By Carol Cowan
Imagine that you are attempting to change a long-standing thought pattern or a particular emotion in which you always seem to feel stuck. You make the firm commitment in your mind to change, perhaps on a Monday because that sounds like a good day to start, but then by the following Friday you seem to have slipped back into your old pattern again, thinking and feeling the way you always have.
Why is that? Perhaps the more relevant question to ask is “How do we facilitate permanent change in our lives?” Breaking down the process of change, and using EFT as the tool, can be the key to long-lasting change.
For interest’s sake, let’s first address why we fall back into old patterns and habits. Whenever we have a thought, our brain produces a chemical or neuropeptide, which then results in feeling an emotion that is directly correlated to that thought. When we repeat those thoughts over and over again, it means we keep feeling those same emotions. Just think about how often you complain to your coworkers or your spouse about the same problems.
Eventually, this becomes a deeply engrained pattern and creates a well-grooved neural pathway in the brain, which is part of what creates your perception and the lens through which you view the world. Now if you try to change that deeply grooved pattern, after years of conditioning, the brain and the body are going to resist strongly and it will be uncomfortable. The brain and body will typically choose situations, thoughts, and emotions that feel “familiar” over new thoughts or emotions. The brain is like a computer running various programs that you’ve installed and it takes some work to uninstall programs that are no longer working for you and to reinstall a new program.
Step One with EFT
The first step with EFT is to unwire or decondition the emotional response to the habitual thought pattern. That thought pattern could be a memory of the past or a thought about the future; it doesn’t matter, since to the subconscious mind, it’s all the same. This is why, when using EFT, we first direct our thoughts to firing that habitual neural pathway and triggering the negative emotion, whether it’s anger, sadness, guilt, frustration, or anxiety. When we are tapping the acupressure points, the stimulation balances the body’s energy system and has a calming effect on the amygdala, a critical part of the brain’s limbic system and stress response. What happens is that we essentially “neutralize” our emotional response to that habitual thought pattern or memory, so that we simply feel calm and relaxed when we have that thought instead of feeling the negative emotion. This is where the magic begins because you are no longer controlled by the thinking/feeling loop that is, in part, creating your reality.
In neuroscience, Hebbian theory is a theory that proposes an explanation for the adaptation of neurons in the brain during the learning process. Hebb’s law states that “neurons that no longer fire together, no longer wire together.” The first step with EFT then is to unhook or unwire the emotional response that is connected to the thought so that we feel calm and relaxed instead.
Step Two with EFT
The second step to apply EFT effectively in the process of change is to rewire a new, more beneficial, emotional response to that habitual thought pattern or memory. Our perception truly is malleable. Hebbian theory also states that “neurons that fire together, wire together.”
When we take this second step to rewire a more positive emotional response, perhaps to an old memory, we then give the brain a new belief, a healthier program, or a stronger framework from which to operate. After all, if there is no program provided for the supercomputer in your brain, the tendency is for it to default back to the old program or pattern. This is why it’s essential to decide what you would like to feel instead of thinking that old thought. Perhaps you want to feel forgiveness instead of anger, or confident instead of nervous, innocent instead of guilty, or worthy instead of unworthy.
The first question to ask is “How do I feel when I think that negative thought?” and the second question is “What would I like to feel instead?”
When you know how you would like to feel instead, then you can implement that emotion into the EFT Setup Statement. The subconscious mind also responds well to the words “wonder if I could choose to feel” as part of the Setup Statement, as it triggers the creative part of the brain to see the situation from a different point of view. Once the new positive emotional response is created, the more that we fire and wire this new way of thinking and feeling, the more likely that we will create permanent change and it will simply become our new way of being.
A client Sara came to session presenting with anxiety about going to dinner at her son and daughter-in-law’s house for her son’s birthday. Unfortunately, she and her daughter-in-law had had a fight recently and Sara was told she would not be able to spend time with her future grandchild. She wanted to be a part of their lives but saw that she and her daughter-in-law often fought over who was in control of planning things and decision making. Sara admitted it was difficult for her to let go of control. Sara was already familiar with EFT, so we jumped right into tapping.
Step 1: Unwire or Decondition the Anxiety around Not Having Control
Sara reported her initial anxiety being about an 8 when she thought about walking up their driveway to go to dinner. We started tapping on various aspects of the issue with the following Setup Statements:
Even though I have this anxiety about going to that dinner, I love and accept myself.
Even though we had that big fight and I’m afraid I won’t be able to see my grandchild, I love and accept myself anyway.
Even though I don’t have control over my son and his wife’s choices, I love and accept myself anyway.
Even though I still have some of this anxiety that dinner will be awkward, I wonder if I can choose to love and accept myself anyway.
Even though I have this anxiety about going to dinner because we never resolved our argument, I love and accept myself anyway.
Even though not having control gives me anxiety, I love and accept myself anyway.
We tested Sara’s level of anxiety by pausing and having her go back and imagine walking up her son and daughter-in-law’s driveway on her way to dinner. Sara reported that there was a decrease in the anxious feeling in her stomach but that it was not completely gone. Now was the time to rewire a new conditioned response to that thought.
Step 2: Rewire Acceptance, Forgiveness, and Letting Go
Once Sara’s anxiety about going to the dinner dropped to about a 3, we started tapping on the following Setup Statements as well:
Even though I still have some of this anxiety, I wonder if I can choose to see the situation differently and accept that I don’t have control.
Even though I still have a little anxiety about going to that dinner, I wonder if could chose to accept them for who they are and the situation for what it is.
Even though we had that big fight, I choose now to forgive myself for the things I said.
Even though we had that fight, I choose to forgive them for the things they said too.
Even though there’s a chance I may be restricted from seeing my grandchild, I choose now to let go of control and accept the situation as it is.
Even though it’s hard to recognize what I can and can’t control, I choose instead to see that they have their own life now and it’s safe to let go.
And as Sara had tears coming down her cheeks, she rated herself at a 1 for anxiety and reported that all that remained was some fear of letting go and trusting that it was safe. We did one last tapping round:
Even though it doesn’t feel safe to totally let go of control over my son and daughter-in-law’s choices, I choose to see myself and them through the eyes of love and compassion instead.
We ended the session with Sara being able to accept the situation fully, feeling at peace with the image of going to dinner.
Two weeks later, Sara checked in for another session and reported that a bit of her anxiety came back on her way to their house but that the dinner actually went better than she had expected and they were able to have a healthy conversation to repair their connection. When we shift our emotions with EFT, we shift our vibration, which means anything is possible!
Enjoy the EFT Two Step and dance away with your newfound thought patterns and elevated emotions!
Carol Cowan is a social worker and EFT practitioner.