“What we resist persists”
- Carl Jung
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
- Carl Rogers
One of the aims of EFT is to help people accept themselves and how they feel.
The set-up statement (this is my version) “Even though I have this feeling, I accept myself and how I feel” is intended to help someone accept their inner world as it is and then change it through the tapping.
However accepting a feeling, thought or symptom is not easy. If we were just able to accept our feelings we would probably not need to get help, we would simply acknowledge the feeling and get on with life.
But it’s not that simple because emotions are not that simple.
An emotion is a sensation in the body to which we give a label. You might call the churning sensation in your stomach anxiety, the tightness in your chest is frustration, and so on … This is the fundamental level of emotions, they are just sensations in the body, as yet there is nothing positive or negative about them.
Now we start to complicate things. We divide our emotions up into those we like and those we don’t. We may appreciate love, clarity, trust, joy and excitement and label them “positive”, we may have an aversion for anxiety, fear, anger and resentment and label those as “negative”.
At this level an emotion is a sensation in the body + a label + a judgement about it.
It gets even more complicated.
Not only do we have the emotions (the sensation, the label and our judgement of it) we also have all our family and cultural baggage about such feelings.
If you are a woman it may be socially unacceptable to feel and express anger and you might spend a lot of time suppressing it. If you are a man it may be very bad to feel weakness and you might spend a lot of energy avoiding that feeling and presenting a strong façade.
It’s all these levels bundled up together that creates a “negative” or “positive” emotion.
As if all that isn’t enough, there is one more complication.
The negative emotions we spend time resisting tend to hang around in spite of our best efforts to get rid of them. The more we fight against them the stronger they get.
The paradox is that if we can accept the emotion as it is it will tend to change.
So how can we help ourselves and our clients accept these emotions so they can be released.
Recently I’ve been experimenting with an adapted tapping routine using an idea borrowed from Bill O’Hanlon, a well known therapist and hypnotherapist, who writes extensively about working with difficult emotions and impulses using an approach he calls Inclusive Therapy.
In his book of the same name (which I recommend to any therapist) he talks about his work with patients who were suffering both from difficult emotions and situations and the added burden of judging and resisting those emotions so that they stayed stuck.
Bill discovered that if he gave his clients explicit permission to feel what they felt and the possibility to change at the same time then that seemed to free them from the grip of the emotion. In some way what he said allowed them to accept the feeling in spite of their own and society’s judgements and then to let it go.
He gave them permission to be the way they are and to be different in the same moment. When they had permission to be stuck they started to move.
I’ve adapted a very small part of his Inclusive Therapy approach into two tapping routines.
The first is for when a feeling or thought seems to be resistant to change.
You start with your favourite set-up statement as usual. Then for each tapping point you alternate the phrases “It’s OK to feel this way” with “and I don’t have to feel this way”.
For example: Let’s imagine that a client feels anger at her spouse. It may be that this client feels the anger and doesn’t want to feel the anger which causes her additional stress. To help relieve these emotional responses we can use the following tapping routine.
“Even though I feel this anger, I accept myself and how I feel” x3
- EB: “It’s OK to feel this anger”
- SE: “and I don’t have to feel this way”
- UE: “It’s OK to feel this anger”
- UN: “and I don’t have to feel this way”
- CH: “It’s OK to feel this anger”
- CB: “and I don’t have to feel this way”
- UA: “It’s OK to feel this anger”
- TH: “and I don’t have to feel this way”
Typically I have found that tapping with this permissive and inclusive style often helps someone release a stuck feeling.
You can adjust the process for thoughts/beliefs by changing the wording to:
*”It’s OK to think …, and I don’t have to think …”*
The second tapping routine is for when the uncomfortable feeling the client has forces them into taking some action they don’t want to do. For example: compulsive eating, nail biting, self harming, etc.
In this case change the permissive phrases to:
“It’s OK to feel …, and I don’t have to act on it.”
This can give the client permission to be with the discomfort but not to have to seek out the usual distraction. The tapping will help bring down the intensity of the original emotion so the urge to act in an unhelpful way will be diminished.