By Suma Varughese
A relatively new therapy called emotional freedom techniques (EFT) promises and delivers miraculous healings for the body and mind in just minutes. Could this be the next stage in health care?
It’s simple. It takes minutes to practice. Healing is miraculous and often in one session. You can do it yourself. There are no side-effects. Applying it causes no physical pain and minimum emotional pain.
The perfect panacea? For our times, yes. There may come a time when healing will be even simpler. One may just utter an intention and bingo – the broken bone sets and the asthma whistles itself out of your lungs.
But for now, this is plenty.
Meera Kotak, a workshop trainer and co-founder of Energy Centre, says, “About a couple of months ago I had no sense of purpose and was going through deep sorrow and pain. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) has restored my sense of purpose and joy. Today, I have hope.”
Says Daralyse Lyons, who calls herself the founder of Emotional Yoga, a combination of EFT and yoga, “Using Emotional Yoga, I have recovered from a rampant eating disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder. My life before finding Emotional Yoga felt hopeless and I was institutionalised 18 times at residential treatment facilities for my eating disorder and associated emotional problems. The combination of yoga and EFT has given me lasting emotional freedom.”
Brad Yates, a popular EFT practitioner based in the US, whose newsletter has over three million subscribers, says, “At the first workshop I took – an all-day class with Gary Craig – it was the tapping on chocolate cravings that first hooked me. I’d been a bit of a chocoholic, and after a minute of tapping I had as much interest in the candy as I did in the foil wrapper around it. I knew then that there was something to this simple technique.”
Nithya Shanti, a young Buddhist monk turned spiritual teacher based in Pune, who is also a votary of EFT, shared that recently a young woman came to meet him along with her mother and brother for help in dealing with the sudden suicide of her father. It was she, in fact, who stumbled upon his body hanging from a fan. After two rounds of practice, she had healed from the trauma of seeing him dead as well as the guilt she felt about his death. And her mother, who was heavily arthritic and had been unable to lift her hands to feed herself or comb her hair, was able to lift her hands to her head.
Kshitij Negi, an EFT practitioner based in Mumbai, was attracted to the therapy because it helped him to heal from a break-up. “The love pain would not abate until I tried EFT,” he said. This former scriptwriter for the Hindi film industry took to EFT like a fish to water and later had a wonderful experience of its healing capacities. A friend had been hospitalised with dengue and his platelet count had slipped to a dangerously low 26,000 (normal counts range from 150,000 to 450,000). All day, Negi worked extensively on him using EFT. “By six I was itching to know the results. Although it was a Sunday, we got a pathology lab to open and we took the results. His platelet count had climbed to 100,000!”
For big issues and for small; for body and for mind, Emotional Freedom Technique is a radically simple tool that is bringing health and happiness to millions across the globe. Indeed, not since reiki swept through the country like wildfire in the early ‘90s has there been a healing technique with so much potential for self-healing. Unlike reiki, however, it takes just minutes to practice and is simple enough to be grasped even by little children.
We live in an age where everything seems to happen quicker and faster including fame, wealth, bankruptcy and disease. It is only fitting therefore that healing techniques too should speed up and enable us to access well-being in minutes.
EFT is part of a cluster of therapies that go under the blanket term of Energy Psychology that is redefining the use of therapy in healing. Energy Psychology (EP) works directly on the body to produce psychological change. Instead of exclusively engaging in talk, Energy Psychology uses affirmations as well as techniques such as tapping or massages at certain points of the body to help release blocks in the body’s energy systems. The combination of recall of past traumas coupled with physical stimulation has produced startling and permanent relief for thousands of people.
Energy Psychology’s most outstanding characteristic is the remarkable speed both of practice and of healing.
I recently participated in a workshop on EFT by Jasmine Bharathan, considered to be one of the most senior and respected of EFT therapists in India, and was amazed to discover how quickly traumas, fears and physical afflictions lifted.
|1) Under the breast, 2) Under the arm, 3) Side of the thumb, 4) Side of the forefinger 5) Side of the middle finger, 6) Side of the little finger, 7) The gamut point 8) The karate chop point|
One of the participants, Bina Gehi, a fashion designer, complained of a severe shoulder and neck pain that had been afflicting her for the last three years. After ten minutes of tapping with Jasmine, who addressed both the physical symptoms as well as the underlying emotional contributors, the pain had completely lifted. Bina could not stop smiling for the rest of the workshop. When last checked within days of going to press, she was still free of the pain.
Another participant, Manjushri Dandekar, was so traumatised by the chemotherapy treatment for her breast cancer that she had a horror of even passing a hospital, let alone visiting one. Within a few minutes of tapping, the smiling Manjushri confirmed that her fear had been released by about 90 per cent.
