Richard moved from a crippling fear of spiders to curiosity about whether it would ‘tickle’ to have them run along his arm.
Nori found herself laughing aloud at her father’s immaturity, instead of crying as usual at memories of physical abuse at his hands.
There had been no medical intervention, no endless hours with a psychotherapist, and no medications involved, yet each of them have successfully defeated their troubling emotions. When combined with new research, these powerful anecdotes suggest that such rapid and long-term healing is possible. What’s more, it is the result of literally tapping into a system of energy that already exists within each of us. Too good to be true? But Richard’s story is actually my own. I overcome my fear due to my surprising encounter with an ancillary therapy called Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT.
EFT is an alternative therapy that belongs to the new area of speciality called Energy Psychology, which focuses on how your body’s unique energy can dramatically affect your emotional health, your success in the world, and your level of personal joy and wellbeing. As a field, Energy Psychology is both new and well-received. The journal Clinical Psychology describes it as “an exciting and rapidly developing realm,” concluding that “emerging research suggests that [Energy Psychology’s] methods are very effective indeed, extremely rapid, and thoroughly gentle.”
Most techniques that fall under its umbrella—EFT included—are at least partially founded on the ancient Chinese medicine theory involving the circulation of energy in the body. Just as fluids flow through our body [i.e. blood, lymph], an unseen system of energy circulates, as well. Eastern medicine has long acknowledged the presence of this energy flow and has, over 5,000 years, steadily perfected its approach to utilising these energies to affect health and healing. Acupuncture and acupressure are part of this long legacy. The latest ‘cousin’ in the family, EFT is rapidly gaining respect and validity as a tool for quick, efficient, and relatively painless healing.
The primary principle of EFT is that all emotional disturbances are caused by a disruption in the body’s energy system. It follows that smoothing out or ‘fixing’ that disruption should ‘heal’ emotional troubles. This makes it an excellent ancillary therapy for depression, anger, jealousy, phobias, paranoia, addictions, performance anxiety, low self-esteem, and a host of other mental and emotional ailments.
But EFT also connects the brain with this dynamic energy system. In their groundbreaking book, The Promise of Energy Psychology, authors David Feinstein, Donna Eden, and [EFT creator] Gary Craig explore the connection between the human brain and emotional health. They conclude that “every thought or emotion that you experience causes a reaction in a specific area of your brain.” Through EFT, practitioners help patients shift their brain’s response to external and internal stimuli. As a result, things that used to emotionally disturb a person, suddenly elicit a more rational emotional response. [Remember my spider phobia?]
Another reason EFT may help heal physical maladies is that it smoothes out the energy system in the body. People with significant health issues may have developed a disturbance in their energy system. Recalibrating the energy flow with regard to the illness or disease in question may allow the body to more easily heal and rejuvenate itself.
Granted, EFT may not cure every ailment and situation, but the ease of its use, the painlessness of its delivery, and the odds of its success certainly make it worth investigating.
As an advanced practitioner, I will certainly suggest that a positive outlook or ‘hope’ may increase a patient’s rate of success due to the power of intention, but I have yet to see proof that incredulity keeps EFT from working its magic at least on some level.
Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects of EFT is its simplicity and non-invasiveness. At the centre of EFT is a working knowledge of what are called the body’s acupoints. There are at least 360 acupoints distributed throughout the body, tiny areas of the skin that, when stimulated, send signals directly to areas of the brain that are connected with our emotions and our bodies’ energy systems. MRIs have demonstrated that “stimulating specific points on the skin not only changed brain activity; it also deactivated areas of the brain that are involved with the experiences of fear and pain.” Further, working with acupoints has been shown to increase the release of serotonin [a natural, beneficial neurochemical], necessary from a neurochemical standpoint to minimise depression, addictions and mood disorders.
With EFT, however, you take two fingers of one hand and use them to conduct a series of gentle taps on only a handful of these points to provide an incredible healing journey.
Perhaps just as important as the tapping itself is the Set-Up Phrase used to isolate and address the issue in question. This phrase is typically comprises two parts: the statement of the problem, and a positive affirmation. For example, if you are working with a fear of spiders, you would start with the phrase: “Even though I am terrified of spiders.”
This establishes the problem and helps trigger your body’s subtle energies surrounding this issue. The next step in the Set-Up Phrase process, however, is to tell your body/mind that, regardless of the issue, it is loved and accepted: “.I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”This entire phrase—”Even though I am terrified of spiders, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”—simultaneously addresses the issue and primes the energy system for what I like to think of as ‘recalibration. Essentially, you allow your body to slip into the negative energy pattern [by calling out the problem] and then offer yourself love and acceptance in spite of the perceived negative response.
This statement is repeated a few times while tapping on a point on the hand, and then the rest of the tapping sequence commences. What stands out to most EFT newcomers is that when tapping on each of the acupoints, they are asked to repeat the problem indicated by the Set-Up Phrase [e.g., “I’m terrified of spiders!”].
In my practice, most patients ask me, why we don’t repeat the positive affirmation. “Aren’t I just tapping the problem in even deeper?” they ask. To the contrary, by repeating the problem while stimulating the acupoints, the body is sent a signal to release the disruption in the energy system around that particular issue, in effect ‘recalibrating’ it so that the problem no longer shocks the energy system.
The result of this tapping and problem-repeating—the negative emotion is reduced and a cognitive reframe occurs. The circumstances haven’t changed, but the way the patient perceives them shifts dramatically.
EFT has the capacity to help with many physical ailments—carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain, backache, headaches, PMS [premenstrual syndrome], toothaches, migraines, IBS [irritable bowel syndrome], common cold, high blood pressure, and many other health concerns.
Remarkably, EFT has the ability to release emotional, mental and even physical pains that far surpass simple fears. Indeed, it has been known to help with sports performance, reduce many body aches and pains, and even disarm traumatic memories and events such as abuse and rape. The power of EFT is only now starting to become widely recognised, and I foresee it being used in many situations as a first-response approach to a wide array of emotional and physical issues.