What to Do When EFT Tapping Therapy Doesn't Seem to Work
When properly applied by an experienced practitioner,
EFT (Meridian Tapping) has a very high success rate, usually over 90 percent.
However, the initial success rate for newcomers usually starts around 50 percent.
In my experience as an EFT therapist, when EFT doesn't seem to be working, one
or more of the following factors are usually involved:
- The Set-up was not performed completely enough (Psychological Reversal)
- You are trying to apply EFT to more than one thing at a time
- The problem is being approached too generally or globally
- The problem is still not specific enough
- You need to get more clearly in touch with the issue
- Original memories need to be addressed first
- A second issue is interfering
- A "secondary gain" (hidden benefit) is interfering
- A "blocking belief" is interfering
- Your feelings about the issue are interfering
- A deeper issue is interfering
- You are switching aspects during the tapping
- Outside input is needed
Please note that this
article was based on an article written by Gary Craig called "When it doesn't
work...???" found in the FAQ section of the emofree.com web site.
The EFT Set-up Phrase was not performed completely enough
Set-up is that procedure within The Basic Recipe that corrects for
Psychological Reversal (PR). When PR is present it blocks the whole
process from working. So, if you aren't getting anywhere, the first thing
to try would be to tap the Karate Chop point harder or rub the Sore Spot more
vigorously while very emphatically
saying the affirmation (even yelling it).
You are trying to apply EFT to more than one thing at a time
EFT works by tuning into a
problem, activating the
associated energy disturbance, and tapping on the meridian points to
disturbance. It is, therefore, very important to tune into only one
problem at a time. Otherwise, your attention will be split, the
intended energy disturbance may not clearly be activated, and the
not work very well or at all. It is a common mistake for beginners to
For example, a person may have carpal tunnel pain in both
wrists. It might be tempting to tap on "even though I have pain in my
wrists". This probably won't work very well. Instead, you would need to
tune into and treat each wrist separately in order to get good results.
A corollary to this is that you may
sometimes be accidentally trying to apply EFT to more than one thing at a time
without realizing it. This can happen when you are distracted and are thinking
about something else while you are tapping on your problem. This can also happen
when a second issue gets activated while attempting to address an original
issue, even if you are not overtly aware of it. Examples of this phenomenon
will be discussed later in this article.
The problem is being approached too globally
It is very important to be specific where you can. Some people tap on generalized
anxiety (a very global problem)
and wonder why their results are either temporary or non-existent. The
reason is because global items such as generalized anxiety, self image
problems, persistent anger, childhood abuse, etc. are comprised of numerous
specific past events. The sum total of all of one's specific fears, rejections, traumas, guilt,
etc. evolve into such global problems as generalized anxiety and self image
Approaching the problem too globally is a fairly common error by newcomers. Usually
we need to break a global issue down into its specific parts and neutralize
each of them independently.
example, let's say that a woman experienced repeated physical abuse by her
father. Tapping on "even though my father physically abused me" probably won't
work very well. Instead, it would be important to tap on specific individual
memories of his physical abuse, one at a time. Fortunately, after clearing some
of those memories, the EFT "generalization effect" kicks in and neutralizes all
of the rest of them.
The problem is still not specific enough
you think that you are being specific when you still aren't being specific
enough. For instance, say you had a fight with your boss during the day and you
were left feeling very angry. So, you get home and try to tap on "even though I
am very angry at my boss". That sounds pretty specific, doesn't it? It's not a
global issue, and it is naming a specific feeling. It may possibly even work.
