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“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao-tzu
Yes, but . . . . When we are caught in the energies of fear, self doubt, past failures, and isolation, taking that first, single step toward a goal can trigger our flight, fight, freeze response. When we are flooded with these emotions, even the tiniest step toward a goal seems utterly impossible. Sometimes, in order to avoid admitting our fear, we launch into discrediting the goal as unworthy. For example, a person who sets a weight-loss goal and finds himself paralyzed by mysterious fears might say, “Why should I give in to the cultural pressure to be thin? I’m going to be myself, a big guy, and celebrate my bigness.”
This response is entirely valid unless the decision to lose weight is based on legitimate health risks such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, joint/movement problems or a combination of these. When a part of us knows it is time to make a change, and another part comes forward to discredit that knowledge, Emotional Freedom Techniques can help us to find a way forward. Best of all, EFT can do so very gently.
Embracing a Trauma-Sensitive Approach to Understanding Fear
EFT specificity and gentleness can help to reveal the source of our fears. Usually fears are embedded in experiences which form beliefs that make us feel unsafe when we consider making changes. For example, a person who has been sexually brutalized may unconsciously worry that if she loses weight she will attract unwanted attention. Another person, told throughout childhood that he is lazy and indulgent, is likely to internalize this belief and so be unaware of it and unable to create strategies for dismantling it. The belief itself tells him he’s lazy and incapable, and so until he finds a way to make the belief conscious, shifting it will be impossible.
Anyone who has absorbed always-or-never criticism (“You’re always lying around. You never finish your chores.”) may find that until she uncovers specific examples of when she absorbed this criticism she may be unable to make healthy, desired change. Given the resistance that comes from hidden beliefs, our journey of a thousand miles begins with a single question rather than a single step. “How do I make the changes I want to make safely, in ways that gently transform the specific experiences that have shaped my out-dated beliefs about myself?”
Continuous Tapping, Sneaking Up, Sneaking Away, and Guessing
When I tackle a deep-seated, harmful belief about myself, I review how to use EFT’s gentlest techniques such as continuous tapping, sneaking up, and sneaking away to protect myself from the risk of experiencing ‘too-much-too-soon’ overwhelm. The words I use as I approach a known or unknown belief are key. Conditional words and phrases such as ‘Perhaps,’ ‘Maybe,’ and ‘I wonder if . . . ,’ help my body to relax into a give-and-take dance of curious, non-threatening exploration. I use this same language on my own issues and others’ to address parenting styles and attitudes that have created a legacy of shame and self doubt.
For example, I might begin with an opportunity to participate in an event and find myself thinking, ‘Oh, I could never do that. I’m such a disaster, I’d ruin it for everyone’ Using the gentle, curious questioning approach, I might then take a breath and ask myself why I might feel this way. If a specific ‘failure’ event doesn’t come up, I might then imagine one or guess about one.
A story line might go something like this: “I think I remember asking for swimming lessons when I was about six or seven but I’m not sure about this. I think I wanted to learn to swim because a friend was having her birthday party at a local indoor pool and I was hoping she’d ask me. I do remember Jenny’s party at the community centre, and I do remember being invited to a pool party. I also remember that I didn’t attend because someone, maybe my older sister, told me I was an accident waiting to happen and that if I accepted the invitation I’d probably spoil the party by drowning.” Guessing, known as the EFT Tearless Trauma Technique, is a highly effective EFT discovery tool that avoids the possibility of re-traumatizing ourselves or our clients because of its tentative, respectful language.
Global Tapping to Lessen Intense Emotions
Just writing that brief story reminds me of an actual incident with my own older sister. As I feel the emotions of my personal experience, I begin the global tapping protocol, tapping through the points, initially without words. The overwhelm of emotion tells me my SUD Score is a ten. I tap on this feeling of overwhelm and also powerlessness, the latter because our age difference (I am four years my sister’s junior), is a good indicator that I felt powerless at the time.
When I am calmer and my SUDS are down to a two, I begin to speak my truth as I tap: “That shouldn’t have happened. I can’t imagine why anyone would say that to a child. It shouldn’t have happened.” Again, I tune into my emotions, check my SUDS, and continue the process until my intensity is down to a two.
