This is not something I have experienced often, but from time to time it happens. Here is how Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) Master Lindsay Kenny responds to this question on her web site:
It’s not uncommon for people to experience a negative reaction after (or during) an EFT session, especially if you are tapping for yourself. Feelings such as anger, anxiety, uneasiness, sadness, or even a temporary worsening of the issue(s) might emerge. They are not side effects of EFT, nor is there anything wrong with you. There are several possible causes for these odd-feeling emotions you may experience during or after tapping. Here are some of them:
1) You may be regretting previous choices you’ve made in life (or things that have happened to you). Or you may be saddened when reminded of the “opportunities wasted” in your life due to your issue. These regrets or feelings are often suppressed until EFT is introduced and things become stirred up. It’s natural to think, then, that EFT has caused these “new” feelings, when in fact EFT has simply reminded you of something you have suppressed that needs to be dealt with. Remember EFT’s Discovery Statement is “The cause of ALL negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system”. Left untreated, those energy blockages (manifested as negative emotions) can lead to a plethora of physical ailments.
2) While in the process of clearing major traumas or issues with EFT some people become anxious or fearful sensing the possibility of living life with a different set of rules. Being free from past baggage might mean risking rejection rather than living inside a “bubble of protection” provided by the previous challenges. For instance, those who have been victimized may have often blamed others for their crummy life or bad choices. Once EFT starts lifting the curtain of pain, blame, shame and resentment, they realize that they don’t really know how to live a life of accountability. They might feel like a fish-out-of-water as they begin to see life from a completely different perspective.
We often have two parts of us that battle for dominance. The old, familiar part feels out-of-sorts or fearful because it doesn’t know how to conduct itself in a different paradigm…with a new identity. Being accountable, responsible and optimistic can be frightening if you’ve never or seldom experienced those sensations. Yet the “other” part of you may yearn for that freedom and peace of mind. It could be this dichotomy that causes the discomfort during or after tapping.
3) Another cause for anxiety or fear during or after tapping is that there may be a payoff for keeping your issues. Some people are financially compensated for a disability, while others may get emotional support with attention, sympathy or special favors as a result of their issues. When these payoffs are threatened by using EFT, a part of you may be reluctant to change or to give up these payoffs. Similarly the grief over losing a loved one, the pain from being traumatized or victimized, or the memory of a horrific incident can grow into an “excuse” for your life not working. The realization that you may no longer have this excuse might be overwhelming.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that you would consciously choose to be incapacitated, or stay ill, or continue to live in pain or to remain traumatized. However, a part of you may be very protective of these secondary benefits and therefore be reluctant to let them go, triggering the anger, sadness or anxiety after an EFT session.
4) A part of you may be sad (or even sick to your stomach) when you strive to leave the old identity behind. Sometimes there’s a reluctance to do say goodbye for reasons that vary among different people. Just as people stay in bad marriages or keep a clunky care because it’s at least familiar, we sometimes want to stay with what we perceive as a safe place, habit or personality. To change what’s become so familiar is disconcerting to some, while exhilarating and uplifting for others.
5) The most likely cause, however, for feeling unsettled after doing EFT is that you simply haven’t reached the core issue yet. Sometimes getting close to a painful memory causes us to back off. Perhaps you’ve peeled the first layer of the onion and the layer underneath is “stinging your eyes.” You may be only partially into your issues and are stirring things up before completion. My friend and workshop co-facilitator, Zoe Walton says this about core issues:
“If you don’t know what your Core Issue is when you start a session and you proceed to tap on the various aspects you do know about, you may end a session without finding the actual cause of your problem — the Core Issue. For example, you may be tapping on an uncomfortable emotion or body sensation that is happening at the moment, such as rage or tightness in the throat. But you would only be addressing a symptom, not the main cause. Underneath that rage, a deeper Core Issue, such as “he never really loved me” or “my mother abandoned me” still needs to be addressed for full resolution.
When the Core Issue is not dealt with, it is like chopping off the green weeds in a lawn but never getting to their roots. Also there might be many Core Issues around a particular issue and one session only dealt with one of the Core Issues, leaving more work to do. Confusion, “foggy-headedness”, anxiety, headaches, anger, or sadness often means that you’re simply not done with the problem or haven’t found the all-important core issue.
It is often hard to discover Core Issues on your own. It is sometimes hard for us to see our own problems clearly, just as a dentist would have a hard time giving himself (or herself) a root canal. That is where a good practitioner can help.
6) There’s still another possibility for post-tapping problems. It’s highly likely that you are working on issues far too complex for you to handle alone. EFT is magical and extremely effective in the right hands. Beginners should generally stay with simple, rather than complex issues. Serious trauma issues, abuse, depression and other complex topics usually need the perspective of an accomplished practitioner. Sometimes people get frustrated that EFT isn’t working for them, when in fact it’s just that they’re not experienced enough to deal with their own issues.
Look at it this way — if you experience negative stirrings after a session it’s actually a good sign that EFT is in fact starting to work. Your body or emotions are reacting because you’ve scratched the surface of something that needs to be dealt with.
So if you get stuck, don’t stop! Find some help to work through your issues. Check Gary’s practitioner listings on this site for a competent practitioner to assist you and don’t give up on yourself or on EFT!