Category: <span>EFT</span>

Self-care for Mental Health Professionals

As a psychotherapist how do you self regulate?

How do you keep yourself from getting burnt out?

When there are personal issues, because you’re human and you will have them, how do you balance personal and professional life?

If you’re triggered in a session, feel biased towards your client, have a sudden personal triggering memory pop up, feel agitated, suddenly feel unwell etc, how do you handle it mid-session?

Although we already have coping skills and knowledge about self regulation as psychotherapists, it’s really important to have quick tools that can help us self-regulate prior to, during and after a session as well as have a tapping self-care routine to prevent burnout. This form of regular self-care in turn helps your client. How?

By you being able to hold a safe space for your client during sessions. Being trauma informed means being able to hold a safe space for our clients and in order to do that we need to feel safe in our bodies as therapists, especially if we are working with clients with trauma history. And I believe mostly all clients have some form of trauma background.

Self-regulation also helps in your interactions with your client outside of sessions, for example, scheduling appointments, answering emails, handling conflicts with clients – all this requires you to be in a grounded and calm space.

Another essential aspect of therapy is to have empathy. However, consistently working with clients while being present and empathetic does take a toll on our minds and bodies, especially if we’re not careful and don’t engage in regular self-care practices. We need a form of self care that requires less time, is somatic and helps in processing feelings safely without analysis paralysis.

Let’s say you’re triggered right before a client session due to a personal issue. Now, what will you do? One of the quickest ways to feel calmer is to just tap for a few minutes. It helps in reducing your emotional intensity instantly and is even helpful during a session.

Consider learning foundational skills in EFT for quick reduction in stress and emotional distress.

While mechanical EFT ( which can be learnt just be reading a manual or attending a brief course) is helpful, for effective EFT application a solid base in foundational skills and experiential learning is necessary, otherwise you will not find significant improvements after EFT.

EFT is a research supported, evidence based, somatic-cognitive tool. Since trauma enters through the body and emotions are felt in the body, the best way for trauma and emotions to be processed is through the body and that’s where EFT comes in.

For a short video on this, click on the link below

https://youtu.be/eiJ_XXQ29io

Transforming memories: pros and cons

Do we need to Undo our past to Heal?

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Research shows that every time you remember a memory you basically edit it. “When you encounter a familiar experience, you are remembering the original memory at the same time, and the new experience somehow gets blended in…That is essentially what reconsolidation is” (Lee, n.d) It’s a known fact that memory is reconstructed over the years. When an event/incident takes place you think and feel in a certain way about it. It takes some time for the event to solidify in your brain. Once it solidifies and each time you retrieve the memory, meaning remember it, you basically alter it a little bit. However, it does not mean that the physical event did not take place. The way you think and feel about the event will change over the years – it would hurt less, you might not be as affected by it, but it does not become a false memory. It’s a reconsolidated and reconstructed memory.

Standard EFT and our memories

In standard EFT we neutralize the feelings towards the original event as the person remembers it. This helps as research indicates that “emotions are encoded along with memories in the brain, so connecting with the feeling, and healing it really helps change our perspective on what happened.”(N. Barron, 2013)

Movie technique/Tell the story technique or tearless trauma technique along with creative and gentle variations are used to tap on every aspect of that event, especially the emotional peaks, aka crescendos of the event. The significance of this process lies in the fact that whatever the person remembers, we tap on it. In this process of memory transformation, we don’t change the original story; we don’t substitute it with fantasy but work on the story as we remember it.

LeDoux (2005) says that the fewer times you use your memory, “the more pristine it is. The more you use it, the more you change it.” EFT requires re-telling the event while tapping on the various pieces/parts of that event. This leads to a decrease in the stress response tied with it and gradually we are able to nullify all the stressful feelings related to it. You can watch this video on a research where EFT led to reduction in the intensity of traumatic memories.

Example of using Standard EFT for memory transformation/neutralization of feelings: My client narrated in a session that when she was 8 years old, she was punched on her nose by her mother. She was in the back seat of her car and she said something and her mother punched her. When she recalled this event in the session, she could still feel the terror and shock of that moment. She had thought about it many times over the years and the memory was reconsolidated. She didn’t remember the exact details of the event; the date, where they were going, what she wore, what she had said etc, but she remembered being hit by her mother. With the help of EFT we worked on the aspects of ‘shock and terror’, by working primarily on what she remembered and gradually the feelings subsided, making her neutral towards the memory. We also used metaphors and inner child healing to release the pain and trauma from that memory.

