Disarm the Charge of Negative Emotions: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
“Someday the medical profession will wake up and realize that unresolved emotional issues are the main cause of 85% of all illnesses. When they do, EFT will be one of their primary healing tools …. as it is for me.” — Eric Robins, MD
I taught a course entitled “Emotional Freedom Technique for Actors” for performance anxiety and audition fear. Emotional Freedom Technique, known as EFT, is a tool artists can use to break through creative blockages. It gets one out of the thinking brain and connected with the body, where emotional distresses show up. What I did not know was that one of the actors was a former veteran who had been in therapy, and this would be a game changer for her, impacting more than just her acting career.
EFT is rooted in Thought Field Therapy (TFT), founded by Dr. Roger Callahan, and was developed to treat psychological issues including anxiety, addiction, and phobias. Dr. Callahan had been seeing a patient with a severe fear of water. The patient pinpointed that she felt the emotion in her stomach. As Dr. Callahan had been studying the meridian system, he asked her to tap under her eye, as this is the point connected to the stomach meridian. The fear cleared just from tapping on the related acupoint.
Gary Craig evolved TFT to EFT to address issues ranging from physical pain to emotional distress. A measure known as subjective units of distress (SUDs) is used to assess the level of emotional discomfort on a scale of 1–10. Through tapping on acupoints while the client verbalizes a distressing issue, the limbic system is calmed.The repetition of these taps reduces the SUDs level, so that one is able to process the issue with a balanced emotional landscape. It is a combination of exposure therapy, somatic therapy, and cognitive reframing.
EFT is based on the premise that negative emotions stem from a disruption in the energy that runs through the meridian system. The process of EFT: exposure to the issue, repetitive sequential tapping, and moving energy through the acupoints, all play a role in correcting the energy disruption. After the charge is disarmed, the client revisits the issue without experiencing the distress. The Veterans Administration approved EFT as a “generally safe therapy” to treat PTSD, insomnia, depression, chronic ailments, and more.
Dr. Peta Stapleton has led multiple clinical trials comparing the effectiveness of EFT and cognitive behavioral therapy on issues such as food cravings, depression, and testing anxiety. EFT achieves results faster and individuals are able to maintain the positive changes in the majority of the studies. Emotional Freedom Technique is an evidence-based practice, and its efficacy on weight management, anxiety, depression, phobias, and PTSD is well documented. Further studies continue to examine EFT’s widespread effectiveness.
EFT enables one to expose roots or “aspects,” of an issue faster. For example, a client expressed feeling physical pain in her heart. After several rounds of tapping, a memory came up of a broken friendship. The onset of the pain aligned with when the client learned of a significant event in that former friend’s life. This triggered stress and sadness over the loss of the friendship. Was the stress the contributing factor to the tightening of the coronary arteries, hence showing up as physical pain? We had to test this theory.
We tapped on the loss of the relationship. As the emotional intensity lowered, the client was able to process the end of the friendship in a positive, loving manner. It was no longer stuck and showing up as pain in her heart. After we reached a level of zero on the subjective units of distress scale, we were now able to tap in what she desired moving forward, “I want to open my heart to new friends.” If the client had not resolved this issue, she may have edited or closed herself off to potential new friendships, even if subconsciously.
Past events connected to the presenting issue can surface while tapping. EFT, like hypnotherapy, is a subconscious process, whereby images and pictures come forward once the mind is at ease, the inner critic is silenced, and the body relaxed. Oftentimes, these images hold the key to aspects or obstacles the client is not consciously aware of, but may need to clear through EFT tapping, collapsing all interrelated issues until the problem entirely resolves.
Just as taking care of the mind and body is important to maintaining health and well-being, so is taking care of our energy. When energy becomes stagnant or blocked, manifesting as negative emotions, it is a signal to re-balance the system. Energy imbalances lead to chronic stress and inflammation, both culprits of disease. With over 100 studies supporting EFT’s efficacy and its approval by the Veteran’s Administration as “a generally safe therapy,” it is well worth adding to one’s self-care practice.
Remember the veteran from my workshop? She applied EFT to what she had been working on in therapy. She cleared years of emotional baggage. Who would have ever imagined that what seems like simple taps could have such profound effects? Since individuals can be taught how to tap on their own, whenever they need, it offers personal empowerment for complete emotional freedom. Today, EFT remains one of the most popular and intriguing modalities in energy psychology.