Monthly Archives: May 2015

Tapping (EFT) 2 of 2

Tapping Points 2015 Nick EBook diagramI’ve used Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), aka tapping for years, as I wrote in Part 1 on  “what is tapping.”

Now for how to tap. “Focus on the negative emotion at hand: a fear or anxiety, a bad memory, an unresolved problem, or anything that’s bothering you,” says Nick Ortner, author of “The Tapping Solution.”

Then, “while maintaining your mental focus on this issue,  use your fingertips to tap 5-7 times each on 9 of the body’s meridian points.”  (Click on “Where to Tap” diagram above from TheTappingSolution.com)  [FN1]

“Tapping on these meridian points, while concentrating on fully feeling and accepting the negative emotion, will allow you to resolve and displace those learned, habitual reactions this feeling would ordinarily trigger,” he writes.

You said it, brother Nick. “Fully feeling and accepting the negative emotion” is an incredibly key point; see below.

But please: if you have severe trauma, do not tap alone!  Do it with a therapist or trained practitioner, or don’t tap.  “Your mileage may vary.”

Tapping starts with 3 “prep steps” which take 5-10 minutes once we get used to it.  Here we take the time to become fully Present with ourselves, our body, and our emotions.  Actual feelings, and relief of feelings, occurs only “in the Now.”  To do it, we’ve got to be Present in the Now.

1. Identify what’s troubling you. It can a specific feeling or situation, or just general anxiety or “I feel lousy.”  Try to figure out “what bugs me the most and how do I feel about it now?”  Try to put yesterday and tomorrow out of your mind.  Just ask this “now” question until you feel some sort of answer.

2. Write down the intensity of your feeling on a scale of 0 (doesn’t bug me) to 10 (makes me jump out of my skin).  This “Subjective Units of Discomfort Scale” (SUDS) is useful because often we feel so much better after tapping that we simply can not remember how bad it felt beforehand.

3. Create a one-sentence “set-up statement” which says: I’m going to accept myself and practice self-compassion. I’m deciding to fully accept me as I am, the emotions troubling me, even my worst feelings.  Because, as Dr. Tara Brach says, “it’s only when we accept ourselves completely exactly how we are, that we become free to change.

Anxiety

Let’s take as a sample, the feeling of general anxiety – we’ve all had it, and when it gets bad, it can cause panic and illness.  1: Think of something that makes you feel anxious.  2. Write down the intensity on a scale of 0 to 10.

3. Here are “set-up statements” about anxiety I’ve found most useful, from Nick Ortner’s e-book 2012 edition: “Your set up statement should acknowledge the problem you want to deal with, then follow it with an unconditional affirmation of yourself as a person,” he writes:

–“Even though I feel this anxiety, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
–“Even though I’m anxious about [__ situation], I deeply and completely accept myself.”
–“Even though I’m feeling anxiety about [__ person] I deeply and completely accept myself.”
–“Even though I panic when I think about [ __ ] I deeply and completely accept myself. ”

We only need one set-up sentence. Create one or try the samples above.

At the end of my set-up I often add  “and all my traumatized emotions.”  I’ll say, “Even though I feel anxious and panicky, I deeply and completely accept myself, and all my traumatized emotions.”  ( My therapist applauded this. If we accept that our “crazy” trauma is not crazy, but it’s to be expected, given the nasty experiences we’ve had, that really helps heal it.)

Start Tapping:  

tapping karate-chop-pointThe rest of the tapping should take about 10 minutes more, again, after we get used to it:

A.  Tap the Hand for Set-up and Self-Affirmation:  Start by tapping on the Karate Chop point, the outer edge of the dominant hand on the opposite side from the thumb, using the four fingertips of the other hand.  While tapping, repeat the one-sentence set-up statement three times aloud. (Photo from Patricia Hope, http://www.towards-happiness.com/natural-treatment-for-insomnia.html )

To me, the Karate Chop feels very steadying, and I’m glad this is where we repeat our self-affirmation. When I feel really bad, I might repeat my set-up affirmation while tapping three times on each hand, alternating hands.

B: Tap through all the other Acupressure Points:

–“Use a firm but gentle pressure, as if drumming on the side of your desk or testing a melon for ripeness,” says Nick Ortner.
–“You can use all four fingers, or just the first two (index and middle fingers). Four fingers are used on the top of the head, collarbone, under the arm… wider areas.  On sensitive areas, like around the eyes, use just two.
–“Tap with your fingertips, not your fingernails.”

I learned to start tapping the top of the head; Nick likes to start at the eyebrow and end at the top of the head.  They call him the Tapping King and he’s got a bestselling-book The Tapping Solution.  But I stick with what works for me.  It  doesn’t matter as long as we tap most or all the points.

