The Setup Statement systematically “sets up” the problem you want to work on. Think about arranging dominoes in a line in the game of creating a chain reaction. Before you start the game, you set them up. The object of the game is to knock them down, just the way EFT expects to knock down your SUD level, but to start with, you set up the pieces of the problem.
The Setup Statement has its roots in two schools of psychology. One is called cognitive therapy and the other is called exposure therapy.
Cognitive therapy considers the large realm of your cognitions–your thoughts, beliefs, ways of relating to others, and the mental frames through which you perceive the world and your experiences.
Exposure therapy is a successful branch of psychotherapy that vividly exposes you to your negative experiences. Rather than avoiding them, you’re confronted by them, with the goal of breaking your conditioned fear response to the event.
EFT’s Setup Statement draws from cognitive and exposure approaches to form a powerful combination with acupressure or tapping.
The exposure part of the Setup Statement involves remembering the problem. You expose your mind repeatedly to the memory of the trauma. This is the opposite of what we normally do; we usually want an emotional trauma to fade away. We might engage in behaviors like dissociation or avoidance so that we don’t have to deal with unpleasant memories.
As you gain confidence with EFT, you’ll find yourself becoming fearless when it comes to exposure. You’ll discover you don’t have to remain afraid of old traumatic memories; you have a tool that allows you to reduce their emotional intensity in minutes or even seconds. The usual pattern of running away from a problem is reversed. You feel confident running toward it, knowing that you’ll quickly feel better.
The EFT Setup Statement is this: Even though I have ____ [the problem or issue], I deeply and completely accept myself.
You insert the name of the problem in the exposure half of the Setup Statement. Examples might be:
Even though I had that dreadful car crash, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I have this migraine headache, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I have this fear of heights, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I have this pain in my knees, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I had my buddy die in my arms in Iraq, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I have this huge craving for whiskey, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I have this fear of spiders, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Even though I have this urge to eat another cookie, I deeply and completely accept myself.
The list of variations is infinite. You can use the Setup Statement for anything that bothers you.
While exposure is represented by the first half of the Setup Statement, before the comma, cognitive work is done by the second half of the statement, the part that deals with self-acceptance. EFT doesn’t try to induce you to positive thinking. You don’t tell yourself that things will get better or that you’ll improve. You simply express the intention of accepting yourself just the way you are. You accept reality.
The Serenity Prayer uses the same formula of acceptance with the words “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” With EFT you don’t try and think positively. You don’t try and change your attitude or circumstances; you simply affirm that you accept them.
This cognitive frame of accepting what is opens the path to change in a profound way. It’s also quite difficult to do this in our culture, which bombards us with positive thinking. Positive thinking actually gets in the way of healing in many cases, while acceptance provides us with a reality-based starting point congruent with our experience.
The great 20th-century therapist Carl Rogers, who introduced client-centered therapy, said that the paradox of transformation is that change begins by accepting conditions exactly the way they are.
I recommend that you use the Setup Statement in exactly this way at first, but as you gain confidence, you can experiment with different variations. The only requirement is that you include both a self-acceptance statement and exposure to the problem. For instance, you can invert the two halves of the formula, and put cognitive self-acceptance first, followed by exposure. Here are some examples:
I accept myself fully and completely, even with this miserable headache.
I deeply love myself, even though I have nightmares from that terrible car crash.
I hold myself in high esteem, even though I feel such pain from my divorce.
When you’re doing EFT with children, you don’t need an elaborate Setup Statement. You can have children use very simple self-acceptance phrases such as “I’m okay” or “I’m a great kid.” Such a Setup Statement might look like this:
Even though Johnny hit me, I’m okay.
The teacher was mean to me, but I’m still an amazing kid.
You’ll be surprised how quickly children respond to EFT. Their SUD levels usually drop so fast that adults have a difficult time accepting the shift. Although we haven’t yet done the research to discover why children are so receptive to change, one hypothesis is that their behaviors haven’t yet been cemented by years of conditioning. They’ve not yet woven a thick neural grid in their brains through repetitive thinking and behavior, so they can let go of negative emotions fast.
What do you do if your problem is self-acceptance itself? What if you believe you’re unacceptable? What if you have low self-esteem and the words “I deeply and completely accept myself” sound like a lie? What EFT suggests you do in such a case is say the words anyway, even if you don’t believe them. They will usually have some effect, even if at first you have difficulty with them. As you correct for Psychological Reversal, you will soon find yourself shifting from unbelief to belief that you are acceptable.
Note that you can say the affirmation aloud or silently. It carries more emotional energy, however, if it is said emphatically or loudly, and imagined vividly.