Indeed, in many ways, Energy Psychology is turning upside down some of the treasured precepts of conventional psychology.
Lengthy periods of time are not necessary to process underlying emotional issues, major traumas or childhood conditioning. It can happen in a few sessions or maybe even in one. Says Brad Yates, “There was one woman who was able to let go of the traumatic feelings from a 20-year-old episode of molestation in a matter of minutes, and I recall another woman who was able to laugh at how her husband served her divorce papers (on her birthday!).”
And yet the very simplicity and ease of EFT often go against it. Many conventional therapists still dismiss it as one more New Age fad. And seekers, used to more mental methods of processing emotion, give it the go by because they cannot believe that anything so simple and so fast can be trusted to deliver lasting results.
Says Robert E Najemy, a highly respected spiritual teacher and life coach based in Athens, Greece, “I had initially rejected TFT (the source of EFT) for 18 years as I believed that emotions could not be let go of so easily. Then after 18 years, I decided that my approach was not a scientific one and that I needed to try it before rejecting it. It worked extremely well – we were able to reduce or eliminate long-standing emotions and also physical pain.”
Says Sangeeta Bhagwat, a Pune-based counsellor who works extensively with EFT, “When I first read the (EFT) manual, it sounded too simple and too good to be true. However, I tried it on a senior citizen who had a troubling eczema for 15 years. The itch, oozing and irritation immediately subsided within a couple of rounds of tapping. After three weeks of daily tapping rounds, his entire skin was restored to a completely healthy state. Skin problems are challenging and this was a miraculous recovery in my opinion.”
EFT was founded by Gary Craig, a Stanford-educated engineer, performance coach and ordained minister who was concerned by the slow, expensive and often ineffectual treatments available for emotional and mental healing. With an engineer’s zeal, he set out to overhaul the system and soon came in contact with Thought Field Therapy (TFT), which is the source of EFT.
TFT was founded by Dr Roger Callahan, a clinical psychologist. Dr Callahan, an acupuncture enthusiast, was once seeing a patient when she complained of stomach pain. Dr Callahan suggested that she tap under her eye, which according to acupuncture, is one of the meridians governing the stomach. When she did so, not only did her stomach pain disappear but so did her fear of water, which fact she dramatically illustrated by jumping straight away into the pool.
The astute doctor recognised that he was on to something and eventually came out with TFT. However, the therapy is slightly cumbersome, requiring tapping on many points and also following it up with muscle testing. Gary Craig streamlined the process and came out with a compact 13- or 14-point tapping schedule, which is also accompanied by an affirmation.
What is EFT?
EFT, like acupuncture, believes that energy flows through meridians within the body. Negative emotions can cause energy blocks within these pathways, resulting in anxiety, stress, phobias and eventually physical ailments. By gently tapping on the acupressure points along the meridians and focusing on the negative emotion, the energy block is removed, energy moves freely and the patient experiences emotional and physical relief.
Here is how EFT works. Assume you have a problem with stress. While tapping on the side of your outer palm you not only state the problem but you also make an affirmation like so: “Even though I am feeling very stressed, I deeply and completely love, accept and forgive myself.”
This is called the set-up. Although there are many ways of phrasing the set-up, the above one is a good default statement and can be used for almost all situations. After doing this three times, you tap on a few points on your face, under the arms and on your fingers. (see pictures for exact points) This tapping is accompanied by a statement of the problem, called the reminder phrase, which in this case is the stress. The reminder phrase therefore goes: “Feeling stressed”.
Often, just one round offers substantial relief but for full relief one must keep tapping until the SUD (intensity of the problem measured) is zero. That is it. The procedure takes about a minute a round, which probably makes it one of the quickest therapies going.
The aspect that appeals most to me and that drew me to the therapy when I first heard of it is the set-up phrase. What a comforting statement to affirm to oneself! And how grounded. One is stating the fact of the matter – how one feels but one is also at the same time extending an acceptance of oneself, and by extension, the problem.
A crucial deal fell through for a friend of mine. I encouraged him to tap on the problem as well as on his disheartenment. After doing a round he slowly admitted that he had not even acknowledged to himself the deep hurt he had felt when the deal fell through. Most of us are reluctant to admit consciously to ourselves what we are actually going through. And the seeker, so focused on positivity, is often deeply reluctant to look at his reality squarely in the face.
Since almost all emotional and physical problems are a consequence of non-acceptance, the set-up phrase actually primes us to let the problem go.
