This article in our series will highlight an energy psychology technique called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) which is being used by a vast and growing number of professionals around the world. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is an “emotional first aid” skill that can be used by individuals in almost any situation. It can not only keep negative emotions that lead to depression from piling up, but help us clear those that already have. It is called “Emotional Freedom Technique” because it can help free us from negative emotions that bind us. It is also a therapy tool that can be used by professionals as part of the treatment regime for a variety of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and trauma-related problems.
Prepared from the Foundation of the World (Alma 12:30)
Let’s review, for a moment, our previous assertions about our body’s light or energy system. Over 5,000 years ago, scientists in Eastern cultures meticulously mapped the flow of “life force energy” through the body. They acknowledged that this flow of life and light-giving energy came from a universal Creator. As Christians, we acknowledge this Creator as Jesus Christ who truly is the “light and life” of the world. True to the fact that there is “opposition in all things,” in addition to life force energy, negative energies also impact the human mind/body system. In this paradigm of health, all disease originates from either a block or disruption in the flow of life force energy, or the presence of negative energies which interfere with the flow of life force energy.
It is humbling evidence of God’s immense love that wise men who lived millennia before us prepared the foundation of healing tools that would provide vital relief for the challenges of our time. Knowledge of the spiritual and emotional nature of our bodies, in addition to the physical science of our bodies, is vital in our quest to overcome the modern epidemic of depression, anxiety, trauma, and other dis-ease. Building upon this 5,000 year old paradigm, pioneers of EFT discovered the connection of emotional distress and the body’s system of life force energy flows, or “subtle energy system.” EFT is based upon this foundational principle:
The cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system.[i]
EFT provides a way to acknowledge, soothe, and transform the distressing emotions that regularly impact our physical and emotional health. As explained by Feinstein (2004), “psychological problems have a counterpart in the client’s energy system and can be treated at that level.”[ii] (p. 17). The beauty of energy psychology techniques, such as EFT, is that as we clear negative emotional energies from our body, we increase the flow of positive, life force energy and light: as we do so, we activate our body’s abilities for self-healing.
By Small and Simple Means (Alma 37:6)
EFT is based upon the principles of acupuncture or acupressure. Instead of using needles on the acupuncture or meridian energy points, we simply use our fingers to tap on these specific points on the body. The tapping releases negative emotional energies and balances our body’s energy system. EFT is simple enough that it can be used by children, as well as adults.[iii] When individuals are presented with the idea of “tapping,” to work on emotional problems, they typically wonder how such a simple process could actually work.
Peggy says: Whenever I consider how such a simple process as tapping on the body can produce such profound and powerful results, I can’t help but think of the story of Naaman who was asked to simply dip himself in the waters of the Jordan River or the Israelites who were asked to simply “look” upon a brass serpent for healing. EFT is so simple to learn and use, and yet we have science to show that, because it can change the way the brain processes information, it can eliminate pain and distress rapidly and permanently. EFT has the ability to address core problems at the quantum level without causing a person to re-experience their emotional distress. This is important because many times we are afraid of getting “stuck” in our emotional pain and therefore choose to suppress negative emotions rather than clear them.
The Science Behind EFT
Many of us need to know there is scientific evidence to back up a particular therapy before we feel comfortable exploring its use. Even though the field of energy psychology is relatively new, professional pioneers of EFT have corroborated the effectiveness of EFT in numerous studies.[iv] EFT has met the American Psychological Association standards as an “efficacious” or “probably efficacious” treatment for phobias, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
In one large scale preliminary study of 5,000 depressed patients over five and a half years,[v] Joaquin Andrade, M.D., compared the use of cognitive behavior therapy and medication, perhaps the most popular treatment for depression, with EFT. This study found that EFT was equally as successful as conventional treatment, but had two important benefits: (1) EFT was shown to create more permanent results. Brain scan images (EEG) of patients documented permanent change in activity associated with anxiety and distress. (2) EFT was found to work much more rapidly. Patients experienced a relief from symptoms in an average of three EFT sessions compared to 15 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. In total, Dr. Andrade documented the effectiveness of EFT with 39,000 patients, in eleven clinics, over 14 years.
EFT can create rapid shifts in emotional states since negative emotions are released quickly, giving place for new perspectives and new positive reframes. Peggy likes to call EFT “ramped-up” cognitive behavioral therapy since it reframes beliefs at the “energetic, vibrational” level as explained in our last article. EFT can accomplish in a few minutes what might normally take weeks with conventional therapies. One of the amazing benefits of EFT is that a person does not need to re-experience the pain of past distress for it to be released from the mind-body system.
Personal Experiences with EFT
About a year ago I was doing a phone therapy session with Peggy, using the tapping therapy. I was attempting to get down to the bottom of some irrational negative feelings I had been having about myself for as long as I could remember. I honestly had no idea where they had originated, or how to get rid of them. I only knew that no matter how hard I had tried, I still seem tied to an inner belief that I was inadequate and couldn’t trust my own spiritual discernment.
In only a few minutes, and without requiring me to re-experience the original distress, we discovered that I had concluded that I was “spiritually impaired” because of an experience I had at the age of twenty. For nearly three years I had been engaged to a wonderful young man and had faithfully waited for him while he served a mission.We had our wedding date set, but just before he came home he wrote me a thirty-page letter explaining that he couldn’t marry me, that he was homosexual, and that the Lord had kept him up all night letting him know that he mustn’t mess up my life with this long-standing problem he had not been able to solve.
I was devastated at the time, thinking that somehow I “should have” known and that there must be something very wrong with me for loving him and not sensing the problem. That was in the early 60s when people were still not talking about such things. I had no way to understand the problem and no way to process it, so I stuffed the whole thing. Through Peggy’s skills and the use of EFT, we got to the truth that I loved this young man from the strength of my spirit (he was a gentle, kind, brilliant, person), not because I was spiritually weak or flawed in some way. We tapped in that new perspective and I experienced a major energy shift. I also realized that my engagement had been beneficial for me at the time. In one session I was able to let go of some negative energy that had caused me grief and self-doubt for almost five decades.
I also experienced healing help through EFT shortly after my son’s suicide. A friend, who is an EFT therapist, and his wife, came to visit me when I was in the depths of my grief. They helped me tap through and consequently let go of some of the most self-deprecating, self-blaming emotions I was feeling. They helped me reconnect with the Spirit and with the Lord’s love for me personally.
The thing I value most about EFT is that it helps me tune into truth, to the Spirit, and to my higher self. There is direct connection: Light is truth; truth is either positive now or leads me to positive outcomes, while negatives are almost always lies or part-lies and lead me to negative outcomes. The more negatives I clear, the more my spirit is free to live in light and truth and feel a stronger connection with the Lord. And the more I am able to be my real self, my best self.
Using EFT to Help with Everyday Emotions
An important part of preventing depression is what therapists call “emotional regulation.” In short, this means: “How can I deal with the many emotions that impact my life every day?” When we don’t deal with our emotions in an ongoing way, they pile up, become unmanageable and make us much more vulnerable to depression. When we suffer from depression, our emotions can be scary territory. We may try to avoid sadness because it feels like a “black hole” that we might fall into and never get out. We can be terrified of emotions such as anger, resentment, or jealousy, which we tend to view as “sinful” emotions. Fearing failure and fear of the future are other common emotions that cause us to experience constant anxiety along with depression.
Some of our emotional distress may originate from unresolved or traumatic experiences from the past and even from early childhood, yet we worry that we can’t or shouldn’t “dig up” this “old stuff.” We desperately want to “just get over it” and move on to happier things. For these reasons, depression sufferers typically have a pattern of avoiding or “suppressing” troubling emotions. Rather than telling ourselves that we “shouldn’t” feel these distressing emotions and consequently trying to ignore them or push them away, EFT invites us to honestly acknowledge and then release these emotions from our mind-body system. We can often reframe them, as Darla did, changing the false conclusions we made at the time.
Learning to identify emotions may take practice if we have a pattern of suppressing them or if we presently feel numb to our emotions. EFT can help us develop a new relationship with the emotions in our lives, a valuable step toward finding relief from symptoms of depression.
Using EFT with a qualified therapist, as in the example that Darla shared, is an excellent way to address deeper issues. However, because EFT is so “user friendly,” it can offer immediate benefits even when you practice it by yourself at home. Below you will find a chart which shows the tapping points and some simple ways EFT can be used daily.
The Fear Tap
For a quick way to calm yourself in any kind of stressful situation, gently tap or massage the “Gamut Point” which is on the joint between the pinkie and ring finger. The arrow on the chart points to this area. Most often you will feel calmer within a few minutes of tapping this point. A series of studies conducted at Harvard Medical School have shown that EFT and other energy psychology techniques that utilize tapping on acupuncture points generate signals that reduce arousal in the amygdale of the brain. This effectively slows down the “fight or flight” response that is stimulated in fearful situations. Using the “fear tap” with the mindfulness and breathing exercises we presented in our previous article multiples the benefits.
Note: Whenever you use EFT you will feel the need to expel your breath, to sigh, yawn, or even sneeze. Allow your body to expel energy in this manner as you create energy shifts in your body through tapping.
Peggy shares: I used the fear tap to get me through an anxiety-producing root canal. I was especially nervous because the dentist doing the emergency procedure was not my regular dentist. I had to endure about 45 minutes of nerve-racking, intense drilling. Whenever I noticed my anxiety level starting to rise, I massaged my hand across the “gamut point,” and within four minutes or so, I could feel my sense of panic relieved. I was thankful for this simple tool!
