When I tap I find that I have so many emotions and memories coming up all at once that I feel overwhelmed. It is like they are queuing up to be fixed! Yes, I’m glad this stuff comes up and I deal with it as it comes, but issues are tumbling out so fast they are landing on top of each other. I can’t spend all day in the bathroom at work, how do I deal with all these emotions without feeling overwhelmed?
photo by Ashley Pollak
I have heard of this experience from a number of my clients. It is much like stirring up pond water, the moment you start poking around in it the sediment from the bottom is disturbed and clouds the water.
We can be quite unaware of all the emotions and memories we are carrying around. When we start doing healing work we can stir up the pond and find much more than we bargained for.
I have two recommendations that will help you to not be overcome with emotions when you are tapping. One is for before you dive in, and the other is for when you’ve stirred up more than you bargained for.
Preventing Feeling Emotionally Overwhelmed While Doing EFT By Creeping Up On The Issue
One of the benefits of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is that we are able to creep up on a problem slowly while still doing effective work. Some techniques and therapies require you to dive into intense pain around an issue before you can start healing. It is possible to use EFT in this fashion, but I don’t recommend this approach when doing work alone without the guidance of a skilled practitioner.
I’m not a fan of feeling pain for the sake of pain. Why do healing work in a way that causes a lot of discomfort and distress when you can do it much more gently? A perfect example of this is how we can use EFT to deal with a fear of heights.
We could blindfold someone, take them to the top of a high building, let them freak out on realising where they are, and then start to do EFT.
Is it possible to be successful like this? Maybe, but we’d cause a lot of unnecessary pain in the process.
When I work with someone with this type of fear we start in the suburbs. I tell them that in a while we’ll be going downtown to the top of the tallest building. For someone who fears heights this will cause their anxiety level to rise sharply and we deal with this anxiety by using EFT.
When they are at ease with the thought of heading downtown, we move to the car. In most cases their level of anxiety again rises as the journey to the top of a high building approaches. Again, we do EFT to deal with the anxiety. Once the anxiety is gone we start to drive downtown.
We repeat the process as many times as necessary, stopping to use EFT every time the level of anxiety goes above a 5 until we reach the top of the building. If this means we have to stop the car every 10 minutes and do EFT with each step we take toward the elevator, we do it.
Can this take a great deal of time? Yes. Is it a safe way to heal? In my mind it clearly is.
I recommend that whatever issue you are working on you creep up on it as gently as possible. By doing this you will prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed. I am in favor of erring on the side of caution even if it means that the healing takes a little more time.
If you think there is a large emotional core to an issue you want to work on I encourage you to take your time. Even when you are doing EFT in a way that feels very slow, it is still a much faster path to healing than most other approaches.
When The Overwhelming Emotions Come Out Of Nowhere While Doing EFT
Sometimes we can’t prevent the flood of emotions and memories. When we started we thought we were working with on an easy, straightforward issue but then something much bigger is uncovered.
We know that EFT is most effective when we can take memories and the emotions associated with them one at a time. It can be difficult to do this when we feel unexpectedly overwhelmed by a group of emotions or memories coming to the surface all at once. Trying to separate them is like trying to separate raindrops in a rainstorm.
When this happens I run through a few steps to calm the storm.
1) Deal with any emotion that you have about being overwhelmed.
We know that we are supposed to break down memories and emotions to clear them effectively and it can be frustrating when we aren’t able to do so. This also produces anxiety that tapping won’t work.
If there is any frustration about being overwhelmed with emotions and memories then that feeling of frustration is the best place to start tapping. The more frustrated you are, the less clearly you’ll see the issues at hand. As you tap give yourself permission to take this slowly. Remember it’s OK not to know everything at once.
I know EFT works better when I can break things down…right now the emotions are coming all at once…I don’t know where to begin…and I feel like I am never going to be able to clear of all of this…but I don’t need to be frustrated or overwhelmed…I will be able to use EFT to take it apart a bit at a time…and by taking it apart little by little it will be manageable…as I break it into pieces it will be easier and easier to manage…I give myself permission to take this slowly…it’s OK that right now I don’t know everything that is going on…[How to use these tapping phrases]
[Side Note: You might also want to take a look at this article on the fear of fear. Sometime we feel overwhelmed because we are afraid of what we will find. If that is the case I think this is a very helpful approach: Fear of Fear]
2) Paint a picture of all the emotions at once
Since we are unable to deal with the emotions one at a time we might as well go after them all at once. Again, this is going to be a somewhat imprecise approach, but the goal of this step is to help us to achieve some clarity so that we can start picking the emotions apart.
In this step tune into all the emotions you are feeling at once. Create a picture in your mind’s eye. Is it something inside of you, or surrounding you? Is it a weight pressing on you or something swirling around you? Is it a mist, a fog, or a storm? Or is it something completely different?
It doesn’t matter what your mind’s eye leads you to, just tune into that image. What color is it? What shape is it? How much does it weigh? What is it made of? Treat this image in exactly the same way you would tune into physical pain.
Now start to tap. At first, just tune into all the characteristics of the image you have just created. As you move from tapping point to point move to a different characteristic — the color, shape, size, weight, where it is located in your body. Keep tuning in and keep tapping.
As you do this you will notice the storm of emotion losing its intensity.
3) Change the image into what needs to happen next
After spending a little time tapping with the image you have in mind, it’s time to change that image. You will either turn it into something new, get rid of it, or destroy it.
If it’s a tornado, see it move off into the distance. If it’s a fog or mist, see the warm morning sun melt it away. If it’s a haze hanging in the air, see environmental engineers with air filters suck away the polluted air, leaving only pure air. If it’s green toxic goo in your chest, see a team of street cleaners work the area over and clean it up. If it’s a heavy metal weight on your chest or shoulders, see little workmen with jackhammers breaking it up.
While doing this, just keep tapping. How you change the image doesn’t matter, but change it for the better. Ask yourself the question, “How could I make this feel better?” and see it happen.
As you do this you will find that you are more relaxed, your issues seem smaller, and you can start to pick the individual emotions apart.
4) Tap on the individual emotions and memories
As the whirlwind of emotions and memories calm you will begin to see each part separately. Now that you can see each part, take them one at a time and tap for them.
The beauty of EFT is we don’t have to feel a great deal of pain for it to be effective. We can work gently on any issue by creeping up on it. There will be times when we become overwhelmed with emotions. When this happens we can still do work by:
- dealing with the frustration of feeling overwhelmed
- grouping all the emotions together
- bringing their intensity down as a group, giving us the space we need to break the emotions apart into manageable pieces
It is important to have a plan when it comes to dealing with feeling emotionally overwhelmed. When you were in grade school your teachers had you practice how to get out of the school if there was a fire. If something did happen then you knew the plan. By having a plan for unexpectedly feeling emotionally overwhelmed you will be able to handle it if it shows up.