Have you heard about Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or Tapping? Nick and Jessica Ortner recently hosted the Ninth Annual Tapping Summit which explored many possible ways this method helps you deal with stress, physical issues, anxiety, grief, guilt, depression, relationships, work challenges, parenting, and trauma. All of these benefit from Tapping’s almost-immediate calming of your nervous system.
It’s amazing how pairing negative experiences and emotions with a calm body allows you to engage the thinking part of your brain, the pre-frontal cortex where clearer ideas are generated. When stressful experiences (in or outside your body) trigger your sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, or freeze) it’s almost impossible to think rationally. The limbic system, the area of the brain that produces emotions and stores long term memories, reacts to new information much faster than the thinking part of your brain; so, you can get emotionally hijacked before you are able to think things through.
Tapping allows you to quickly calm the body sending messages to your limbic system that you’re safe. It also ratchets down the production of adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones). Once you’re calmer you can figure out what to do.
Paradoxically, the first things you tap on are negative thoughts or feelings. Next are your bodily sensations. This is allows you to fully acknowledge what bothers you and to clear it before tapping on your resilience, strengths, and positive intentions.
At first, Tapping looks a little weird. You tap on a series of meridian points. Here’s a video to explain the basics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAclBdj20ZU.
YouTube has hundreds of Tapping videos. I recommend Jessica Ortner, Nick Ortner, Brad Yates, and Steve Wells. Tapping may look as if it follows a script, but it actually works best when you substitute your words, based on your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and history for those the presenters use. This takes some practice. A bit easier if you learn the formula first. Tapping can be incredibly creative. It also blends very well with Internal Family Systems therapy (IFS), or parts work.
One of the major tenets of tapping is the idea that pairing a calmer body with your negative or upsetting thoughts actually lowers their emotional charge. This enables you to talk about anything without feeling hijacked by your sympathetic nervous system. If you do get upset, take a detour and tap on being upset (how it feels in your body, what exactly those “upset” emotions are, how they might have been triggered in the past, and when you first noticed them). After you calm down, you can go back to where you were with your original topic, or just enjoy the peace.
Here’s a quick primer to entice you to try this potentially powerful technique. It can clear psychological, emotional, and even some physical issues when done regularly.
The physical part of Tapping is incredibly easy to learn, but the accompanying words are harder to master. With practice, you can design your own script. The Tapping Solution website has free downloadable scripts to get you started.
When using led tapping sessions, like those on YouTube or the Tapping Summit, say whatever words feel true to you. Feel free to play around with the way you express yourself so it reflects your beliefs and values, not those of the person leading the session. Be patient, this takes practice. If it seems daunting call a therapist who can guide you based on your unique experiences. It makes all the difference when you customize the practice to you, rather than fitting your thoughts and feelings to someone else’s template. That said, those videos can be a fantastic place to start, both as introductions to tapping and jumping off points for your own work.
If the set-up statement, usually framed like: “Even though…I have this rage towards my boss (for example), I can still deeply and completely love and accept myself,” annoys you because you’re not feeling accepting or loving towards yourself, change it. Try: “Even though…I have this rage towards my boss, I choose to feel calm.” Or: “Even though…I have this rage towards my boss, I can still cultivate compassion for myself.” There’s a lot of room for flexibility and creativity with EFT. You can even just tap and rant, or do the tapping without words while watching TV. It’s also helpful to gently press each tapping point while you take a slow, deep diaphragmatic breath. (Here’s a link to diaphragmatic breathing: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/diaphragmatic-breathing.)
One of the most powerful ways to use tapping is when you find yourself getting tense or upset about something. As soon as you realize your emotional temperature is rising start tapping. You can assess how well the technique works by assigning a number from 1-10 to the intensity of your reaction, whether it’s a physical feeling, like neck tension, stomach clenching, a headache, or an emotion. After a few rounds of tapping reassess your comfort level on that same scale of 1-10. If it hasn’t gone down as much as you like tap until it does.
You can tap on events or experiences from the past, emotions (both past and present), physical pain and your feelings about it, issues in relationships, addictions, things you might be trying to avoid, or current sensations in your body. All will lead you to insights you couldn’t have predicted, as well as a calmer nervous system. The more you practice tapping the greater its impact, since you’re creating new neural pathways that associate tapping, talking, and greater peace.
Some people think tapping on negative thoughts, feelings, or even physical pain, will only attract more misery. Nothing could be further from the truth. What you resist persists. Tapping when you are angry or upset releases its emotional charge, even if what you are tapping on happened decades ago. Bottling up your feelings almost always insures they will surface some other way.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang