We all carry around some emotional pain with us—it’s part of being human. Sometimes we reach a point in our lives when the burden of carrying it becomes too much to bear, and cracks begin to appear in our lives. It’s at this point that most people seek help via a doctor, counselor or therapist. And using EFT with a therapist is one of the fastest ways I know of releasing that burden.
Understanding emotional pain
In life we all experience moments of joy, bliss and times of deep, contented happiness. And we also experience times in our lives when we feel humiliation, despair, sadness, doubt, regret, shame, guilt, anger, jealousy and even rage. Our society tends to call the first group “good” emotions and the latter ‘bad’, but this isn’t helpful. Emotions are neither good nor bad: they are simply messengers carrying important information for our well-being. Anger is a classic example of a so-called ‘bad’ emotions that people struggle to express in a healthy way. Yet anger itself is not bad: anger tells you someone has crossed your boundary. Anger brings with it a rush of energy which is required to restore a boundary. Because we are rarely taught how to deal with powerful emotions like anger, they get a bad rap, but actually it’s our handling of the emotion that is often flawed, not the emotion itself.
Instead of good and bad, I categorize emotions as light or heavy. Emotional pain accumulates when you have too many of the heavy emotions stuck in your psyche. To see how our emotions are supposed to work in the body, lets look for a moment at joy. On days when life is good and there is a magical moment in the air, the light, champagne emotion of joy bubbles through our body. We express it in laughter and smiles. We open our hearts and share our feelings with those around us and in this way we release joy from our body. Joy is not squashed, squished, repressed, unshared or denied, whereas the heavy emotions often are and that’s how they become stuck.
To get an even better understanding of emotional responses, try this quick exercise. Remember a magical day when you experienced joy. Can you see it in your mind’s eye? As you ‘play’ this wonderful day in your mind, you will undoubted smile and feel good, but the actual champagne feeling of joy is not usually experienced: instead there is a memory of joy. Now flip the coin and contrast it with humiliation. Bring into your mind’s eye a time when someone humiliated you. Replay the event, watching it like a movie in your mind. OK, now check in with yourself. How do you feel? Are your cheeks burning? Do you feel indignant? Perhaps even cross or angry? Do you feel like your feathers have been ruffled? How do you feel towards the person you humiliated you? Do you think they were well out of line when he/she did that to you? Notice how you are not remembering the humiliation, but rather you are experiencing it once more and your body is probably reacting too: for example your cheeks going red, feeling unsettled or angry again. At the time of your humiliation you probably were not able to express, released or even fully understand this feeling and so it has remained in your body even if this event took place months, years or even decades ago.
This exercise with humiliation brought the emotion(s) to the surface, but at a subconscious level this emotion (and the others in your emotional pain) is influencing you at all times. It impacts on your health and well-being, directs your life choices, dictates what you do (or don’t do) and often plays havoc with your relationships too. If you are struggling with a burden of heavy emotions, then finding a healthy way to safely release them will make a huge change to your life.
When people come on a Personal Retreat at The Jasmine House, releasing these emotions is the cornerstone of the work we do together. I use a whole host of different techniques and tools to help people do this, but the technique that I use most frequently is EFT.
What is EFT?
Emotional Freedom Technique is a therapy that, as its name implies, frees people of their emotional burdens. EFT involves tapping on meridian points with your finger tips (meridians are energy channels in the body identified by the Chinese over 5,000 years ago and used in Acupuncture) whilst saying out loud the real truth about how you feel about your life, situations, events or relationships. The honest acknowledgement of saying how you really feel is, in itself, very freeing. For example, how often do you say, ‘I’m fine’ to the question, ‘How are you?’ when in reality an honest answer would be, ‘I feel awful’.
EFT is very simple to learn and to use and yet sometimes this can put people off because they mistakenly believe a simple process cannot be a powerful one—and yet it is. Our intrinsic belief is that positive changes to our health and well-being needs to be complex, take a lot of time and involve doctors or specialists. And of course sometimes it does: but likewise, sometimes it doesn’t. EFT is not a silver bullet that fixes all ills. However, if you release some of the heavy emotions from your body, you will literally feel lighter and this gives your body an opportunity to heal itself. Your body has the most amazing natural healing powers. It is designed to heal itself. For example, when you cut yourself, your body instantly begins the healing process. However, it struggles to heal itself when it is weighed down by layer upon layer of heavy emotions.
The process of tapping and saying out loud your feelings is known as a recipe. The founder of EFT, Gary Craig, created a universal recipe that could be used for everything on everyone. It’s called the Basic Recipe. Today there are many different recipes, but the key elements from this first recipe remain the same. Let me give you a brief run-through of what an EFT tapping process looks like.
It begins by identifying one of the emotions that is being felt about a particular situation in your life. For example someone who was not very happy at work might identify that they are frustrated by the way their boss is treating them. The next step is to mark the intensity of this emotion, in this case frustration, out of 10 whereby 10 is a maximum intensity and 1 is very little. I’ve often had people tell me it’s more than 10 out of 10!
EFT begins by tapping continually on the Karate Chop point whilst saying:
‘Even though I feel …insert emotion… about …insert subject…, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.’
In my example it would therefore become: ‘Even though I feel frustrated by the way my boss is treating me, I deeply and completely accept and love myself.’ This is repeated three times.
The tapping, with 2 or 3 fingers, then moves to meridian points on the face and upper body. The emotion and the situation are repeated and mixed up during this process. In this example, whilst tapping on the eyebrow point, the words might be: “This frustration with my boss”. Moving on to the next point, side of the eyes, the words could be: “My boss is so frustrating!”. After saying each statement, you move on to the next meridian point and begin tapping there. The sequence of tapping points is; karate chop, eyebrow, side of eye, under eye, under nose, chin, collarbone, underarm and top of head.
The tapping goes around this circuit 2, 3 or 4 times, depending on what exactly is being worked on. It begins always with an expression of all the negative aspects and the final round(s) are changed to, releasing, choosing and affirming the positive. In this example, the words could become: “I release this frustration from my body” and “I choose to speak to my boss about my frustration” and so on.
When you work with an EFT practitioner, they will notice changes in your vocal tone and body posture as certain words and phrases are said. The practitioner will then mix these words back into the tapping recipe.
After a lot of rounds of EFT, when stacks of heavy emotions have been released, I believe the best ending is to get the client to see the ridiculous side to their situation—for often there is a funny side to what has happened or the muddle that they have managed to get themselves into. Laughter has such amazing healing properties!
Can you do EFT yourself?
Yes—for many situations with a little more understanding than is covered in this article, you can learn to tap on yourself and effectively let go of some of your emotional baggage. After helping my clients heal with EFT, I teach and actively encourage them to tap. However, I do not think it is advisable to begin tapping by yourself on issues where you are metaphorically opening an emotional can of worms: like when dealing with abuse, trauma, grief or depression. In these cases please find an experienced EFT practitioner.
For almost all of my personal, broken hearted and couples retreats at The Jasmine House, I use EFT as part of the healing therapies that I offer. For the Eat Well—Be Well Programs, I also use EFT to help people let go of their emotional attachments to food and drink.