An EFT training mission was undertaken in Port-au-Prince from 2 to 9 March 2011. Close to 300 people were initiated in the use of EFT by our voluntary therapist Jean-Michel Gurret, a certified trainer in EFT, which has proved to be highly effective in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Our first contact with the population clearly revealed the need to help these people, by means of a therapeutic approach capable of alleviating their intense emotional distress. This was confirmed by many trainees during a day devoted to consultations that Jean-Michel and I had to improvise at their request.
The 12 January 2010 earthquake had revived the pain embedded in the bodies and minds, in fact in the very soul and history of the Haitian people, most of whom had lost a father, mother, brother or sister well before the disaster. This became increasingly clear during our consultations: “… being alive is shameful… one always feels filled with a strong feeling of shame… I wasn’t lucky to live through the 12 January earthquake like my brothers… my mother died when I was eight and I’d have liked to join her during the earthquake… I tried to strangle myself with my T-shirt when I was under the rubble…”.
The day after our arrival, as we drove through the city to the venue of the training, we were struck by the hostile looks of the people we saw: empty looks, as if these bodies were devoid of humanity to confirm that they were indeed alive. The aggressiveness was palpable, and our weak smiles met with no reaction whatsoever behind those blank stares. We felt uncomfortable and somewhat apprehensive. The constant repetition of suffering had probably cut these people off from their emotions, as a means to carry on living. In these conditions it is highly likely that the slightest disagreement will trigger uncontrolled violence, and local psychologists confirmed this. That violence was also evidenced in the machetes planted in bare tree trunks, the armed guards outside banks, the buildings destroyed by the earthquake, and everywhere in the city the presence of UN peacekeeping forces. Haitian intellectuals are revolted by the presence of these Blue Berets in their country which is not at war and in which the majority of people live in abject poverty. Rumour has it that 70% of the donations received in the country after the earthquake are allocated to their salaries and perhaps to the operating costs of the big NGOs – evidenced in their brand new pick-up trucks that drove past us!
In this setting, the training was held in a protected enclave in which the heads of the seminary in charge of 300 seminarists, Fathers Harold Durosier and Clark De La Cruz, welcomed us. The seminar took place under a large canopy outside – not only for convenience. As people are still traumatized by the earthquake, it is difficult if not impossible for some of them to stay in a building for any length of time. We were to learn later that this was also why tents were set up near there, for accommodation. Two days before our arrival a slight earth tremor had triggered scenes of panic among the seminarists: “they were shouting, pushing one another, some even fought…”, Father Harold explained. Later we witnessed this traumatic imprint when an airplane flew over the site. In unison the seminarists let out a whistling, meaning their terror as they hunched over, holding their head in their hands. Jean-Michel urged them to tap on the emergency spot on their body.
The beginning of the training was strongly tainted by reserved attitudes. Very little response to the interaction that Jean-Michel tried to initiate was forthcoming. But at the tea-break our impression proved to be completely wrong when both of us were swamped by the participants who wanted to ask us questions that they hadn’t dared to ask in the class, despite our invitation for them to do so. I noted down their questions, which I then answered at the beginning of each session so that the entire group could benefit. Their interest grew rapidly following our demonstrations done on the participants, spontaneously chosen by their superior, at least initially.
From a therapeutic point of view a keen interest was shown, even though at first the trainees had perceived us as yet another team of therapists to whom they were given the opportunity of talking about their respective experiences of the earthquake. For them this meant telling their story yet again in a painful environment where everyone was very modest about their suffering: others’ pain was always worse than their own!
EFT rapidly changed how they felt about things. To explain how the technique uses the energy of our bodies, Jean-Michel demonstrated that energy by asking everyone to hold hands in a circle. Two of the participants held a small ball in which a light went on when this human circle was closed, and off when one of the links was broken.
As the trainees’ interest was captivated their trust grew. They started to smile back at us, their eyes conveying approbation, and soon the human warmth was palpable. They also started to talk more. Emotions are difficult to access in this population whose suffering has made people very modest, but the magic of EFT worked! Three days later we heard the seminarists talking to their companions about their highly personal experiences of the earthquake and the loss of their families and friends. They shared their pain, speaking about their sadness and their wounds. I was surprised, and they confirmed that this had not previously been possible. The experience was indeed very new.
That evening we were invited to join their noisy, festive, traditional carnival where we danced one of our traditional French dance!!