Newtown resident Nick Ortner has written a book he believes can help empower the community, and be a tool to move forward through the trauma of 12/14.
The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System For Stress-Free Living was released April 2, 2013, by Hay House, Inc Publishing, and has spent the past three weeks in either the number five or six spot on The New York Times “Advice” Bestsellers list.
“It’s definitely great to see it there,” said Mr Ortner, in an interview, Tuesday, May 14.
Tapping, also known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), is a method of relieving physical and mental pain through a simple pattern of tapping on particular points in the body known as meridian endpoints, in conjunction with customized spoken or silent scripts. Rooted in the ancient Chinese practices of acupuncture and acupressure said to realign energy lines in the body for healing, EFT was popularized more recently by the work of American psychologist Roger Callahan in the 1980s. Dr Callahan combined tapping on meridian points while focusing on a particular problem.
It is this combination of self-directed, noninvasive therapy that Mr Ortner clarifies in The Tapping Solution.
“I think people are more open every day to techniques they can use to improve their lives. Stress is through the roof for people,” said Mr Ortner. “This is one that people can learn quickly, get relief, and have the experience,” he said, while admitting that the process is considered an unorthodox therapy.
“For the educated, trained mind, I think it falls into the ‘too good to be true’ category. But research is starting to come in showing clinical results,” said Mr Ortner. “Hopefully, this is the tipping point now.”
The age-old response to external threats is known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction. The body prepares to take on a threat by increasing adrenaline, tensing muscles, and raising blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar, explains Mr Ortner in The Tapping Solution. “Today, however, the fight-or-flight response is rarely activated by a physical threat. Most of our fight-or-flight responses today are triggered internally,” writes Mr Ortner, through negative memories or thoughts with roots in past trauma. The body responds the same to external or internal triggers.
Modern daily life contributes a significant number of small internal experiences that trigger low-grade responses. It is the cumulative effect on the body and mind that contribute to distress that can be relieved by tapping. “What tapping does, with amazing efficiency,” Mr Ortner writes, “is halt the fight-or-flight response and reprogram the brain and body to act — and react — differently.”
As to whether tapping is a “Hallelujah!” moment in which crutches cast aside must once more be taken up when the excitement wears off, Mr Ortner does not believe so. Research continues to support the science behind the mind/body connections influenced by tapping, he said, and while each person’s relief varies, he has seen many instances in which relief is found in minutes, and does not return.
It is the tiny amygdala in the midbrain that signals the brain to prepare for fight-or-flight, and research at Harvard Medical School over the past decade has shown that stimulation of selected meridian acupoints decreases activity in the amygdala, he said. The Harvard study focused on stimulation with needles, but other studies “have shown that tapping may in fact work better than needles in the treatment of anxiety disorders.” Tapping, said Mr Ortner, tells the amygdala that it can deactivate, decreasing stress.
Utilizing scripts that focus on negative thoughts or memories while tapping further releases and clears unprocessed emotions. It is a process contrary to other popular self-help methods that stress positive thinking.
Negative thoughts are “the truth about how we feel,” and must be addressed in the short term to heal the body, said Mr Ortner. “Then we move on to positive statements to reinforce new ways of thinking,” he said.
A graduate of Trinity College in Hartford where he studied religion, Mr Ortner was in the web design and real estate investing businesses before devoting himself to promoting EFT.
He first used tapping in 2004 to relieve his own intense neck pain, having read about it previously. He was amazed by the results. Gradually, he began using it more on himself, friends, and family. So impressed was he by the results he saw for both physical and mental issues that he decided in 2007 — with no experience — to film a documentary. The Tapping Solution documentary chronicled the stories of real people and their results, and led to his production of a yearly online event, the Tapping World Summit, attended by half a million people.
The popularity of the summit, in turn, was encouragement to write the book. Begun in 2011, the book was at the publisher when the events of 12/14 occurred. It is coincidental that its release dovetails with a time when Mr Ortner feels the solution can be particularly beneficial to Newtown and Sandy Hook residents still reeling from the events of that day.
“It is a good opportunity to help other people and reach them at this time,” he said, noting that there are often “second, third, and fourth waves of trauma that happen [following a tragedy]. People are wondering ‘What do I do in this different world in which I now live?’ Summer is coming, and that changes things, too. There is not the stability of school and routines,” he said.
Mr Ortner has already seen that tapping can aid those affected directly by 12/14.
Just one day after the shootings, he was on the phone with EFT leaders around the world. “We know it works in tragic situations,” said Mr Ortner. Project Light Rwanda uses EFT to help genocide survivors in that country recover; TREST Aid teaches EFT to Indonesian earthquake survivors; the Stress Project assists Vietnam and Iraq veterans in resolving PTSD; and the Oaxaca Project supports cancer victims to promote healing.
At Mr Ortner’s request and on his dime, psychotherapist Lori Leyden, who uses EFT in her work with the Project Light genocide survivors, arrived in Newtown on December 18, to assist in bringing relief through tapping to the community.
“We decided we would figure this out as we went along; there was no protocol for this. We knew there were many people eager and well intentioned [offering ideas on how to help]. Our approach was to get a feel for what was going on, and work first with those people who came to us naturally,” said Mr Ortner.
