Guest author Lizzie Carver discuses EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), and how this therapy can be beneficial in maintaining mental health.
What do you do when you’re so full of anxious feelings that you could just about explode?
It’s completely normal to try and escape from the discomfort in one way or another. Perhaps by pushing the feelings down with food, alcohol or just brute force and then maybe even heaping harsh self-judgement on top of the original distress. Sound familiar? Or perhaps you just tough it out and try and put yourself back together afterwards. It’s such hard work.
There is another option, and this is what I’ve learned to do: I “tap” on it.
You may have heard of “tapping” or EFT – that’s short for Emotional Freedom Technique. It’s a simple process that involves tapping lightly on a sequence of acupressure points whilst focusing on the feelings that you want to shift. The basic idea is that we have energy running through our bodies, via channels called meridians, and that this energy can become disrupted by strong emotions such as anxiety. We tap to shift that blockage and restore the smooth flow of energy.
I freely admit that when I first heard of EFT, I was unconvinced, although I could accept the idea of energy systems and had been a grateful client of acupuncture. It just seemed too glib and simplistic, somehow, but then I attended a workshop run by Karl Dawson (an EFT Master Practitioner) and my personal experience there changed my view so profoundly that I went on to train with him.
Using EFT as a self-help tool…
I have taught this simple process to many clients, to help them manage their anxiety or distress.
First, I need to find out a bit more about the feeling I want to shift.
- Where am I feeling it in my body?
- What is it like?
- What size, shape or colour is it?
- What’s it doing in there?
It may feel counter-intuitive to look closely at this thing when I just want it to GO AWAY, but it really is an important part of the process. I need to know what I’m shifting.
Next, getting clear…
Now that I’ve interrogated the monster, I use that information to create my “set-up statement”. In this way I am stating my very clear intention to work on these feelings, right now:
“Even though I have this jagged orange ball of fear stuck in my chest and I can’t breathe, I love and accept myself anyway.”
I am also forgiving myself for having these feelings in the first place and acknowledging that it’s difficult – this is such an important part of the process!
Third, the tapping bit!
And then I follow a simple sequence of tapping lightly on specific acupressure points on my head, chest and hand – all of which takes much more time to explain than it does to carry out. After tapping round twice, I check in with myself.
- What’s going on with that feeling now?
- Has it changed or moved?
- Maybe it’s become less intense?
Whatever’s happened, I rephrase my set up statement as necessary, and go again. And again, until the feelings have eased.
Wider applications of EFT
EFT may also be used therapeutically to take the sting out of old, painful memories and to change the beliefs that may have been set up alongside those memories.
- For example, that day when the teacher embarrassed or shamed you?
- Or perhaps you have a series of memories that led you to conclude that the world is not a safe place?
Those old beliefs will keep running, beneath the surface, like a creaky old IT program, until you do the work to shift them.
At that workshop with Karl Dawson, I began to let go of feelings I’d been stuck with since my teenage years as the result of a deeply traumatic episode. That shift led to a clearer understanding of the beliefs that I had formed about myself and my world on that day – beliefs that were holding me in a painful place.
One thing I should make clear – I firmly believe that we are all a “work in progress” and that we keep on learning and growing until our last day, so I’m not in the business of peddling miracles. But I equally firmly believe in the value of tapping when I feel worried, angry, fearful or sad – whether that’s because of something that happened twenty minutes or twenty years ago. Or because I’m waiting to see the dentist.
It helps me feel better.
And that seems an excellent reason to keep doing it!
Lizzie Carver works as an EFT & Reiki practitioner and NLP coach from her home in Hampshire or via Skype. She also runs a Bird Phobia programme for Birdworld in Surrey.