If it doesn't, you will want to get more specific about the issue. What specifically are you angry about? "Even
though I am angry that my boss didn't acknowledge my good efforts" may be much
getting more specific in this way will also remind you of similar early
experiences in your life. Those early experiences may be the true root of the
intensity of your current feelings. Addressing those early memories may heal the
real issue once and for all. It also may be necessary to treat them first in
order to get relief from your current upset (see the section Original memories need to be addressed first
later in this article).
example of being more specific is when dealing with physical pain. Let's say that
you have pain in your right shoulder. EFT may be effective by just saying "even
though I have pain in my shoulder." If
that doesn't work, you can try describing the quality of the pain in more detail. The pain in your shoulder may
be a dull, throbbing pain, or it may be a sharp, burning pain. Use the detailed
description of the pain in your reminder phrase. For instance, "even though I
have a dull, aching pain in my right shoulder" may work much better.
Getting more specific like this also helps you get more clearly in touch with
the issue (see next section).
You need to get more clearly in touch with the issue
EFT doesn't seem to be working at all or very well, it may be that you are not clearly
enough in touch with the issue. One of the first things that I try when EFT
doesn't seem to be working is to get even more specific about what I am tapping
on. For example, I was helping a friend with her addiction to Coca Cola. We
started with Gary's classic "even though I
crave this Coke." After a couple of shortcut sequences her craving only went
down from a 10 to a 9.5 (not very satisfying). I then asked her what she specifically craved and/or loved about
drinking Coke. She said that she loved how the flavor burst over her tongue.
So, we tapped on "even though I love how the flavor bursts over my tongue," and
her craving went down by 2 points. We ultimately had to tap on five different
aspects of what she loved about drinking Coke in order to get to a 0. Getting
minutely specific in this way helps the person get more clearly in touch with
their experience of the issue so that the energy disturbance is more accessible
and amenable to tapping.
general way to help a person to get more clearly in touch with an issue
includes asking her how she experiences the issue in her body. Gary often asks the question
"how do you know that you are at an 8" as a way to get at the bodily experience
of the issue. This is so helpful that I start all of my tapping sessions with the
question, "how are you experiencing that issue in your body?"
can also invite the person to get in touch with more aspects of the issue at
the beginning. For instance, if the person describes the problem without
mentioning any emotions, you can ask what emotions he is feeling when thinking
about the issue. The more thoroughly a person is in touch with the problem
being tapped on, the better EFT works.
Original memories need to be addressed first
Sometimes, when we try to apply EFT to feelings
about a current upset, it works fine. When this is not the case, it usually
means that today's "charge" is really due to earlier similar formative experiences
in our past. In that case, EFT usually works better and faster by applying it
to those earlier experiences first. Then the current experience will either
already have been cleared up or be amenable to clearing with tapping. You
can look for early memories by asking yourself what the current situation
reminds you of from your past. For instance, consider the example above where
the person was angry that his boss didn't acknowledge his good efforts. Is it possible that his
father and/or mother didn't acknowledge his good efforts? Might there be
significant pain associated with those experiences? Clearing those memories
will go a long way to clearing the upset with the boss.
A second issue is interfering
consideration when EFT doesn't seem to work is to look for another issue that is
hiding beneath or associated with the presenting problem. This is the
presumption I make when I am making no progress after getting more specific and
more fully in touch with the issue. I start looking for interfering
issues. In this case, the second issue usually needs to be addressed
first before progress can be made on the original
issue. The presence of the second issue may simply be a distraction, splitting
your attention, or it could represent an issue in conflict with the original
issue. Various types of interfering secondary issues will be discussed in the
A "secondary gain" (hidden benefit) is interfering
secondary gain is present when there is a "hidden
benefit" or "hidden loss" to
having or retaining the original issue. Examples of secondary gain
include, "this issue keeps me safe," "I don't have to risk failure," "I get to
avoid doing certain things by having this issue," and so on. Once
you identify the secondary gain, you can tap on that directly. You should then be able
to clear the original issue or problem more easily.
example of this might be a woman struggling with weight loss. A hidden benefit
of being over-weight might be that it "protects" her from unwanted sexual
attention. Her fear of unwanted sexual attention will have to be addressed
first before weight-loss issues can be successfully addressed.
