Dear EFT Community,
The Movie Technique is a core technique of EFT, a valuable and trustworthy approach with many applications. Here, EFT Master, Gwyneth Moss, offers 4 creative uses of the Movie Technique for: 1. a Childhood Memory, 2. Agoraphobia, 3. a Specific Future Anxiety, and 4. a Tarantula Terror.
By Gwyneth Moss, EFT Master
ANDY: When Mary (not her real name) first presented her ‘problem’ she stated that she had never been able to tell anyone in full what had happened and she had only ever told two people and then not in full. The event occurred when she was six years old (Mary is now 40 years) and she could only refer to it as ‘My step father did something unpleasant’. Her SUD (level of emotional upset) was a 10 out of 10.
She was visibly distressed.
ME: Now at this stage many of us will be making assumptions about Mary and what happened when she was six and what her step father did. You will notice that even if Andy did make those assumptions he did not at this stage ask any questions about what happened.
She was visibly distressed and his first priority was to help her to be calmer and not to upset her further. EFT shatters that old assumption that therapy has to be long drawn-out painful – as EFT helpers we aim to help quickly and as painlessly as possible.
ANDY: This was her first introduction to EFT so I explained to her it was like acupuncture for psychology only we don’t use needles but we tap with our own fingers on certain meridian points and that allows the release of blocked and stuck emotions.
I showed her what I meant by demonstrating tapping on myself and showing her how I had used EFT myself to feel calmer about something that had worried me.
ME: This is a really nice way to introduce EFT. It can be difficult to explain EFT just with words but people get it when they have an experience. Andy realizes that Mary is in a highly aroused emotional state and is probably not going to listen to his explanation.
But people do need some understanding of the process before we start asking them to tap themselves so Andy neatly solves this problem by tapping on himself to show her what he is going to ask her to do and telling her a story about how it helped him personally.
ANDY: I let her know that if she was uncomfortable with saying what had happened we could deal with it in different ways. I told her she didn't have to tell me anything she did not want to tell me and could make what happened as like a video clip and give it a title and we could work with that, or we could ‘tell the story’ emphasizing that at any time she got upset we would stop and tap until the emotion settled.
I told her this was not about enduring the incident again as once was enough! She decided that she just wanted to give it a name and didn't want to tell her story.
ME: EFT is to me the most respectful and person-centered of therapies. We can allow the person privacy and still help them. Andy gives an excellent pre-frame by telling her that she does not have to endure the incident again and that she does not have to tell him anything that she does not feel comfortable telling him.
ANDY: We began by giving the movie clip the title – ‘My Step Father Did Something Unpleasant’ and tapped with the title:
“Even though my step father did something unpleasant I truly and deeply and completely accept myself”
“Even though my step father did something unpleasant when I was six years old I deeply and completely accept myself”
We did a round three times and the 10 came down to 8. We continued tapping and I changed the words to:
“When I was six my step father was unpleasant to me”
Mary said “He didn't do something to me he did something in front of me to someone else”. I established that she didn't know who the other person was and that what her step father did was wrong and she knew it was wrong. SUD still about 8.
ME: The safest (and easiest) way to use EFT is to simply reflect back a person’s exact words through the EFT process. We use their exact words because these are the words their deeper mind chose and therefore the words that best tune in the emotion so that the tapping can clear it. Counselors are trained to paraphrase and change the words or offer their own words.
In EFT, it is important to use the person’s exact words.
Here, Andy is working in the dark as he does not at this stage know what the incident is – his assumption that something was done to Mary is an assumption that we would all make, however it is off the mark and Mary tells him so. It is important to let the person you are tapping with know that if the words you are asking them to repeat do not fit for them then they can change them.
ANDY: We continued tapping:
“Even though my step father did something unpleasant in front of me when I was six, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
“Even though my step father did something to someone else that was unpleasant I was only six and I knew that what my step father did was wrong, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
SUD level was now down to 5. I asked what makes it a five. She then began to tell her story. I let her tell it and kept checking for verbal and non verbal clues as to any change in emotions.
