TFT in a Hostile Environment

The Beat of a Different Drum

By Guy Marriott

Another volley of gunfire drifted up from the valley as I stared at the battered map and mentally logged the tracks and wadis that were still passable in our four-wheel drive vehicles. I was hoping for an easy answer as to which route might offer a rapid and safe evacuation corridor if the fighting got out of hand.

I gazed at the sun tracing its final descent through troubled skies, momentarily transfixed. And once again I found myself considering how much violence the 30-odd people in my care could or even should endure before I would call ‘time’ and override their desire to stay and help the fifty thousand people that had made it to the refugee camp to the east of us.

There are so many things that you need to consider in a hostile environment: Everything from the skills and abilities of yourself and the people around you to the strategic decisions of rebel leaders.

I often say that working in hostile environments is a lot like white-water rafting…

  • You need to be good at reading the water upstream—understanding what kind of rapids you may face and how you’re going to deal with the flow.
  • You need to be good at paddling in the white water—when you hit them, hostile environments become highly dynamic.
  • You need to be good at making the most of your downstream time—after you’ve paddled the rapids, understanding what you did well and what you need to do better next time.
  • And finally, you need to be good at thinking outside the box—to see other options and other possibilities, perhaps getting out of the water and hauling your raft safely past unnecessary risks.

Many of the skills that enable people to operate safely in hostile environments come from the military. Many skills—sadly less often taught—help us understand two-legged mammals.

Operators in this field are often naturally good at sensing their opponent’s intention and understanding the software that drives human beings. They may be good at reading people’s eyes, or hearing beyond the words that are spoken, or feeling and perceiving things that are somehow there, yet remain invisible.

All situations are invariably different in hostile places and sadly there is often no single ‘right answer.’ What works safely in one country might be dangerous in another.

I’m lucky enough to have traveled pretty extensively throughout the world and have seen many things that I long to see again—and many things that I never want to see again.

I now divide my time between operating in hostile places and teaching those skills to others. The people I train come from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), government agencies and corporations. The skills we teach include things that you’d expect—like Anti-Ambush Drills, Mine Awareness, Checkpoint Procedures and Surveillance.

Many people are surprised to learn that TFT has a place within our core skills modules. Yes, we really do show TFT to big, rough, soldier-type people! And most, I’m happy to say, really appreciate it—mainly because TFT is highly effective and works for them.

My company, Ground Truth Consulting, runs 5- to 10-day Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) programs. They are highly experiential and very realistic. We demonstrate the basic TFT trauma sequences for our participants—usually after we’ve let them experience the shock of capture and hostage-taking for themselves. We demonstrate the impact of trauma on people and we combine TFT with Critical Incident Debriefing techniques.

Many of our government clients were skeptical of TFT at first. However, because our training is realistic and often triggers memories of trauma, we know that the participants—particularly those who have already been through the classic hostile-environment cocktail of fear and trauma on a previous assignment or mission—will actually experience TFT working on their own trauma and get tremendous benefit from it.

I often see post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms being masked by people working in hostile environments—masked by nicotine, caffeine and alcohol. Even in safe training environments, we know that some people will re-experience trauma and stress-induced responses when they undergo realistic training.

All of our training team are qualified medics and—having seen TFT used over the years (even with the most skeptical ex-military types)—they all understand that knowing the TFT tapping sequence for trauma is as essential as carrying a ballistic trauma pack in places where the AK47 rifle is common!

I personally have used TFT all over the world to great effect, on every continent except Antarctica. It’s a fantastic tool because it is culturally mobile; it works beyond language—an enormously limiting factor for interventions which use cognitive psychological techniques.

Whether I have used TFT post-earthquake, post-crossfire, post-bombardment or even due to something farther back in time and less obvious, TFT has been a tool that I’m incredibly grateful for.

The last time I used it in a training program was with someone who had been kidnapped from Darfur in Sudan only a month before. They had suffered through mental, physical and emotional violence including being forced to endure mock executions. Another person in the program had been kidnapped 13 years earlier. During both treatments, their SUDs came down to 1 and 2 respectively after just 5 minutes using TFT.

We intend to keep promoting TFT as one of the most valuable tools for teams and individuals working in hostile environments. As I write this, I am thinking about what to pack for my next trip, tomorrow night to Zimbabwe; another country on the brink of violent collapse. One thing that I am grateful for is that I will never forget to pack my working knowledge of TFT.

I’m constantly amazed at what it does and how well it works. Even under fire.

Excerpted from Callahan Techniques’ latest book, The Tapping
Solution: Tapping the Body’s Energy Pathways

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