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Childhood trauma: bilateral stimulation with “butterfly hug” and “reorientation in the present” against overwhelming anxiety

Deal with panic or fear to lose control using the “butterfly hug” and “reorientation in the present”

Anxiety: butterfly hug (BLS)

  • Despite your fear, try it: sit back comfortably, close your eyes and imagine a situation in which you feel completely comfortable and content. This can be an everyday or holiday situation, or even a fantasy situation.
  • Feel this situation with all your senses: What do you see, hear, and smell, what time of day or season is it, what bodily sensations are associated with that…? 
  • When you feel the situation intensely, start by crossing your arms and tapping your upper arms alternately right – left.
  • Enjoy how the pleasant feeling intensifies and spreads through your body.
  • After a short time, open your eyes again and write down how you experienced it. 

Note: Please only perform the butterfly hug for as long as it feels good. If anxiety, negative associations or negative emotions arise, stop the exercise by opening your eyes.

Anxiety: reorientation in the present 

We are sometimes unintentionally “attacked” by fear, bad thoughts, and expectations in stressful situations. In order not to be helplessly at the mercy of this, the following exercise can help. 

This exercise is a modification of a technique from trauma therapy (CIPOS: Constant Installation of Present Orientation and Safety). You can thus learn to stay in control when you consciously make contact with fears.

The idea is to close the eyes and only think about the stress (the fear/trauma/apprehension) for short sequences (between three and ten seconds): 

  • Decide how many seconds (from 3 to 10) you want to think about the load.
  • Then close your eyes and think of your fear or stress (“the possible separation”, “the upcoming surgery”) and then say the agreed seconds (e.g. if four seconds were agreed: one … two … three … four), 
  • Open your eyes again.
  • The next step is to initiate reorientation in the present by now naming aloud three objects in the room that you see (e.g. the lamp, the floor, the bag).
  • This involves reinforcing the perception of the present with brief bilateral stimulation (BLS) by tapping your knees or upper arms alternately right and left even as you say what you perceive.
  • Then ask yourself how many seconds you want to think about the burden (this is named again) etc.

This alternation of second confrontation and reorientation in the present occurs three times in a row. 

You can use this technique whenever you feel intense anxiety or fear of loss of control.


Diegelmann, C., Isermann, M., Zimmermann, T.: Therapie-Tools Psychoonkologie. Beltz, Weinheim 2020.

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