I have so many emotions and memories coming up all at once that I’m overwhelmed by them. It feels like they are queuing up to get 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 being so 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 water looks very clear, but the moment you start poking around in the water the sediment from the bottom clouds the water.
We can be very unaware of all the emotions and memories we are carrying around. When we start to poke around with healing work we can stir the pot and find much more than we bargained for.
I have two recommendations, one before you dive in and one for those moments when you’ve stirred up more than you bargained for.
Preventing Feeling Overwhelmed By Your Feelings
One of the benefits of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is the fact that we are able to slowly creep up on a problem while still doing effective work. Some techniques and therapies require you to dive into the deep part of the pain before you can start healing. It is possible to use EFT in this fashion, but I’m not a big fan of this approach.
I’m not a fan of feeling pain for the sake of pain. Why do healing work in a very painful way when you can do it in a much gentler way? A perfect example of this is how we can use EFT to deal with an individual’s fear of being in high places.
We could blindfold someone, not give them a clue as to the intent, transport them to the top of a 67-story building, let them freak out and start to do EFT.
Is it possible to be successful like this? Maybe, but we’d cause a lot of undue pain in the process.
When I work with someone who has this type of fear we start in the suburbs. I tell them that in just a little bit we’ll be going downtown to the top of the tallest building. For someone who fears heights this will cause the anxiety level to rise. We deal with this anxiety by doing 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 time of climbing to the top of the building comes nearer. 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 anxiety gets 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 are going to more readily prevent yourself from going on tilt. I am in favor of erring on the side of caution even if it means that the healing takes a little more time.
When The Overwhelmed Feeling Strikes
Sometimes we can’t prevent feeling overwhelmed by emotions and memories. We might stumble into issues we had no idea were there as we do healing work, or circumstances in life may arise that catch us completely off guard.
We know that EFT is most effective when we can take memories one at a time and emotions from those memories one at time. When we feel unexpectedly overwhelmed it’s often difficult to do this. There is simply a whirlwind of emotions and/or memories all coming to the surface at once. Trying to separate these emotions or memories is like trying to separate one raindrop from another in a rainstorm. There might be a fleeting moment where you can see a single drop, but a moment later it is lost into the storm.
When this happens I go through a few steps to calm the storm.
1) Deal with any emotion that you have about being overwhelmed.
Once we know that we are supposed to break memories and emotions to effectively clear them it can be frustrating when we aren’t able to break them down. If there is any frustration about being overwhelmed that is the best place to start. 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 okay 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 get 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…by taking it apart a bit a time it is going to manageable…as I break it apart it is going to be easier and easier to manage…I give myself permission to take this slowly…it’s okay that 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 are going to 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 bit of a gross approach, but the goal of this step is to help us get some clarity so we can start picking the emotions apart.
In this step tune in to 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 that is 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 exactly the same way you would tune into a 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 tapping point move to a different characteristic — the color, shape, size, weight, where it is. Just keep tuning in.
As you do this you will notice the storm of emotion is 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 the 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 the 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 the polluted air into air filters, leaving pure air. If it’s goo in your chest, see little 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 questions, “How could I make this feel better?” and see it happen.
As you do this you are going to find that you are more relaxed, your issues seem smaller, and you can start picking the individual emotions apart.
The beauty of EFT is we don’t have to feel a great deal of pain for it to work. We can creep up on any issue we want to work on. There are going to be times when we become overwhelmed with emotions. When this happens we can still do work. We can:
- deal with the frustration of being overwhelmed
- group all the emotions together
- bring their intensity down as a group giving us the space we need to break the emotions apart into manageable pieces.