We recently penned a well-received article for practitioners who use EFT or Tapping and are looking to increase their effectiveness with achieving long term and transformational results with their clients. We have found that META Health practitioners use a wide variety of therapeutic interventions for working with their clients, and many of them incorporate EFT or similar Energy Psychology methods into their work with supporting clients in the resolution of current physical and emotional symptomatology by resolving past trauma. It is with this in mind that we offer a perspective on the importance of the attention to detail on specific events. By helping a client tune in emotional, physically and energetically, much more information can be elicited then be being general. Of course especially with trauma, proceeding with great rapport and safety established is essential.
Every META Health practitioner has been trained in the importance of asking for and listening deeply for details that emerge from the client. This often begins with inquiry into the specifics of:
- The specific symptoms that the client is and has experienced
- The specific physical signs that have appeared for the client
- The specific emotions related to the experience of having the condition
- The specific tissues involved
- The specific types of VAKOGS triggers that have initiated Stress Phase changes
- And most importantly of all, the Specific UDIN Events that occurred initiating the process and/or constellations that developed as a result of the original (and recurring conditioned reflexes).
Because it is so easy to look online to YouTube and other internet resources, it is effortless to search for EFT, watch someone’s version of demonstrating EFT and consider that one has thus learned how do perform EFT. It appears easy to do, but actually has depth, complexity and nuance. EFT actually stands for Emotional Freedom Techniques, plural, while only one version/technique is primarily demonstrated in online public venues. It is our experience as EFT and Matrix Reimprinting international trainers that we find many ineffective, erroneous and even dangerous ways of implementing tapping and for this reason we created this article.
By working with clients to become detective-like in finding specifics, you can proceed with laser-like accuracy and your results will soar in effectiveness as a result.
We can even look to the function and task of the digestive system to break down larger chunks into smaller specific bits in order to make more efficient use of it, as an example of the usefulness of taking larger experiences into smaller more targeted specific moments.
1. Memories are recorded as emotionally laden events in the brain
Our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors are all in place for good reasons. The reasons may not always make sense to our current lives, but they made good sense at some point in our past as they were adaptive to the circumstances we lived through. Otherwise, it is unlikely that they would have a place in our lives. Whether one is limited by a fear of speaking ones truth, a feeling of unworthiness, a belief that men are not trustworthy…whether one is repeatedly tardy or procrastination is an ongoing problem…despite their inconvenience, they remain in place because they were hardwired into your brain/body based upon specific experiences you lived through, whether you recall them consciously or not.
Dr. Stephen Porges, the developer of the Polyvagal Theory, speaks of it in this way:
At times, behaviors that are initially adaptive may become maladaptive…this would occur if an acute behavior that initially enhanced survival or minimized distress during threat is chronically recruited (repeated) even when there is no threat…such a behavior would be maladaptive, since it would not optimize survival and may compromise physiological function and amplify distress.
It is in the specific moments when our biological quest for safety gets hijacked by an experience that our physiology immediately changes, mediated through the unconscious detection of threat known as neuroception. These specific instances of emotionally intense experiences of fear, helplessness and danger cause our systems to go into a state of dysregulation, whether it is a reactive fight/flight or freeze response. Such emotionally imbued events are stored implicitly in long term brain/body storage mechanisms. Even what are recalled as ongoing situations that “always happened that way” or “that’s just how it always was in my household” are still recorded as singular, though repeated experiences. The gentle and safe exploration of these specific memories are the key to integration and resolution. Yes they merge and yes they become wired together as associated memories and can be experienced as a singular felt sense in the body. Working safely and gently with a person to discover these memories are critical and often require the help of a skillful practitioner. At their foundation, the adult attitudes that show up as “the world is an unsafe place” or “people are always out for themselves” are built upon the singular experiences of our past. Thankfully, research continues to validate the neuroplastic nature of our brains which allows us the possibility of transforming the way we recall these experiences and modify and update the meanings that we have given them that may no longer be true for us.
2. Research supports the targeting specific emotional memories for creating transformational change.
The ongoing research into memory reconsolidation has been very informative with regards to our understanding of how to most effectively work with updating, altering and transforming the way in which we recall and feel about our past. The Nobel Prize winning work of Nadel has completely changed the way we look at how long term memories are remembered and experienced. More recently, Bruce Ecker, author of Unlocking the Emotional Brain has authored a paper that is gaining significant recognition in the neuroscientific research circles and offers direct relevance to the world of EFT tapping and creating non-pharmaceutical induced, therapeutically transformative changing of beliefs, behaviors and physiology.
Bruce has offered a step by step approach that has three essential requirements in order to take an engrained “hardwired” schema and transform it into a new behavioral change. This process is one that is commonly employed within EFT and Matrix Reimprinting, though of course is used in a wide variety of effective therapeutic interventions. It is the first step that is especially relevant to this article.
The first required step is to bring into conscious attention, a specific targeted memory.
This simply means that you recall and focus on a specific memory or event that you wish to work on. The two other steps that I will mention and not go into depth with, is the creation of a mismatching or juxtaposition or opposite experience in which both the old understanding/meaning/interpretation of the event and the newly revised one… well, both cannot be true. Lastly there is the required repetition of that contradictory experience. Again, the key element for this discussion is that by focusing on and paying attention to the details of the experience, the felt sense including the associated emotions and physical sensations as well as the thoughts and meanings given to that event, that there is a neuroplastic window of approximately 4-5 hours in which this old memory and its associated meaning can be altered and updated. In other words the negative events of our past can be transformed, but the specificity of the memory is an essential element of this process.
3. Tapping Globally Can Potentially Flood the Client
Having a client tune into a specific event can allow them to cognitively recall the specifics of what they experienced in that moment, to get in touch with the emotion they felt at the time and are feeling currently while recalling that moment and even become aware of the body sensations they are experiencing in the present moment. Research supports the time and energy it takes to go to these places from our pasts in order to release the trauma.
It has been said that trauma comes in through the body and leaves through the body so details that include the body are significant.
As practitioners dealing with trauma, we must carefully gauge and monitor the state of the client as we go on this journey with them. Safety and rapport must be established first. Diving in too deeply and too quickly into a trauma with a new client before resources have been established can be more than the client is ready to face and can do harm. It is like nails on a blackboard when I hear of practitioners too quickly asking a client about the “first and worst time” they experienced a significant trauma. Working gently with clients is important, but working gently does not necessarily mean being so cautious that the tapping becomes generalized and global. In fact tapping this way potentially can induce a person to experience intense emotional flooding, filling up with tears or ignited by rage because of this lack of specificity.
Consider this. Imagine working with a client who experienced repeated instances of sexual harassment and even sexual assault during their lifetime. They come to work with you because they are having relationship challenges and arguments with their partner that they want to resolve. You have a sense that their past traumatic experiences are connected to the person’s current difficulties. By tapping globally or generically on “Even though I am so angry that all these men in my past felt the right to do what they wanted with me…” you have just opened up a hornet’s nest that could very easily cause this client to have a melt-down. By using a global tapping statement like that, her brain, via the use of associative memory, will connect to the neural network of sexual harassment/assault and do a database search, conjuring up ALL the events related to that search term. Ideally the inquiry began with perhaps a recent time such an event happened to her. So now by having her focus on ALL the times it happened, rather than one specific example which in itself likely has more than enough energy and information bound up with it, now the client’s brain and body floods with physical, sensory, energetic and emotional intensity.
Emotional release can be therapeutic, emotional flooding is not a desired therapeutic state for a client.
This is why we gently focus on working with unique specific events; one event is manageable to work on, multiple events or generic experiences can overload the client emotionally and physically.
4. Most Clients Don’t Understand the Concept of Specific Events
“Mary” came in saying she had read the EFT Manual and our quick-start guide but wasn’t seeing the results she had expected with the tapping she had been doing on her own. Her sister had worked with an EFT practitioner and was raving about the results she was experiencing with long-standing back pain. I asked Mary to tell me what she was actually saying when she tapped. She said she wasn’t saying anything because she had seen somewhere (not in the manual or our guide) that you could feel EFT working even when you didn’t say anything. So in other words without Mary having a specific focus, she may have felt a sense of temporary calm while tapping, but any positive results she may have achieved by just tapping were likely to be only short lived.
