Why Does Tapping on the Side of the Hand Work?

Opening the Cage of Pain with EFT


By Rue Hass, Master EFT Practitioner

The question "Why does Tapping on the Side of the Hand Work?" was posed to me by a participant in my EFT class.

I realized that most of us, including myself, just routinely tap there, and routinely say, "I deeply and completely accept myself," without giving much thought to what might be happening inside.

In EFT we tap on the side of the hand for what is called Psychological Reversal.

Psychological Reversal is a term first introduced by Roger Callahan, originator of Thought Field Therapy, a precursor to EFT. Chinese Medicine says that when a person is under stress, especially for a long time, the energy in the meridians can become stagnant, or even reversed.

This creates--and also is the result of--a profound dissonance in the person's mind-body-spirit system.

It is often a sign that there is a paralyzing conflict held deep within.

Tapping on the side of the hand is built into the EFT set up to take care of possible inner conflicts. But sometimes, when EFT "doesn't work," we need to look even deeper.

The direct answer to the question above focuses on the energy meridian at the side of the hand (the Karate Chop point in EFT), which is the small intestine meridian. Each energy meridian is part of a network that is related to a body organ or function, and each one embodies a way of thinking, a story about what is happening inside us, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually - our way of responding to life.

When the energy is flowing freely, the small intestine meridian's essential purpose is to support our choices about what information to incorporate when we are feeling divided, or pulled in more than one direction.

This makes sense when we think of what the small intestine does physiologically. Its job in digestion is to separate what is most useful in the food from what will become waste.

The small intestine meridian is paired with the Heart.

According to Chinese medicine, the Heart holds the Spirit, the totality of the person's life force as it expresses through the personality. So the function of the Heart network is to propel the blood, enfold the Spirit, and maintain awareness.

The small intestine protects the Heart by filtering out negative input, both from food waste and effects of damaging energies like shocking surprise, deep sorrow, or even overwhelming joy. When we are under a lot of stress, the Heart is disturbed and our thinking becomes confused, and we become exhausted, breathless, and anxious.

The Heart meridian is the most important meridian for healing thought, feeling and personality. A balanced Heart energy is joyful, radiant, outgoing, loving, generous, optimistic, and giving. When it is unbalanced it is careless, forgetful, distracted, restless, maybe unrealistically idealistic.

Often when I ask someone my favorite question in an EFT session, "Where do you feel that emotion in your body?" they will say something like "a heaviness in my chest," my heart hurts", "my heart feels tight and constricted."

So think about what we are doing when we tap on the side of the hand in EFT.

In thought and action, in intention and in energy, we are saying to ourselves inside:

Even though I have this stressful problem that is upsetting me, I love and accept myself and how I feel anyway.

Even though I am having these stressful experiences, and am telling myself negative things about my self worth, I understand and appreciate myself anyway, and I am doing the best I can. There is hope! I value my Spirit.

How does this relate to Psychological Reversal?

Just as the small intestine's job is to filter out waste from nourishment in what we eat, emotionally its job is about sorting out, as best it can, the conflict that is created when a conscious part of our mind wants one outcome, and an unconscious part of our mind wants another, conflicting outcome.

What we believe (or have been told to believe) can contradict our experience. What we find ourselves doing can contradict what we intend.

This is what is called Psychological Reversal. Here are some ways to spot it. When EFT "doesn't work," look to the inner soldiers who are trying to help. They are working from a strategy that was useful when it was adopted, probably a long time ago, probably one that meant our very survival in their family.

It is their family's ancestral story about how life is.

If you suspect a Psychological Reversal in yourself or your client, approach it gently, with deep acceptance and compassion. Help the person to move from their distress and disruptive behavior to understanding that they have been trying to take care of themselves with a long outmoded strategy that used to work, but is just getting in the way now.

It is always useful to invite the person to ask inside, of the part that is managing the conflicting behavior, "If there were a better, more powerful and effective way to get what you are trying to get by perpetuating this conflict, would you be interested?" See if you can get a yes. If you don't get a yes, don't barge in anyway!

Go slowly, find a way to gain rapport with the part that is holding on to the conflict.

Here are some common "inner soldiers" that may have been working, over time (and working overtime), to get something for us that we thought we couldn't get for ourselves. As you read them, with your issue in mind, tap on the Karate Chop point.

Some sources of reversal: clues for practitioners to be aware of (or for you, if you are your own practitioner)

The issue is really about wanting attention, not healing.

Consider that possibility as gently (or bluntly) as necessary. Reframe and explore together alternative ways for them to get the attention that they need from themselves.

The person needs to have the surge of drama in her/his life that having the problem creates.

Ask about that, and tap for it consciously. Use reframing language that speaks to the unconscious mind about safety and forgiveness and ease. Explore interesting, appealing alternatives together.

Help them to come to an understanding that they may be addicted to the adrenaline rush of having the deadline, or they may be trying to find a way to feel important in their own or others' eyes through having this dramatic problem.

The client unconsciously thinks that if EFT works and they heal, they won't have an excuse to take care of themselves /get care from others /meditate /read /take self-help classes /take vacations /have time for themselves

Tap for the fears and the resistance. (Reassure them that they can still come see you even if they are healthy!)

The presenting issue is a red herring or smokescreen for the real issue(s).

Tap for the fears and resistance, once the real issue is discovered. (It won't be apparent at first)

What the person wants is a "should," adopted to please someone else.

I like asking the question, "What do you want out of life?" And after they have talked a bit, ask this: "What do you yearn for?" That elicits a deeper level of answer.

You've been working on anger, but it is really a cover for fear.

Or you've been working on fear, but it is a cover for grief. Or you have been working on sadness, but it is a cover for anger. Or... Be alert to the possibilities!

No matter what issues we are dealing with, learning to elicit and support the positive intention in a person or a situation is about the most powerful, grounded spiritual practice I can think of.

It makes sense to imagine that by tapping on the side of the hand, we are bringing to conscious awareness, acknowledging, and giving voice to the stressful anxious thoughts that have been agitating our Hearts. At the same time we are instructing our energy system to hold ourselves in an accepting wholeness.

There is no limit to finding the goodness that is embedded in how we express who we are inside.