I couldn’t resist titling this article “What the F is EFT?” I can’t tell you how many people have asked me this very same question when I started talking about my experiences with the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) last year. And I said the same thing when I first heard of this interesting form of therapy myself.
What the F is EFT?
EFT is a therapeutic emotional tool implemented by practitioners all over the world that combines the principles of acupressure (tapping along meridians with your fingers), talk therapy and replacing current thought patterns with positive affirmations in order to move energy around your body and nervous system. In a way, it has similarities to acupuncture which uses needles along known energy meridians to re-circuit the body’s qi (another word for energy).
I have come across several different philosophies behind EFT, so rather than explaining the who’s, why’s, and how’s… I’m going to share my personal experiences so you can get a more unique look inside an EFT session. I do encourage you to reach out to a local EFT practitioner if you have one in your area, if this sounds like it may be beneficial for you. I received great benefit from my sessions + much, much, much better results than a traditional therapeutic approach or even hypnosis (I tried that too). It’s VERY woo-woo at first, but once I saw benefit, I put my initial judgments aside and just went with it.
Humans tend to bury the things that frighten us the most deep, deep, deep into our cells. Our cells, our mitochondria, are responsible for giving us life and controlling every bodily process you can think of… including how we think. Our immune system. Our brains. Our guts. Our cortisol response. When our cells are contaminated with a personal history of fear, trauma, abuse, and invalidation, a switch turns on.
This switch could be the trigger that pulls the gun for autoimmunity that was already loaded by your genetic and environmental toxins. Or it could be the switch that keeps you from living life in your truest form and achieving true happiness and fulfillment. Don’t you find life’s greatest moments result when you just drop expectations? For EFT to “work”, you really have to become as non-judgmental as you can be and not overthink it one bit.
Think of it this way. Most humans are walking around on earth tightly wound up like a spring. Everyday experiences continue to load that spring until it gets tighter and tighter and smaller and smaller, so that it no longer feels, looks, or acts like itself.
Until we release the tension caused by all of these experiences, we are going to stay tightly wound, our cells starved for new flow of energy. This didn’t totally make sense to me until I tried EFT with a very skilled practitioner in Austin. I no longer live in Austin but I continue to use what I learned from my therapist to cope and thrive in my everyday life.
How does it work?
Ideally you learn to self-administer EFT tapping with an experienced therapist in a quiet and safe setting. It’s important to trust your EFT therapist because you will likely be talking about your deepest concerns, fears, and anxieties. Some people use EFT to calm headaches, allergic reactions, back pain, bloating, constipation, rashes, etc. I started EFT after hearing what an effective treatment is can be for someone with PTSD, emotional trauma, and anxiety. I wanted to change my thought patterns because I knew if I changed those, other things in my life would naturally fall into place to make me a happier and whole being.
EFT is applicable to pretty well any physical, emotional, or cognitive issue or ailment you are experiencing. While I haven’t used EFT on more than two occasions for physical illness (an exposure to an allergen), I have used it for the last 6 months to successfully heal emotional wounds that I have carried with me from birth, childhood and young adulthood.
One could argue that the trauma we carry with us may have caused enough stress to trigger our autoimmune diseases. Now it’s time to unload the gun so that if the trigger is pulled by a daily event, it’s not going to harm us.
Okay, so here’s how it works…While narrating your thoughts, you tap along designated acupressure points in a calming pattern. Top of the head, above the eyebrow, the side of the eye, under the eye, under the nose, on the breast bone, across the chest, under the ribcage, side of your body, along your forearm, hand, and fingers. It’s important to really let the thoughts flow and to not judge them. If you need to vent about your ex-husband, mother-in-law, the girl who stole your treadmill at the gym, or the guy who rear-ended you this morning in a non-judgmental space, this is the place to be.
EFT doesn’t encourage you to pretend everything is roses + pack away your real feelings. Remember, it’s about the good, bad and the fuuuugly. I’ve learned that to cope in life, we need to be aware of our reactions first and foremost. I have less to cope with now since EFT has changed my outlook so dramatically on people and events.
My Personal Experiences with EFT
I find the subtle drumbeat of tapping vibrating through my body INCREDIBLY calming, and will now even start tapping in public subconsciously if something is stressing me out. For example, the other day a car drove by my daughter and I while we were walking in my neighborhood way too fast.