Another recent client “Margaret” said that she had also had mixed results when she tapped on herself. I asked her to tell me what she had been saying when she tapped and she pulled out a pad of paper where she had noted her work. Margaret had been saying, “Even though I feel so sad that I can’t make money, I deeply and completely accept myself.” I helped Margaret understand that it was fine to tap on how she feels now (the event in this case is NOW) but that she’d really start to see a real shift if she explored what in her past created the pattern of her not making money. For Margaret this had been about watching her parents struggle financially. She said she thought she had tapped on this and she thought she had been specific but when I asked her to read back to me the statement she had used it was, “Even though I’m angry that mom and dad couldn’t make money either ….” and “Even though I’m pissed that they didn’t have money to even feed us properly….”. During her session I showed her that we could uncover specific times and experiences when this had happened in her childhood and that those memories were directly responsible for her inability to make money today. An example of what we said during the tapping session is, “Even though I feel this anger thinking about the time Dad went drinking and Mom had to feed us bologna and cheese sandwiches …” Many practitioners believe that they are being specific when they could be getting more valuable details and assist the client with really getting in touch with their experience by tuning into the details. We call this the “Polaroid Test.” When client and practitioner are both able to describe the event by describing Who is in the scene, Where the scene is occurring, What is happening and When it was, that is the kind of detail that makes all the difference.
“Jane” came in after feeling completely “off” after tapping along to an online event. She said that she was skeptical about this tapping thing but had experienced a sense of energy moving but she wondered if she was doing something wrong. People like Jane contact who have tried a more generic approach to EFT reach out to us on a regular basis. They have registered for an event in which it is impossible for the person leading the tapping to work individually with the person watching when broadcasting to a large audience. We assume that this is a significantly small percentage of people who find that EFT does not work for them or that they found the tapping make their symptoms/problems more intense or that their results don’t lost and they only feel temporarily better. The reason this happens is because doing EFT without tapping on specific events is like skimming the surface of the problem at best.
“Charles” had been watching YouTube videos to tap on his depression. This particular tapping advocate on the video was tapping using statements such as “Even though I feel this sadness and hopelessness, I love, accept and forgive myself for feeling this way” and “Even though I feel this depression in my body and I don’t want to do anything but crawl into a hole, I am ready to let this go.” After reviewing Charles’ intake form and establishing that his therapist was aware that he would be seeing me in conjunction to his traditional talk therapy I started to work with Charles on the emotional/energetic contributing factors to his depression. I showed Charles that his feelings of deep sadness may be related to the consequence of past events and that we need to first focus on the events. We would be using the phrases that had been demonstrated to be effective in published research including, “Even though I feel ____(emotion) in my _____(place in the body) about ____(this specific event), I deeply and completely accept myself.” He reported that he had felt uncomfortable with repeating that “he was ready to let it go and ready to forgive himself”, when clearly he did not feel ready for that leap.
Then I asked him how congruent he felt with repeating the words that were offered in the video describing himself as “wanting to crawl into a hole” and he said no, for him it was more like he had been living in a state of “complete numbness”. I helped Charles understand that the best use of EFT is when we use our clients’ words exactly and that the video was attempting to read his thoughts based on what the tapping personality thought Charles was feeling, but obviously was not on target. There is no way it could be individualized to the individual person when offering scripts or generic tapping follow-along statements.
When I, Alina, first found EFT after 12 years of searching for something to help me with an illness, I was lucky that I only found primary sources of EFT. I was not able to search the web back then for “EFT for autoimmune condition”. Fortunately, I was not directed to a video that tapped on whatever the video creator thought might be related to my problem. I would never have, nor will I ever find a video that says, “Even though I have this illness because I had a huge trauma, a stillborn, which led to my body shutting down and the grief and pain of that has been trapped in my body….” And even if there was such a video it still would have been too general or as we refer to it as too global. What I needed to tap on to feel better was a series of separate momentary traumatic events that made up the gigantic traumatic time period that caused my illness which included:
The moment they found out that they couldn’t hear the baby’s heartbeat
The moment they told me my baby was dead
The moment I went into labor
If this is all you ever learn about EFT (come up with a specific memory, ask yourself what emotion you feel about it now, and use this in your setup and reminder phrase) you’ll be on target to see real and dramatic transformation.
Remember that the research on EFT Emotional Freedom Techniques is based on the notion of tapping to release emotional intensity around specific events. If you can’t uncover the specific events connected to your bigger “issue” then consult with a skilled practitioner who can.
More on how tapping on specific events will make you a more skillful EFTer by helping you actually measure and test your results coming up in Part III.
Porges, Stephen W., 2017, The Pocket Guide to The Polyvagal Theory; the Transformative Power of Feeling Safe, WW Norton and Company, New York.
Ecker, B. (2017, December 6). Clinical Translation of Memory Reconsolidation Research: Therapeutic Methodology for Transformational Change by Erasing Implicit Emotional Learnings Driving Symptom Production. Retrieved from psyarxiv.com/zrq2m