Improve Your Health by Removing Unconscious Emotions & Negative Thought Patterns
By Contributing Author, Ainsley Lawrence
No matter our place or status in life, most people have traits and behaviors that they desperately want to change. For some, relief from the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and similar negative conditions comes from cognitive behavioral therapy, or perhaps via the use of pharmaceutical mood stabilizers.
But when it comes to healing from illness, either emotional or physical, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that works for everyone. So what are your options if traditional therapeutic methods don’t work for you?
For many people, alternative healing techniques offer relief from even the most stubborn symptoms. One, in particular, known as the emotional freedom technique (EFT), has shown promise in healing everything from physical pain and anxiety to negative behaviors such as smoking and alcohol abuse.
Put simply, EFT is an intriguing mashup of ancient Chinese acupressure techniques and positive, personalized affirmations. And the best part? EFT is simple to implement, and you can even practice the technique from the comfort of your own home. Ready to learn how EFT can positively impact your life? Let’s get started.
How the Emotional Freedom Technique Works
First proposed by Stanford-educated engineer Gary Craig in 1993, EFT spawned from the concept and purported benefits of energy healing. According to Craig, EFT works because it “centers around the profound effects of the body’s subtle energies using the theory that the cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system.”
To fully reap the benefits of EFT, you must first identify and acknowledge the problem you want to solve, whether it’s a negative belief, emotion, or behavior, and then accept yourself in spite of the problem. Research indicates that new associations and affirmations can indeed change one’s behavior. In fact, the branch of therapy known as neurocounseling is based on this principle.
Neurocounseling techniques, including mindfulness and meditation, essentially retrain your brain and help you reorganize synaptic connections, especially those connected to a specific traumatic event or negative behavior. Neurocounseling has demonstrated effectiveness in treating a variety of conditions, including depression, ADHD, and sleep disorders.
At its core, EFT can be considered a sub-branch of neurocounseling, as it aims to alter the way we experience and perceive certain events and feelings. But it’s not enough to simply visualize the problem: By adding finger tapping on principal meridian points to the process, you can promote healing and better reinforce those positive beliefs.
To help you form a better understanding of EFT methodology, let’s first layout the foundation of tapping and learn about meridian points.
Tapping into History: Understanding and Identifying the Principal Meridians
EFT is commonly known as “tapping,” a word that refers to the physical process of EFT, where you use a forefinger to “tap” on specific meridian points. Tapping is derived from traditional Chinese acupressure techniques, but with a modern twist.
The ancient Chinese identified more than 400 acupuncture points, which they called meridian points. Meridians are the invisible energy pathways that run through our body, and if these meridians are blocked or clogged, various illnesses are often the result. In Chinese medicine, there are 12 principal meridians that connect all parts of the body.
Tapping primarily focuses on nine of the principal meridians. It’s important to note that the majority of principal meridian points mirror each side of the body; that is, you must tap on the meridian point on each side of the body to ensure effective treatment.
The nine principal meridians used in the emotional freedom technique are as follows:
● Karate chop (outer edge of hands) – small intestine meridian
● Eyebrows – bladder meridian
● Side of the eye – gallbladder meridian
● Underneath the eye – stomach meridian
● Philtrum (underneath the nose) – governing vessel
● Chin – central vessel
● Top of the collarbone – kidney meridian
● Armpit (about three inches below) – spleen meridian
● Top of the head – governing vessel
Now that you know the location of the principal meridian points used in EFT, you’re ready to begin.
EFT Tapping Basics and Methodology
The tapping process itself is simple and can be performed anywhere. However, it’s best that you choose a location where you feel comfortable and are free from distractions. A quiet environment is ideal, but you can also play soothing instrumental music in the background if that has a calming effect on you.
Whether it’s your first time practicing EFT or you’re an old pro, it’s alright if you need visual guidance. You may choose to seek out a licensed therapist who is familiar with EFT. If you go that route, do your homework to ensure that your therapist is open to alternative treatment methods yet still respects your medical privacy, as outlined by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, there are plenty of tapping tutorial videos available online that can help walk you through the process. Or you can refer to Gary Craig’s Official EFT Training Center website, which contains a thorough run-down of the EFT tapping procedure.
Tapping consists of five basic steps:
- Identifying the issue: Choose a single issue that you would like to address, such as lower back pain or smoking cessation. Hold that thought in your mind.
- Establishing the intensity level of your issue: Using a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 is the worst your issue can be, assign a numerical value to your issue. The number should serve as a benchmark to determine your healing progress.
- Designing an affirming phrase: Your phrase should both acknowledge the problem and promote acceptance of yourself despite the issue. For example, if you have a stomach ulcer, your affirming phrase might be, “Although I have this stomach ulcer, I deeply and completely accept myself.” Repeat your phrase out loud two or three times before beginning the tapping sequence.
