Why is it that fretting, stewing, or worrying about an issue consciously doesn’t dissolve the emotions, but tapping while expressing it does?
photo by Alessandro
This thoughtful question is about many topics at once. Embedded in this question is:
- Why and how do emotions, memories, and issues affect us emotionally and influence the choices we make?
- Why is tapping necessary to make a change?
- Is it important to have the intention of healing while tapping?
In this three-part series we examine each of these questions fully. In part 1 we will look at how we store memories as models, what happens when we remember, and how this influences the choices we make. In part 2 we will look at why just thinking about an issue doesn’t bring about change, but tapping will. In part 3 we will examine if we need to have the intention of healing while tapping in order for Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) to work.
How we store information as models
The world is a complicated place. At any given moment we are processing upwards of four million pieces of information coming in through all of our senses. Our brains are very powerful when it comes to handling all of this information. But even with all of this power it would be very cumbersome to process every piece of data we experience as something completely new.
Imagine what it would be like to treat every new tree you saw as a new experience. It would be a large green thing (often much larger than ourselves) that would be shaking. This could be very scary. In order to prevent this the mind creates models of the information we experience in the world to help us more quickly assess what we are encountering.
Having these models, we don’t have to analyze how everything in our experience works. For example, when a server places a glass of ice water in front of me at a café, I assume the water is going to be cold. I’ve experienced many glasses of water. Seeing ice cubes in the glass, I assume the water is cold. As I bring the glass to my mouth I don’t worry about burning my tongue. Because of the models I hold about water, ice, and cafés, I don’t give the water much thought.
Is it possible that the water is going to be lukewarm? Sure, but that is only disappointing, not dangerous. Is it possible that the water is scalding hot? It is possible, but very unlikely. For me to be served boiling hot water with ice in it at a restaurant would require the hot water to be served the moment the ice was placed in the cup. It would also require the server to be trying to trick me. Even though it is possible, it is so unlikely that I don’t have to worry about it.
In this case of being served a glass of ice water, I hold the following models:
- Ice is cold
- When ice is placed in a liquid it cools that liquid
- It is typical to be served a glass of cold water in a café or restaurant
- I am expecting the water to be cold and the server wants to meet my expectation to insure a good tip
Because of these models I can bring the glass of water to my mouth without giving it much thought. My brain has been spared a great deal of processing time by not having to examine every part of the experience.
The way the brain models information is a very simple concept. It might even be very obvious concept, but it is important to know how it works.
When our models of the world DON’T serve us
As powerful as modeling information is to save the brain processing time, there is a flaw in this system. When we have inaccurate or incomplete models of a situation, use of the model works against us. Let’s look at an example of how this might happen.
Let’s pretend that as I write this, a mouse runs by where I’m sitting. Without even thinking about it I jump up on the table and start screaming like a five-year-old. In this scenario I haven’t given what has happened much thought. My mind worked very quickly. It has assessed the situation, applied the models I have, and reacted.
The models I have about mice are built upon my past experience. Unfortunately, when I was six years old, my brother threw a mouse into my sleeping bag when we were camping. It was dark. I was already worried about bears that had been sighted in the campgrounds the night before. Suddenly I felt an animal on my legs, causing me terror and panic.
Because of this past experience, my model of mice includes all the fear and anxiety of that night. Therefore my model of mice says they are deadly creatures, I’m not safe, and I need to run for my life.
The model has done its job. My model of mice was applied to the current experience and I acted without having to think. However, since mice aren’t deadly creatures, my model is inaccurate and has served me poorly.
EFT and Models
Now that we understand how we model information from our past and how we use these models to inform our choices, we can start to look at how EFT fits into this. EFT helps us make changes to incomplete and inaccurate models. In part 2 of this series we will look at how EFT does change these models and why simply worrying and fretting about them is not enough.