; I = intensity)
This formulation accounts for the many individual differences that occur when and if people have a negative reaction to a specific event. Highly resourceful people are often not traumatized by negative events because they have sufficient resources to “handle” things. But sometimes sufficient resources are not available and the event becomes “traumatic”. For people with fewer resources many things become “traumatic” and their vulnerability to becoming traumatized tends to get worse over time. This explains why more general energetic and consciousness approaches (such as mindfulness) can be effective – they increase access to resourceful states of mind. In other words, they increase the denominator of the ratio so that the final product heads below 1.0. Working on specific events with TFT or EFT also works on the denominator because they help restore energy flow as the person engages the traumatic memory.
This brings us to a deeper understanding of how energy, resources and memory work. Once the event happens in time and an energy distortion is created, that distortion loops back and reduces the availability of resources when the memory comes up. This process continues to occur as time moves on. If the recursive looping continues to degrade resource availability, the person is more and more likely to develop symptoms. We can express this using the formula below.
It is not hard to see how, over time, this formula for one event, or a memory of an event, would get linked up to other “traumatic events” to create associative chains and loops that eventually coalesce into behavioral patterns, schemas or beliefs. These in turn can create more and more negative spirals of increasing dysfunction.
Our job as healers is to use our approaches to restore natural and healthy energy flow in such a way that eventually positive healing spirals begin to emerge and grow. I did not have time to talk about any of this during my twenty minute TED-style talk. So I thought I would share it with you here. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Robert Schwarz, PsyD, DCEP
Executive Director, ACEP
Author, Tools for Transforming Trauma
Follow us on: twitter @energy_psych
Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/energypsych
Register for the 17th annual energy psychology conference at energypsych.org/2015conference