EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE
Negative emotional patterns can seem to define your life
Have you always struggled with depression or anxiety, but not really understood why? Do you feel like the talk therapy approaches you've tried have been too surface-level or time-consuming to make much progress?
Are you looking for an efficient way to understand the root of a problem like fear, shame, non-specific anger, or low self-esteem?
Are you looking for a more effective coping skill for panic, anger, pain triggered by anxiety, or another challenging feeling state ?
Most talk therapy approaches engage only the prefrontal cortex of the brain to reason about problems. Although putting feelings into words and getting support can be helpful, it can be ineffective or inefficient at getting to the true source of an issue. Patterns are rooted at a deeper level of consciousness, but it's not as hard to access that level as you may think.
What is Emotional Freedom Technique?
Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as EFT or just ''tapping,'' has been called ‘’emotional acupuncture.’’ It’s a progressive way to cope with anxiety or other distressing feelings by using your fingertips to tap on some of the meridian points used in traditional acupuncture. After learning how to combine the tapping sequence with verbal statements about the problem, you can help yourself calm down, move through sadness, or anger, or even alleviate cravings and physical pain. However, EFT can also be used as much more than a coping skill. When used as guided therapy technique, it has the capacity to get to the subconscious root of a surface-level feeling state, exploring the broader pattern of trauma or wounding that underlies certain triggers or reactions.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the meridian system refers to channels or ‘’highways’’ of energetic movement throughout the body. Applying needles, pressure, or taps to certain points on these meridians (which are paired in the body), is thought to stimulate and redirect energy in a way that begins correcting systemic imbalances, which we all have to the extent that we have unresolved psychological baggage.
Imbalances that begin at the emotional level are thought to eventually reach the physical level if left unaddressed, which is one explanation for why EFT can help with pain (particularly conditions like Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, in which structural treatments are ineffective).
Although Western minds still struggle to embrace concepts like energy medicine and energy psychology, like acupuncture, the efficacy of EFT for lowerering cortisol is supported by clinical research.
Using EFT as a coping skill on your own
There are three basic components of EFT: 1) the tapping point sequence (which is all done on the face and upper body), 2) verbalization of the issue you’re tapping on and any associated bodily sensations, and 3) a corrective ending that captures the positive shift Step 2 that has typically created. Your first impression of the process may be that it’s overwhelming or too much hassle, but many people pick up on it very quickly. If you don't, you may prefer EMDR, which seems very different, but has a similar core process and outcome.
Also, many people (myself included) find themselves more motivated to apply the tapping sequence when distressed than various breathing techniques that they’ve learned for coping (although deep breaths tend to come naturally as tapping progresses). As indicated in my blog post ''Anxiety Doesn't Want to be Managed,'' I believe this is because EFT is focused on acknowledging and honoring the triggering issue, which actually wants to surface rather than be chased away or shut down.
The nine-point tapping sequence, in particular, is easy to memorize. The main learning curve is understanding how to flesh out your feeling statements after a beginning ‘’set-up statement,’’ and it’s normal to stumble with your words initially as you get the hang of it. (The internet is abundant with free EFT resources, but it may be easier to learn it with guidance.) The key principle, however, is that you state your feeling or problem, the reason for it, and any sensations that it’s causing in your body. You may get increased benefit by verbalizing how the current feeling reminds you of previous memories and tapping on those as well--see more on this below under the subheading ‘’Using EFT as a psychotherapy intervention.''
EFT is great for all levels of emotional awareness and comfort
One of the best things about the Emotional Freedom Technique is that, just as it can be taken deeper, it can also be modified for the capability of the individual, or for any resistance you feel. Some people never feel motivated to practice the verbalization components, but still get a calming effect from the tapping sequence alone. Or, if you do the verbalizations but can’t quite buy into the corrective statement portion of the process at the end, you can acknowledge and accept your resistance and tap on that. It’s a way of working positively with your energy whether you’re say, scared of your emotions and accustomed to blocking them, or you’re very comfortable with your emotional depths, but would like a method for navigating them more efficiently.
EFT is also great for helping children or developmentally disabled adults with anxiety or other types of strong emotions. You can help them learn to tap with simplified statements, or have them tap on a doll, stuffed animal, or drawing of a person; in addition to the fact that they may find tapping elsewhere more fun, it helps them begin to externalize feelings and therefore understand they can be managed. Assuming you already understand the aspects of the feeling state they're experiencing, you can also tap and verbalize statements for them as they connect with you by looking into your eyes. This can be particularly useful for states of total paralysis caused by panic.
Using EFT as an in-session guided trauma therapy
EFT can be used as an in-depth, therapist-guided psychotherapy approach as well as a coping technique. Like other somatic (mind-body) therapy methods, such as EMDR, EFT begins with mindful awareness to a negative feeling state and accompanying sensations in the body. Part of mindfulness is acceptance of the feeling (versus distraction or repression) and by extension, of the broader self, which tends to open the door for positive change in the perception of an issue. Attunement to body sensations creates a bridge into the issue at the limbic system level, where a strongly charged emotion gets wired into physiological responses when not properly discharged.
A common message from popular culture, individuals who normalize repression, or those who make assumptions about psychological growth is that if an emotional issue persists beyond what seems reasonable, we should ‘’just let it go,’’ but true release rarely takes place with only a decision or assertion. Typically, you must first acknowledge and honor the depth of grief, fear, or anger beneath the surface of an issue (i.e., what we resist, persists) in order to experience the real shift that ''letting it go' implies.
On this same note, EFT and other mind-body psychotherapies are also links to transpersonal work, which involves willingness to understand developmental influences and traumas as unconscious personality aspects--often ones that perpetuate self-defeating patterns. As pioneering transpersonal psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Jung has been famously quoted, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.’’
Although EFT can be used at the surface level to calm down, it can be even more powerful when you stop to ask yourself if your current feeling state reminds you of anything else you’ve experienced in your life. As you recognize the layers of the pattern behind your surface emotion, you keep tapping through them in turn, peeling the onion of armor you have created to cope. If you have acute trauma or complex trauma history that you haven’t been able to explore with a sense of adequate safety--maybe even using EMDR--Emotional Freedom Technique is a great approach for addressing it incrementally and avoiding nervous system overwhelm.
Because EFT is based on the concept of acupuncture and energy, the therapist can help you verbalize and also tap with you, bringing synergy to the process. While Emotional Freedom Technique isn't the right fit for everyone, when it works it can be amazing thing in which to participate. I would be honored to hear your story and facilitate your change.