EFT variations that end up disowning the story

Some variations of EFT use different ways of re-writing the story by “creating a happy ending” based on what you would have liked/wanted to happen (substituting the bad ending with a happy ending for a story). So if we worked on the “punching nose” event and used re-creation of the story, we would let the client choose a happy ending for her story and transform the memory into, for example, being touched gently on her cheeks by her mother – a fantasy. This will change how the client feels about the event but re-writing the story with a happy ending might make her uncomfortable as it is a lie, even though she has willingly re-created this childhood event in the session. She will have to say a lot of lies to herself to stick to the fantasy version of her story because the fact that she was physically abused throughout her childhood will not change and in order to change it, she might have to disown her story and re-create every memory that involved this abuse.

It’s true that we all perceive things in our own way but being punched by someone in the nose is a reality for that person and no matter how many different ways in which you want to see it, it remains the same. But yes, you can change how you feel about that memory. The memory of an event plays out in a certain way in the mind of the person. We tap on whatever we hold within ourselves. It’s our perspective, our understanding, our feelings about the event. But there are certain ‘unchangeable aspects’ of that memory that remain the same. For example, if someone’s relative died, then they died – it’s unchangeable. Similarly if someone is abused and would like to think that they were not, then it’s a lie. Suppose you were cut by a sharp knife and bleeding, re-creating this memory with a butter knife will not help at all! This distortion might help you in forgetting that you had a knife cut but you will be forgetting and losing out on what you can learn from it and get cut again by another knife.

Honoring Our Past

Our past guides us; we learn from our experiences. Our past can guide us in useful ways too. If we neutralise an upsetting traumatic memory, we can also learn or grow from it. We might learn that someone isn’t trustworthy, reliable and we need to set boundaries with that person, or create an emotional distance with that person. If we completely forget what happened by replacing all bad times with good endings, wouldn’t it be distorting our lived reality to the extent that we no longer know what happened? Someone with a history of psychotic episodes, using this kind of fantasy runs the risk of creating false memories that may have a deleterious long-term effects. We cannot undo what happened in our past. Physical reality and the psychological impact that happened cannot be undone and to heal we don’t need to undo it. We only need to process the memories, work through them, taking up each piece of the event and finally having left with a memory with no charge. The memory is there but it’s not upsetting you anymore.

We can honor our stories, learn from them, integrate them in our lives and heal.

Healing takes place when we accept whatever ending the story has without trying to convert it into an ending that suits us. “Disowning our story is not a healing move, being able to own it and accept it, while tough, is essential.”( N. Barron, 2013) Personally I prefer to work with changing ‘how I feelabout a memory, what I remember happening in that memory instead of changing ‘what actually happened’ in that memory.

As a practitioner, I don’t encourage or practice changing the memory into a fantasy memory or forcing positivity onto my clients. These ways of working with a client, especially those with trauma history , can retraumatise them. I stick with what the person remembers. So if someone was hit by a person , and they tapped on it, they might say – “Yes I was hit by so and so, but it doesn’t affect me anymore”. They wouldn’t have to lie to themselves saying that they weren’t hit.

Conclusion:

As Practitioners we need to tread carefully while working on memories and inform the clients about the process and the effect on memories. In my opinion, standard evidence-based EFT is a trauma informed approach and is a natural way of healing, not forced. Also, in advanced EFT, inner child healing and parts work is used to bring healing to our wounded parts and younger selves.

Using EFT we can simply neutralize the feelings towards an event rather than substituting it with a fantasy. It’s a far safer option in my opinion.

This article is an updated version of the original article that was published on 9th Nov, 2013, on my second blog. You can read the original article here.

References:

Barron, N. Personal Communication. Nov 08 2013 http://energyandintention.com/

LeDoux, J. (2005). Synaptic self: How our brains become who we are. New York, NY: Penguin.

