I’ve just been listening to a recording of a talk about “Focusing“, a therapeutic technique that came out of research done by one of Carl Rogers’ colleagues Eugene Gendlin.
Gendlin noticed that the people who got the most benefit from counselling or therapy sessions were those that we able to connect to a ‘felt sense’ of what was going on in their bodies as they processed their experience.
In other words they were able to tune into their experience and be present with it as it changed.
Since then Focusing has developed and represents an interesting way of interacting with your felt sense of what is going on to make changes in your experience.
In the recording I listened to the presenter Ann Weiser Cornell suggested a simple change in people’s language that would help them feel differently about their experience.
Rather than just tell you what she said I’m going to invite you to try it out.
Just a few words can transform a challenging process into an unchangeable problem. For example: by turning how we are relating into our ‘relationship’ we freeze the process into a thing.
Many of these frozen processes, constellations of thinking, feeling and behaving, have familiar names: depression, frustration, disorganisation etc.
It is often convenient to encapsulate the fluidity of experience into a single word, but it is easy to forget that the label is not the same as what is being labelled.
It seems like such a small change, but what was previously a fluid interplay of factors has been turned into an object. We talk about ‘my depression’, ‘his frustration’, ‘her disorganisation’ as if they were things they owned, but you can’t buy depression at a store or sell your frustration on eBay.
The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth.
– Niels Bohr
When we are working with our difficult feelings we may find that our minds are constricted by those feelings.
If we are very sad then we find it hard to imagine how we might be happy. The sadness itself changes our perceptions of the world and what’s possible.
Using standard EFT we tap on negative emotions to bring down the intensity to a more manageable level.
Even though I feel sad I accept myself and how I feel … and so on.
This approach works well, but what if we could assist the process and expand the ability of our minds to hold helpful alternatives while we are in the midst of the negative feeling?
The concept of yin-yang and its familiar symbol represent the Chinese understanding of the balancing of opposites.
The outer circle represents “everything”, while the black and white shapes within the circle represent the interaction of yin and yang. The shapes are not completely black or white, just as things in life are not completely black or white, and they cannot exist without each other.
Paradoxical tapping introduces the opposite of the emotion or belief you are working on into the tapping, to open out your experience of possibilities more quickly and powerfully than standard EFT.
Here are some typical statements you might be tapping on using standard EFT:
I am struggling
I feel sad
Working for myself is difficult
Simple Paradoxical Tapping
The simplest way to use paradoxical tapping is to think of the opposite of the feeling / belief state and introduce it into the tapping using the word and.
What are your opposites for “struggling”, “sad” and “difficult”?
Each of us has our own unique experience and understanding what things mean and what their opposites are.
For example: the opposite of “hard” might be “soft”, or “easy”, or “smooth”, or …
Whatever your opposite for a feeling or situation is it is going to be right for you. As we go through the examples substitute your own opposites for the feelings and beliefs described.
The opposite of “struggling” might be “thriving”.
The opposite of “sad” might be “happy”.
The opposite of “difficult” might be “easy”.
Now we have an opposite how do we introduce it into the tapping phrase?
The simplest approach is to use the word and which combines, joins, and unites the words and phrases on either side of it.
In the simplest form of paradoxical tapping we create a standard setup statement and alternate the tapping between the original feeling and its opposite.
Even though I am struggling, I accept myself and how I feel x 3
EB: I am struggling
SE: and I am thriving
UE: I am struggling
UN: and I am thriving
CH: I am struggling
CB: and I am thriving
UA: I am struggling
TH: and I am thriving
I am sad, and I am happy Working for myself is difficult, and it is easy.
The and in these statements join the apparent opposites together.
If you try tapping routines like this you may find that they work well, but often they can be a bit too much of a stretch for the mind to cope with. The second half of the reminder phrase may be greeted with a lot of internal resistance.
Smoother Paradoxical Tapping
If it is too much of a stretch to go from “I am sad” to “I am happy” in one go then we can make the alternative much easier to introduce by using the following form of words.
Use the standard set-up statement Even though I am struggling, I accept myself and how I feel x 3
Then use this form of the paradoxical tapping to introduce the opposite more smoothly.
EB: I am struggling
SE: and in how many different ways could I be thriving?
UE: I am struggling
UN: and in how many different ways could I be thriving?
CN: I am struggling
CB: and in how many different ways could I be thriving?
UA: I am struggling
TH: and in how many different ways could I be thriving?
I am sad, and in how many different ways could I be happy?
Working for myself is hard, and in how many different ways could it be easy?
Let’s unpack this sentence
… in how many different ways … This is an invitation to your unconscious mind to start creating alternatives, not just one alternative but many different alternatives.
… could it be [opposite]? ‘Could’ is a question that invites you to be hypothetical about the possibilities in the future: “Could it rain on Thursday?”, “Could we have pancakes for lunch?” Both are possible, they might happen, they might not, we’re just imagining the possibilities as we answer those questions. Our minds are not under pressure to agree with anything.
Combining the invitation to come up with many hypothetical ways in which the opposite might be true allows the mind to free itself from the clash of opposites and learn ways of making it happen.
Using this form of word makes it significantly easier for the person doing the tapping to ‘let the opposite in’.
There is one simple addition that makes the Paradoxical Tapping even more powerful.
Powerful Paradoxical Tapping
Add the word now to the paradoxical alternatives
I am struggling, and in how many different ways could I be thriving? Now!
I am sad, and in how many different ways could I be happy? Now!
Working for myself is hard, and in how many different ways could it be easy? Now! The word now invites the mind to bring the hypothetical alternatives that it has been considering (all in the space of a few seconds tapping) into the present moment. This seems to intensify the power of the paradoxical tapping.
You will see that the word now appears after the question mark and is emphasised. The word needs to be given a little bit of verbal emphasis and a downward inflextion to indicate it is a command rather than part of the question.
If you are not sure of the difference try saying
Do it now?
vs Do it now!
There will be a difference in tone that differentiates the question from the command. Use the command tone for the now in the paradoxical tapping.
Using the powerful version of Paradoxical Tapping makes it possible to change feelings quickly, often with just one round of tapping.
Important: If the feelings you are working on are very intense, paradoxical tapping is best used after any raw intensity of emotions have been soften with standard tapping
You can find this technique and many others in The Tapping Toolkit book available in ebook and paperback format.