Gary Craig is the first person to admit that what he does comes off as fairly weird, somewhat inexplicable and downright hard to believe. But that hasn’t stopped him from using his knowledge and skills to help tens of thousands of people resolve urges and obsessions, phobias and disorders, depression, insomnia, nagging pain and literally hundreds of other life-diminishing problems – by yes, among other things, rolling their eyes. Also by tapping, humming and counting.
Gary Craig is the founder of the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) a healing method that combines a special type of “tapping” acupressure along with a series of eye movements, intention statements, humming and counting. It’s not faith healing or self-hypnosis; it isn’t voodoo or magic.
Rather, it’s a type of meridian-based “bioenergy” therapy (sometimes also called “energy psychotherapy” or “thought-energy” therapy) that has gained considerable notoriety, popularity and respect in the past few decades, largely because it has proven surprisingly capable of resolving an incredibly wide range of long-standing problems, often in a single, very brief session.
The basic method is simple and can be learned and successfully practiced by anyone, on anyone (including people who don’t believe in it, and children too young to understand it). It can also be accomplished in minutes with often-permanent results – results that flabbergast even the most skeptical. Including Gary Craig.
“I come from an engineering background, and when I first learned these techniques, I couldn’t make scientific sense of them,” explains Craig, a Stanford-educated engineer who evolved EFT from another bioenergetic healing method called Thought Field Therapy, and who has now been teaching and practicing EFT for more than 30 years.
In all his writings and videos, and on his web site (www.emofree.com), Craig stresses that he is not a doctor or therapist; that he evolved but didn’t personally “invent” most of the essentials of his system; and that he makes no claims about EFT as a medical treatment. But he will vouch for EFT’s effectiveness, and he has hundreds of hours of video-documented case studies – including six days of successful post-traumatic-stress-disorder sessions conducted at a Veterans Administration Hospital – to prove it.
“I still can’t explain some of the results,” he acknowledges (one severe, chemically confirmed case of lactose intolerance cured with a single session continues to mystify him), “but the fact is, EFT works, very quickly and consistently, often when all other treatments have failed.”
Tapping Into Intelligence
EFT, along with Emotional Self Management (ESM), Thought Field Therapy (TFT), and several other related healing forms, is based on the idea that many of our emotional, mental and physical problems are caused by disruptions in the body’s energetic/electrical system. Emotional energy that is trapped in the body causes our system to misfire, leaving us at the mercy of all sorts of physical and emotional disturbances we feel helpless to correct.
Essentially, according to Craig and other experts, an initial traumatic or troubling experience can cause the body’s electrical information system to “short circuit,” setting up a repetitive, deeply engrained, destructive neurological loop that causes physical or emotional distress each time the memory of that experience is stimulated. Because this short-circuit effect occurs spontaneously and unconsciously in our daily lives, we may not be aware of it, even if it is operating continuously. Unless the loop is interrupted, it can continue indefinitely, often with disruptive or injurious effects (e.g., pain, anxiety, phobias, cravings, compulsions, self-destructive beliefs and behaviors, etc.) that can’t be effectively treated any other way – or that can be treated, but with partial success, unwanted side effects, or expensive, long-term therapy.
The mechanisms of techniques like EFT and ESM serve to first cognitively initiate (words and mental images provide the trigger) and then to physically interrupt the offending electrical loop – primarily by means of tapping at key meridian points on the body. The tapping is sometimes accompanied by eye movements, humming and counting, which stimulate specific parts of the brain and neurological system. Once the loop is broken, the body’s energetic system (or “field”) rebalances itself, and the result, often, is a significant or even total cessation of the discomfort, disorder or other problem from which the subject had previously suffered. In many cases, even decades-old problems can be substantially resolved in one or two sessions, often with permanent results.
How “Tapping” Modalities Work
Today, there are many hybrid tapping and eye-movement techniques based on a combination of meridian-stimulating and cognitive therapies. All are designed to get the body, mind and emotional systems communicating and working together smoothly. Sometimes these therapies are described as “acupuncture for the emotions” because the tapping sites employ some of the same sites used in acupuncture and are based on Eastern-based knowledge of meridians. But the resemblance stops there. For one thing, very few people can practice acupuncture on themselves, at least not without a lot of training. It’s a highly precise art. With ESM and EFT, the same simple steps and the same basic combination of tapping sites (or a slightly varied selection of them), can be used to effectively address many conditions – from bee phobia to bed-wetting, from post-traumatic stress to pre-date jitters.
Although at a loss to explain precisely how these “tapping” modalities work, an increasing number of traditionally trained medical doctors and psychologists are incorporating them into their practice – often after witnessing “instant cures” for conditions they believed would take months or years to correct, if they could be corrected at all. In many cases, their patients, too, are mystified – highly skeptical – even after experiencing unexpected, total relief from problems that had plagued them since childhood. Suddenly the thing that scared them to death seems so trivial that they simply can’t fathom their former relationship to it.