This slow, gentle process then opens a window onto the specific event, one I can work on during my daily emotional hygiene routine. One of the best consequences of daily EFT work for me is the growing feeling of empowerment I experience as I address my limiting beliefs. In the case of my older sister, as I work through resentments using EFT and specific feelings attached to specific events, I create the space in which to imagine her reality when she was behaving so badly toward me. If she’d actually said that I’d probably ruin a party by drowning, my young self would likely go into emotional meltdown because I wasn’t getting what I wanted: support to try something new.
My mature self responds differently. Jane, the adult who knows my sister can be loving and kind, now looks back at incidents of meanness and knows that something was influencing her to behave in this unkind way. To use the fictitious swimming example, I might reason that perhaps she felt resentment that she didn’t have a pool party invitation or that she was always having to share the world with a pesky, needy younger sister who got into her things and intruded on her time with friends. My mature self has perspective regarding the physiological and emotional upheavals of adolescence; my young self only experienced my sister as “mean.” EFT gentle techniques provide the gracious, spacious support I need to revisit potentially distressing childhood events in a highly conscious and empowered way.
Getting Specific, Finding Aspects, Tapping Each to a Neutral Place
When we return to an actual experience and its specific moments of distress with the benign curiosity provided by EFT’s gentle techniques, magic happens. Perhaps the words said by an authority in our lives actually crushed us into believing we are unable to learn something as humanly natural as swimming. The resentment this might cause is obvious. The anger and sadness we might feel as we realize a family member sabotaged a potentially lovely experience can be named and tapped through. The feeling of being robbed of the joy of learning to swim initially and then the joy of swimming with others is fertile ground for releasing fears that prevent us from learning other new skills and information, thereby supporting us as we take that first step of our current thousand-mile journey. As we guess and tap, the specific Aspects of an event become apparent. In this way, we turn our attention to the details of each experience that might have given rise to a global belief in our general incompetence. This wise attention leads to transformation.
Addressing even one hurtful experience of the past can reduce the fear we feel when we think of trying something new in the present. Learning a language, taking an EFT training, or making a presentation to a large, unfamiliar group then receives the energy that had previously been bound up in the fear and resistance our unconscious belief triggered. As we move more securely into fashioning the lives we imagine, the lives we desire, those events we might otherwise perceive as negative become supports for helping us resolve any beliefs that are holding us back from reaching our goals. It is an exacting process to rescue the Self from outmoded beliefs, but it is a joyous and rewarding process as well.
Seeking Help to Begin to Help Ourselves
Many of us are fearful regarding seeking help. Avoiding doctors and dentists when we clearly need their attention is surprisingly common behaviour. “Don’t tell me I need a root canal,” we say, or “Oh, no. Not another mammogram.” While there are long-term professional relationships we can and should undertake for addressing the Big T traumas of early childhood that prevent us from living our best lives, EFT is superb for empowering its practitioners to address the small t traumas that can prevent us from experiencing peace of mind in pursuing our every-day goals. Other methods of emotional-change work are effective, of course, including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), but because professional expertise is required to experience their efficacy, they do not offer the opportunities for empowerment that are integral to the process of learning how to use Emotional Freedom Techniques effectively.
Once learned, these techniques make everyday annoyances adventures in discovery. They also make global tragedies – wildfires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters – an opportunity to send out healing into the world’s energy field, a field we not only share but mend or tear with our daily habits and beliefs. Daily use of EFT fosters a generosity of spirit that grows with use. Once learned, and learned well, this self-regulation practice requires nothing but curious, gentle awareness, of Self, of Others, and of the distressing energies that may be fueling all apparently self-destructive behaviours.
“The journey of a thousand miles . . . ,” can begin today with a single step toward EFT’s gentle dismantling of all the limiting beliefs, conscious and unconscious, that entrench our resistance to and fear of change. Using EFT’s gentle techniques, may we take our first steps with peace and optimism, grace and space.
Until next time
Jane Buchan, MA, AAMET EFT Master Trainer NQT
Jane is an EFT practitioner, trainer, writer, and educator specializing in neutralizing the long-term effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) as well as the cultural limitations that interfere with our ability to imagine, create, and live the lives we desire. To engage Jane for individual or group coaching services, AAMET Accredited, Certified Mentoring sessions, and EFT Level One and Two Training for your group, call Jane at (802) 533-9277 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . Visit www.winterblooms.net to learn more about how Jane supports and inspires individuals, groups, and communities.