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EFT Alternate Phrase Technique: Tapping on Both Sides of a Conflict

EFT Tapping Sequence
Dear EFT Community,

EFT Master, Patricia Carrington, PhD, offers an alternate phrase EFT technique that adjusts the EFT Reminder Phrase in order to tap on both sides of a conflict which, in her experience, has served to speed along, and deepen, client healing.


By Patricia Carrington, PhD

Deep-seated issues need to be addressed repeatedly during a course of EFT therapy, and sessions that use EFT productively can end on a somewhat difficult “to be continued” note.

A lot may have cleared in that session and some aspects of a major problem been handled, yet the client is left with mixed feelings. He/she can be uncertain and sometimes even in an emotionally unstable state. What to do?

At the end of this kind of session, an obvious move is to establish a positive viewpoint before the close so that the person can reach a positive frame of mind between sessions.

Theoretically, EFT should be able to “install” this kind of positive affirmation or point of view. But in actual practice, I’ve found that direct positive installation through EFT is usually not effective at this point.

The reason for this goes back to the concept of tail-enders. For those of you who haven’t read about them, tail-enders are those subliminal, automatic, and often unrecognized inner reservations that often accompany an affirmation–the “yes, but…” in the back of the person’s mind that can block the effectiveness of the affirmation.

A positive installation is, in essence, an affirmation.

If the person has an inner conflict–if they are not 100% congruent (in accord) with the positive statement–then it simply doesn’t take. Even if they go through the motions of dutifully tapping on the positive statement, in the back of their minds there is still a “yes, but…” negating it.

How can we get around this problem when doing EFT?

One way is to tap on the tail-ender itself (the negative cognition), and this can be wonderfully effective with affirmations. I consider this one of the most useful observations about affirmations I have ever encountered. But here I was searching for another way to deal with inner conflicts that might arise during the EFT process, and an idea came to me while reading Silvia Hartmann-Kent’s book Adventures in EFT.

I got the notion that if there is a conflict operating in the person, then the most authentic and useful thing for them to do might be to tap on both sides of the conflict when using EFT.

A good way to do this, I thought, might be to alternate Reminder Phrases within the same EFT sequence.

The person could tap on one tapping point while repeating a negative Reminder Phrase, such as: “Even though I’m afraid to talk in front of audiences…” and then tap on the next tapping in the sequence while repeating a positive and subjectively convincing Reminder Phrase: “… I spoke up in a group the other day and they really liked what I said”.

Then the person would go back and forth using negative and positive Reminder Phrases on alternate tapping points as they progressed through the EFT sequence.

I decided to try this first on myself, something I do regularly with everything I might want to use with others. As I did so, I immediately felt I was onto something. I felt a sense of being “understood” (by whom or what I didn’t know–probably it was by my own self!), and of being clear and honest with myself.

I experienced relief at acknowledging both sides of the conflict, looking at it all, so to speak.

What happened was that, after several rounds of this approach, an inner balance began to shift and the positive statement (it was on every other tapping point) began to be real for me for the first time. It was convincing where before it had been just words I said to myself.

The shift within me became stronger and stronger as I continued. What had been initially rejected by me as “Well, that’s a healthy point of view, but it doesn’t feel real” became “Hey! That’s right! That’s a real possibility. Why don’t I choose to go that route?”

Things seemed to come together and I breathed a sigh of relief. Now I was able to go forward and adopt the positive position with my eyes open, rather than feeling I was kidding myself.

Ever since, I’ve been using what I call the Alternate Phrase Technique with my clients ever since with remarkable success.

There are some other good uses for this method besides this one and I will write about these at another time, but let me tell you now how I recently used this approach in a session with a client.

Peggy’s experience is of interest both as an example of using this method to resolve a conflict and because it illustrates another point: how success is not always experienced as totally positive by the person, even when it is an outstanding success and part of that person is overjoyed by it.

Peggy had been coming for therapy for more than a year on as regular a basis as her intensely demanding career allowed. She is an anchor woman at a large metropolitan TV network and spends much of her time on high-intensity assignments.

She had made impressive progress over the course of a year and EFT was an essential part of that therapy. She used it strategically in virtually every session and came to a point where she could gently but firmly assert herself instead of seemingly apologizing for being alive, a former troublesome pattern. Her relationships  improved greatly and her direction in life was clarified. Peggy “grew up” in the course of the therapy.

A few months ago, the network assigned her to cover in depth a major disaster in her state and to produce a series of feature news broadcasts on it, which turned out to be so compelling that the series was expected to win a national prize for media journalism.

The network took her off all other work to cover this tragic event, and throughout the often grueling assignment, Peggy used EFT to cope with many conflicts that arose around dealing with the horror of the events themselves and with personal ramifications of the assignment. She eventually came to a place where she could stand by her own convictions about her work with remarkable strength and felt like a different person because of it.

Peggy came to see me the day after her TV series won a national prize. The series was being rebroadcast and the station was receiving thousands of phone calls.

