By Patricia Carrington, PhD, EFT Master Practitioner
EFT doesn’t always work to alleviate pain of course-—nothing works for that in every instance — but it works sufficiently often so that many people have turned to EFT for help in managing their pain.
I will offer ways you may use EFT to control pain. I encourage you to try them with the awareness that we are engaging here in an experiment. What works for one person may not be what works for another, and the other way around.
The method I tell you about today makes use of a practice called “reframing.” This involves removing your thoughts about a pain or discomfort from their present context — usually by changing the words you are using in your mind to describe this condition to yourself — and placing the pain in an entirely new context by looking at it in a completely different way.
Let me give you an example of how this works. It involves an incident recounted by the leader of a workshop that I attended many years ago. This man happened to be addressing problems of vision at the time and wanted us to understand the powerful relationship between mind and body and the effects of reframing a pain or distress.
To illustrate his point, he told us his own experience after he had had an operation for a near fatal brain tumor.
He had suddenly developed what the doctors declared to be an “inoperable brain tumor” when he was in his mid-30s, and because there was at least a slim chance that he might survive the operation, and because he therefore opted to have it, a very risky surgery was performed.
This man remembers vividly lying in the hospital after the operation in a state of silent despair, listening to the comments of medical personnel around him to the effect that his condition was “hopeless” and there was “nothing they could do for him”. He felt devastatingly alone and completely abandoned.
As the days passed in the hospital, he subsequently developed a strange and disturbing symptom. Several times a day he would feel as though a “bolt of lightening” were shooting through him and throwing him to the floor (or back into the bed as the case might be). It was terrifying and seemed to him that he was being struck a mortal blow each time it happened.
Then one day something unusual occurred. Within him something seemed to tell him what to do and quite suddenly he decided on his own to view these periodic shocks in an entirely new light.
He decided to relabel them in his mind as evidence of healing.
From that time on, each time one of these shocks occurred he would say to his body, “Thank you. I know you are healing me.” After he started doing this he actually began to welcome the shocks as evidence of the “healing” that his doctors had told him could never happen.
What is remarkable about this story is that not only did this transform this man’s experience while he was in the hospital, but he began mysteriously to mend despite the dire predictions of the medical staff. He was eventually discharged from the hospital as being “in remission” for some unidentified reason.
This was more than 30 years ago. He has remained without a recurrence of the brain tumor ever since. He did not of course have EFT to assist in this natural “reframe,” but it is available to us today and any of us can make use of a similar strategy.
Here is how you can use EFT in this manner with respect to pain or other forms of physical distress which you might be experiencing:
First, identify the physical pain, distress or discomfort that you would like to be rid of, and call it “this pain . . .” or “this distress . . .” Then write down a detailed description of just what the pain is, or clearly articulate it to yourself verbally if you do not have access to pencil and paper.
For example you might characterize your condition as:
“This pain on the right side of my left hand,” adding any other details you choose to identify it. Make your description as detailed as possible. Later, when doing EFT, you will be referring to it as simply “this pain/distress” but will know exactly what you mean by that phrase.
Give an Intensity Rating to the pain on a zero to 10 point scale (a SUDS level) and formulate a Reframing EFT statement for it such as:
“Even though I have this pain/distress, I choose to know that it is here to heal me.”Or
“I thank the Universe for sending me this pain/distress, to bring about a breakthrough in my healing.”
Try not to figure out just what this “healing” is, or whether it will appear in the form of a physical transformation, a sudden liberating insight, a new style of coping, or as a result of a situation occurring that will forever change your life — simply do not try to guess what form it to may take, but that a healing will take place and that the pain is a signal of that healing.
Then use EFT as follows:
On the karate shop spot (or the psychological reversal spot of your preference) repeat your full EFT statement three times while tapping and saying something along the lines of:
“Even though I have this pain/distress, I choose to know that it is here to heal me.” Or,
“Even though I have this pain/distress, I thank the Universe for healing me through this pain.”
Then do one round of EFT, starting with the Inner Eyebrow spot, and repeat the negative part of this statement (e.g. this pain . . .etc.) at each tapping point.