Why it works
There is the simplicity of genius in the way EFT is put together. Tapping involves the body and the energy system, the affirmation involves the mind. There is a third process called the 9-gamut procedure (see box) which is supposed to address the neurology through a combination of eye movements, humming to activate the right brain and counting figures to activate the left brain. That probably explains its effectiveness.
Says Robert E Najemy, “Tapping on the acupuncture energy points especially on the face, head and fingers, dissolves the crystallised energy structure created by our habituated mental and emotional reactions toward specific events, behaviours or situations. This allows us to relax, let go, release and gain access to alternative internal and external reactions to these stimuli.”
Although as the name suggests, EFT was meant to heal emotional issues, it soon became clear that when the emotional cause was lifted, many physical ailments were healed. “Try it on everything” was Gary Craig’s breezy advice and the website www.eftuniverse.com has innumerable case histories dealing with physical cures. Among the most popular categories are pain management, addictions, weight loss, vision, allergies, panic/anxiety, asthma, depression, headaches, dyslexia, ADD-ADHD, phobias, back pain, blood pressure, and so on.
Dinaz Dastur, a healer who combines EFT with prayer and her own hands-on healing technique, shares that when she did EFT on a client suffering from severe migraine, she felt such enormous relief that she went to sleep. When she woke up, the headache was gone.
Kshitij Negi has helped clients recover from serious physical ailments. Says he, “I once was approached by a client from the South who was suffering from a life-threatening blood disorder. He says, “As we dug deep, issues kept appearing which were of such magnitude that she may not have wanted to live. Tapping on the issues not just helped heal her illness but the awareness helped her transform her life. Though living within the constraints of a joint family, she healed a dysfunctional relationship with her sister-in-law and also managed to create more freedom for herself to move out of the house.”
Cancer patients have been helped to reduce the pain and discomfort of chemotherapy and even Multiple Sclerosis patients have found their pain considerably checked by EFT.
A spiritual tool?
Perhaps because EFT brings together the body and mind, it ends up tapping at the door of the soul.
Nithya Shanti became an EFT enthusiast a few years ago, when he dissolved an issue he had with someone within a few minutes of doing EFT. Says he, “I had meditated on this problem for years and yet it did not leave me. EFT released it in minutes.”
Says he, “Meditation helps you discover your weaknesses and EFT helps release them. My level of emotional freedom has dramatically improved through EFT. My blind spots and hang-ups have dissolved and there is much more forgiveness and awareness. EFT has given me a healing tool which I feel I can use in any situation, no matter what.”
Is it possible that EFT can heal us of all negative conditioning or, in other words, nudge us to enlightenment?
No one is promising moksha, but most practitioners believe that there is little in the emotional field that EFT cannot heal. Says Robert Najemy: “I know that it works 100 per cent. If we do not get the desired results it is because we are tapping on the wrong issue. Or there is an underlying issue that needs to be removed first. Or we are not being specific enough. Or the person subconsciously does not want to get well.”
Says Sangeeta Bhagwat, “We cannot address the larger questions of life when we are overwhelmed with emotional or physical challenges. Clearing these with regular tapping automatically brings in a more spiritual interest and maturity in the person. EFT can also be used for deepening meditation and increasing awareness, peace and compassion.”
In her book on EFT, Emotional Freedom Techniques (Wisdom Tree), Sangeeta Bhagwat has written a section called SCORE with EFT where she offers a format to help the reader do a SWOT analysis on themselves, create set-up affirmations for each of these areas and to do a daily 10-minute session on them. This, in effect, would be a personal growth practice, helping in time to strengthen the strengths and weaken the weaknesses.
Personally, I have found that practising EFT over the last few months has made me much more comfortable with myself and with my emotional states. Whereas earlier I would affirm tirelessly, “I am whole, perfect and complete” with EFT I began to say, “Even though I am not whole or perfect or complete, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” I also found it useful to combine EFT with awareness practices. There was a period when I practised dropping expectations that I should feel anything other than what I actually felt. Tapping along with these statements made them go deeper, and always gave me a sense of release.
It is little wonder then that EFT is spreading at almost lightning speed across the globe. For a technique that has been around for only 15 years, its popularity is phenomenal.
According to Dawson Church, who looks after the website www.eftuniverse.com, “Various researchers have produced estimates suggesting that there are at least 5 million people worldwide who know or use EFT, and perhaps twice that number.”
And an informed estimate places the number of EFT therapists to around one lakh. India itself has a large number of practitioners and the therapy is gaining ground rapidly.
|‘The past 15 years resulted in an extraordinary journey for all of us and, with support from the vast majority of you, our EFT groundswell has been impressive.|
One might ask why one should go to an EFT practitioner when one can practice the therapy oneself. To this the answer is that there may be some complex or long-standing problems you are unable to resolve yourself. That is when you turn to a therapist. At the same time, the EFT community makes it clear that for serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia it is always better to go to a psychiatrist.
