At the beginning of EFT tapping with me, my client “Kelly” expressed that her anxiety started the moment she awoke in the morning and lasted until she fell asleep at night. Each weekend, as Sunday would come to an end, her feelings of anxiety always increased. She awoke each Monday morning with a “knot in the pit in her stomach” when she thought about having to go to her work.
In her first EFT tapping sessions, I’d have her imagine a specific day at work and describe how she felt. In specific detail, she would explain how she felt physically in conjunction with her emotions. She described the feeling of wanting to run away, a sinking feeling in her stomach, the feeling of her heart beating quickly, and the feeling of having “fidgety hands.”
With each of these described symptoms, I would have Kelly thank the symptom for trying to get her attention and ask the symptom why it felt the way it did. She would respond with statements like, “It is not safe,” “I don’t know what to do if too much comes at me too quickly,” and “I might say something foolish.”
We looked at each symptom one at a time and tapped on them. After clearing the particular symptom, I would have Kelly once again imagine that she was at work. We did this until no anxiety was felt while thinking about work. Her SUD Levels of Intensity numbers would begin at a 10 out of 10 with 10 being extreme and we’d tap until they were at 0.
But a week later she would report back to me that she still felt anxiety while at work.
Just because we are able to clear an issue imagining that it is happening to us, it does not mean that we have cleared the issue. At the same time this does not mean that the tapping we have done is useless. There are many more triggers to anxiety when we are in the working environment versus just thinking of the working environment. It simply means that we are not done.
We can get a great deal of information from a physical sensation. Many times all we need to do is ask what it is about. If you haven’t done this type of work before this might seem very odd. All you have to do is pretend the tight chest has a voice to speak and ask, “Why are you so scared?” You will be surprised. Treat this newly found voice as a friend that you are tapping with. Keep providing it information like, “I know you think you are not safe at work, but you know intellectually no one is going to hurt you at work.” As you do this, you will continue to get more and more specific information about the issue at hand which will give you more specific tappable issues.
We continued the same pattern in Kelly’s tapping sessions with me. Kelly would tune into something happening at work. We would then tap on the issue. It got to the point where we were eliminating her anxiety around past work moments and her core work issues.
We then moved to having Kelly imagine future moments at work.
Each time we did this, we added more details that would increase her anxiety. Kelly imagined more than one person approaching her desk all at once, with her phone ringing, a coworker coming up from behind her to ask for something, and one of the people approaching her desk would be handsome. We didn’t add all of these details at once, but instead one at a time, adding new details to see where her anxiety triggers appeared and why.
Once Kelly was able to tap the anxiety away, we would add another detail.
We did this until she could imagine every detail at work and not feel anxious. Once we reached this point, Kelly reported that she could still feel anxious at work, but no longer felt anxious heading into work in the morning. Many mornings she even felt calm, but the feeling of anxiety would slowly creep up once she was physically in the office.
Once we have worked through past memories it is very helpful to place ourselves in future situations where we are experiencing the thing that is giving us trouble. The nice thing about EFT is we are able to creep up on an issue and not have to deal with everything all at once. I have found it to be most effective to add one new detail at a time so we make sure we are clearing as much as we can about one aspect before we move on to the next aspect. The nice thing about doing work in this fashion is we can create extreme scenarios without having to place ourselves in any sort of danger. Kelly may never experience everything going wrong at once, but we can pretend that that is what it is going to be like. As we saw above, this doesn’t mean that we are going to be symptom-free when we step into the situation, but we are going to deal with it in a better way.
As we worked through more tapping sessions over time, it became easier for Kelly to handle work. In addition to the weekly tapping we were doing, she was also tapping daily before going into the office. She wasn’t spending a great deal of time tapping, but just 10 minutes at the beginning of each day. At this point, she was familiar with her different aspects so she knew what to tap on. She reported that her calmness now lasted through most of the morning. As her afternoon became busier, her feelings of anxiety would reappear.
Some days her anxiety returned in the afternoon as strong as it was when we first started.
Issues that have taken a lifetime to build are not going to change overnight. Yes, we are making progress. Yes, things are better. An issue like general anxiety can knit itself into many parts of our life and isn’t going to be neutralized overnight. That doesn’t mean that if we have taken 10 years for an issue to develop, that it is going to take 10 years to remove it, but we need to be patient with ourselves and patient with the problem. Healing is a process and a process that we need to give time.
