By Patricia Carrington, PhD, Master EFT Practitioner
At age 52, “Martin” is now facing a problem with respect to mastering certain advanced computer programming code.
While he originally consulted me because of “career problems,” it soon became evident that career per-se was not his true difficulty. Martin actually loves the work he does as a website designer and he handles it extremely well. He is a highly visual person and to him this occupation is a very creative and meaningful one.
It turns out that his real problem is that he is woefully deficient in understanding the code behind a major graphic program necessary in order to obtain the best paying jobs as a web designer, and that he has in fact balked at learning this code, although this is essential for the future of his work.
Because he does not have sufficient skills in this area to appeal to prospective employers, Martin has recently had to take an interim sales job, considerably below his skills, to supplement his income.
His future as a web designer had become uncertain.
When we first discussed his difficulty, Martin was hesitant to talk about it or to remember any past difficulties with math–an important ingredient in learning what he needs.
He finally did recall, however, that as a teenager he had moved to a new neighborhood and new high school where there was suddenly none of the individual attention under which he had flourished in his former school. This had, he said, resulted in his developing severe problems in algebra, although he always been very good in math before that.
To work on his math anxiety, which I supposed might lie behind his difficulties with computer programming skills, I asked him to print out some algebra problems from the Internet and bring them to our next session so we could use EFT for any difficulties he might experience when looking at them.
This seemed a good idea, but it didn’t prove to be as fruitful as I had hoped.
Tapping just on his math anxiety did not appear to be helping much with his difficulties with learning the software and code needed to return to the real career he loves. So I then asked Martin to bring his program manual to the next therapy session. We were going to face the lion in its den!
He brought the manual next time. It was a weighty volume, thick and impressive and chock full of information. When I thumbed through it, I noticed that it was written in a reasonably user-friendly fashion and I knew that Martin should be able to understand it in light of his considerable intelligence.
What then was his mental block all about?
Martin answered this question a bit sheepishly, “The fact is that I’m bored by it. Studying is not my favorite thing to do.” Then he added that the end product–what you can do with it–was exciting to him, but not the process. “I keep thinking, why am I learning it?”
For the first time we had a concrete issue to work on with respect to the resistance to learning new code. Martin’s SUD Level of Intensity on a 10 point “boredom” scale (where 0 was “not bored at all” and “10” was “unbearably bored”) was a “7 to 8.” I sometimes vary the standard distress ratings (SUD) to indicate intensity of emotions other than distress, and this was one of those times–boredom, not anxiety or distress, was the issue he was to rate.
To start off, I suggested that Martin try using the EFT Choices phrase:
“Even though I find learning new code boring, I choose to find unexpected areas of excitement and creativity in it.”
I intentionally introduced the idea of creativity into the phrase about learning code launguages because this is one of Martin’s very positive experiences.
He expressed interest in this phrase and considerable surprise about it, and proceeded to do one round of the EFT Choices Trio using it in his Setup and Reminder Phrases.
After a single round of the Trio, Martin’s boredom level had not moved; he was still at a SUD level of “7.” But in response to my question about what had been going through his mind while he was tapping, he said, “I actually started thinking about code, how I really do have in interest in making it work. I’d like to make it work. I’d have a feeling of accomplishment if I did.”
So far, so good, but there was still much to do. After he did another round of the Choices Trio, I asked him to pick up the manual again, look at its cover, and rate how boring the book looked to him now. His rating was now down to a “5 to 6” and he said, “I don’t feel the cringe anymore.”
For the next round, he made a slight change in the wording, one which brought it into a more active tense.
The new tapping phrase he used was:
“Even though I find learning new code boring, I choose to find the excitement and creativity in it.”
Notice how this phrase has become a more definite statement–he now believes that there actually are areas of “excitement and creativity” there to find!
Another round of the Choices Trio, and his boredom SUD score had come down to a “4 to 5,” but he told me that he had just realized “something else”: this new code was intimidating to him.
We had hit upon a new aspect!
Just how intimidating did he find it to be on the intensity scale? “About a 6,” he answered.
We could have just continued tapping on the general category of “intimidation,” and slowly but surely the intimidation would probably have lessened. But something prompted me to suggest to Martin that he interact directly with the book and the real challenge it presented, at this point. I had a feeling that the intimidation he was experiencing might be linked to some deficiencies in his ability to process the information in the book.
My instructions to him were to open the book and read any sentence that caught his attention. He was to read it to himself and then tell me how he felt as he read it.
His answer came easily. There were, he said, two unfamiliar terms in there–”int” and the word “float” used in a way specific to this particular code made him very uncomfortable. His SUD rating when looking at those terms was a “9.”
Perhaps Martin had not been able to read technical material easily because he may never have learned how to properly handle unfamiliar terms? The next Setup Phrase we constructed directly targeted this problem.
“Even though I find unfamiliar terms intimidating, I choose to know that I can find their meaning, and things will become clear.”
I had suggested the latter Choice to him because I didn’t think that Martin himself would have thought of it; it was simply not in his experience to be able to find the meaning of terms, and therefore this Choice was aimed at supplying some educational guidance.
Martin confirmed that he would never have thought of such a phrase but that he found the idea “interesting.”
With one round of the Choices Trio using this Reminder Phrase, his “intimidation” score was down to a “5.” After another round it was down to “3.” Now, reading the same sentence again as a test, he spontaneously commented:
“Now when I look at it, in my head I’m thinking, ‘I don’t know this but I can look it up.” Martin was now beginning to make a mental connection between “not knowing” and being able to “look it up,” an essential step if one is to successfully navigate technical courses.
After still one more round of the Trio, when Martin looked at the same sentence it actually looked to him “pretty good”–no longer intimidating. His “intimidation” score was now down to a “1 to 2.”
Then, as so often happens when people have come way down in their intensity ratings, creative solutions to his own dilemma began to pop into Martin’s mind.
“I’ve got an idea!” he said. “I can write down the terms as I come to them, and then look up the definitions and write these out, and have a list of them in front of me as I read. I never thought of that before! I really think my worry is way down.”
The therapy session was now over, but Martin lingered to talk about how he could use a knowledge of this new code to make more exciting websites. I could tell from the way he looked, acted, and spoke that he was on his way to adopting a new approach to doing this.
Will Martin’s resistance simply melt away and he turn to embracing new coding programs eagerly after this tapping session? I greatly doubt it.
A lasting change is usually not easy to achieve with a long-standing habit where extensive self re-education is required. My guess is that there will be still other aspects to address with regard to this problem. and that each one of them can be a major step for Martin in enhancing his approach to life and his confidence in himself, as well as his approach to learning new code.
My main reason for telling you about Martin’s experience has been to share with you my conviction that EFT can be used excitingly to further the educational process.
It can, I suspect, be used to fashion a new approach to any familiar bogged-down task, serving to remove the emotional blocks to that task, while simultaneously installing a “positive cognition” (a new positive way of thinking) about the issue. This is an unbeatable combination.
If EFT can do this as well as I suspect it can, then it could be used in many forms of education by simultaneously removing the block to learning on the one hand, and installing a desired educational skill on the other.