Apart from its simplicity, speed and effectiveness, one of the reasons for EFT’s rapid rise lies in founder Gary Craig’s unusual generosity. Instead of clamping a TM on it like most founders (especially in the US) do, Gary set EFT free into the world. He set up a website called www.emofree.com where he put down all his knowledge. A free manual to help people learn EFT online was downloadable and he encouraged both laypeople and therapists to experiment freely with it. Gary also brought out a free weekly newsletter to update users on EFT’s unlimited potential. The result has been an active and dynamic community of EFT users who share their resources, air their mistakes and bond.
Books, and DVDs on the subject are numerous as are free videos. Robert Najemy’s EFT book, Free to be happy with Energy Psychology, is considered to be one of the best of its kind.
The road ahead
Practitioners and therapists dream freely of fresh heights for this small wonder.
Says Robert E Najemy, “I hope more and more people will learn and use it and it becomes a major instrument for all psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, social workers, body workers, healers and other health professionals. I hope it is taught in elementary school as a means of dealing with fear, anxiety, hurt, anger and other negative emotions. I hope it is used by all executives, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists and other creative persons for removing obstacles to inspiration and creativity.”
Says Gary Flint, a US-based EFT practitioner, “Presently, EFT is not recognised by the American Psychological Association because there are not enough quality studies demonstrating its effectiveness. Once these studies are done, it should become easily recognised as an approved treatmentintervention.”
Dawson Church refutes him: “EFT is already making inroads in mainstream mental health care. I’m part of a team conducting a Randomised Controlled Trial of EFT at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, an enormous military hospital. EFT is starting to be used in a few forward-thinking hospitals and outpatient clinics.”
For the ordinary user, EFT represents, as Nithya Shanti put it, a healing tool for any issue that may visit them.
Shalini Rai, a writer and trainer, used EFT to heal herself of her difficult relationship with her father. “I used to feel terrorised by my father’s short temper. I remember that the family had once gone on a holiday to Calcutta to visit relatives. I had played a prank and my father threatened to beat me up when we got home. I spent the rest of my holiday cowering at the thought of what awaited me when I reached home. Nothing did, because my father had forgotten all about it, but I have never been able to get over the fear and resentment it generated. One session with a therapist healed me so much that I actually have cultivated a playful and loving relationship with my father which I have not been able to in the last 40 years.”
Those who use it in their everyday lives believe that it acts as daily cleanser, enabling them to deal with their stuff ongoingly.
Vijayalakshmi Arora, who works in the UNICEF as a Child Protection Specialist, says, “EFT has become second nature to me. It has made me very aware of my thought processes. For instance, I know when I am getting angry and am able to stop myself.”
Thanks to the laissez faire extended by Gary Craig, EFT innovations are innumerable. Everyone uses EFT in their own inimitable ways. Suchitra Parikh, a yoga teacher, uses EFT in conjunction with yoga to help work on the emotional issues of her students. Says she, “There is a type of yoga called kriya yoga which is a three-step process to overcome klesha (emotional states). When I combine EFT with kriya yoga, I find that the results are faster. In kriya yoga we suggest that the yogi shift from a negative state to a positive one and eventually to a neutral state. This is an intellectual method but when accompanied by the naming of the emotion, the affirmation and the tapping, I find that people calm down faster.”
Says Sangeeta Bhagwat, “I describe it to be like water – it blends with any other method or healing. I combine it with sound, touch, visualization, healing essences and have also developed many different methods and metaphors for framing the affirmations.”
Even as EFT seems set to storm the world, its founder, Gary Craig, has quietly withdrawn from the scene a few weeks ago. The contents of his website www.emofree.com, have been transferred to the new website www.eftuniverse.com run by Dawson Church. His final words: “My retirement is now a reality. The past 15 years resulted in an extraordinary journey for all of us and, with support from the vast majority of you, our EFT groundswell has been impressive. I will watch with interest to see what you do with it from here.”
Dawson Church is gung-ho about its future, “I expect that as information spreads about the very rapid improvements EFT produces for depression, which is the second-most-costliest condition, and pain, which is the costliest, governments and organisations will adopt it as a frontline primary care intervention. I believe we’ll see more EFT in primary care in 2011, and a tipping point, where it becomes the ‘new normal’, in 2012.”
So be it.
Interviews of Robert E. Najemy, Brad Yates, Gary Flint and Dawson Church arranged by Jasmine Bharathan
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