By David Rourke, EFT Master
When clients continue a problematic behavior such as drinking or substance use, we sometimes assume they are being “resistant” or “in denial” or not “ready” for therapy, or change.
You can bet that it’s all about the factors that affect that person’s motivation.
We often look at motivation (or lack of) as a personality problem or a trait that our clients carry into our sessions with them and, out of frustration, we want to send them away and tell them to “come back when you’re ready!” It is helpful at times like these to understand how people are motivated to change.
William Miller’s book, Motivational Interviewing, defines motivation as a “state of readiness or eagerness to change, which may fluctuate from one time or situation to another.” Motivation is always present. It just shows up at different levels, depending on the moment and the present or perceived future challenge or loss.
This fluctuating continuum is natural to the change process.
Motivation does not turn “on” or “off” like a switch. From moment to moment, day to day, there may be a range of feelings from being very motivated to make the desired change to minimally motivated. This state is one that can be influenced. That’s where we, as EFT practitioners, come in.
We can help our clients remove the barriers that get in the way of completing a change.
Some of the barriers affecting willingness to change are:
This happens when there is a win-lose conflict between two courses of action, such as “I want to quit smoking, but I’m afraid that I’ll gain weight and become fat and unhappy.”This win-lose conflict, more than any other, can keep a client stuck and create stress.
2. Secondary Gains:
A woman may say that she wants to lose weight and is making little progress. Through the process of tapping, “Even though I can’t lose weight…”, “No matter what I do my weight doesn’t come off…”, “I don’t know why this is happening in spite of my efforts…” The fact that she really doesn’t want to lose weight can be uncovered. Maybe if she becomes attractive, she may be a target for unwanted sexual advances that she has traumatically experienced in her past. This example illustrates a psychological reversal or secondary gain which is hidden in the unconscious mind. This can be a major block to change because it can lead to self-sabotaging behavior.
3. Lack of Self-awareness of Wants and Needs:
People might come from the perspective that all they know about themselves is that, “This is who I am and how I’ve played my life out.” They have had the issue so long their identity is tied into it. People can be stuck in their “own rooms” and not see possibilities. Also, if people are continually focused on what they don’t want instead of what they do want, a major block in moving ahead can take place.
4. Fear of the Unknown:
Another block to feeling motivated may be fear. “What would happen if I change?” “What are the penalties of being successful in making this change?” Comfort zones (the writings on our walls), albeit uncomfortable, are still in the territory of what is ‘known’. The ‘unknown’ can be scary territory for all humans and can stop change in its tracks. EFT practitioners help to create a safe place for people to begin to look at what could be different.
5. Belief Systems:
Goals may not be in line with the client’s belief system or fit the writing on their walls. A client might want to be rich and, yet, if they have an underlying belief that rich people are snobs or misuse power this belief can stop them from pursuing their goal because they don’t want to appear as being a “snob”.
6. Lack of Authenticity:
A person’s stated goal could be more about what someone else wants instead of what is true for them. Or the goal could comes from the inner critic, a place of ”I should..” rather than the goals from the authentic self. A teenager, for instance, may not ‘see’ the same problem in their life as their parents. They may not really want the same change in his/her life as their parents do. We help our clients move out of the ‘should’ into discovery of their true self and what THEY really want.
7. The Pain of Change is less than the Pain of Staying the Same:
A client may not be motivated or ready as yet because their circumstances may have not reached the level of pain that will motivate them to do what they need to do in order to shift. It is more comfortable to stay in the familiar than to risk changing. Sometimes the onset of a disease or a highly traumatic event serves as a wake up call that increases the readiness to change.
How do we, as EFT practitioners, deal with dips in motivation? Through tapping and darn good detective work! The goal is to uncover and release the aspects that are getting in the way of motivation. Exploring what is behind one or more of the above issues can be very helpful in finding the individual blocks.
What happens in the process of dealing with behind-the-scene aspects is that momentum is created and harnessed so that change can evolve and be anchored. Uncovering core issues with EFT results in a catharsis that can create the energy necessary to move to the next step. EFT will raise the level of hope that change can happen rather than being stuck or just ‘wishing’ for change.
It is vital to ask open-ended questions to find ‘tap-able’ issues that would benefit, such as:
“What happens when you try?”
“How do you know you have failed?”
“What needs to happen in order for this to go away?” or
“What gets in the way?”
Another useful tool that will help you and your client get to the heart of the problem is to do a decisional balance sheet. In other words, what are the “pros” and the “cons” associated with both sides of the conflict. Write them out on paper: pros and cons of continuing a behavior (such as continuing to smoke) versus pros and cons of changing a behavior (in this case, quitting smoking). This list will certainly uncover many tap-able issues.
For instance, EFT can be used with such set-up statements as:
“Even though I am pretty comfortable where I am…”
To address someone who is not yet ready to leave their comfort zone. A practitioner can find the ‘tap-able’ issues around facing the ‘unknown’ by asking questions that encourage people to name what they want (really want) rather than what they don’t want.
When a client is able to state what they want a good question is:
“What stops you from getting it?”
Once the underlying factor(s) that could be hindering the client’s motivation or readiness level is/are uncovered, EFT can be used to correct the issue or resolve the blocks. The premise is that once someone becomes very clear on their intention (i.e. discovers what they really, really want) they will be motivated to do what needs to be done to allow it to happen.
Even then it may not be a smooth road. As the client moves through their change process and layers are peeled off, EFT may need to deal with each new, “Yeah, but” that is revealed.