I’ve always known that to practice Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) with our loved ones may be more difficult than to do it with others. I realize that probably the main reason is that one cannot get him/herself out of the way, as personal feelings/emotions energetically block EFT action. Could you please comment on specific methods of working with loved ones?
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This is a very insightful question. Many times our loved ones are the ones we want to share EFT/tapping with the most, but it can be very hard to work with people we have a great deal of history and emotional investment with.
However, just because it can be harder doesn’t mean it is impossible. Here are a few things to keep in mind when working with loved ones while doing EFT/tapping.
Knowing It Can Be Tricky
The first step in doing work with a loved one is to understand that it can be tricky. I am not saying that every time we tap with someone who is close to us it is going to be hard. For example, if we are tapping on a physical pain it is normally going to be very straightforward. This is also true for many emotional issues as well. Tapping on something like a fear of public speaking or mice shouldn’t cause much trouble either. When it can be difficult is when we have a personal stake in the healing, when we have specific beliefs about how our loved one should change, and/or we know the other people involved in the situation.
Whenever we go into a situation where we know the possible pit falls we are more likely to deal with it in a proper manner. When we are tapping with loved ones, if we are aware of the possible pitfalls then we are going to do a better job.
When we are tapping with a loved one, it can be hard for both the person we are tapping with as well as hard for us.
Why it can be hard for them
First, it can be hard to be open and honest with a loved one. We want the people who love us the most to think the best about ourselves. It can be hard to open up about our weaknesses to people who are close to us because we are afraid they are going to judge us (on the surface this seems silly. Our loved ones should be the ones we can be most honest with, but this fear is very real). Because of this fear our loved ones might not share what is really going on. Because of this it is going to make it hard to be successful because we are not working with the real issue.
Second, as a continuation of the first fear, often times where we are tapping we can be surprised by the information that comes forward. I see this all the time with my clients. We start by tapping something as simple as a craving for chocolate and end up working with the fact they are feeling disconnected from their grown children. When this happens we can end up in a place where our loved one no longer feels safe. When we started they were gung-ho, but now it no longer feels safe and they shut down, making it hard for us to continue the work.
The best way to deal with the fact it might be hard for them is to be open and honest with them during the tapping and to name the possible problems. Explain to them that it is often hard to work with someone who is so close, but there are going to be a number of things you are going to do to make it easier for them (which will be discussed below). Also give them permission to stop at any point where they are feeling uncomfortable.
Why it can be hard for us working with them
Often it can be difficult for us to work with loved ones because of history and knowledge. When I am working with a new client I have a completely clean slate. I don’t know any of the actors involved in the client’s situation. Because of this I am able to meet and work with a client exactly where they are. This is really hard to do with a loved one because I am bringing all of my own assumptions and perceptions to the situation.
For example, I know my friend David’s propensity to overreact to the criticism he receives from his coworkers. When tapping with David about his bad day at work it is very easy to just jump to tapping on “I know I am over-reacting to what everyone else is saying.”
We might get to tapping phrases like that rather quickly, but that is only valuable if and/or when he is ready for that. He first needs to get through the emotions of feeling judged before he can deal with his reaction.
When working with clients I am always striving to meet them where they are in the situation. I need to try doubly hard with loved ones because in many ways I know where we are going (or I think I know).
By keeping this in mind as you go into the tapping you are going to be in a better place to stay personally and emotionally detached.
They don’t have to say everything out loud
One of the really nice things about the tapping protocols is the fact that the practitioner doesn’t need to know any of the details of what the client is working on for progress to happen. Sometimes it makes guiding the client easier when we know the details, but it is never a requirement. For tapping to work, the client simply needs to be focused on what is going on (i.e., the “problem”) while tapping.
