What is Emotional Freedom Technique?
If you’ve ever seen Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) also known as Emotional Freedom Therapy take place, you might think it looks a bit odd. It’s a treatment that involves tapping with your fingers on various parts of the body to help release negative emotions, stress and relieve anxiety.
The tapping isn’t random, there is a specific process that is followed which includes saying certain phrases that address the issue you are looking to solve, such as pain, illness or trauma. By acknowledging the issue, you are being specific about what you are looking to address.
EFT tapping, sometimes also known as therapy tapping or acupuncture without needles, is used for physical pain as well as emotional distress, such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
How does EFT tapping work?
Parts on the body are tapped in a specific order where acupuncture points are located along 9 of the 12 main meridians of the body. EFT’s founder Gary Craig believes that tapping these points helps to remove energetic blockages and balances the energy systems of the body, relieving imbalances caused by negative emotions. He believes that a disruption in energy is the cause of all negative emotions and pain.
The acupuncture points are based on Chinese medicine and are seen as the main areas of the body where energy flows through. Any disruptions along these meridians can influence disease or sickness. Stimulating these points by tapping on them, helps you to access your body’s energy and send signals to the part of the brain that controls stress, thus reducing the stress or negative emotions you are feeling by restoring balance to your disrupted energy.
How does EFT help with stress and anxiety relief?
Craig did a study amongst soldiers who had been home from the war for some time and had dramatically good results in treating PTSD disorder.
Recent studies have shown that EFT can significantly reduce stress and anxiety. It is said that tapping the acupuncture points specifically targets your amygdala, which is a part of the brain that helps you decide if something is a threat or not. The amygdala is the place where our emotions are held, it is part of the Limbic System which is responsible for emotions, survival instincts and memory.
When the amygdala registers stress, it triggers hormonal responses which activates the sympathetic nervous system and puts us in a “fight or flight” state, ready to protect us from impending danger. With continued triggers, our body starts reacting the same way, even to minor stresses which put us in no imminent danger. Our normal daily physiological functions take a back seat as the body gets to work to protect you against the so-called perceived threat. Tapping the points, alerts our amygdala and communicates that it is safe to look at the situation at hand so that it can be released.
When the sympathetic nervous system is repeatedly activated, it can lead to fatigue, anxiety, depression, brain fog and digestive and immune issues. Chronic stress can also lead to inflammation which is a precursor to all disease.
To counteract this, we need to manipulate our relaxation response. One way to do this is by stimulating our vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system in the human body and is the major channel to activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
When the vagus nerve is stimulated, the parasympathetic nervous system turns on, now we are able to heal and restore our body. It is where we should be the majority of the time. It promotes relaxation, slows down the heart rate, lowers inflammation and improves concentration.
There are many ways to stimulate the vagus nerve and EFT is one of them. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change how thoughts, feelings and patterns of behaviour are processed. EFT re-wires the brain through the nervous system which in turn, has a positive effect on the body.
The benefits of EFT
Some key benefits include:
- It’s a safe and pain-free treatment.
- It’s easy to learn and carry out and you can practice without supervision once you are familiar with the process.
- No special equipment is needed, and it is non-intrusive.
- You can quickly start feeling relief, often after a few weeks, sometimes within a few days.
- It can be used to treat a wide variety of problems.
- When practiced regularly, it can provide long lasting and even permanent results.
- It can be an easy and effective tool for children and young people to learn and use to help them feel calm in stressful situations, such as taking exams.
- It is a great form of self-care, by addressing stress and anxiety and calming the amygdala, it will have a knock-on effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, which has a host of benefits on the whole body.
- It helps you to tune into your emotions and accept any negative feelings rather them burying them and pretending that everything is ok.
The EFT Process – Step by step
There are numerous videos that demonstrate the complete process on YouTube and which will give you a good understanding of where to tap on the body. Below is a written description you can use to follow along with also.
- Identify the issue
Start by choosing one issue to work with first. You can repeat the process as frequently as needed to address all issues but begin by selecting the one that causes you the most distress.
- Check the intensity level
Rate the intensity of the issue/pain to be treated from 0 to 10, with 10 being it affects you the worst or is the most difficult for you. This will provide a benchmark and helps you monitor your progress after you have performed the sequence.
- The setup
First you establish a phrase that acknowledges the issue and states that you accept yourself, despite the problem.
The common setup phrase is: “Even though I have this [name the issue or pain], I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”
For example, “Even though I have this anxiety about receiving the test results from the hospital, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”
This setup phrase should be repeated three times whilst simultaneously tapping the karate chop point. The karate chop (KC) point is located at the centre of the fleshy part of the outside of either hand, between the top of the wrist and the base of the baby finger (the part of the hand you would use to deliver a karate chop).
- The sequence
This is where the tapping starts, it’s a sequence of taps on the ends of nine meridian points whilst reciting a reminder phrase, to maintain focus on the issue we are working on. Using the same example above “Even though I have this anxiety about receiving the test results from the hospital, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” The reminder phrase could be “The anxiety I feel about receiving my test results.” Recite this phrase whilst tapping the points below in the following order:
- Eyebrow (EB) – At the beginning of the eyebrow, just above and to one side of the nose
- Side of eye (SE) – On the bone alongside the corner of the
- Under the eye (UE) – On the bone about 1 inch below your pupil
- Under the nose (UN) – Located in the area between your nose and upper lip
- Chin (CH) – Located between the point of your chin and the bottom of your lower lip
- Beginning of the collarbone (CB) – At the junction where the sternum, collarbone and the first rib meet. To find, locate the U-shaped indentation at the top of the breastbone (where a man knots his tie). Move down one inch and to the side one inch
- Under the arm (UA) – Located about 4 inches below the armpit
- Top of head (TH) – If you were to draw a line from one ear, over the head, to the other ear, and another line from your nose to the back of your neck. It is located where those two lines would intersect
Don’t worry about the number of times you tap, the number of taps it takes to say your reminder phrase is fine. Use your middle and index finger to do the tapping, you can use either your right or left hand, whichever is more convenient. Repeat this sequence two or three times.
- Check the final intensity
Once you’ve completed the sequence two or three times, take a deep breath and tune into how you feel. Rate the intensity of the issue/pain again from 0 to 10. Compare your results with your initial intensity level. If you haven’t reached 0, you can repeat the process until you do.
Does EFT really work?
Numerous studies have been conducted which show benefits in psychological conditions such as stress, depression and PTSD after EFT has been administered. In addition, physiological markers measuring cortisol levels and regulation of genes after sessions of EFT were measured, genes showed the suppression of cancer tumours and the down regulation of inflammation stress markers and the upregulation of immune markers. Another pilot study on stress and anxiety in nursing students showed statistically significant decreases in anxiety and participants reported feeling calmer and more relaxed after using EFT.
With numerous reported benefits across many symptoms, EFT could be a good, cost effective, safe and reliable form of treatment for those suffering with stress and anxiety.
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