The Tapping Technique
Emotional Freedom Techniques combines principles of acupressure and affirmations to resolve emotional and physical pain.
Illustration by: Andrea Cobb
Tapping, also known as Emotional Freedom Techniques, is a powerful tool for improving your life on multiple levels: mental, emotional, and physical. It has been proven to effectively address a range of issues. It’s also one of the easiest and fastest practices to learn. You can learn it in minutes, do it anywhere and on virtually any issue, and often experience immediate results.
Based on the principles of both ancient acupressure and modern psychology, tapping concentrates on specific meridian endpoints while focusing on negative emotions or physical sensations. Combined with spoken word, tapping helps calm the nervous system to restore the balance of energy in the body and rewire the brain to respond in healthy ways.
If altering the limiting pathways in your brain or changing your biology isn’t enough of a motivation to get you to tap, consider the negative effects of frequent stress responses on your health. If not cleared through tapping or another technique, the emotions connected to disturbing events, experiences, or thoughts will continue to trigger the stress response in you, perhaps many times a day.
What’s Bothering You Most?
I find that the easiest way to start tapping is to focus on what I call the MPI, or Most Pressing Issue. We all have one; it’s the issue, problem, or challenge that dominates our mental and emotional space in the present. If I asked you, “What’s bothering you most right now?” What would be your answer? What are you most stressed or worried about?
It is important to be as specific as you can. Tapping on a more general issue can certainly improve your mood and make you feel better. But adding details that create specificity—particulars that pinpoint an experience, such as when it happened, who was involved, what you felt in your body, etc.—draws the focus more clearly to that particular issue. As a result, you’ll have a better ability to rewire the brain’s response to it.
If you ever get stuck on the exact language, just focus on the feeling. Or visualize a picture of what happened (or is happening) and then describe it. Do whatever it takes to get a clear memory or feeling, and that will do the job.
Craft Your Setup Statement
Craft what’s called the “setup statement.” This brings forward the energy of the MPI that you’re going to be working on. Once you know your setup statement, you can start tapping.
The basic setup statement goes like this:
Even though [fill in the blank with your MPI], I deeply and completely accept myself.
So you might say, “Even though my back hurts, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
Accepting Ourselves with the Problem
Along with the concern about focusing on the “negative,” some people don’t feel comfortable with saying they accept themselves in light of the problem they’re tapping on. The problem simply seems too big, important, or intolerable to allow for self-acceptance.
If you find you really, truly can’t make that statement—it’s rare, but it happens—that’s OK. You can skip it and just keep tapping on the issue without the setup statement and then try again later. But for most of us, it’s very important to say it, even if it feels hard.
When we accept ourselves as we are, we aren’t “settling” or “keeping the problem in place.” We’re showing love and compassion for ourselves—for our feelings, our situation, and our history.
Choosing a Reminder Phrase
The reminder phrase is short—just a couple of words that bring to mind your MPI. You will speak this phrase out loud at each of the eight points in the sequence. Examples of reminder phrases might be:
This fear I’m feeling…
This back pain…
You’re repeating the reminder phrase out loud to remind yourself of the issue at each point. This reminder phrase serves to keep your focus on the MPI so you don’t get distracted.
Tapping through the Points
Once you have your reminder phrase, you are ready to start tapping through the eight points of the EFT sequence. These points are:
Side of eye
Top of head
You’ve now completed a round of tapping! First things first: Take a deep breath. Feel your body and notice what’s happening for you. Ask yourself: Did the issue shift? What thoughts came up for me while tapping? How do I feel on the 0-to-10 scale now?
Experience Tapping Now
My favorite part of the tapping process remains its simplicity, how easy it is for anyone to learn, put into practice, and benefit from. Get started with these eight simple steps.
1. Choose your “Most Pressing Issue” (MPI) and devise a reminder phrase.
2. Rate the intensity of your MPI on a scale of 0–10, (What level of distress does it bring up for you? A 10 would be the most distress you can imagine; a 0 rating would mean you don’t feel any distress at all.)
3. Craft a setup statement. (Even though [fill in the blank with your MPI], I deeply and completely accept myself.)
4. Tap on the karate chop point while repeating your setup statement three times.
5. Tap through the eight points in the EFT sequence while saying your reminder phrase out loud. Tap five to seven times at each point.
Once you have finished tapping the eight points in the sequence, take a deep breath.
Again rate the intensity of your issue using the 0-to-10 scale to check your progress.
Repeat as necessary to get the relief you desire.
Originally published as "The Tapping Technique" in Spirituality & Health's Practice issue.