There are varying degrees regarding how much our loved one may need to share out loud. One of the most basic levels is when we have them tune-in to the issue they are feeling and tap without saying anything about the emotion at all. In this case I would have my loved one tune-in to the emotion at hand. I would say something like, “I want you to name the emotion you are feeling and rate it 0-10 in intensity. Just let me know when you have done this.” I would then have them tap on “this emotion . . . this emotion . . .” I would then repeat the process checking to see if the emotion is still the same emotion that we started with and what its intensity level currently is at on the SUDs scale.
The next level of sharing can be when the loved one feels comfortable sharing the emotion, but they don’t want to share the details of the situation. It can look as simple as having our loved one name the emotion they feel (let’s say anger) and rate it on the SUDs scale and then have them tap on “This anger . . . this anger . . . this anger . . . ” After doing a few rounds of tapping check to see if the emotion is still anger or if it has morphed into frustration. Have them rate it on the SUDs scale again and tap some more.
In addition to tapping on the specific emotion, we can have them share why they feel this emotion without sharing too many specifics. For example, if they are angry we can ask, “Angry – why?” “Because I feel betrayed!” This would then allow us to tap on, “I feel angry because I was betrayed . . . ” We could also ask, “Why does it feel so bad to be betrayed in this situation?” “Because I thought I could trust them with something this important.”
You can see how we can ask questions about describing what is going on without getting in to any specific details that might be uncomfortable because of our closeness to them and the situation.
Finally, we can also have them share all details except who is involved. They might feel comfortable sharing the details about what happened, but are not comfortable sharing who is involved. For example, they might feel very hurt because someone is gossiping about them, but because we also know the person who is the gossip they don’t want to share who it is. In cases like this we can just have them change the name to something like the letter X.
The tapping might look like, “I feel really hurt because X has been talking behind my back . . . I can’t believe that X wouldn’t bring the issue to me . . . ”
I find it really helpful (even with my clients whom I do not know personally) to just let them know that it is possible for tapping to work without having to share many of the details that are going on. By letting them know it is OK to not share details, it puts them more at ease and makes progress easier.
Work with the kinesthetic not the emotional
Sometimes it is really hard to talk about how we feel. This isn’t just the case when working with loved ones, but it is true for any client. As we talked about above, it can be particularly true when working with loved ones. I have found that instead of working with the emotions we can be just as successful working with the physical/kinesthetic feelings that go with the emotions.
Let’s again use anger as an example. I would have my loved one describe the physical sensation of anger. “Is it heat in the face, tight chest, clenched fists, or something else?” After they explain how it feels physically, then we tap on that. When we relieve the physical sensation associated with the emotion, we are doing work on the emotion as well.
After doing a few rounds of tapping on the physical sensation, I would check to see if the emotion is still anger or if it is something else. After having them name the emotion I would now have them describe how it feels in the body. We would then tap on this.
By taking this approach we do not need to know any of the specifics.
Don’t assume you know why something is the way it is (ask more questions than normal)
The most important tool I have when working with clients is the ability to ask questions. When I ask questions I get my client to describe things in their own words. This not only gives me greater understanding, but it also gives me phrases and words to tap on. Because they are the client’s words I know they are going to resonate with them and bring healing more quickly.
Asking questions is even more important when we are working with loved ones because we know them and we are already familiar with the history of the issue(s) we are tapping on, and so if we do not ask questions our preconceived notions about why things are the way they are will tend to get in the way. I have found it is best to ask even more questions when working with loved ones. I even ask questions to which I think the answer is obvious. By doing this I am going to insure I am truly understanding where my loved one is coming from. The more they describe, the less of me that is going to be getting in the way of the tapping.
It’s OK if you are not the right person
The last thing to keep in mind is it is OK if you are not the person that works with them. Sometimes we are just too close to a loved one and to what is going on in their life to be helpful. If you are too close, admit it. Let your loved one know that tapping is a great tool that would help them and then direct them to resources and practitioners you trust. This will enable you to be the loving friend without also having to be the one who is responsible for leading the healing. Sometimes we really can’t be both. That is OK!