ME: Much of the skill of EFT is in asking simple questions. Andy asks a great question “What is it about that that makes it a 5?” This is a really good question to get more specific which still gives the person a let out if they don’t want to tell the story - Mary responds by telling him what happened.
Very often as the intensity of emotion subsides with tapping a person who previously declared that they did not want to tell the story starts to do so, spontaneously, without being asked. Andy watches her closely as she tells it and stops to tap when the emotion rises.
ANDY: She told me her step father had a shop and they were going to the shop in his car. He had been drinking and was drunk. This was not uncommon. She got to ‘approaching the shop’ and then her SUD’s changed. She went between 8 and 10.
We stopped and tapped:
“Even though I’m six and my step father is driving whilst drunk, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
“Even though as a six year old I know this is wrong, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
“Even though I’m just a six-year-old passenger with my drunk step father, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
After a couple of rounds her SUD came down to a 4. She was happy to continue with the story. We backed up to a point with no emotional attachment and she carried on. We got to where an old man walked in front of her step father’s car as he was going to park when the crescendo rose:
“Even though the old man stepped out in front of the car, he should have looked where he was going, and I deeply and completely accept myself.”
After a couple of rounds the SUD came down to 3. We backed up and continued the story. She got to where her step father got out of the car and punched the old man who fell to the floor. Another crescendo, stopped the story and continued tapping:
“Even though the old man didn't look where he was going, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
“Even though he had the audacity to step into my step-father's parking space, I deeply and completely accept myself, as I'm just a six-year-old watching my drunken stepfather loose control”
“My stepfather lost his temper and the old man found it.”
“My stepfather punched the old man.”
“He stepped in my stepfathers space.”
“I had to watch this unpleasant event”
“I was just a six-year-old girl there was nothing I could do.”
The SUD came down to 3 and a little laughter. She continued with the story. We stopped a few more times for different crescendo’s (when she saw blood where the old man hit his head on the pavement, The feeling of being helpless, Running into the shop where her stepfather’s girlfriend was (not her mother!) where she screamed for help and called for an ambulance).
During the later part I included some positive linguistics during the tapping
“I wonder how many other six-year-olds would have known what to do”
“‘How many six-year-olds when really scared would have got an ambulance”
“‘I know adults that would have fainted at the sight of blood”
“‘How brave of a six-year-old to do what was right”
Eventually she was able to ‘tell her story’ all the way through without any crescendo’s and her final SUD was a 2. I asked what was it that made it a 2? she said “because I can’t believe that the feelings have gone!"
There are a number of other issues that Mary is having continuing sessions for. She had a rough time in her childhood and this session is only the tip of the iceberg.
As a first introduction to EFT she was amazed that something she had held for so many years could have gone so quickly (The session was about 1 hour). I saw her recently for more treatment and asked if there had been any further issues with the old man who didn't look where he was going. She laughed and said the emotion of that memory had completely gone.
ME: Andy did a really good job with the Movie Technique so let me summarize the steps involved.
1. Isolate a specific event. You can do this by asking “If what happened was a video clip how long would it play for?” If the answer is longer than minutes then ask if there was a worst bit and how long that would be. Then treat each bad bit as a single video clip.
2. Give a name to the video clip and tap on the name. I ask “If that was on a DVD disc what name would you write on the disc to identify that specifically? Here you don’t want to use a general word like “Betrayal” which could expand to include any and every betrayal. “Betrayal by John” or “Betrayal at the Gym” is specific.
Ask them to say the name and get a number or some other measure for how much that gets to them. Use EFT for a couple of rounds with the name of the event until the 0-10 intensity number is decreased.