A blocking belief is interfering
is similar to the concept of secondary gains in that another issue is
interfering with making progress on the current issue. So far, every time a new
person has contacted me with the story that she/he has not been successful applying
EFT to his/her own problems, there has been a blocking belief interfering. Once
we identify and clear the blocking belief, EFT works swimmingly. Examples of
blocking beliefs include, "nothing will help me," "I'm afraid that I am doing
this wrong," "I don't deserve to get over my problems," "I can never get over
my problems," and so on.
Your feelings about the issue are interfering
our feelings about the issue we are
trying to work on interfere with making progress. For instance, I was working
with a yoga teacher with pain in her hip. Her pain level initially went down
from an 8 to a 6 but wouldn't go any lower after two more rounds of tapping. I
asked her how she felt about the pain
in her hip. She said that she felt like an idiot for having this injury since
she's a yoga teacher with great flexibility. We then tapped on "even though I
feel like an idiot for having this injury" and her pain dropped to a 3 after
just one round.
example was when I was working with a client on an emotional issue without
initial progress. I asked her how she felt about having the issue. She said
that she felt shame about having the issue. We tapped on the shame first, and
then progress on the original issue went smoothly.
A deeper issue is interfering
categories of issues interfering with EFT were covered in earlier sections
(i.e., issues of secondary gain and blocking beliefs). However, there are
many types of deeper issues that can interfere with a current issue. Larger
issues generally arise from upsetting experiences early in life. When an
important issue is "hiding" behind a lesser presenting issue, the whole process
seems to falter. This is because the real issue is not being
addressed. You might try simply asking yourself, If there was a
larger emotional issue here, what might it be? If your first response
is, "I don't know", then just
guess. You'll either be right or uncover another important issue to work on.
Then, try tapping on the larger emotional issue by clearing painful memories
associated with it. Finding deeper issues on one's own, however, can sometimes be hard. That's where a
good therapist can be helpful.
You are switching aspects during the tapping
is sometimes the case that you are actually making good progress even though
the level of upset stays high. This can happen when there are multiple aspects
to the issue and as each aspect is cleared, another one comes up. Check to see
if the part that was originally bothering you still does. It may be that you
are now focusing on a different aspect. If so, then EFT is working fine. You
just need to clear each aspect that comes up until you are done.
an example. Suppose a person still exhibits trauma symptoms from an auto
accident 20 years ago. When asked what bothers them about the accident
the person says, "The headlights!! The headlights!! I can still
see them coming at me." EFT is then applied to the headlight emotion
and the person is then asked if the accident still bothers them. The
person says, "Yes."
Unless one investigates further here, it would appear that the person is
making no progress and that EFT "didn't work." If, instead, the person is
asked, "Do the headlights still bother you?", the typical response will
be something like, "No, but I can still hear the screams in the car."
Do you hear another aspect? Sure. Now it is the screams in the
car. Once that is relieved you may run into other aspects such as guilt
for going too fast, anger at the other driver, etc. Each one needs to be
When nothing works, get help
we can't discover on our own why EFT is not working for us. This is because we
can't see ourselves objectively and are too close to the problem. In this case,
it can be very helpful to work with a therapist to uncover the block and clear
it. I have done this a number of times with clients who were not initially
getting success with EFT. It typically only takes one session to discover and
clear the block.
from clearing blocks to EFT working, trying to work on really big issues,
however, may need the assistance of another person. It can be too difficult to
see ourselves clearly enough when dealing with deep issues to do the work
completely on our own. We may also feel that we need the supportive presence of
another person in order to tackle the really big stuff. The good news is that
tapping assignments between sessions greatly speeds up the healing process.
you master all of these concepts and potential interferences to EFT working,
you'll find your success rates greatly increase. At this point in my practice,
it has been a long time since EFT has failed to work for me.
Hugs to all,
Stefan Gonick, EFT Practitioner, Trainer, and Love Coach
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