Next, do one whole round of EFT stating the positive phrase only:
“I thank the Universe for healing me through this pain.”& Or,
“I thank the Universe for allowing this pain to bring me an important change for the good.”
Then take your Intensity Rating once again and note how you feel about the pain now. Keep repeating this EFT sequence until you feel a noticeable shift. Hopefully eventually you will begin to feel that your uncomfortable symptom is now a “friend” with a positive message for you.
When you do, take a paper and pencil and write down, one beneath the other, every possible positive “message” that this condition might be trying to convey to you. Let your imagination run wild when you do this.
Never mind the logic of the statement, just write it down, as in:
“The pain is telling me that I can survive this big (scary, uncomfortable, painful etc.) situation, and still be alive and hopeful.” Or,
“It is telling me that I am far more resourceful than I had any idea I could possibly be.” Or,
“It is telling me that there are many more ways to handle this than I realized.” Or,
“It is reminding me of the persistence of life — my body’s wish to help me heal.”
There are no limits to the kind of constructive messages that may come to your mind if you allow yourself to do this experiment.
You may want to finish by doing a round of tapping on only the positive phrase that contains one of the above messages (e.g. repeating“the robustness of life. . . the robustness of life. . .”, or, “my amazing capacity to heal… my amazing capacity to heal.”) at each tapping point.
Later, you can repeat this positive round of tapping at intervals afterwards as needed. Then retake your Intensity Level and see how much discomfort you have now.
This method can be so transformative when it works that I would strongly suggest you try it the next time you have the need to reduce a distressing physical symptom. It can bring a powerful message to you about your own ability to heal yourself.
Refocusing has been known and used intuitively down through the ages. Notice the way an adult will often attempt to distract a child who has just suffered an injury by calling their attention to something else that is positive.
As young children fall down and cut or bruise themselves, a parent may quickly step in to say, “Look how soft and cuddly your Teddy bear is! Hug him! Hug him and it will all feel better. Hug Teddy!” —— or something to that effect.
By doing this the adult is helping the child to refocus.
Instead of their vivid, all enveloping absorption in an injured knee (or whatever the injury is) the child’s attention is being redirected to something pleasant and reassuring. In this example it happens to be a familiar cuddly toy but it could be any positive object.&
Often, when his or her attention is redirected in this way, a child may stop crying altogether. This is particularly apt to happen if EFT is added to the equation and the adult helps the child to tap at each spot by using phrases such as:
“It hurts! It hurts! It hurts!” following this by a round of EFT where they tap on, “Hugging my Teddy! Hugging my Teddy! Hugging my Teddy!” or “Teddy loves me!” etc.
You can use this same principle to help yourself with EFT when you yourself are experiencing physical distress.
Here are the steps:
STEP 1: Focus on your physical distress/pain, and describe it to yourself in detail. It often helps to write down your description.
STEP 2: Scan your body mentally until you find an area that feels comfortable and normal, preferably one that is at some distance from the original pain or distress. Notice the sensations in that neutral (non-painful) part of your body.
The scan works like this.
If you had a toothache, after doing one round of tapping on the negative phrase, “This painful toothache,” you would now scan your body to find another area, preferably distant from your jaw, area that is not in pain.
You can almost invariably find an area somewhere in your body that is not in pain. Remember that the body and its trillions of cells is really a vast conglomerate with as many components as the population of a nation. Some place, somewhere within this “nation,” you are likely to be feeling okay, even if a lot of other areas are screaming for attention because they feel endangered.
Let’s imagine that your left hand feels perfectly okay despite a pain in your tooth. If so, you will turn your attention to your hand to see if you can discover what feels right about that hand. Is it in contact with some object? Perhaps a table where it may be resting?
Notice whether it feels pleasant for your hand to be able to sense that surface. Hands like to sense fully whatever they come into contact with because this is one of their primary functions. They are like scouts, reaching out and contacting the environment so they can send back messages about it to you.