Lee, J (n.d) In Discover Magazine: How much of your memory is true, retrieved November 1st, 2013 from http://discovermagazine.com/2009/jul-aug/03-how-much-of-your-memory-is-true

Psychological reversals

Reversals or psychological reversals are a group of aspects that adversely affect the EFT process. They can come up when you are making progress. For example, you might feel fear or resistance when you’re on the verge of releasing a strong emotion, a physical symptom or condition. They can also come up right in the beginning as soon as you start addressing an issue for the first time.

They are conscious or unconscious resistance that we have towards healing something. They can show up as “conflicting parts and beliefs, secondary gains, protective parts”.

All of us have developed coping mechanisms to survive certain traumas and tough situations when we were younger and these coping mechanisms really helped. However, as we grew older these coping mechanisms became outdated , limiting and unhealthy.

These coping mechanisms can act as protective parts trying to hold on to what helped us survive. Gently addressing the fear and resistance around replacing old patterns and adopting healthier coping mechanisms can really help.

EFTi defines “Reversals as a specific group of Aspects that can negatively affect the EFT process. These can be conscious or subconscious and include secondary gains, resistance, conflicting beliefs or protective parts that stand in the way of progress. When EFT progress is slow or stalled (i.e. Intensity Levels are not dropping, emotional intensity is returning with frequency or presenting issues are not changing measurably), Reversals (i.e. hidden Aspects) are often present.” (EFTi glossary)

Thinking same thoughts?

Our present and future is always coloured by our past. As Joe Dispenza says and even neuroscience suggests, if you keep thinking the same thoughts, then the same neural patterns will get strengthened, the same neurons will fire and wire together. So when we keep reviving our past and the strong emotions associated with it, the body keeps getting into extended periods of stress. The body cannot differentiate between real and imagined event. Hence when we keep narrating or retelling the same stories in our head throughout the day, the body stays in that stressful mode.

Example, if you’ve been cheated by someone in the past, and very frequently you think about how bad that experience was, the body experiences the same emotions over and over again, the same neurons fire and wire. This becomes a habitual pattern where negative events will stick to us and positive ones will slide by easily.

That’s where EFT comes in. When you work on specific episodes with tapping, the narration is done in a structured manner where every crescendo of the story is tapped upon. This sends deactivating signals to the amygdala and the neural connections for that story are weakened. This changes how you feel about your past, which in turn creates a feedback loop and new thoughts and feelings are generated about the past that aren’t stressful to the body. Acceptance and being able to let go create a calmer physiology.

A short excerpt from Joe Dipenza’s interview.

“Become conscious of your negative thoughts.

People have a habit of clinging to the familiar and the known.  Most of the times we’re not even aware of what we’re thinking. Observe the thoughts. You will feel uncomfortable and will want to distract yourself. Any kind of change requires becoming uncomfortable to some degree.

Changing your thoughts consciously on a daily basis is needed.” You can see the full interview here https://youtu.be/ereahWKwNV8

Here are some tips and suggestions

  1. If you’re going through a tough time, take it slow. Choose a few methods that work for you and practice them regularly. Start with a practitioner or attend a workshop to understand the methods properly and then apply them on yourself.
  2. Always accept how you feel. Burying or acting upon feelings don’t help.
  3. Taming your thoughts takes time. Changing the critical inner voice to an encouraging one takes time – have compassion for yourself.
  4. Taking responsibility for what happened in the past doesn’t mean that you deliberately created that experience and you need to blame yourself for it. When you take responsibility, you operate from place of power instead of victimhood and that brings about changes. You stop blaming others for everything and decide to work on what you can do about the situation. All this becomes easier with EFT.

Growth & Survival

We have two very important survival mechanisms: GROWTH and PROTECTION

Dr Lipton did an experiemient in the laboratory on endothelian cells. When he introduced toxins into the culture dish, the cells retreated from toxins, just as humans move away from lions and tigers. These cells “gravitated” towards nutrients just like humans move towards nourishing food and love/connection.
Gravitating towards nutrients is a Growth response and Retreating from danger is a Protection response.