Next, we just flat out say what hurts.   I tap on my head, then my eyebrow, then the side of my eye, going through all the 9 acupressure points.

At each spot, in the anxiety example, I’d say:  “I feel so anxious. I feel so anxious and panicky.  I feel anxious and panicky about living alone (for example).”  Say what you feel, keep it short, authentic, and blunt.

As many tapping youtube videos show, when we tap from one tapping point to the next, what we feel can start to morph.  If we don’t feel our feelings, they can stay frozen for decades, but once we start to feel them, emotions are by nature fluid;  they start to release and change. As we feel them, they begin to dissipate. Then the next feeling underneath may bubble up.

Here are Nick’s names for the remaining tapping points,  to help read his diagram.   I tap on each of these  points and say several times at each point: “I feel anxious and panicky about living alone.”

–Top of Head (TH)  Crown of  head. Use four fingers.
–Eyebrow (EB)  Inner edges of the eyebrows near the bridge of the nose. Use two fingers.
–Side of eye (SE) The hard ridge between the corner of your eye and your temple. Use two fingers. Feel out this area gently; don’t poke your eye!
–Under eye (UE) The hard bone under the eye that merges with the cheekbone. Use two fingers, stay in line with the pupil.
–Under nose (UN)  between the bottom of the nose and the upper lip.
–Chin (CH)  centered between the bottom of the lower lip and the chin.
–Collarbone (CB)  Tap just below the hard ridge of your collarbone.
–Underarm (UA) On your side, about four inches beneath the armpit.

That’s it for Round 1.  Next: take a deep breath, and check if your SUDS number went down, because you might be finished.

But most of the time, I go through all the tapping points about three rounds.  For example, if after Round 1 you feel roughly the same and still feel bad, that’s normal; you’ll need a second or third round.  I need three, almost every time. In traumatic fear, I need four rounds or more.

If the number has risen or skyrocketed because we really “got in touch” with the feeling, that’s called spiking. *If you get overwhelmed, stop now.  Call a friend to help you calm down, breathe deeply, and drink some water.

I learned over time that spiking is a good result, as horrible as it feels in the moment – because in the next few rounds I can feel that nasty feeling so thoroughly that I pretty much get rid of it.

What very often happens to me is that I’ll do Round 1 and then Round 2, but I feel like nothing’s changing. It’s so boring that I start to feel like a jerk for wasting my time with this nonsense.  But I persevere.

Then sometime in Round 3 I’ll get a huge spike, and feel so horrible that I start bawling and must force myself to stay with it.  Then just as suddenly, the whole bad feeling is gone.  It simply disappears, to where I start thinking about my hairdo, or laugh and say “OK, done, what’s for breakfast?”

If I’m up at night anxious and I tap to get to sleep, very soon after the spike, my anxiety will evaporate and I’ll fall deeply asleep.

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Kathy’s blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  Nick Ortner’s website has a free e-book on tapping:  http://www.thetappingsolution.com/free_tapping_ebook.html I’m ever grateful to Nick and Jessica Ortner for popularizing tapping and making it so accessible to us, diagrams and all. But I’m troubled by how their site has grown so commercialized.  To me, any pitch to become rich, thin, famous, etc. feels bad; it says we’re not good enough as we are; got to get out there and perform harder and faster.  To me that’s a recipe for more cortisol, stress and panic.  I’d rather focus on being a human being, not a human doing (to paraphrase Jon Kabat-Zinn).

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Tapping (EFT) 1 of 2

tapping-points Color diagram PCOSDiva.comI’ve used Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) aka  Tapping for four years and gotten major relief from severe fight-flight emotions like fear and anger (emotions I could feel).  I’ve also gotten relief from physical pain caused by “frozen” emotions I couldn’t feel.  Click on diagram for full graphic  “Where to Tap” by PCOSDiva.com.  [FN1]

Please note: if you have overwhelming trauma, do NOT tap alone! Use a therapist or trained practitioner, or don’t tap; it’s not safe.

Also note:  I’m making “I Statements,” not giving advice. These tools worked for me to heal traumatic feelings — but “your mileage may vary.”

What is tapping?  In 1980 psychotherapist Dr. Roger Callahan “was working with a patient, Mary, for an intense water phobia, “ reports Gary Craig, Callahan’s student and creator of tapping. “She suffered frequent headaches and terrifying nightmares related to her fear of water… Dr. Callahan tried conventional means for a year and a half.”   [FN2]

“Callahan had studied traditional Chinese medicine, which calls the body’s energy ‘ch’i’,” reports Nick Ortner, author of “The Tapping Solution.”   “The Chinese discovered 100 meridian points along the body. They learned that by stimulating them, they could manipulate the body’s ch’i to heal symptoms and diseases.”  Ortner’s website has a free e-book on tapping. [FN3]

One day with Mary in 1980, says Craig, “Callaghan… decided to tap with his fingertips under her eyes, an end point of the stomach meridian. This was prompted by her complaint of  stomach discomfort. To his astonishment, she announced that her disturbing thoughts about water were gone, raced to a nearby swimming pool and began throwing water in her face. No fear. No headaches. It all went away….and has never returned.”