3. Ask them to narrate the movie, tapping whenever intensity rises. Start the narration before the bad stuff at an ordinary moment and tell them that they are to stop and freeze frame if they feel their emotion rising. Watch them closely because they will try to tough it out. At any stopping point tap with whatever is happening at that point of the story and use their exact words.
Back up to before the stopping point and start the narration again checking that they are now OK at that point. Continue in this manner through the movie.
4. Ask them to tell it again to test that there are no further aspects. Telling the story again without intense emotion gives the person confidence that something has indeed changed (the story may still be unpleasant but it no longer has the effect that it did previously).
And the helper gains the confidence that all the aspects have been cleared and that the emotions of that specific event will no longer be triggered in the present.
You may use this technique for a specific memory that is at the root of a problem, often a memory from childhood, or for a memory of an incidence of pain or panic or for a fictional, made-up event that would be fitting context for a problem or for a future event that gives rise to anxiety such as an interview.
PENNY: My client "G" asked me if I could help him as he has been suffering from agoraphobia for about 8 years and cannot go down the road alone. He would suffer a panic attack and always needs someone to come with him, in which case he is absolutely OK to go anywhere.
G knew about meridians so I began the session by explaining how EFT had developed from understandings from Chinese Acupuncture. Then I explained about how we experience an emotion and that it is seen as “disturbance” of the mind-body energy system.
I told him about how EFT tunes in and clears the excess ZZZZ of strong emotions and severs the emotional link between an event in the past and the present time. I explained how we have neuron pathways which the brain will frequent more and more often as a habitual pattern so that it becomes easier and easier to get certain actions, sounds, etc associated with certain feelings.
G was quite happy with my explanation and eager to find out what we could do to help him.
ME: Penny builds a bridge to EFT with her explanation here. G knows about meridians so she tells him that EFT has its roots in acupuncture. He is a thinking man so she gives a rational and reasoned explanation. In the previous example the person was distressed so a visual example was more accessible for them.
PENNY: I showed him the tapping sequence and then asked him how he felt when he thought about going down the road. I asked him to make a video clip of the last time he had attempted to go down the road alone and we tapped:
“Even though I can’t go down the road alone, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
Then starting from the safety of home I asked him to narrate the move and to stop and freeze frame as soon as he got an emotional response. He got to the bottom of his road and stopped and told me he felt “a fear of panic”. He said he felt like he was going to “fall off the earth and I can’t feel my body properly.”
He SUD scaled it at 8. We tapped:
“Even though I feel frightened that I am going to panic and fall off the earth I truly and deeply and completely accept myself.”
His SUC level went down to a 5.
During the second round he interrupted me and told me he remembered the first time it happened, which was 8 years ago in Brighton. He had a hangover and was walking down the road feeling full of remorse and guilt and suddenly “out of nowhere” this feeling of panic and fear of leaving his body overcame him.
“Even though I panicked and felt like I was going to leave my body, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
His SUD level was now at 8. Three rounds of tapping on that brought it down to a 1.
ME: Often when we use the Movie technique to make a movie of a current symptom or problem it brings to consciousness a relevant memory. Penny handles this earlier memory effectively by simply reflecting back G’s words, and then brings G back to the movie they are working with.
It is fine to go with earlier memories as they arise however it is part of the role of the helper in managing the process to remember to come back to where you started and not to keep jumping from one thing to another.
PENNY: We went back to his movie of going to the shops and he stopped by the wall at the bottom of the road and felt 7 for tapping:
“Even though the wall seems ominous and threatening, I deeply and completely accept myself. What if it falls on me? It feels like it won’t protect me…"
This went to a 2 after 2 rounds of tapping, which he felt quite OK with. He carried on down to the main road and felt that if there were cars parked there he would feel protected by them. He then begun to feel light-headed, which he said would precede a panic attack.
This he scaled at 5 and we tapped on:
“Even though being on the main road makes me feel lightheaded and I am worried I will get a panic attack, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
His level went to a 3 after 2 rounds. He then said he felt worried about what people would think about him if he was behaving strangely and that he felt a dread in his stomach about getting a panic attack.