You are therefore very likely to have a pleasant sensation in your hand as it touches a surface. If you can identify this good feeling, you will use it in the latter part of your EFT statement (the portion often called the EFT Choices Phrase because it begins with the empowering words “I choose…”)
You could now start tapping on an EFT statement that could go something like:
“Even though I have this toothache, I choose to notice how good my hand feels as it touches the table (or whatever it’s in contact with)”
After tapping on the Karate Chop Spot (or another psychological reversal point) do one entire round of EFT, repeating the negative phrase only, as in “this toothache, this toothache” at each spot.
Follow this by one round of EFT using the positive phrase only, as in “my hand feels good touching the table, my hand feels good touching the table” at each spot.
Then retake your Intensity Rating and notice how your toothache feels. It may well have decreased in intensity. In some cases it may not even be readily noticeable unless you now deliberately direct your attention to it.
If you find no change at all in the pain in your tooth (or wherever) after doing this exercise, then locate another spot in your body which you find to be neutral. Identify something pleasant about the sensations you notice there, and focus upon them using EFT.
Aside from its immediate usefulness, this technique can build a valuable habit — that of automatically seeking out and focusing on a positive experience you are having somewhere in your body, when you are feeling pain in another part. This allows your positive feelings to lower your distress about the pain and thereby assist in healing the discomfort or pain.
It is an excellent habit to cultivate.
If you use this technique, you will discover that we are almost always experiencing many different sensations simultaneously along with any pain or distress, and you will recognize that it is your choice as to which you want to have uppermost in your mind —— the pain or the pleasant feelings. This is immediately freeing.
3. Giving Loving Attention
Another way to deal with pain is to do what I call “giving loving attention” to your pain by doing EFT. This can work to alleviate the pain and sometimes to effect actual healing of the pain’s underlying cause.
This method works because pain (or any kind of severe physical discomfort) is an undeniable call-to-action. The pain behaves much like a screaming baby does in that it is insisting that we pay attention to it whether we want to a not. If we try to overlook it, it will usually just “yell” much louder for the attention it needs and wants.
When confronted by a screaming baby, we all know it doesn’t help to hit the child or scream back at it. So, if we can’t identify the cause of the child’s distress right away, or are not able to immediately remove that cause, we will intuitively seek to comfort that baby by giving it loving attention.
Surprisingly, this often works, and the infant’s screams may fade away as it realizes that its call for help has been heard, and that someone whom the child trusts is there trying to give assistance.
This same comforting, loving behavior that one might instinctively give a baby in great distress can be applied to any physical distress of our own that may be “screaming” for our attention.
Suppose, for example, that you are suffering from a severe abdominal pain, and that nothing you have done has helped it and so you decide to use EFT in the manner I have just described — by providing comforting attention to the painful area.
To do this, you might formulate an EFT statement that would go like this:
“Even though my stomach (or whatever area it is) is screaming for my attention, I choose to let it know that I love it, pain or no pain.”
Babies, stomachs, and any part of the body or mind wants to know that it is loved “no matter what”, loved with no strings attached and no demands being made on it to “feel better” just so we will feel better. Once it has our loving, totally accepting attention, instead of our annoyance or anxious insistence that it go away (i.e. that it “shut up!”) the pain will often calm down remarkably, contented at having received your unconditional acceptance.
When confronted with pain or acute physical distress of some other sort, an excellent and very kind way to handle it is to say, while tapping, something like:
“Even though I have this pain, I choose to give it my loving attention.” Or,
“Even though I have this pain, I choose to hear its cry and give it love.” Or,
“Even though I have this pain, I choose to recognize its cries for comfort and give that comfort with all my heart.”
The point is to understand the principle behind these statements.
You are to keep tapping on the EFT spots by doing first one round of the negative phrase (“I have this pain” or “This pain, this pain” etc.) and then do one round of the positive phrase, (e.g. “I choose to hear its cry and let it know I am here, with comfort and healing.”)
I suggest that you try using EFT this way the next time you or someone you know is in pain. It may be one of the best possible ways that you can assist in your own or their healing.