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Q: Why does EFT focus on negative problems rather than positive thinking?

A: This frequently puzzles newcomers. EFT practitioners keep asking about negative life events to tap on. They ask you about problems that have occurred in your recent past, in your work, your family, your marriage, your finances, your health. They dig deep into your childhood for negative events that happened early in life.

What about the power of positive thinking? Why don’t we tap on positive affirmations as well as negative feelings and life events?

There are several good reasons that EFT takes this approach. The first one is that our culture emphasizes positive thinking and does not emphasize fully processing negative emotions. From an early age, we receive messages like “Big boys don’t cry” and “This too shall pass.” We’re encouraged to look on the bright side of life, to find the silver lining behind every cloud.

As a result, we rarely mourn our losses or grieve adequately. Children are urged to stop crying and cheer up, rather than receiving a respectful hearing as they grieve pets, relatives, and friends they’ve lost. After decades of this, most of us have a large backlog of unprocessed emotional trauma. EFT sessions are often the first real opportunity we’ve had to catch up on this backlog of grief and loss. If you go to the positive side too quickly, you short-circuit the natural process of letting go, grieving, and moving on.

As with every rule, there are exceptions, but one of the biggest mistakes novice or poorly trained practitioners make is going positive. What you’ll notice is that once you’ve really and truly processed your negative emotions, you’ll naturally move to the positive pole without any prompting or urging. If you’re working with a client, you’ll find the client will choose when the grieving process is complete and tell you when they’re ready to go positive. Leading them in a positive direction before this point actually aborts the grieving process, delaying their progress and ensuring that they have to come back to their negative feelings in the future in order to heal. You can’t easily go wrong focusing on the negative with EFT, but you can easily deprive yourself or a client of an opportunity to heal by going positive. That’s why EFT has you focus relentlessly on the negative. When it’s time to go positive, you’ll naturally shift to that perspective, with the healing process complete.

–from The EFT Manual, by Dawson Church