“In 26 years of practice, I’ve never seen a method that worked as well or looked as weird,” says George Pratt, Ph.D., Chairman of Psychology at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Calif., and co-author (with Peter Lambrou, Ph.D.) of Instant Emotional Healing: Acupressure for the Emotions. The book, designed for a lay audience, describes the evolution of energy psychology and presents in-depth explanations and instructions for the authors’ own tapping technique, known as Emotional Self Management, or ESM.
According to Pratt, he and Lambrou wrote the book because the technique proved so enormously successful in their own practice that they were eager to broaden access to it and also make it easy for people to treat themselves.
Although the protocols used by EFT and ESM vary somewhat, the philosophy behind both systems is the same, and both are based in large part on the work of Dr. Roger Calahan, the psychologist who developed Thought Field Therapy in the 1980s.
One place where EFT and ESM differ is that ESM calls for a specific tapping algorithm or “recipe” (depending on your problem, you tap a certain combination of sites), whereas EFT supplies one comprehensive protocol for various conditions. There are some other differences as well (especially in the pre-tapping phase) but most of the key tapping sites and techniques are the same, both methods employ cognitive set-up scenarios, eye movements, humming and counting, and both have proven effective with a wide range of people and situations.
Here, very basically, is how EFT works:
- The subject is first asked to think about or picture a troublesome issue or memory and to then rate his feelings about it on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 representing total calm and 10 representing maximum distress.
- With the thought or the problem clearly in mind, the subject is then asked to stimulate a meridian spot while uttering a preparatory “set-up” or intention statement. This step is designed to remove unconscious blockages and increase cognitive receptiveness to the treatment.
- Next, the subject is directed to tap on his own body in specific locations and in a specific order; to move his eyes in a specific pattern; and perhaps to hum or count at a certain point.
- A trained practitioner can help the subject select an appropriate set-up statement and perform the tapping sequence, and can also lead him through the eye movements by having him follow a moving hand or look at various areas of the room.
- Following the treatment, the subject is once again asked to think about the problem and rate it according to how much distress he feels. If the treatment has been successful, the subject will find that while the memory or image is still clear in his mind, the associated pain or emotional charge around the issue is substantially reduced or altogether gone.
- Additional “rounds” of EFT or ESM may be necessary to resolve complex or deeply ingrained problems.
How Does It Compare to EMDR?
Both EFT and ESM bear a certain resemblance to EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), a widely hailed psychotherapeutic technique that has been studied extensively in clinical trials and proven highly effective in helping victims of crime, abuse, rape, torture and war experiences resolve post-traumatic distress. EMDR has also been successfully used to treat depression, addiction, phobias and self-esteem issues. In recent EMDR studies, 84 to 90 percent of individuals suffering from events such as rape, loss of a loved one, accidents and natural disasters were relieved of post-traumatic-stress disorder after only three treatment sessions.
Although developed by different methods than EFT and ESM, EMDR is believed to work, at least in part, according to similar mechanisms – namely, the precise interruption and activation of the brain’s thought-processing systems.
But unlike EMDR, a complex therapeutic approach that must be practiced by a highly trained, licensed clinician in a formal treatment setting, EFT and ESM can be learned and practiced by anyone and self-administered virtually anywhere, anytime, making it useful for a much wider variety of applications.
Although no formal clinical trials have yet been conducted with EFT and ESM, according to the treatment records of medical and psychological professionals who practice them, the success rates of these techniques, when practiced correctly, are astonishingly high – comparable, in most cases, to EMDR. In fact, based on anecdotal evidence in their own and others’ practices, Lambrou, Pratt and Craig suggest that their simpler systems are in many cases much faster and more effective. Lambrou and Pratt, for example, both of whom practice privately and at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Calif., claim to have administered more than 26,000 ESM treatments with about a 95 percent success rate.
All these experts agree that more research about how and why these systems work is both merited and necessary in order for bioenergetic treatments to become part of mainstream psychology and medicine. But they also point to chiropractic and acupuncture – once derided by Western medicine and now widely accepted – as paradigm-shifting success stories that prove it can, and probably will, be done.
As people look for less expensive, less invasive, more proactive and effective ways to resolve their own health issues, it seems likely that the popularity of these methods will soar, particularly with the good press and word of mouth they’ve been getting of late. Pratt and Lambrou’s book has been featured on several nationally broadcast TV programs (Pratt recently treated Carmen Electra’s spider phobia on the Donny and Marie Osmond show, and has been a guest on several other talk shows). Gary Craig has twice been a guest on life coach and author Cheryl Richardson’s popular telegatherings, and his low-cost seminars, video tutorials and CDs reach thousands of people each year. In an effort to spread the word to as many people as possible, he even offers a free downloadable manual and open access to his information-packed web site (www.emofree.com) and e-newsletter.
Spreading the Word
So how popular is all the tapping and eye rolling likely to be with the general population? Are you soon going to see folks in cafés and candy shops tapping and rolling their eyes in an effort to kick their cravings, ball players tapping for home runs, singers tapping to hit high notes? Don’t be too surprised. More importantly, even if you are hugely skeptical that anything having to do with your “energy system” (or, for that matter, anything this simple) can possibly be effective, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! Most of us have some nasty little habit or anxiety we’d rather be without, and a few taps and eye rolls doesn’t seem a high price to pay to be rid of them. The risk is nearly nonexistent, the cost negligible.
