Q: What characteristics define a specific event?
A: A specific event must have a beginning, a middle, and an end that unfolds over a few minutes, a few hours, or, at most, a few days. This single event must be unique and include one or more emotional crescendos. If the situation occurred more than once, it may be classified as a series of events with a common theme.
—Valerie Lis, Expert EFT Practitioner
Q: Why is it important to identify a specific event?
A: Focusing on specific events is critical to success in EFT. In order to release old patterns of emotion and behavior, it’s vital to identify and correct the specific events that gave rise to those problems. When you hear people say, “I tried EFT and it didn’t work,” the chances are good that they were tapping on generalities, instead of specifics. An example of a generality is “self-esteem” or “depression” or “performance problems.” These aren’t specific events. Beneath these generalities is a collection of specific events. The person with low self-esteem might have been coloring a picture at the age of 4 when her mother walked in and criticized her for drawing outside the lines. She might have had another experience of a schoolteacher scolding her for playing with her hair during class in second grade, and a third experience of her first boyfriend deciding to ask another girl to the school dance. Together, those specific events contribute to the global pattern of low self-esteem. The way EFT works is that when the emotional trauma of those individual events is resolved, the whole pattern of low self-esteem can shift. If you tap on the big pattern and omit the specific events, you’re likely to have limited success.
—from The EFT Manual, by Dawson Church
Q: What if I can’t find a specific event?
Answer 1 (from The EFT Manual, by Dawson Church): You might feel bad emotionally or physically and be unable to tie it to any specific event. There are several options in such cases. One is to create an imaginary event in your mind. Perhaps your parents fought when you were a child and you can’t remember the specifics of even one of those fights.
If you use your imagination to fill in the blanks and just create a likely scenario in your mind, you have a starting point for your EFT session. This method is usually very effective. The reason it works so well is that the elements of the imaginary situation are being retrieved from our own memory banks. They might be fictional, but the only reason you can imagine them at all is that they resemble an actual event you once saw or heard. To create any imaginary event, you have to draw from reality. So while your fictional event might not have actually happened, it has a high affinity for literal events.
You can also start tapping without an event. You might have an uneasy emotional feeling, for instance. Though it’s helpful to trace that uneasiness to an event, you might not be able to remember one, no matter how hard you try. In that case, simply tap on the uneasy feeling.
Interesting directions for an EFT session often appear when you experiment with tapping on the inability to remember an event. You incorporate this situation into your Setup Statement, for example, “Even though I can’t remember a specific event, I deeply and completely accept myself.” I’ve done this many times with clients and found that it often sparks the recall of an event. Tapping seems to lower the barriers to remembering events, and tapping on accepting the inability to recall them removes the pressure to come up with one. That act of relaxation then opens the doors of memory and specific events pop out.
Answer 2 by Certified EFT Practitioner and Trainer Jenny Johnston: Sometimes it is best to tap on generalities first and tap for several rounds so that your subconscious mind can be engaged. I often ask my clients just to keep tapping and notice what their subconscious brings up for them to work on. I ask clients to tune in even more specifically to the aspects that we are tapping on, being sure to use their exact words. Tapping on the specific feelings that they are feeling and tuning in to the specifics of where they feel that in their body lets the body or subconscious know that it’s safe to go to a specific memory now, in order to process and release it.
If there are so many memories that it’s difficult to find just one, then I will ask the subconscious mind to give me just one to start with, even though there are so many, and allow the body to bring up just one memory to tap on. State this for a couple of rounds until a memory emerges to be tapped on. If a memory still doesn’t emerge, I ask clients to imagine or guess a time when they felt whatever they are feeling. I will sometimes ask them to guess how old they were and the body and subconscious will usually answer with an age. Then I ask them to imagine being that age and guess what is happening. This usually helps to find a specific memory and event.
Q: What is the difference between a specific event and a tabletop issue?
A: A specific event happened one time. A tabletop issue is the result of more than one (usually) specific event. For example, the time when you got yelled at by the teacher in third grade is a specific event because you can start talking about it using the words “that time when…” If you hate confrontation, that’s a tabletop issue—and it might be because of that time you got yelled at by the teacher and all the times you got in trouble and maybe also all the times you heard your parents fighting plus that time you got beat up in high school for reporting vandalism you witnessed. A tabletop issue can be talked about using phrases like “I always” and “I never” or “it always” or “it never.”
People often get confused because something happened over and over. Take the example of hearing parents fight. “My parents were always fighting” is not a tabletop issue. The result of parents always fighting—such as “I’ve had anxiety for years”—is a tabletop issue. When tapping on the memory “my parents were always fighting,” you need to pick one time, one fight, to work on it as a specific event, even if that one time is a made-up amalgam representing all the times because you are unable to recall one specific memory. An example might be: “That time when I was in the kitchen doing the dishes and they started fighting behind me, yelling and screaming, and my mom said…”
—Naomi Janzen, Certified EFT Practitioner and Trainer