My cells immediately wound up in anxiety, my heartbeat faster, and I started to sweat. To calm this cortisol response down quickly, I started tapping, tapping, tapping, and within a few moments, I felt level again and ready to appreciate the beautiful morning for what it was. In the past, that event would have set up me for anxiety all day, heightening my adrenal response, lowering my digestion, and stimulating my immune system.
During our first session, I felt what I can only describe as a ball of energy form in my throat, almost choking me, and certainly uncomfortable. I consider that the first and largest release of energy from my body that was keeping me sick and unhappy. My body gathered up energy in my throat likely for a few reasons: I have a diagnosed thyroid disease and the energy was right where my thyroid is located. I have felt my voice was squashed for so long… I used to hide my diagnosis (especially my infertility diagnosis) from friends and peers, even my family. I’ve also always had a fear of choking or of anyone touching my neck. It makes complete sense that this is where my body’s energy expulsion targeted. My therapist said some people burp, pass gas, become sleepy, or feel other odd sensations during EFT sessions.
We continued to tap along the meridians of my body, me following the lead of my therapist. The room had lowered lights, soft music playing, and my therapist encouraged me to keep speaking my inner thoughts. The ones I had pushed deep into my cells for so long. That ball of energy slowly started to release into the top of my throat, near my mouth, and suddenly it was gone. I no longer felt like I was choking or couldn’t breathe. I didn’t burst into tears (this session), it just went away. And the issue we were talking about truly stopped bothering me. It was an issue that was rooted in a past relationship. That’s some heavy stuff to work through that quickly. Other topics took several sessions for us to work through, though, so even if you don’t feel completely resolved after one session, don’t give up yet.
Of course I was incredibly curious to return for more sessions once I had that effective initial experience. And each subsequent session we focused on whatever was on my mind that week. One week it was my birth experience, another week it was about missing deceased family members, another week it was to combat anxiety I was experiencing in anticipation of having six weeks straight of visitors when Grace was a few months old. We also discussed past relationships and experiences (like a scary experience I had walking home by myself in college as well as the tragic death of two friends).
On top of the fear and trauma that results from those situations is blame and an unwillingness to make ourselves vulnerable… for fear it may happen again. Or maybe it’s embarrassment for others to know. Either way, neither fear, invalidation or embarrassment are creating a positive flow of energy in your body and are negatively impacting your efforts in healing. Wrapped up in my past trauma is years and years and years of living a life of someone who was unwell and had lost her zest for life.
The guilt, shame, fear, pain, sorrow, and hopelessness that many of us that have been diagnosed with a chronic illness or infertility comes as a package with our diagnosis. We have to unwrap that package, stare at it, examine it, question it, and then decide how we’re going to address it. Do we want to hold those emotions in our cells, keeping us from leading the life we were meant to live? Or do we want to release those emotions + clear our energy meridians so we can instead bring them true emotional and physical nourishment?
I lived in these negative emotions far too long, especially with my infertility diagnosis. I can say with confidence that my diagnosis of Hashimoto’s would not have been nearly as devastating to me if it hadn’t come along with an infertility diagnosis a year later. After the birth of my daughter, the greatest gift I could have ever received, I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t going to raise my daughter as a tightly-wound emotional spring, off-gassing my trauma on her. She deserved better and so did I. I had to face my own demons, the ones that were keeping me in a place of emotional restriction and possibly from reaching my full healing potential. That may sound strange to you depending on your own spirituality + openness to new ideas. But I fully believe that what we carry with us affects those around us.
Haven’t you been around someone who just made you feel off? There was a girl in my occupational therapy program who literally gave me the heebie jeebies… there was something in her energy that was so negative, it made my stomach twist and turn when I was near her. I had to work closely with her during the time of a Hashimoto’s flare and the days we were together, I felt so exhausted and sick. I wish I had known about EFT back then because I could have better protected myself in that situation.
So what have I gained from EFT?
- In a rather short time, I have increased my coping abilities dramatically. I go through my day with greater ease.
- I have further accepted my body for what it does, what it looks like, and what it may do in the future. I don’t live in fear of autoimmune flares or fear of situations I cannot control.
- I have stopped blaming myself for everything. I’ve stopped worrying and “but what if-ing” everything.
- I have stopped trying to control the future so much but rather live and stay in the present.
- I feel healed from past traumas and aware of the healing that still needs to occur.
- All of these tendencies and behavioral/thought patterns were rooted in anxiety and that anxiety was flowing through my cells like the Colorado River. We disrupted the flow.
- Shifted my cognitive patterns using an almost trance-like state that is consciously tapping… and it really changed my outlook on the world and my place in the world.