True, these methods don’t fit into the current medical paradigm, and since there’s not a lot of industry opportunity in them (after all, you can do EFT and ESM yourself with virtually no training, drugs or equipment), they probably never will. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be helpful, or even life changing.
“Although new findings continue to shed light on these mysteries,” write Pratt and Lambrou, “there is as yet no ‘Theory of Everything’ to explain all the observable effects of ESM and other energy therapies.” Still, the presence of the body’s energetic fields, electric pathways and polarities is uncontestable. It is also clear that these methods work, they say, even if the mechanisms of how they work are not. And so both they and lay-experts like Gary Craig will continue practicing and teaching these perplexing self-healing techniques for as long as they keep helping people heal, even if that means letting the scientific research drag along behind.
Here’s a very basic example of an EFT protocol adapted from Gary Craig’s method. You can use the same essential routine to combat cravings, fears, anxiety, self-esteem issues or just about any other problem. Please keep in mind that this is a snapshot of the EFT protocol only. To effectively practice EFT on yourself or someone else, you should get complete directions, available from Craig’s free, downloadable manual or his tutorial CD available at www.emofree.com, or get training from a professional. For instruction in the more specific set-up and tapping protocols of ESM, read Instant Emotional Healing by George Pratt, Ph.D., and Peter Lambrou, Ph.D., or visit their Web site at www.instantemotionalhealing.com.
- Get the Thought or Feeling in Mind. Begin by locating a specific problem (fear, craving, troubling memory, etc.) to work on. Make a movie or snapshot that represents the experience – a specific moment, day or image you associate with the problem. Example: If you are working on a fear of spiders, you might conjure up a mental movie about “the time my Dad put a spider on my arm.” Write down a brief title that reminds you of what the problem event is about (example: “fear of spiders”).
- Rate the Intensity. Run the movie in your mind in detail, or hold the specific image in your mind. Make it as big and bad as you can. Notice the emotional intensity or discomfort you develop, and rate the emotion on a scale of 0 to 10 – with 0 being total calm and 10 being extreme discomfort – that you feel now when you think of it.
Find the “sore spot” on your upper chest (first locate the dip in the center of your collarbone just a few inches below your Adam’s apple; next go about three inches farther down, then go three inches to either the left or right side, feeling for an area that is just slightly sore or sensitive when you rub it firmly). While rubbing your sore spot, speak a self-acceptance “set-up” statement related to your problem: Example: “Even though I have this fear of spiders (chocolate craving, frustration with my co-worker, pain in my arm, etc.), I deeply and completely accept myself.” Repeat three times.
With your dominant hand, use two, three or four fingers (except at breastbone, where you’ll use your knuckles) to gently but firmly tap each of the following tapping spots between five and seven times (see illustration below for precise locations): Inner corner of eyebrow; bony spot at outside corner of eye (near temple); under nose; below lower lip; two corners of collarbone (knock this spot lightly with knuckles); under arm (on your side, about four inches below armpit); thumbnail; index fingertip; middle fingertip; pinky fingertip; side of hand (the fleshy part that you’d karate chop with). All fingertip tapping zones are just above first knuckle on inside of hand (i.e., the side of finger closest to your thumb).
Tapping suggestions: Any rapid rhythm is fine, but aim for 5-7 taps per seconds (no need to be exact). Be sure to tap firmly enough that you can register the individual taps, but not so hard that it hurts – probably about as hard as you’d knock politely on a bedroom door.
Make your non-tapping hand into a loose fist and with your tapping hand, locate the indented area on the back of your hand between, and about an inch behind, your pinkie and ring-finger knuckles.
Begin tapping your back-of-hand spot non-stop (you’ll be tapping about 50 times) as you complete the following eye movements: Close your eyes; open your eyes; look down and left; look down and right; roll your eyes in a complete circle clockwise; then counter-clockwise.
Hum a few notes of any tune (“Happy Birthday to You” works well); count to five out loud; hum the same few notes again.
Repeat the entire tapping process from the “Tapping” step, above. Finally, re-estimate your intensity level on a scale from 0 to 10, noting if it has dropped at all.
Suggestion: If you don’t get immediate and complete relief from your problem the first time you try EFT, try doing a few more rounds. You might also try adjusting your set-up statement and working on various “aspects” of the feelings or memories associated with a specific issue (for example, you might need to address anger at being hurt, fear of being hurt again and sadness that an event occurred, each in separate rounds). Also, if EFT just doesn’t seem to work for one issue, don’t be afraid to try it on something different. Some people might find it effective for their cravings, but not so helpful for their fear of flying, for example.
Caution: EFT and ESM are not replacements for seeking qualified professional help for serious ailments such as habitual substance abuse, eating disorders or pathologies including major depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. If you suffer from one of these conditions and wish to employ a bio-energetic technique for symptomatic relief, seek out a qualified and licensed mental health professional who can advise and assist you.
This article originally appeared as “Instant Healing” in the November/December 2002 issue of Experience Life.