All of us typically have a steady stream of self-talk that flows through our minds. In fact, as we have previously discussed, our minds are constantly thinking, thinking, thinking. EFT can help when we get stuck in the negative self-talk which creates anxiety and distress. (We will talk more about negative self-talk in our next article.) One of the simplest ways to use EFT is to tap on the tapping points while you tune in to your present stream of negative self-talk.
For example, let’s say that you are in heavy traffic feeling very stressed and frustrated that you are going to be late for an appointment. You find yourself having self-talk that sounds like this:
- Why do people have to drive so darn slow?
- Life is so frustrating and the traffic drives me nuts.
- I am going to scream if that light turns red before I get to it.
- I’m always late no matter how hard I try to organize.
- Why can’t I get more cooperation so I don’t have to be late?
Instead of allowing your self-talk to cause frustration and anxiety which builds up in your mind-body system, simply tap on the tapping points while you ventilate your frustrations. Tap each point approximately seven times, gently with two fingers. You can tap with just one hand down one side of your face and body.Say a new phrase at each tapping point, or repeat the same phrase as you move to each tapping point if you discover a phrase that especially captures how you feel:
- Tap the eyebrow point (EB) and say “Why do people have to drive so darn slow?”
- Tap the side eye point (SE) and say “Life is so frustrating and the traffic drives me nuts.
- Tap the under eye point (UE) and say, “I am going to scream if that light turns red before I get there.”
- Tap the top of the cheek bone (CB) and say, “I’m always late no matter how hard I try to organize.”
- Tap under the nose (UN) and say, “Why can’t I get more cooperation so I don’t have to be late?”
- With your hand flat, tap gently on both collar bone (CB) points (about 4 inches under the Adam’s apple). Begin again with, “Why do people have to drive so darn slow?
- Tap with two fingers on the under arm area (UA) and say, “Life is so frustrating and the traffic drives me nuts.”
Do this until you have tapped on all the tapping points two or three times, expressing all the things that are running through your mind. As you tap, you will often discover the emotions that accompany your thoughts. Tap on the emotions you discover in addition to your self-talk. For instance, you may discover that the problem is not really the traffic, but worry about the criticism that might come from others if you are late: “I feel anxious that others will think I am unorganized if I am late.” You can now tap on “fear of judgment” or another phrase that captures your emotion.
After you have tapped on your self-talk statements two or three times, very often you will find that you have spontaneously started to experience less distress. As you feel relief, you may also find that more positive thoughts start to come to your mind. Once you feel relieved of the negative thoughts, you can tap while speaking the positive thoughts that come to your mind, such as “I am enjoying an increased sense of well-being and confidence.” “I feel an increasing sense of God’s love and care.” “Thank you, God, for the love and care you are giving me.”
Tap on Body Sensations
Many of us struggle to identify the emotions that are at the core of our problems. This is especially true if we have a pattern of being “numb” to our bodies and consequently numb to our our emotions. We may struggle to move from what we think in our heads to what we feel in our bodies. Instead of tapping on specific self-talk statements, tune in to the sensation you are feeling in your body or “body signs.” Use a phrase which describes the body sensation as your tapping phrase. Shortened phrases which describe an emotional feeling or body sensation are called “reminder phrases.” In the traffic example above, you may notice and tap as you say:
“tightness in my stomach”
“pain in my neck”
“throbbing in my temples”
Follow the same steps described in Self-Talk Tapping above; use a “reminder phrase” which describes your body sensation as you tap on each tapping point. You can tune in to your most intense body sensation and tap on that, or you may tap on each body sensation you notice. Tapping brings changes in body sensation which are indications of emotional energy moving like waves through your body. As your body sensations change, simply describe the changes you observe: “less tightness in my stomach,” “gentle throbbing in my head,” “pain in left shoulder only.” Tap on these new phrases until you feel relief from the sensation.
In her wonderful book, Multiply the Power of EFT[vi], Patricia Carrington, Ph.D. shares how to use the phrase, “I choose,” to experience a more positive view when we feel stuck in negative thinking and self-doubt. Here are some steps to apply the principle of using “choice” to create more positive outcomes:
1. As you tap on the karate chop (KC) point, say the following to yourself three times:
“Even though [clearly state the negative feeling or problem], I love and accept myself anyway.”
Using the example of being late due to heavy traffic that we used earlier, you might say:
“Even though I get frantic when I think I am going to be late, I love and accept myself anyway.”
2. While tapping on each of the EFT tapping points approximately seven times, repeat a short phrase that helps you tune in to your negative feeling or problem.
Using the heavy traffic example you could tap on phrases like: “hate to be late,” “frantic in traffic,” “jumping out of my skin with frustration.” The idea is to choose a phrase that really captures the depth of your emotion.