Craig codified Callahan’s process into a sequence of acu-points to tap. “You tap near the end points of numerous energy meridians without knowing which of them may be disrupted,” says Craig. This set of meridians seems to cover what we need to calm most emotions.

Tapping aims to replicate Mary’s experience.  First, “focus on the negative emotion at hand: a fear or anxiety, a bad memory, an unresolved problem, or anything bothering you,” says Ortner, such as Mary did with her fear of water.  Next, “while maintaining your mental focus on this issue, use your fingertips to tap 5-7 times each on 9 of the body’s meridian points.”  These are nine spots on the hands, face, neck and upper torso easily accessible, even in public. (Diagram again  at top.)  It’s a non-invasive activation of some of the same spots targeted in acupuncture, but no needles.

Pseudoscience?  Energy Disrupt?  Amygdala Message?

Amygdala 2How to Tap is in Part 2, my next blog (or start with the links above).

As to what it is,  I was surprised that Wikipedia says  tapping “has no benefit beyond the placebo effect,” is “pseudoscience and has not garnered significant support in clinical psychology.”  [FN4]

“When she was experiencing fear, the energy flowing through her stomach meridian was disrupted,” Craig said of Mary. “That energy imbalance is what was causing her emotional intensity. Tapping under her eyes sent pulses through the meridian and fixed the disruption… It is accepted practice to ‘treat the memory’ and ask the client to repeatedly relive some emotionally painful event,” Craig says. “EFT, by contrast, respects the memory but addresses the true cause… a disruption in the body’s energy system.”

Books like “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk, and “Healing Trauma” by Peter Levine do say that healing traumatic emotions is about working with the body and the body-centered brain stem.  Talking with the thinking brain about the horrible details of past trauma is often re-traumatizing, van der Kolk, Levine, et. al. warn.  [FN 5]

When danger threatens or traumatic memories make our current situation “feel” dangerous, the brain’s amygdala sends out signals that stimulate cortisol, putting us into fight-flight.  When we are thus emotionally “triggered,” we often go into a painful fight-flight panic.

Clinical psychologist David Feinstein and his Harvard colleagues have published studies (dismissed by Wikipedia) saying that both ancient acupuncture and tapping on acupressure points signal the amygdala to calm down. Feinstein believes both methods stimulate hormones which tell the amygdala that we are safe, so the amygdala stops the cortisol flood.

Or Just Feel My Feelings?

One thing is clear: if there were a tiger about to leap at me, I wouldn’t be sitting around tapping my forehead.  Maybe tapping the forehead, under the nose, etc., is enough to tell the brain that our situation is safe.

To resolve trauma, says Dr. Dan Siegel, we must process traumatic emotions out of short-term memory where it feels like “this hurts now,”  into long-term memory so we can feel “that was in the past.” One brain area pivotal to that processing is the hippocampus. But in fight-flight, the amygdala turns off the hippocampus, to save all our energy for fighting and fleeing.  Maybe tapping keeps my hippocampus turned on?

Or maybe it’s simply this:

Tapping gives us license to do something for which our society has no room: sit with, accept, and fully feel through our feelings, which the yogis call self-compassion. Tapping actually trains us to do this, which usually allows our body to release these feelings;  then suddenly we don’t feel so bad.

I’ve spent 5 years reading grief letters about my childhood trauma, using the rigorous  Grief Recovery Handbook.  Maybe folks who haven’t done all that, might not be able to access childhood feelings as I do when I tap.

But one thing for sure: in tapping, we focus on a bad feeling, and feel it, and accept it – rather than trying to suppress it.

If while feeling, it helps me to tap on a few ancient acupuncture points, no harm. Maybe having this finger-drumming as a structure allows me to trust that these emotions won’t overwhelm me?  All I know is: when I tap,  I almost always feel through a feeling. Then it dissipates and I get relief.

Next Time:  Part 2:  How to Tap.

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Kathy’s blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1 http://pcosdiva.com/2013/05/the-benefits-of-eft-for-pcos/

FN2  Gary Craig’s EFT Manual:  spiritual-web.comdownloadseftmanual.pdf.pdf

FN3  Nick Ortner’s website has a free e-book on tapping:  http://www.thetappingsolution.com/free_tapping_ebook.html

FN4  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_Freedom_Techniques#cite_note-Feinstein-4

FN5  Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. Peter A. Levine, Dr. Bruce Perry and others say in books like “The Body Keeps the Score” and “Healing Trauma” that healing trauma requires body work.

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