Tapping can be easy when the client has a direct connection to the problem.
They can access all the emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and sensations that are part of the problem, and you can guide the tapping to a successful conclusion.
But sometimes it’s difficult for the client to connect to the visceral experience, so tapping is not so easy.
Sometimes the problem only occurs in specific situations that are not happening in the session. For example, your client may:
- Walk into the kitchen late at night and raid the fridge.
- Wake up at 3 a.m., start to worry, and can’t get back to sleep.
- Be possessed by rage when another driver does something they don’t like.
You can’t really follow your client around 24/7, waiting for the problem to be present and vivid so you can start tapping.
Other clients may struggle to connect with the problem. They can talk about it but not connect with it. This can make it difficult to find something to tap on.
Fortunately, by using the memory of the problem, we can access it in a way that is reliable and works well in both of these cases.
The memory of a problem can be the gateway to a solution
If the client has a problem that bothers them, they will have memories of when that problem occurred. Those memories encapsulate the feelings, beliefs, perceptions, etc., that make up the problem.
So if a client has a problem that isn’t happening right now or is inaccessible in some other way, you can use the memory of the problem to connect with it to help make it tappable.
- Ask the client to remember times when this problem was happening.
- Ask them: “When was the last time this problem arose?" or “What is your most vivid memory of this problem?"
- When they have that memory, say, _“Go back to that memory and run through it in your mind’s eye until things start to go wrong, and when you get to that part, stop and tell me what’s happening”.
- Tap on whatever shows up: feelings, thoughts, images, etc. You may find that other memories that are connected to this one show up, and they can also be processed.
- When that aspect has been cleared up, ask them to move on to the next troublesome part of the memory, then process the next aspect.
- Continue this process until the whole memory is neutralised. If you are an EFT practitioner, you may have noticed that this part of the process is similar to the latter part of the EFT Movie Technique.
- When they have processed the whole memory and everything that came out of it, ask them to re-evaluate the problem by having them check into a different memory of the same problem, which should be less charged.
If the problem is a recurring one, you might like to read Three Memories And A Fantasy, an article which describes an approach specifically designed for that.
What if the client is ‘outside’ the memory?
If the memory the client connects to does not seem to have much charge, It may be that they are ‘disassociated’ from it; they are an observer of their own experience. 1
Some experiences are unpleasant, and a common mechanism for making memories less painful is to encode them in our minds as if we were an observer of what happened rather than a participant.
It’s as if they see themselves having that experience. If you have ever heard stories about people who have been in accidents say something like, ‘It was as if I was looking down on myself being carried to the ambulance’. That person had protected themselves by’stepping out' of their experience in their mind so as not to feel the pain and distress of the experience firsthand.
Sometimes memories are so unpleasant that people will ‘step out of them’ for their own protection. If they have had to do this a lot it may become their default setting. This is an unconscious process, and your client may not even know they are doing it.
There are a few clues in what people say that may help you know if they are in a disassociated state.
- They talk about the memory in the third person: “She is having a terrible time”, “He looks upset”, “She doesn’t know what to do”, etc.
- They talk about the memory without being able to emotionally connect with the experience fully.
Fortunately, there is a simple question to ask if you are not sure (I ask this question almost routinely):
“Are you on the inside of the memory looking out, or on the outside of the problem looking in?"
If they are on the ‘inside looking out, it means they are associated with the memory and have access to all the feelings that go with it. In this case, straightforward tapping will work very well.
If they are on the ‘outside looking in’ they are disassociated from the memory, and there are two parts of the memory that need to be processed:
- The ‘observer’: this is the client’s accessible feelings as they watch that ‘other self’ have the experience.
- The ‘participant’: this is the part of the memory that was so painful that the client had to’step out of it’ to feel more comfortable as the observer. This is where most of the distress lies.
The ‘participant’ is the part that really needs tapping, but if their raw experience is inaccessible to the conscious mind, how can you tap?
Two ways to work with the participant part of the memory
Tap for that ‘other you’ in the memory (my preferred approach).
- Ask the client, “How does she look?”, or “What is going on in him?”, or “How is she feeling”, etc., to get a sense of what is going on in that ‘other’ part of themselves.
- Then tap for that other self using those pronouns: “She looks sad”, “He is so angry”, “She feels so much shame”, etc. (One way of thinking of this is that the client is surrogate tapping for themselves.)
- By tapping in this way, you stay out of the intense emotion until it is soothed.
- Check in with the client and ask, “How is she/he doing now?" using the new information to guide the tapping.
- Continue this process until the participant is soothed.
Typically, as the participant’s part is soothed, the amount of contained emotion diminishes, and the client ‘falls back into’ the memory and accesses some of those feelings. This is accompanied by a spike of emotion but can be soothed with tapping.
Have the client step into the memory
- Important This is a more ‘brutal’ approach because it will have the client reconnect to all the feelings they had to disconnect from in the first place (I rarely use this approach).
- Invite the client to ‘step back into’ the memory and process whatever emotions arise.
- Then process the memory with your preferred tapping technique.
For more about the associated / disassociated qualities of memories and how to work with them, goto A Crucial Distinction For Releasing Troublesome Memories With EFT ↩︎