Persistence pays off! The sessions we were doing weren’t my traditional full one-hour sessions and Kelly wasn’t doing tapping work for hours a day. Instead, together and on her own, we were doing a little work at a time, just chipping away at the issue. Thirty minutes of more intense tapping with me plus 10 minutes a day was being much more successful than if we just tapped once a week for those same 80 minutes. If you are going after a persistent issue, then being persistent with your tapping is the best way to go.
Kelly decided to start writing down everything she was feeling at the moment she became anxious so we could better work on it. This made me happy because she was providing information that would be helpful in our tapping sessions and it was a sign that we were making some progress. She was no longer overwhelmed by her anxiety. Sure she felt it, but instead of being overwhelmed she was able to think, “Hey, it is happening again. I know what is going on.” When you do this, it allows you to do work on the issue in the moment, not just after the fact.
One of the real goals of this type of work is to become observers of our own lives. When we are able to notice our own thoughts and reactions, we are able to change them. It is because of the persistence that Kelly had been working with that got her to this moment. She went from only noticing why things were happening at a great distance with the help of a practitioner to being able to notice what was happening on her own after the fact, and finally to noticing important details in the moment.
Getting things out of our head is a great way to defuse some of their power. I asked Kelly what it was like to write the symptoms down as she was feeling them. She said that this made some of the anxiety go away. Our minds often act as an echo chamber. As the thought bounces around, it gets louder and slightly distorted. This is how we can work ourselves up about some feared event that hasn’t happened. When we get these thoughts out of our mind and observe them in the warm light of day, we see they are silly and they lose their power. In Kelly’s case, she wrote down that “It is not safe at work and I need to escape.” The moment she saw that on her notepad, she realized that this distorted thought wasn’t true, and so writing it down took some of the power out of the anxiety. Writing down what we are feeling is a great tool. You can take what you have written down and throw it away or you can use it for tapping phrases and then get rid of it.
Kelly was now getting through most of her work mornings without an anxiety problem. There were still issues coming up in the afternoons and she reported that sometimes when she tapped for them, the tapping seemed to have little effect on calming her and this curbed her enthusiasm for tapping at work.
It is very easy to be frustrated with the new normal when we have lost touch with the old normal. In the beginning, for Kelly it was painful just to think about being at work. She is now at the point where most mornings are fine and some afternoons are good. But in the moment of her current frustration she is no longer thinking about the progress. She is only thinking about the feeling she has right now. This is what we all do. We are so engrossed in the emotion of the moment that we forget how far we have come. It is good from time to time to take a step back and see how much progress we have made. This will make it easier for us to move forward.
Just because something doesn’t work every time doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try it. I wish tapping worked every time for every issue, but that is not the case. But consider this: I have something that is going to work half the time for that feeling of anxiety, it isn’t going to cost you anything, there are no negative side effects, and it will only take 10 minutes. Would you give it a try? When I framed it that way to Kelly, she said of course she would. She even conceded that if it only worked one day a week it would be more than worth giving it a try.
Kelly kept an even head all the way through the process. She recognized how much better her life was and she was excited to keep working, but not everyone does this during their healing process.
Just because you don’t have total success doesn’t mean that you don’t have success. A friend introduced me to the concept of the 10% solution. In a nutshell, the 10% solution states that changing an issue 10% to the better can dramatically improve the quality of life. For example, someone who has 10% relief in chronic pain might now be able to sit through a full movie or now go out to dinner with a loved one. Sure they still have pain, but by reducing the pain just 10%, their life is noticeably better.
All too often, we look at an emotional issue as either we have it or we don’t. We fail to realize that changing the degree to which we experience something can also change our lives for the better. If you asked Kelly, “Do you still have anxiety at work?” the answer is obviously yes. This might look like a failure to some, but she has gone from feeling anxiety from the moment she opened her eyes on a work morning to only feeling her anxiety during some of her work afternoons, and to a lesser degree.
Is it perfect? Not at all, but it is a major improvement in her life. She would tell you that her life is much better now because of EFT tapping. It is important that we don’t turn our emotional issues into “we have it or we don’t.” It is more important to understand how the emotional issue affects our lives and how we can reduce its impact.
An emotional issue that has wormed its way into negatively impacting many parts of our lives over time is usually going to take time and persistence to heal. When we know this, it is possible to stay focused on the healing process and create a reasonable plan for making positive changes without setting a time limit on our progress.