Now these two mechanisms cannot work efficiently at the same time!
So when we become protective – trying to protect ourselves from real or imaginery danger- we are operating from a protective mode. We go into fight or flight and the body channelizes the enegry to tissues and limbs to be ready for protection mode. Hence the growth is inhibited.
An excerpt from Dr Lipton’s book:
“Inhibiting growth processes is also debilitating in that growth is a process that not only expends energy but is also required to produce energy…the longer you stay in protection, the more you compromise your growth” (p. 116)

Most of the times we are not at a point where there is extreme danger to our survival and since humans are multicellular, not all of our cells have to be in growth or protection mode at the same time. Only depending on the severity of the treat, the cells engage in protection response.
While we can survive threats, chronic stress can inhibit growth mechanisms and can compromise your health.

Bottom line is that not only do we need to cope with stress in a healthy manner but also actively seek joy and move towards fulfilling loving lives where growth processes are stimulated (p. 117)

In order to move towards joy and lead more fulfilling lives we need to lessen our daily stress and also the stress from past experiences. What better way to do it than EFT! It can help you release negative experiences and reinforce positive ones.

Reference: Lipton, B. (2005). Biology of Belief. India, Hay House.

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Subconcious Programming

Our subconscious mind retains all of our early life’s data. It’s a storehouse of learned experiences and instincts. It’s basically a ‘repository of stimulus -response’ tapes from our childhood. (Lipton, 2005)

Subconscious mind is habitual. Think of the last time you lost it when someone did something. For example, I used to dislike it when I saw a piece of misplaced furniture. If a person sat on a chair and didn’t put the chair back in its place or position, I would get irritated. My dad is very organized and growing up I’ve observed and retained a lot of his habits around organization.
So in essence, my overreaction came from my subconscious mind which had stored all the observations about my dad’s organized behaviour. Of course, it also made me very good in organizing stuff which is a great skill but at the same time, it also made me inflexible and a perfectionist. After I realized that my overreactions were coming from my subconscious mind, I became more mindful and conscious of my reactions. Now, it doesn’t bother me much. Although I will still put the chair back in its place 😅, I do so without any irritation.

In his book, the Biology of Belief, Dr Bruce Lipton says that the subconscious mind is more powerful neurologically than conscious mind. Our conscious mind is the state in which we are aware, conscious, creative and attentive.

If you read his book, you will come to know about many fascinating facts. Did you know that the cell’s main brain is not the nucleus but the membrane? Bruce Lipton explains how this is tied to how the mind influences the body.

The membrane consists of receptor (awareness) and effector (action) proteins. “These protein complexes are the fundamental units of cellular intelligence” The cell membrane interacts with the environment to produce responses that help in sustaining life. The cell membrane is the brain of the cell. And our brain is the main unit in a human body and each cell of our body has to “acquiesce control to the brain..the brain controls the behavior of the body’s cells” (Lipton, p. 101)

The mind is a function of the physical brain.
What this means is that we can heal if we properly use our conscious mind. Our conscious mind has control over the cells of our body and the way we think and feel can affect our cells and thus lead to healing or aggravate ill health. That’s why working on our subconscious beliefs is so important for a healthy mind and body.

Our conscious mind is very powerful. It can choose how to behave in a situation, it can analyze the data coming from subconscious mind and so and so forth. Those of you who know EFT, know that with EFT, we engage the prefrontal cortex, the conscious mind, and that can override the subconscious mind’s default behaviors.
Work on your subconscious beliefs, remember to take up specific events to transform these beliefs.

Reference: Lipton, B. (2005). Biology of Belief. India, Hay House.

Learn about Genetic Deternimsm and Epigenetics here

Genetic determinism vs Epigenetics

Nature vs nurture will be always be a hot topic of debate. I remember reading about it for the first time in my psychology class in 12th grade. It was a fascinating topic and still is. Much research has taken place in this area. To make it short, Identical twins studies suggest that even though identical twins share the same genetic material, they often don’t share the same diseases or health outcomes.

The stringent concept of genetic determinism states that we are born with a set of genes and we are bound to get the same diseases our parents and grandparents got. Whereas epigenetics drawing from identical twin studies points out how even if we cannot change the genes, we can change the gene expression, meaning the way the gene expresses itself.