Scaled at 8 we tapped:
“Even though I am worried about what people might think and I dread getting a panic attack, I deeply and completely accept myself."
Worried what people think…
Will I look really stupid…
What will I do?....
How will I behave?...
What if I cant get home again?...
His SUD level went down to 0 really quickly after 2nd round.
ME: Working with the movie brings up the aspects of his experience of panic attacks and his beliefs about them. Penny again reflects back his words and deals with each aspect as it arises. She keeps going till they get to a 0.
PENNY: He then said he felt odd because he couldn't really feel anything and that confused him quite a lot.
He tried really hard to get the feeling of dread back and was rather put out that he couldn't, he thought he was doing something wrong so I reassured him that EFT would have that effect and that actually it was simply unfamiliar for him to be without the dread, which had been his companion for so long.
He was OK to carry on.
I asked him what actually came up for him if he thought about the panic and he told me that the first time it happened preceded a nervous breakdown/psychotic episode which meant he felt suicidal and that he was terrified of getting that way again. So his biggest fear was actually fear of panicking because he associated it with the nervous breakdown.
He had taken quite a long time to recover and had to have medication.
Next thing we tapped on was (His words):
“Even though I am scared of breaking down and going mad and feeling suicidal I deeply and completely accept myself just as I am right now.”
He scaled at 10 on that and after 3 rounds went to 3.
I am really scared… I might go mad… I might break down… My head might go into confusion… What if I went mad?... What would I do then?...
He then said “well then I would have rely on my parents and be a perpetual invalid and scaled right up to a 10. So we tapped on (His words):
“Even though the thought of “that” happening means my life would not be worth living I deeply and completely accept myself.”
After this we got to a point where he got confused again, broke off the tapping to say he couldn't actually feel anything again ( I took that to be a 0) and that it was weird and that his brain felt “Bluuuuggg” (his word).
He scaled that at a 10 (didn't like it at all) so we tapped on:
“Even though my brain feels bluuuugg, I deeply and completely accept myself anyway just as I am."
His SUD went to 0 in one round and again he said he felt confused without the bad feelings.
I decided that as he had reached 0 on several aspects we had probably done enough for the first session and just wanted to check out the statements he had tapped on earlier to make sure they still scaled low so went back to “I feel light headed and dread panicking when I am on the main road,” which he didn't feel anything about.
Then he said “I am scared I will get a nervous breakdown like I did before and feel suicidal” which also didn't bring up any feelings. And lastly he said “relying on my parents and being a perpetual invalid “and that didn't bring up any feelings either.
ME: Using the earlier set up statements is a good way to test. These are the words that earlier in the session expressed this man’s greatest fears and now he can say them without significant emotion. This gives him confidence that something has changed and gives Penny confidence that those aspects that were worked on with EFT have held.
People who have had fear and dread as a constant companion can find it difficult to remember what it is like to be without them and change needs to happen in bite sized chunks so Penny sensibly concludes the session at this point and sets him some tapping homework.
PENNY: I told him that maybe not having feelings around these things felt really confusing because he was so used to them being there and that he would get used to the “peace” inside.
I gave him some homework to do, which was to continue to tap every day on anything and everything that makes him feel anxious, regardless of how silly he might think it is and to make a note of the scale and how much he could bring it down – I asked him to do a minimum of three rounds per set up statement regardless of confusion or anything else he might be feeling.
Feedback from G: He enjoyed the tapping and said he felt real happiness when the set up statements went from high down to low or nothing even though it confused him because he normally avoided thinking about it because it would make him feel worse.
He also said that I had made him feel real optimism that this can help him to improve, and to put the past behind him. He had always labeled his fear as a mental illness and now could see that maybe it was a habit that could be changed. He was very excited at the possibilities he could see opening up for himself and couldn't wait to pay me!!
