We all lose it from time to time. That’s just life. But we can develop some tactics to help us move through these disruptions without getting caught in an emotional vortex. Tapping along the body’s energy meridians is one strategy that can settle us down — often right in the moment.
The best-known tapping practice is Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT. It’s sometimes called “acupressure for the emotions,” and multiple studies have verified its efficacy for treating reactive stress of all kinds, from test anxiety in students to PTSD in veterans.
The practice is rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This healing approach focuses on blockages in the body’s energy channels, or meridians, that can disrupt physical and emotional well-being — similar to a short circuit in an electrical grid.
Points along each of the meridians correspond to both a physical organ and an emotional state. A point on the thumb, for example, is associated with the lungs; a blockage or imbalance at the lung point signals grief. When this energy is balanced and clear, the lungs are linked with a feeling of inspiration and the capacity to let go. (Learn more about the meridian network and acupressure points at “How to Find Your Pressure Points“.)
Strange as it might sound, tapping on these points may help remove these blocks and restore these systems — including our moods and attitudes — to a more balanced state.
How to Use EFT
George Limberakis, LCMHC, uses EFT in his mental-health counseling practice in Salt Lake City. He calls EFT a “here and now” therapy because it can calm an activated stress response on the spot, helping clients manage their feelings when they’re especially upset about a recent interaction or event in their lives.
He may also use it to help someone address a difficult experience from their past, especially when a focus on earlier events seems to be the root cause of their present reactivity. This approach can help the client process past traumas, which, he explains, are “encoded into our bodies” and tend to prompt the most emotional charge.
If a client can use tapping to remain calm and present as they describe a traumatic experience, this allows them to talk about it without forcing their body to relive the experience. Doing so can make the difference between feeling too retraumatized to continue therapy and being able to move ahead toward insight and acceptance.
Meanwhile, any one of us can use EFT on our own, tapping to calm a strong emotional reaction and return to a more grounded state. We may not rid ourselves of all our issues this way, but we can manage them better.
And EFT is available to anybody; physical disability is not an obstacle. Limberakis notes that EFT’s regulating effects can also be achieved by visualizing the tapping points and imagining yourself tapping on them.
A Basic EFT Recipe
1. Identify something that’s bothering you. It can be anything from “I’m upset that I forgot to call my mom on her birthday” to “I’m afraid that I’m never going to recover from this injury.”
2. Rate how upsetting this issue is on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 indicating perfect calm. Write the number down.
3. Develop a script that describes the issue and includes a reminder statement of self-acceptance. Here’s a sample: “Even though I forgot to call my mom on her birthday, and even though this really hurt her feelings and I feel rotten about it, I completely and totally accept myself.”
4. Tap repeatedly on the outside edge of your hand below your little finger. It doesn’t matter which hand or how many fingers you use. As you tap, repeat your statement three times out loud.
5. Repeat your reminder statement while tapping on the following points in this order:
a. Top center of your head
b. Inside edge of one eyebrow
c. Outside of one eye
d. Beneath your eye on the orbital bone
e. Between your nose and upper lip
f. Between your lower lip and your chin
g. About an inch beneath one collarbone
h. On the side of your rib cage, about 4 inches beneath your armpit
6. Stop and reassess your stress on the scale from 0 to 10. Repeat the sequence until you’ve eased your stress to a tolerable level. (Watch Limberakis demonstrate a basic tapping sequence.)
This article originally appeared as “What Is Emotional Freedom Technique?” in the March 2023 issue of Experience Life.
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