A: I always ask people to tap on this first: “Even though I have similar traumatic events in my life, I ask my body to show me which one I should focus on first to release and process my reactions to it.” I also let the client know about the generalization effect of EFT: that when we tap on the events with the most emotional charge first, many or all of the other similar events lose their emotional charge eventually—there comes a “tipping point” when the charge on similar events suddenly disappears without tapping. People feel much more at ease knowing that they don’t have to find and tap on every single event. It is still important to get to the specific aspects in the events or memories that are tapped on. It’s about getting to the root cause and belief that was created from these similar traumatic events. This means that not only is the emotional charge of the event processed, but also the limiting belief is uncovered so that a natural cognitive shift and new belief unfolds.
— Jenny Johnston, Certified EFT Practitioner and Trainer
A: If you have an event that is too big and scary for you, then you should always seek a Certified EFT Practitioner to work with you on this event or memory. Your EFT practitioner can then use specific EFT techniques like Sneaking Up on the Problem and other Gentle Techniques to allow you to feel safe while approaching the event in a general way first.
The Tearless Trauma Technique is another Gentle Technique that can allow you to approach a big or scary event or memory in a way that is more comfortable. This way you can imagine what you might feel and where in your body if you were to go there (instead of actually going there). It allows you to have some dissociation from the event while, at the same time, the body and subconscious are processing it in the background, taking the edge off the intensity.
Your practitioner might then use the Movie Technique, allowing you to tap first on a movie title (of your scary event) until your SUD level is low before proceeding to tap on each “frame” of the movie—either in your mind or speaking it aloud. Your Certified EFT Practitioner is trained to handle your big, scary event so that it doesn’t retraumatize you. Instead, the big, scary event and all its aspects get gently processed and released.
— Jenny Johnston, Certified EFT Practitioner and Trainer
A: This is a scary situation for a newcomer to EFT or a novice practitioner. You’re working on yourself or with a friend or client on a small emotional issue and you or they get in touch with a big emotional issue. You or they are overwhelmed by the intensity of the emotion and begin crying as though the crying will never stop.
I was working with a therapist once on the issue of her annoyance with her boyfriend. Every Wednesday night, he left her to attend a book reading group. He’d had this hobby and been a member of the group since before their relationship began and it was one of the joys of his life. Yet she felt annoyed that he’d make the choice to be with other people rather than with her on a regular weekly basis. She was tapping on her annoyance, but rather than going down, her SUD level kept going up and she began to cry uncontrollably.
She got in touch with a memory she didn’t want to think about. From birth, she’d had huge challenges with her family. Her mother was depressed and spent time in and out of mental institutions. Her father was overwhelmed trying to take care of his wife, as well as her and her brother. Then, when she was 2 years old, her mother committed suicide. That morning, her father was getting her and her brother ready for school, and the three of them were in the kitchen. They heard a loud sound and her father said to the two children, “Stay here,” while he rushed from the room. Despite his instructions, the two children ran after him and they found their mother in a pool of blood where she’d shot herself.
This was the memory that had surfaced when the therapist thought about her boyfriend. She’d worked on this memory using talk therapy many times before, but during the EFT session it brought up a flood of emotion. She cried as though she were never going to stop. We tapped for about half an hour on all the different aspects of the experience, and eventually her tears abated.
It also became apparent that the current annoyance, her boyfriend leaving for the reading group, was only an issue because it recapitulated her abandonment by her mother (suicide) and her father (overwhelm). Though we believe our feelings are caused by others, the way she believed hers were caused by her boyfriend, they’re usually not caused by the current person or situation at all and instead have their roots in very early childhood. We’re triggered by a current event, like the book group, only because it resembles some early experience. We tap on the book group, but underneath might lurk a huge loss, like her mother’s suicide. When you start tapping on the small loss of the boyfriend leaving the house on Wednesday night, the overwhelming emotion encapsulated in the big loss comes to the surface. You might try and keep an EFT session focused on modest and manageable goals, but emotions are unpredictable. Open a door just a crack and you might find you’ve unwittingly opened Pandora’s box.
When you’re in the heat of the moment, the experience of overwhelming emotion might seem endless. You or your client might feel as though it will never end. Yet, eventually, it will. Emotions are fluid and even the most intense experience has a start, a middle, and an end. At the start, the degree of feeling might be small. In the middle, it’s large and its difficult to believe that this will pass, but eventually it will have an end.
So the answer to the question of what you do when you encounter overwhelming emotion is this: Just keep tapping. The emotions and the tears will flow, but eventually the cycle will come to an end.
Whatever you do, don’t stop tapping. I’ve often seen people in EFT practice groups get so caught up in a client’s tragic story that they forget to tap. The client keeps talking and crying, and the listener gets so enmeshed in the emotion that both of them forget to tap. So it’s vital that you remember to tap, no matter how big the emotion. Talking without tapping may simply be reliving the experience without emotional release or catharsis. Add tapping and the emotion is being processed and released, not just relived. The next time the memory is recalled, it might be accompanied by much less emotion.
Though most clients cry in response to overwhelming emotion, others (especially men) may express it differently. They might become silent and withdrawn, shake, or feel acute physical pain. Whatever the manifestation of intense emotion, just keep tapping and remember that the process has a beginning, middle, and end.
—from The EFT Manual, by Dawson Church