ME: Notice the cognitive shift from G as he turns the identity statement of mental illness into the behavior of a habit which can be changed. EFT can be part of that change and this session will be a beginning as there will be many more movies for G to put through the EFT process.
Very often people who have had a breakdown are carrying the trauma of the breakdown and despite their recovery everyday things trigger those breakdown memories, they become afraid of it happening again and their world becomes restricted.
It’s a good starting point to use EFT like this to work on clearing the memories of the breakdown before looking for the earlier events that lead to the breakdown.
The use of the Movie Technique here was very similar to using it for a childhood memory. First make the movie and give it a name, then use EFT on the title of the movie, then step through the movie using EFT with whatever aspects arise.
Peter is a confident and capable man who knows that he is good at his job and also knows that his manager and co-workers know that and that it is generally recognized throughout the organization that he deserves promotion.
Peter had been working night shift for several years and he desperately wanted that promotion as it would allow him to work day shifts. However Peter was terrified of interviews.
As he told me about his situation I could sense how desperate and scared an otherwise well balanced and confident man was becoming. His interview was the following week and he had already convinced himself that there was no hope. “I just can’t say anything and I look so stupid and last time I nearly cried”.
I asked Peter to make a movie in his mind about the upcoming interview and to give it a name – he called it “Interview Failure” and said it gave him 10 out of 10 for anxiety and that was like a churning in his stomach.
He had come to me because a friend had told him about EFT but to him it sounded weird and could not possibly help – and he was desperate. So I told him that yes EFT is weird and it does look daft and it does feel silly but there was only the two of us to know and I wouldn't tell anyone.
I suggested “how about we just do it because afterwards you will be able to ask better questions and I will give better answers”.
With that we started tapping:
“Even though this interview is giving me stomach churning anxiety I know that I really am good at my job."
We did a couple of rounds of shortcut EFT and he looked at me surprised. “It feels different, my stomach isn't churning and I almost wonder what I’m making a fuss about.”
Well something had changed but I wanted to be really sure and check for all aspects. I asked him to start to narrate his movie of the future that he had called “Interview Failure” and immediately he changed the title to “Interview Hope”.
He chose to narrate it in the first person and we decided to start as he was walking to the management suite in the office building. I asked him to be in the movie and tell me what his body was doing. He said “My heart is beating too fast and my breathing is shallow”.
So I simply repeated his words back to him through the EFT shortcut process “Even though my heart is beating too fast and my breathing is shallow I know that I am really good at my job and I know my boss knows that too.”
We then backed up in the movie and this time he felt calm and curious as he walked.
The next difficult bit was sitting waiting for his name to be called and his thoughts racing so: “Even though my thoughts are racing as I’m sitting waiting to hear my name I know that I am absolutely superb at my job and that my boss’s boss knows it too”. Again we backed up and again he found himself calm and curious.
We stepped through the movie and each time he found a difficult or anxious bit I simply reflected his words back to him as we tapped and he added the positives, I would simply pause after saying “I know that…”
“Even though he is looking at me I know that I am capable, efficient and effective, as I deeply and completely accept myself.”
“Even though I’m scared I’ll forget everything I know that I know everything without thinking about it, as I deeply and completely accept myself.”
“Even though I’m scared my words won’t come I know that I know my job inside out because I deeply and completely accept myself.”
“Even though I’m scared I’ll blush I know that they know I know my job inside out as I deeply and completely accept myself.”
“Even though he will try and catch me out I know that I can answer any question about this job because I deeply and completely accept myself.”
Each time that we backed up the movie and ran through the previous sticking point, I saw Peter becoming his normal, confident self, articulate, curious and with a gentle humor. Soon we could run through the whole interview movie with calm curiosity and Peter smiled and said “I know what this is about”.
He then told me about an audition for a school play in which he had madly fancied the female lead and was desperate to get the part of the male lead so that he could kiss her.
