A bird's eye view - Emotional freedom techniques

“Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.” - Tao Te Ching

As mentioned in the previous post, ancient Chinese medicinal practices put a great amount of emphasis on energy (chi or qi in Chinese or Prana in Vedantic philosophy) that flows around the body through a system of meridians, or in modern Western terms: “an intricate network of connective tissue, known as cytoskeleton, which allows subtle energy to be transmitted throughout it”. The British Society for Cell Biology refers to the cytoskeleton as the ‘the movers and shapers in the cell’.

Emotional freedom techniques - tapping therapy makes exceptional use of this knowledge by directing it towards the emotional well-being of the individual. 

Thousands of people from all over the world have already benefited immensely from its use - this post intends to provide a little more insight into both its inception and practice.

It was a prominent American clinical psychologist by the name of Dr. Roger J. Callahan that, after becoming frustrated and disillusioned by the poor results he and his colleagues were producing in regards to treating their patients troubling psychological conditions, began to look for new psychotherapeutic approaches and techniques. In his own words "Like many psychotherapists, I wanted my clients to get better. I wanted to deliver them from the distress in their lives and help them function normally again. But I felt strongly, that as a profession, modern psychotherapy was letting patients down. Whether we were treating them for depression, phobias, or a shattered relationship, too many clients seemed entrapped in years of expensive psychotherapy, talking endlessly about their life circumstances. I sometimes felt that my fellow therapists and I were teaching patients only that they could take a hell of a lot more misery than they had thought they could..."

It was this deep sense of despair combined with a naturally inquisitive and curious mind that eventually led Dr. Callahan to research and experiment with different therapeutic methods during the 1980's.

Callahan, being familiar with acupuncture and the theory behind the Chinese energy meridian system, decided during a session with a long-term patient named Mary to try something a little different. For years Mary had been dealing with a severe and debilitating water related phobia - she kept her contact with water to an absolute minimum. She could not even bathe her children.

Desperate and frustrated by the lack of progress she was making he suggested to Mary to gently tap under her eye (whilst deliberately thinking about water, her cause for anxiety and distress) after she reported that even the thought of water caused her a great discomfort in her stomach. Mary did as he asked. Callahan was aware that the meridian point under the eye is connected to the digestive system.

After only a few rounds of tapping the discomfort in her stomach completely disappeared. Furthermore, and to Callahan's great surprise (and concern) Mary left his therapy room and started walking towards the outdoor pool in his garden. Startled, Callahan, attempted to stop Mary but she reached the pool, kneeled before it, and proceeded to splash water all over her face - an action that moments earlier would have been absolutely impossible. That same day, Mary travelled to the Californian seaside and for the first time in decades, went into the water. Her water phobia was "completely gone".

To quote Dr. Callahan once more "Frankly, I had no idea what to make of it for a while. Perhaps it was a fluke that couldn't be replicated. Or maybe I had stumbled upon something genuine... "

This incident sparked two decades worth of research, both clinical and experiential, into the intricate and hidden relationship between the body's energy system and our emotional well-being. Callahan's developed a technique he calls thought field therapy (TFT) and it is because of his work and discovery that the development and practice of EFT was made possible.

Gary Craig, the founder of EFT, sought to ensure that Callahan's discovery and rather complex form of TFT, could be practiced by a wide range of individuals in order to improve both their emotional and physical well-being. Emotional freedom techniques was designed to serve as a simplified and more accessible form of tapping therapy; a powerful and transformative self-help tool.

"The cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system” is EFT’s ‘discovery statement’ and it is this understanding of the human body and mind that guides the therapeutic process.

By gently tapping with one’s fingertips on the end points of specific energy Meridians (situated just beneath the surface of the skin) those who practice the technique are able to tune in with, engage and thus rectify, safely and simply, any imbalances or blockages in the energy system. This often leads to the individual feeling calmer and less distressed, more focused and with a new found sense of inner-peace.

Western psychiatry and psychotherapy have come a long way since their very humble beginnings in the 1800s; their importance and significance to the evolution of man cannot be underestimated. The very existence of schools of thought dedicated to the emotional welfare of human beings is in itself a wondrous phenomena. It is in fact only due to those early psychoanalysts, to the likes of Freud, Menninger and Rush that the focus on the mental state of the “worried-well” human being, the mind, was taken seriously by modern medicine and the global scientific community. It is for these individuals that we (in the West) now have a wide range of psychotherapeutic methods and techniques, based upon rigid clinical research and experimentation, to apply to virtually every mental condition and ailment.

It is however also useful to keep in mind that our evolution, as individuals and as a species, continues to unfold. Therefore it is only natural that the methods and techniques and clinical theories regarding the human mind continue to evolve, develop and correspond with new scientific insights and understandings. It is imperative that we continue to explore the human condition and set our intentions towards devising new treatments for those suffering from crippling mental disorders as well as addressing and providing new forms of treatment for those coping with milder, so called ‘everyday’, emotional challenges. 

Healing is and always will be the focus of therapy. More than that though, I would argue that it is, at its most fundamental level, what gives deep meaning and significance to the experience that is Life.

I believe that with every heart that heals, with every soul that is unveiled, and with every ounce of human compassion and empathy experienced, a tectonic shift occurs. With patience and kindness, I believe that we should work towards recovering our compassion towards the other and ourselves.

As the late Carl Rogers, founder of the humanistic psychology movement puts it, healing and therapy signifies and enables “the becoming of a person”. When the notion of healing is adopted and considered to be the individual's dominant attitude towards life - it inevitably leads to the attainment of inner-peace and reconciliation, of acceptance and forgiveness. It allows us to fully embrace the sentiments of compassion and love, first and foremost towards ourselves, and from this place of profound comprehension we are able to find forgiveness, acceptance, compassion and love for others.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Therapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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