When she entered my office, although she looked somewhat happy, she also looked a bit bewildered. I noticed that she was not really smiling with ease, or even smiling very much. She had a distinctly reserved demeanor, a slightly set jaw, and her eyes were wide and serious. After we had shared the details of her triumph ( I was quite excited by all this for her), I asked her how she was feeling “inside,” now that she had received this recognition.

She said, “Even though things are going better than I ever thought they could, I somehow have a sort of uncomfortable feeling inside.”

She tapped on the “uncomfortable feeling,” a 6 on the 10-point scale. The rating remained exactly the same after the tapping and I realized that something was going on here that was other than superficial, some conflict around her triumph. When we talked about this, she suddenly said, “Oh, I wanted to ask you about this! I’ve had a feeling like–when is the problem going to turn up? This whole thing is sort of too good. It’s kind of scary.”

We were now on track and I asked her to tap on:

“Even though I’m waiting for the Bad Thing to happen, I deeply and completely accept myself.”

She did this, but her intensity level was still a 6. She told me that while she was tapping she had been thinking about driving home after the session and wondering whether she would be safe on the road.

So we tapped on that, and the intensity remained a 6. We were clearly getting nowhere tapping on the negative, the maneuver which is usually so effective in EFT. Though we could have laboriously tried all kinds of other strategies at this point to deal with this and some of them might have eventually worked, I decided to use the Alternate Phrase Technique instead.

I knew that the positive part of this situation was compelling for her; it was a genuine triumph that, on one level, she was thrilled about.

But we were also encountering a negative side to this: the “When Will the Other Shoe Drop?” complex. Because this was obviously a deep-seated problem that did not make any “sense” in present-day terms, I asked her to go to the past for an answer.

“Do you remember a time in your life when something really nice happened and something happened to spoil it?”

She was quiet for a moment, then something came to her mind. No matter what nice thing had happened to her throughout her childhood, there was always the disrupted home, her alcoholic mother, the endless parental fights, and the sense of not being like other kids because of her dysfunctional home life.

She tapped again. “No matter how happy I was, my mother still got drunk,” and after one round looked at me in surprise. “That brought it way, way down,” she said. I didn’t ask her exactly what her intensity level was. I could see from her face, however, that there was great relief and I didn’t want to interrupt the flow because memories were flooding now. “Christmas was always the happiest time,” she said. “But something always happened to spoil it.”

She tapped on:

“Christmases were always happy–and always spoiled.”

It’s getting lower,” she reported. “It seemed like a life-and-death situation at home all the time. I was terrified my mother would die from drinking. There was never one single carefree day. And the same thing with my first husband who drank too.”

I mentioned the Sword of Damocles always about to fall, and she nodded in recognition.

She tapped on:

“I feel the sword of Damocles is always there.”

More came up for her after that round–the insights that can be produced so quickly and profoundly with EFT. “Every time I have a big perfect day I worry about whether my niece and nephew will get home safely! It’s the same stuff!” she said.

She was now responding fully and I felt it was time to introduce at least one positive element into the Reminder Phrase.

I suggested:

“Things are going so well–I’m afraid something is going to go wrong.”

At the end of this round, she was down to a 2.

But there was still something there. It was clear from a slightly puzzled look on her face as well as the rating. The issue was deep-seated. I suggested she tap on: “I think things can’t go this well without a crisis happening.”

After this round, she volunteered the information that while she was tapping, she had been thinking about her friend “Jeanne” who has gone through life “without a crisis at all, except a very few normal ones.”

This is the point at which I decided Peggy was ready to learn a new, positive way of looking at life. I suggested she use the Alternate Phrase Technique now in the following manner:

KC: “Things can’t go this well without a crisis happening.”

EB: “My friend Jeanne has gone through life without a crisis and so have others.”

SE: “Things can’t go this well without a crisis happening.”

UE: “My friend Jeanne has gone through life without a crisis and so have others.”

…and so on for the entire EFT sequence.

At the end of this round, she cried: ”It’s true! They have gone through life that way!” (She was experiencing the same effect of the positive becoming much more real that I had experienced when I first tried this method). “It’s way down now, maybe a 1,” she said.

I judged that it was more likely a 0.

Color had come back into her face, a sparkle into her eyes, and her chin was now raised. She was ready to talk about her recent triumph with a sense of pride and an ability to consider her own best interests with respect to the furthering of her career. She had been afraid to address this before. She said that this was an entirely new way of looking at things for her, and I had a feeling that an important shift had taken place.

In her next appointment with me, Peggy was ready to tackle something she had long avoided and commented that somehow the issue of fear about her triumph seemed to have almost entirely faded. The change was holding. It was real.

Adventures in EFT book by Silvia HartmanI think it important that the positive statement Peggy made was entirely convincing to her. It emanated from her own comments and was not an artificial “pie in the sky” affirmation that someone else had handed to her.

In my experience, using the client’s own words and observations from which to formulate the positive statement makes this method work much more effectively. To this end, I often ask questions designed to elicit the opposite of the negative cognition in terms of actual experiences in that person’s life.

I’m looking for a positive resource that is embedded in their memory and which is then brought to life by using the Alternate Phrase Technique.

I encourage you to try it for yourself and discover if and when you may want to use it with EFT.