If you feel like life is a struggle and it’s not turning out how you had hoped in terms of wellness, relationships, work, money or happiness; or you’re plagued by worry, stress, anxiety, fear or phobias, you’re not alone. Most people aren’t aware that many of their current problems are ‘triggered’ by long forgotten memories of an intense, dramatic or traumatic nature from childhood. They also aren’t aware that these memories can be hijacking their happiness now. Traumas are carried along the journey of life and can affect your thought processes, decisions, reactions and your physical wellbeing. But, learning to free yourself from tightly held inner beliefs will allow you the emotional freedom to truly live a life worth living. Experts in a fast-growing energy psychology therapy called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) say that programmes and beliefs imprinted or set up in early childhood run as much as 95% of your adult life.
did you know?
Emotional Freedom Technique is something you can learn to do yourself. Once familiar with the steps it becomes a quick and easy process that can be used as often as needed.
“The reason”, says Sharon Johnson, Cape Town EFT trainer and counsellor who has done psychology doctoral research on trauma, stress and burnout in Western Cape schools, “is because an area of the brain referred to as the emotional brain (amygdala) is hard-wired to retain these memories for our survival, to prevent repeating life threatening situations (or perceived ones). The brain stem or reptilian brain and the cognitive thinking brain work with the emotional part to elicit a hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal (HPA) response to stress, trauma or threat.”
Fight, flight or freeze responses are set up in the reptilian brain, and for a child a common option is to freeze. So in adulthood, your reactions to shock, trauma and intense emotions trigger old patterns in your brain and this continuous triggering can sabotage your immune system, affecting your mental and physical health and wellness. EFT helps reduce the levels of stress and emotional charge, forging a positive and powerful new way forward for life.
ALL BLOCKED UP
The medical field has long known that emotion can manifest as physical illness. An emotion, once felt, needs to be expressed. If it isn’t expressed and is instead suppressed, it remains in the body. Taking a cue from the ancient belief in meridians, or energy centres, in the body, this suppressed emotion can in turn block energy pathways, leading to dis-ease.
Psychology has attempted to tap into past negative thoughts and beliefs to bring about healing – in essence, to re-wire the thought processes by seeking the truth and actuality of what is usually a misperception of events. An example could be a child who, after witnessing his parents arguing, and then sees his father walk away, may feel deeply abandoned. Even though the child wasn’t in fact abandoned, the misperception of the situation can lead to a deep seated fear of being left and can affect his relationships way into the future.
Although EFT states negative emotion as a cause, it goes further in saying that negative emotion causes a disruption in the body’s energy system, and this is what manifests physically.
Very often, negative emotions are picked up in your early years, before the age of six. Perceptions can easily be skewed at this age because emotional intelligence is still undeveloped. However, these negative emotions, once established, can be built upon – so, every time a situation occurs that has a similar damaging reaction, these negative emotions become multi-layered, further blocking your energy field (much like a build-up of plaque in your arteries can cause heart disease). The basic premise of EFT is to rewire your energy flow by removing the negative emotion blockages. It’s such a simple process; unlike some forms of psychotherapy that may encourage you to relive the distressing memory (possibly causing even further energy disruption), EFT practice identifies the memory, but doesn’t dwell on it – the aim being to unblock the area of your energy flow that has been obstructed by the memory.
EFT has been likened to an emotional form of acupuncture, where instead of needles to stimulate the meridians, finger tapping is used. By combining this physical stimulation of the meridians with a psychotherapeutic approach, therapy time is greatly reduced and healing can occur after just one session. Caryl Westmore, author and Goals expert in EFT-Matrix Reimprinting says that if your issue is a fear or phobia, for example, a breakthrough can happen in just one hour, or one session. For deeper issues like ME or chronic illness, longer sessions may be required because those conditions usually involve a cluster of different specific memories that need to be cleared.
Brain scans have revealed that stimulation of acupressure points sends signals directly to the parts of the brain that activate our fight, flight or freeze responses – words alone don’t have the same effect on those brain regions, which don’t communicate with rational language centres.
EFT is a gentle and loving process – you’ve been traumatised and it has caused a blockage. There’s no judgement involved about the circumstances of your trauma, or even in the way you have perceived a particular situation. In fact, it’s about accepting how you are feeling right now and then moving towards releasing the negative emotion attached to that ‘right now’ feeling.
did you know?
According to Caryl Westmore, “EFT is a fantastic tool in maintaining wellness because it energises the meridian system by tapping on the acupressure points. People immediately feel less stressed and peaceful after tapping and dramatic shifts can happen on any current issue that causes anxiety. This could be a parking ticket, a row with a spouse, a difficult boss or challenges with children. Often EFT helps us get clarity on issues we have with people in our present space or triggers something or someone from childhood we have unconsciously chosen to forget.
It’s not often easy to fully identify an issue. Anxiety is a vague term. The more specific you are about the issue, the more you’re likely to unblock the negative emotion. This is where a therapist can be immensely helpful in getting to the core issue and dealing with each negative emotion as it surfaces. As one negative emotion is dealt with, another may emerge and a new direction of unblocking will occur.
The practise of mindfulness comes into play here, in that being aware of and listening to your body, your thoughts and your emotions can help you identify the fundamental cause of your particular issue. This allows you to be more specific and effective with the phases of the EFT process.
Do It Yourself
It’s not often you get to take home a really practical method of healing from a therapist – usually you’re required to sit through hours of treatment. With EFT, it’s common for therapists to send you away with homework that has a DIY version of the process. This can become a tool you can use for life.
BELOW ARE SEVEN STEPS THAT WILL HELP YOU ACHIEVE EMOTIONAL FREEDOM:
Identify and define the negative emotions causing your problem, then score the severity of your emotion (with 1 being insignificant and 10 the most severe) – this score will give you a base number to assess the method’s effectiveness.
Create what’s called a setup phrase. This is a sentence you will repeat throughout the process and outlines your specific issue. It will be something like… “Even though I feel/am ________, I completely accept myself”. In your blank space you may want to fill in something like depressed/anxious/craving a cigarette, etc.
Repeat your setup phrase while tapping the ‘karate chop’ point (the soft spot on the side of your hand, either hand, just below your little finger). Tap about seven times while you repeat the phrase.
Create a reminder phrase – this is a reminder of your setup phrase (it’s really a shortened version of the setup phrase, with a focus on your feelings right now) and will be repeated while you tap the other meridian points, which are:
- Inner eyebrow, just above the corner of your eye closest to your nose, on the bone.
- Outer eye, the outer, bottom edge of your eye, on the bone.
- Under the eye, below the centre of the eye, on the bone.
- Under the nose, between your lip and nose.
- On the chin, in the middle where the dent is.
- On the chest, about 60mm down and 60mm to the left of where your collar bones meet in the middle.
- Under the arm, around 60mm under the crease of your arm.
- Top of the head, in the middle.
Consider what level (from 1-10) your emotion is now.
Repeat the above steps until your level of emotion is two or less.
Your final reminder phrase will be something like ‘Even though I still feel __________, I choose to let it go as it no longer serves me’.
IF YOU’RE WORKING ON A PHYSICAL ISSUE, ASK THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS AND USE THE ANSWERS AS PART OF YOUR SETUP PHRASE: IS THERE AN EMOTION OR EMOTIONAL SITUATION THAT’S BEEN HAPPENING FOR AS LONG AS THE PHYSICAL ISSUE; WHAT WOULD YOUR PHYSICAL PAIN LOOK LIKE IF IT HAD A FACE; HOW DOES HAVING THIS PAIN MAKE YOU FEEL?