He forgot his lines after she muffed hers but she had blamed him and laughed at him and he had been mortified and never tried acting again.
Peter left me with my ABC of EFT sheet but said that the problem was completely gone and done with and he would not be seeing me again or doing anything so weird!
Elaine came on my EFT Foundations workshop and volunteered as a demonstration subject. She said she had a fear of spiders and specifically the “T” word.
Well fear was an understatement.
Even thinking about the T word put her right into a state of blind terror and though tapping calmed her somewhat EFT was having little effect on her response and she startled with sheer panic when I held my hand with the fingers pointing down.
After quite a few rounds of tapping she made some progress and was able to say the T word: Tarantula and amused the class by shouting it several times and could even picture one in her imagination. However her fear was still intact because when I showed her a photograph of a tarantula the old terror was triggered once again.
This was not the 10 minute demonstration I had been expecting, but served to show the class that EFT is not magic.
Later that day I found some privacy for myself and Elaine and realized that we would have to be more indirect than going through the obvious aspects about spiders as even working on the phobia seemed to be increasing her general arousal level.
Elaine was keen to keep working despite the lack of one-minute-wonder success and she is to be commended for not giving up when the result was not immediate.
I asked her if she could remember any experience in her life which could be the root of this fear or could explain it and she responded that she could not.
So I took a different tack and asked her to imagine herself to be the director of a fictional movie in which a fear of tarantulas would make sense. That movie could be set in another country, in another time and the actors could be a different age and sex.
Elaine invented a movie about a teenage boy in Tudor times, hundreds of years ago and gave it the title ‘Death in the Night’. As she began to construct the movie in her mind I could see she was getting distressed so we started with several rounds of silent tapping.
In EFT we use words to tune in emotion and tapping to clear or calm emotion. When the emotion is strongly present we do not need words to tune it in and silent tapping can help a person to calm down enough to continue.
We then started to sneak up on the problem “Even though I've made this movie and there’s some very scary bits in it, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
And after a few rounds we got to tapping for the title of the movie ‘Death in the Night’ until Elaine felt comfortable to narrate her movie.
She started with the opening scene where the young man who has had to leave his home and family is alone in a straw hut in the night. Then the tarantulas sneak into the hut. At this moment her fear rose visibly so we started tapping with:
“Even though they started to come under the door, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
“Even though there were hundreds of them, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
“Even though they crawl up on the bed, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
It took several rounds of tapping to clear each step through the movie as she would hit the top of the scale on each one. But clear they did and after each we rewound to the beginning and started the narration again. I have to say that this took a great deal of bravery from Elaine and sometimes she could only have me tap on her fingers.
Then we got to the very worst part:
“Even though they crawl onto his face, I am here now and I accept myself.”
This took several rounds of tapping and at one point Elaine said she could sense Tarantulas all around her and that they were leaving and leaving her with a sense of release. We continued bit by bit through the movie and right through the death scene of the poor boy.
Eventually Elaine was able to narrate the whole movie without panic and felt a huge feeling of release, lightness and freedom.
Calling Elaine today she said: “It is really laughable to think that I had this huge phobia then because now I have a completely normal reaction just like anyone else. I would not like to have a tarantula on my hand but who would?
I feel a real sense of freedom and am so glad that I persisted with EFT. The fictional movie was an ideal way to gain my freedom because I neither want nor need to know the source of that old fear.”
If you use the technique of the fictional movie then you simply use it just as you do for a real memory. However we do need to be very clear that it is fiction and that the imagined events are simply a means of tuning in the emotional disturbance so that it can be cleared.
If we get too close to reality we could be in danger of creating a memory where there was none. To create a fiction you can change place and time all that needs to fit is the emotion. Your test is first to be able to narrate the fiction and then to be able to face what was previously triggering.
To conclude then, The Movie Technique is our all purpose EFT workhorse. We can use it for difficult memories, for daily challenges, for future situations and in a fictional manner when we just don’t know or its all too scary.