Bruce Lipton, in his book, Biology of Belief, says that Darwin’s theory has undermined the role of nurture (environment) and led us to believe that ‘genes control biology’. He further goes on to say that most diesease like diabetes, cancer etc are due to ‘complex interactions amongst multiple genes and environmental factors, and not due to a single gene’ and, ‘the environmental influences including nutrition, stress, and emotions, can modify those genes without changing their basic blueprint’

Which simply means, environment can triumph over hereditary.

Chromosomes carry genetic material and they are covered by proteins like ‘sleeves’. When the genes are covered, their information cannot be read. What you need is an environmental signal to make the protein to change shape , which allows the genes to be read ( p. 38, Lipton, 2005)
So the environment makes a huge difference in whether your genes will be expressed or not. For example, if you believe you have a ‘diabetic gene’, firstly it’s not a single gene, and secondly the environment will determine whether you will become a diabetic or not, whether the diabetic gene will be turned on (expressed) or off (silenced).

Given that stress, emotions, lifestyle can change gene expression, we have a lot in our control. Here’s what you can do with EFT, meditation and other techniques:

Change your negative believes about health. Nocebo effect is when negative beliefs about health make you sick. If you believe you will fall sick, most probably you will. Hence it’s important to release health anxiety, change your thoughts patterns and transform limiting health related beliefs.

Reference: Lipton, B. (2005). Biology of Belief. India, Hay House.

Personal self-tapping session

Sharing a personal self-tapping session.

 

I got a terrible spasm in my lower back a few days ago. It was very painful, I couldn’t walk or sit properly. Since I had a couple of client sessions that day, I decided to use self-tapping, my favourite go-to tool.
Half an hour before the client call, I sat on my chair and started tapping on myself.
I wasn’t able to bend forward so I started there. That’s how I measured the pain intensity. You don’t always have to use the suds scale. You can measure pain by movement as well, as in how much can you bend forward or backward, sideways etc and when there’s a change in that in terms of flexibility, it indicates relief.

( I was mindful of not injuring myself and did this very gently so please take all precautions if you have pain and also tap on underlying emotional factors for the pain)

Even though I have this pain in my lower back and I cannot bend at all, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.
1 round on this.

Tested by bending and although I still had the pain ( a bit less) I was able to bend forward a little.

Next round was on, Even though I’m able to bend forward a little bit now and that’s great, I still have this pain in my lower back and I completely accept myself.
Tested again by bending; was able to bend even more.
Pain was going down.

In 5-6 rounds I was able to touch my feet while sitting on my chair with minimal pain. In these rounds I also included tapping on how my posture had been incorrect in the last few days and how that might have contributed to the pain ( Even though I wasn’t sitting properly yesterday and it might have caused this spasm, ….) Then I tried bending backward, it was difficult.

Tapped on, Even though I’m not able to bend backward, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.
3 rounds and I was able to do a better backbend.
By then within 30 mins my pain was less and I was able to do the client session.
The pain increased a bit in the evening.
I usually have a monthly chat with my EFT colleague and friend and thankfully it was scheduled that day. She helped me tap on the frustration of the pain and how my body needed rest. It was just a 15 minutes tapping session but it really helped.

I didn’t take any painkiller or apply any pain relief spray. The pain has been minimal since then and I’ve been doing client sessions as well as resting. The spasm is completely gone. I’ve been able to get back to yoga and stretching exercises.

How to tap on anxiety and take its messages?

I’m sharing a personal example of a recent situation where tapping on anxiety and taking its messages really helped me.

A few weeks ago I enrolled in a meditation course. It was an online event and I was excited to be a part if it. But by the end of the first day I was feeling weird about the class. I couldn’t place my finger on what it was, the only thing that stood out for me was the way the class was conducted which didn’t feel comfortable. I decided to go for the second class so that I could give the class/instructor a benefit of doubt. The second day I felt even worse. I felt that it wasn’t working for me, the teachings, conduct and content felt totally out of sync with my sensibilities.
After the class, I tapped on acknowledging my anxiety and taking the message from it. After tapping, I felt calmer and the message in my anxiety was clear – the class didn’t feel like a safe place to learn, hence I decided to quit the course. I felt relieved and was reminded of many other situations where anxiety literally saved me from getting into a situation that felt totally out of sync with my values and beliefs etc. I think the course was probably beneficial for others but it surely wasn’t my cup of tea, and I wasn’t about to force myself to do something that didn’t sit well with me.
I also became aware that the content of the course was more like spiritual bypassing. It didn’t really gel with my philosophy of seeing things in a context, having a balanced view of the world, honouring all emotions and taking their messages, taking into account our unique contexts and situations with compassion, etc – these are at the heart of my work with my clients.

