“Lose your mind and come to your senses”
– Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Therapy
Our experience is what we see, hear, feel, smell, taste, think, imagine, remember and do (thinking, imagining and remembering are seeing and hearing in our inner world).
When we tap we are tapping on our internal sensory experience and how that makes us feel.
If you know about EFT you will know one of the foundations of successful EFT / Tapping is to be specific about what you are tapping on.
When we talk about being specific we are focusing on the sensory parts of our experience. The unpleasant feelings, the scary images, critical voices and painful memories that distress us, all happen at the level of sensory experience.
If we spent all our time in our sensory experience our tapping would be very simple, but because we are able to think and imagine we can take ourselves out of our sensory world into the realm of abstraction.
Thinking About Our Problems Can Cause Problems
Our capacity to think gives us ways to create abstractions and theories about why we are suffering. These theories, concepts, names, abstractions about our experience take us away from our sensory experience.
In one way it may be less distressing to spend our time thinking about the problem, in another way it can get in the way of resolving the problem.
We talk about low self-esteem, co-dependency, procrastination, borderline personality disorder and all the other conditions and syndromes that can appear on social media or in our Google searches.
While it might be useful to discuss diagnoses amongst ourselves or with professionals such abstractions are not directly amenable to tapping.
You can’t show your therapist low self-esteem, co-dependency etc because they are abstractions. They are labels for experience not the experience themselves.
The further away from sensory experience we get the more vague and un-tappable the problem gets.
Some things are just so vague that it is like wrestling with (or tapping on) fog.
So, how exactly do you tap on low self-esteem, procrastination, indecisiveness or all those other abstractions? These problems are very real to the people experiencing them, but they are hard to tap on directly.
As tappers our aim is to bring our attention to the realm of concrete experience so we can tap on things or the feeling of things.
How can you get from abstractions to something specific enough to tap on?
To make the intangible tap-able we need to bring the problem out of the realm of the conceptual into world of concrete experiences.
One way of doing that is with this sequence of questions.
In this description I’m going to call the person who has the problem the ‘client’ (you can use this process on yourself if you are tapping for self help).
Step 1. State the problem.
Have the client state the [abstract] problem in a sentence.
For example: “I have low self-esteem”, “I am procrastinating”, “There is something wrong with me”, “My relationships are dysfunctional”, etc, etc.
Step 2. Go from the abstract to the concrete
One way of getting from the abstract to the concrete is to ask the ‘client’: “How do you know you have [problem]?”
For example: “How do you know you have low self-esteem?”
The answer to this question should bring you into, or at least closer to, the concrete world.
For example: “I feel worthless when I’m with other people”. This kind of answer is a description of concrete experience, if there is an experience there will be aspects and aspects give you something to tap on.
If they say something like: “My interactions with people are strained” this is still somewhat distanced from concrete experience. What kind of interactions are we talking about, with which people, in what way are they strained ?
If that is the case, ask the same question again substituting the new description: “How do you know your interactions with people are strained”? Sooner or later this question will bring you out of abstractions into sensory experience.
Step 3. Get sensory specific information
When they give you a description of concrete experience you can help them get more specific by asking the following questions.
- “When you are in this situation:”
- “what are you seeing (in the world (externally) or in your mind (internally))?”
- “what are you hearing (in the world or in your mind)?”
- “what are you thinking?”
- “what are you feeling?”
- “what are you doing?”
Asking these questions forces the person to give you sensory specific details of their experience.
“When I feel worthless when I am with other people”:
- “I see other people looking at me in a critical way”.
- “I hear my heart hammering in my chest”
- “I think they think I’m boring”
- “I feel worthless”
- “I retreat into myself”.
These questions may give a lot of information so we need some way to assess what is most worthy of tapping.
Step 4. Identify the most charged aspect.
Releasing the most charged aspect is most likely to make the biggest difference in the problems.
We could go through all the ‘sensory statements’ asking for a 0-10 SUDs score then choose the most charged statement, but there is a simpler way.
Ask the client: “What is most noticeable?”
The most charged aspect of the situation will be the one that is most noticeable (we are very good at noticing distress). This aspect will become the ‘tapping target’.
For example: the person with low self-esteem may report that the most noticeable part of the experience is the critical way people look at him.
Step 5. Process the most charged aspect.
Use the most noticeable aspect to guide the tapping.
For example: “Even though they are looking critically at me, I accept myself and how I feel”, etc.
The aspect may yield to simple tapping or you may need to track back to memories of similar feelings to neutralise the source of the aspect.
Step 6. Work through the list of sensory specific aspects.
Return to the concrete aspects and asking the client what is most noticeable now.
Repeat the tapping process on each aspect of experience as necessary.
It may be that resolving just one or two of the most noticeable aspects will relieve the others automatically.
Return to the list and find out what is now most noticeable.
Step 7. Test the concrete experience
As in all EFT we need to test our work. Test the concrete as a whole. Is there anything left that needs work?
Invite the client to go back to the original concrete experience, in our example “I feel worthless when I’m with other people”. As they imagine being with other people what do they notice now?
Step 8. Test the original abstract problem.
Finally go back to the client’s original ‘abstract’ problem.
What is that problem like now? It may have changed a little, a lot or not at all.
For complex problems there are probably a lot of intertwined parts to the whole problem so you will probably need to return to “How do you know?” to uncover more aspects to work with.
In addition to help make the untappable more tappable this process has another benefit.
One of the reasons for clients to think about abstractions is that losing yourself in abstractions and theories can be less painful than having the sensory experiences that underlie the abstraction.
By encouraging clients down into sensory experience you are helping them get in touch with their life as an experience rather than a concept. By being able to connect and soothe the pain of the experiences they can live in their mind and body, not just their mind.