Tap on this phrase until you feel significant relief. Don’t be afraid to get to the bottom of what is bothering you. You cannot experience the benefit of the next step until you have “tapped down” the emotional intensity of Step 2.
3. Choose what you would like to feel. Dr. Carrington suggests that you can choose a feeling that is directly “opposite” of what you presently feel. Perhaps you would like to feel calm and patient instead of frustrated and frantic. Tap on your KC point again and put your present feeling together with the feeling you want to feel. Repeat this phrase at least three times while you tap the KC point:
“Even though I feel [frustrated and frantic] I choose to feel [calm and patient].”
You can also use a variation of this phrase such as:
“Even though I feel [frustrated and frantic] I am open to the possibility that I can feel [calm and patient.]”
Choose whichever phrase feels most truthful for you in the moment.
4. After you have tapped on the KC point using one of these “Even though” phrases at least three times, you are ready to tap on your positive phrase. Saying your positive phrase, “calm and patient,” tap on each of the EFT tapping points as shown in the chart. Don’t forget to breathe deeply as you tap, allowing yourself to breathe out your frustrations and breathe in you new feelings of calm and patience.
This kind of self-therapy can go far in preventing or reversing the downward spiral of negative emotions into depression. It is really inviting more light and truth into our lives.
EFT and Prayer
As we seek to understand EFT or other energy psychology tools that are based upon basic spiritual principles, we may wonder how to integrate these tools into our spiritual practices. EFT is not a substitute for prayer and scripture study, but it can certainly compliment these practices. EFT, like prayer, is something that can be done throughout the day, when we wake up in the morning to create a better day, and when we go to bed at night to process and put to rest the worries of the day.
Let me take the following scripture and suggest how we can apply it to EFT as we make it a Christ-centered practice that can strengthen us against the spiritual and emotional challenges of our day.
Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God; That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord; that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord with uplifted hands unto the Most High. (D&C 88:119-120, Emphasis added.)
We can trust that healing resources have been prepared for us because the Lord loves us and had perfect knowledge of the challenges we would face in these last days. We can apply these resources in ways that positively impact the marvelous temple of our mind/body system, our own personal “house of prayer, house of learning.” Tapping to balance our body’s energies, quite literally helps us organize ourselves-our thoughts, our emotions, our perceptions so that the temple of our bodies can be more truly a “house of order.”
As we tap on our worries and seek to increase the flow of light in our mind body system, we can do it “in the name of the Lord.” We can direct our minds and hearts to the Lord and confess our most honest thoughts and worries as we tap on these negative thoughts and feelings and ask His help to rid ourselves of them. We can visualize ourselves with hands and arms stretched upward, receiving the flow of the Lord’s love and grace which fills our need for acceptance and heals our heart, sustaining us in the most difficult of challenges.
[i] For a free e-book which details the science and methods of using EFT visit Peggy’s website
[iii] Peggy says: As an EFT practitioner who is certified by the Association for Advancement of Meridian Energy Tapping (AAMET), I have been trained in “official” methods of EFT; however, practitioners do use slight variations. My favorite book for using EFT with children and adolescents is Tap into Joy by Susan Busen. This book is not an “official” EFT publication, but it has simple instructions and scripts for every problem experienced by young people. I highly recommend this book to my clients and encourage its use by parents and professionals
[iv] See www.eftunivere.com On the left hand side of the page, click on “Research” for an extensive list.
[vi] Patricia Carrington, PhD. (2007) Multiply the Power of EFT. This book has 52 ways to use EFT in everyday situations that fit the needs of almost everyone. It is easy to read and to use. To purchase this resource go to www.masteringeft.com and click on “Products.” Choose the “Multiply the Power Book” from the menu on the left hand side of the web page.
Exciting announcement. Darla’s well-received book of comfort for those grieving a suicide is now available as an e-book in both Kindle and Nook formats.
To learn more about Darla and her books, Trust God No Matter What! and After My Son’s Suicide: An LDS Mother Finds Comfort in Christ and Strength to Go On, visit her website: darlaisackson.com. Also check out Barnes and Noble Nook Books and Amazon.com.
Darla and Peggy first collaborated when Darla became the Covenant Communications editor of Peggy’s first book, Becoming Women of Strength nearly twenty years ago. That book is out of print, but still available on Amazon.com
Peggy A. McFarland, MS, NCC, practices in Oregon as an integrative mental health counselor. Peggy earned her BS degree in social work from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Capella University. She utilizes Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT ) in her practice and is the creator of the The Light Point Healing Center www.thelightpoint.org.Peggy has written a values-based curriculum to help girls develop positive body image during the transition of puberty, entitled Healthy Transitions for Girls. This curriculum is a valuable resource for parents and professionals. For more information on this resource visit Peggy’s website www.healthytransitionsforgirls.com