In short, my anxiety helped me to see things clearly and to align my actions with my beliefs and values.

WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Fear is about sensing danger in the present- the here and now, whereas anxiety is a form of fear of the future.
Worry, bodily sensations and tension are ingredients of anxiety.

HOW CAN TAPPING HELP?
Tapping is very effective for anxiety and while tapping if you can also acknowledge and take the message in anxiety, then it’ll be even more helpful.

Tapping on Anxiety
Here is a step by step process for tapping on mild to medium level of anxiety. This process uses reframes ( looking at anxiety with new perspectives) hence reading this article will help in order to understand what it means to take the messages from your anxiety.

If your anxiety is in an intense state then just tapping through the points and saying anything related to anxiety that comes to your mind, several rounds, will help. Once the anxiety has lessened (within 4-5 range on a scale of 0 to 10), then try this process.

1. Start by Tapping on how your body feels when you’re anxious.

Even though I’m anxious and I feel this heaviness in my chest (the bodily sensations) , I accept myself/acknowledge this anxiety in my body.
Reminder Phrase: this anxiety and this heaviness in my chest

( If there’s no body sensation and it’s only the mind chatter, worry, catastrophic thoughts that create anxiety for you, then tap on, Even though I have so many thoughts running in my head, so many what ifs, I deeply and completely accept myself.)

Tip: Tap on catastrophic thoughts, feelings and body sensations – whatever feels most pressing or prominent for you.

2. Tap on why you’re feeling anxious. You can keep a diary and note when you feel most anxious or at what point your anxiety starts building up. Based on that you’ll have a clue as to what is causing your anxiety every time it comes up.
Even though I’m anxious because I have an upcoming presentation, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Reminder Phrase: this anxiety because….

Even though I’m anxious probably because I’ve been working non-stop, I deeply and completely accept myself
Reminder Phrase: this anxiety because….

Even though I’m anxious because this situation-person doesn’t feel right, I deeply and completely accept myself
Reminder Phrase: this anxiety because….

3. Tackle all the high intensity aspects for the example you’re tapping on.
In EFT, aspects refers to the pieces of a problem, the different parts of a problem. If you’re new to EFT then download this free manual from EFTi to understand the basic process in EFT.

Examples:
Even though I’m anxious about how the presentation will go, I deeply and completely accept myself/I accept how I feel
Reminder Phrase: this anxiety about how the presentation will go

Even though I’m worried that I might be judged by others, I deeply and completely accept myself/I accept how I feel
Reminder Phrase: this worry that I might be judged by others

Even though I’m worried that I might forget what to say, I deeply and completely accept myself/I accept how I feel
Reminder Phrase: this worry that I might forget what to say

4. Taking the message – Tap on what you think your anxiety is trying to convey.

Examples for tapping on taking the message from anxiety:

Even though I still feel anxious, I’m willing to take the message in my anxiety.
Reminder Phrase(s): This remaining anxiety/I’m willing to take the message in it

Even though I’m still anxious, I acknowledge that I feel anxious because I haven’t finished these pending tasks and maybe it’s time to start working on them.
Reminder Phrase(s): this remaining anxiety/I acknowledge that…

Even though I feel anxious, it seems like I’m going too fast, I deeply and completely love and accept myself. And maybe I need to slow down.
Reminder Phrase(s): It looks like I’m going too fast/Maybe I need to slow down

Even though I feel anxious and it seems my anxiety is telling me that this situation isn’t working for me and that I don’t have to push through this, or force myself to stay in this situation, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.

Reminder Phrase(s): this anxiety seems to tell me that ….

Let me know how the process goes for you.
If you have chronic anxiety, then working with a tapping buddy or EFT Practitioner will help.