Looking For Relief
Through his extensive e-mail list generated by the Tapping World Summit, and word of mouth, Dr Leyden and Mr Ortner reached several in Newtown seeking relief. One of them was Scarlett Lewis, the mother of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who died at Sandy Hook School.
“I had been introduced to tapping before. My dad had seen the Tapping Summit. I had looked at a video or two — and this was years ago — and put it away completely,” said Ms Lewis. When a friend mentioned tapping for stress relief, about a month after the shootings, she was open to trying it.
“When you are in this kind of a situation, you’ll try just about anything to give you relief, anything to help us regroup after this horrible, personal tragedy,” she said. Ms Lewis had tried psychiatry, psychotherapy, and rapid eye movement therapy with only minimal relief.
Dr Leyden and Mr Ortner led her through a tapping session. “I was having anger and was able to tap through that anger that I believe was masking my grief. Anytime we go through a trauma and don’t deal with it, there are more layers. It makes it more difficult when another trauma happens,” said Ms Lewis.
In that first 40-minute session, she found relief. “I was able to work through the layers of trauma I’ve had in my life and deal with this one. I was truly surprised at how quickly I moved through my anger to get to the other side,” she said. The relief she has felt, using tapping, has helped in all aspects of dealing with the trauma of losing Jesse. “It has helped in accepting my grief, in sleeping, and in communicating with my son, J.T.,” said Ms Lewis.
A longtime sufferer of panic attacks, Ms Lewis has also tapped her way out of full-blown attacks. Waking one night with a panic attack upon her, “All I had left was to tap. I tapped myself out of the panic attack and back to sleep, within ten minutes,” she said.
While J.T., 12 years old, has been more reluctant to try tapping, she feels that he has been helped by it in a more circuitous route.
“Dr Leyden suggested tapping with the Rwandan genocide survivors. The ambassadors there reached out through a Skype session at our house and spoke with J.T. They let him know that healing was possible through faith and love — and that they tap. The experience these tapping people brought to him was amazing. You look at these beautiful individuals, filled with loving light, and sharing how they overcame and survived their experiences… It brought us a huge level of perspective,” Ms Lewis said, and taught them the value of forgiveness.
“Forgiveness is really for you, so that you don’t walk around with that anger,” she said.
The Skype session inspired J.T. to return to school, and spearhead a fundraiser to send the Rwandan children to college. Two weeks ago, he Skyped with the Rwandan tappers again. He had raised enough money to send one of them to college for a year. Of the $2,000 raised, $1,600 will pay for “Betty’s” schooling, and the remaining $400 will support her family while she is at school.
“Both of us are learning the benefit of healing through service to others,” Ms Lewis said. Shortly after Jesse’s death, she founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation to introduce compassion and values-based programs into schools worldwide, and to create awareness “to let people know we are not the 60,000 thoughts each of us has each day. We have control over out thoughts and control of our futures. We choose love over anger,” she said.
She has found inspiration in a message Jesse scribbled on the family chalkboard in 6-year-old phonetic spelling, just days before 12/14: “Nurturing, Healing, Love.”
They were not words she would have expected of her youngest child. “I believe it was a spiritual message through Jesse for his family, and as inspiration to the world,” said Ms Lewis.
It is prolonged anger and feelings of victimization that turn to rage, and ultimately lead to actions such as devastated Sandy Hook School in December, she said, and she is hopeful that the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation, with the assistance of Professor Kukk from the University of Connecticut and foundation board member Maya Soetoro-Ng, President Barack Obama’s sister, can help prevent further tragedies.
Royalties from the sales of the first 15,000 copies of The Tapping Solution support the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation.
“Even though I’m a private person,” said Ms Lewis, “I’m willing to tell this, because it does work. I think it would be a great asset for children to have. They can learn [tapping], take it home with them, and use it to find relief. It’s free, and you can use it the rest of your life.”
Mr Ortner said that Sandy Hook School survivors, staff, and families, as well as first responders have been among those that he and Dr Leyden have introduced to tapping. Unlike therapies that have visited Newtown since 12/14, the Tapping Solution is a part of the Newtown community, said Mr Ortner.
“I live in Newtown. It’s my town, and I’m not going anywhere,” he said.
Along with Dr Leyden, Mr Ortner has opened an office at 91B Church Hill Road in Sandy Hook Center, where they will provide free lessons in tapping to anyone desiring to learn, and train others to teach tapping. Appointments for tapping sessions can be made by contacting Newtown@thetappingsolution.com. The tapping sessions are paid for through The Tapping Solution Foundation.
“We would love to see local psychologists and therapists explore this as an addition to what they are doing. With tapping, the key component is the mental and physical change in perspective. It’s pretty magical,” said Mr Ortner.
Mr Ortner can be seen in a July 15 segment of The Dr Oz Show on Fox 25, discussing The Tapping Solution. He has been a regular speaker at Hay House live events in Vancouver, Canada; Atlanta, Ga.; Austin, Texas; and New York City.
The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System For Stress Free Living is available at www.amazon.com, at area Barnes & Noble book stores, and other independent book stores.
“Our motto,” said Mr Ortner, “is to create a system where we empower people in town to be able to help each other and help themselves.”