- Performing the tapping sequence: Use the list of principal meridian points outlined above, and tap each point in sequence a few times while saying your affirming phrase out loud, beginning with the karate chop point. If you want, you can abbreviate the phrase to something more concise but that still keeps you focused on the issue. Don’t forget to tap your meridian points on both sides of the body.
- Revisiting the issue intensity level: Once you have completely performed the sequence, making sure that you tapped every meridian point, do a mental check of your issue. Is it still at the same intensity level as before? Repeat the tapping sequence performance until your intensity level is 0 or hits a plateau.
One of the best things about tapping is that it can be performed every day, and even periodically throughout the day, as needed. If you have multiple negative emotions or ailments that you would like to target, perform a tapping sequence that focuses on each individual issue. Avoid overlapping issues in a single tapping sequence, which can confuse the brain, in order to ensure the best results.
Feelings Versus Emotions
You may have noticed that EFT tends to focus on the negative, which is a direct contradiction to popular self-help techniques that emphasize positive thinking. But acknowledging the negative is an important piece of the EFT puzzle. By targeting the negative feelings in our bodies and/or minds, negative energy disruptions can be effectively eliminated.
While EFT can, of course, be used as an alternative treatment for physical pain, it is in the realm of mental health where EFT has the biggest impact. For many people, the emotional freedom technique is a useful tool that can help change unconscious associations that are connected to specific emotions. And your EFT sessions may have a greater, long-lasting impact on negative mental health symptoms if you understand the distinctions between feelings and emotions.
As you embark and continue on your journey towards positive mental health with help from EFT, it may help you to remember that what we call emotions are usually the physical manifestation of our feelings. Further, while feelings are considered a conscious experience, emotions are born in our unconscious mind.
If we dig a little deeper, we may see that our emotions are often more action-based than feelings, which are primarily internalized. The emotional freedom technique, as its name suggests, helps us learn to better manage problematic emotions and quash negative thinking. But the purported benefits of EFT encompass physical maladies as well as those tied to our emotions, making it an invaluable form of alternative therapy.
Regarding the Effectiveness of EFT
Of course, alternative treatments typically receive more than a fair share of skeptics and criticism, and EFT is no exception. Yet the effectiveness of EFT treatment is backed up by science: A February 2019 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information states that EFT is “an evidence-based self-help therapeutic method and over 100 studies demonstrate its efficacy.”
In one of those studies, researchers compared 5,000 patients seeking treatment for anxiety over a period of 5.5 years. Patients either received traditional anxiety treatment, consisting of cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication (if deemed appropriate), or EFT with no medication. At the conclusion of the study, a full 90% of EFT patients reported an improvement of their anxiety, in contrast to 63% of those receiving cognitive therapy.
That particular study seems to paint a relatively clear picture of the promise of EFT among patients with anxiety. But medical professionals believe that more research is needed, especially when it comes to comparing EFT to established treatment methods.
Breaking Down Unconscious Thought Patterns
Since research indicates that EFT is an effective method for treating anxiety, what else can it be used for? Going back to the distinction between emotions and feelings, can EFT be used to effectively control unconscious thought patterns, such as those associated with bad habits?
For instance, among American adults who smoke cigarettes, 70% reportedly want to kick the habit. Quitting smoking lowers your chance of stroke and emphysema, saves you money, keeps your skin looking younger. Thus, whether your tobacco-related vice is traditional cigarettes or e-liquids smoked through a vape pen, quitting can boost your health and add years to your life.
Tobacco use is one of the hardest bad habits to break, yet EFT may be an effective cessation method. If you want to test it out, come up with an affirming phrase that’s tailored to your desire to quit smoking, but make sure to focus on the negative aspects of smoking that you want to eliminate. Consider an affirming statement such as, “even though I have the urge to smoke when I’m stressed out, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
Complementing EFT Treatment with Other Healthy Behaviors
You may also feel the effects of unconscious negative thought patterns in other situations, or during certain times of the year. For example, many of us are overwhelmed by the stress of the holiday season, where we may be forced to socialize more than we’re comfortable with. We may feel as though our free time is stretched too thin, thanks to a hectic holiday schedule of shopping, decorating, and entertaining.
During our most stressful moments, it may be difficult or impossible to cultivate enough private time for an impromptu EFT session. Therefore, it’s imperative that we also learn additional techniques that can help calm the symptoms of a negative emotional response. Perhaps you can avoid stressful situations altogether, drink a cup of herbal tea, listen to some of your favorite tunes, or something else that can help you change your attitude on the fly.
No matter if it’s a holiday weekend or just an average day, however, we’re often surrounded by stressors, in the form of people, events, and interactions. We can’t help how those stressors make us feel, but we do have the power to keep our emotions in check. For millions of people, the emotional freedom technique provides exactly what its moniker suggests: Freedom from the negative repercussions of unconscious emotions and thought patterns.