How To Unhook Negative Thoughts With EFT

“You don’t have to stay trapped in your thoughts just because you think them.”
– Doug Dillon

Unhook negative thoughts
Image courtesy of Chang’r

We are thinking all the time.

Even though they come and go our thoughts are constant companions.

We don’t ask for them, they seem to arise of their own accord.

Sometimes our thoughts are helpful and pleasing to us.

Sometimes our thoughts can be like barbed hooks running through our mind.

When those thoughts catch our minds, they dig in and we get pulled where we don’t want to go.

As babies we have an unfiltered experience of the world. We see, hear and feel things, our inner lives are a chaos of sensations and impressions.

As we grow up we learn to think to make sense of the world. Thinking helps us make some sense out of the chaos. We learn to throw nets of thoughts over our experience to understand what is happening and to help us to decide what to do.

That’s an amazing achievement for our minds, but there is a problem.

Over time we forget that thoughts are just thoughts about the thing we are thinking about. We start to think the thoughts are the thing itself.

For example, some people can be remarkably annoying.

Our heart might sink when we see them. Being with them sorely challenges our patience and peace of mind. We may breathe a sigh of relief when they go.

However, even when we are alone we can get annoyed. Just thinking the thought “He is so annoying” can upset us. The person doesn’t even need to be there.

Something about our thoughts upsets us. We forget that those thoughts are just thoughts and we react as if the thoughts are actually what’s happening now.

Making our thoughts real in this way can make for an uncomfortable life.

There are many different ways of dealing with these troublesome thoughts.

You could argue with the thoughts to convince yourself that they are not true (as you might with CBT).

You could neutralise the thoughts by dissolving the negative feelings around them (as you might with EFT).

Those kinds of approaches work to change the thoughts themselves, but what if you could change your relationship to your thoughts?

What if you could remind yourself that the thought is just a thought not the thing you are thinking about.

One way of learning that thoughts are just thoughts is to take up mindfulness meditation.

In mindfulness meditation you learn to observe thoughts without getting caught up with them. By watching them come and go you can learn that thoughts are just thoughts and you don’t need to buy into them.

Learning to be free of thoughts in this way takes time and practice.

However some of the principles of these mindfulness techniques are finding their way into some mainstream therapeutic approaches, including Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT).

ACT has many ‘defusion’ techniques to help people step back from their thoughts. They help you de-fuse from your thoughts, recognising that the thoughts are just thoughts.

Defusion Without Tapping

This simple defusion technique helps your mind to loosen its grip on your thoughts.

  1. Think of a thought that causes you some discomfort, e.g. “I am not good enough”, “I’m struggling”, “She is annoying”, etc.
  2. When you have chosen ‘the thought’. Think ‘the thought’ noticing the effect it has on you.
  3. Now think to yourself “I am thinking ‘the thought’“. Note the effect ‘the thought’ has on you now.
  4. Now think to yourself “I am aware I am thinking ‘the thought’”.
  5. Notice the effect ‘the thought’ has on you now.

With practice using this simple three step process can help you let go of troublesome thoughts. However these thoughts can have a stressful or distressing emotional component. EFT/Tapping is really good for releasing distressing emotional reactions.

What would happen if we combine this defusion technique with tapping?

Defusion With Tapping

This simple technique adds tapping to defusion to help lessen the emotional impact of each step..

  1. Think of a thought that causes you some discomfort, e.g. “I am not good enough”, “I’m struggling”, “He is annoying”, etc.
  2. Without using a set-up statement tap on the eyebrow point using ‘the thought’ as the reminder phrase. For example: “He is annoying”
  3. Tap through the remaining points of the first round just paying silent attention to your experience as you tap.
  4. In the second round, tap on the eyebrow point using “I am thinking the thought ‘the thought’” as the reminder phrase. For example: “I am thinking the thought ‘he is annoying’”
  5. Tap through the remaining points of the second round just paying silent attention to your experience as you tap.
  6. In the final round, tap on the eyebrow point using “I am aware I am thinking the thought ‘the thought’” as the reminder phrase. For example: “I am aware that I am thinking the thought ‘he is annoying’”
  7. Tap through the remaining points of the second round just paying silent attention to your experience as you tap.
  8. Go back and think the original thought. What is that like now?
  9. Repeat the process if necessary.

Note: Using the reminder phrase on the eyebrow point only is designed to engage your mind with the thought and then use silent tapping on the other points to allow you to process whatever is provoked by that thought.

Not All Thoughts Are Words

Not all troublesome mental activity is thinking in words. We can also see images in our mind’s eye, hear internal sounds and dialogue or feel feelings. You can process these in a similar way by adjusting the wording of the sentences

Images

  • This image
    • I am seeing ‘this image’
      • I am aware I am seeing ‘this image’

Sounds

  • This sound
    • I am hearing ‘this sound’
      • I am aware I am hearing ‘this sound’

Feelings

  • This feeling
    • I am feeling ‘this feeling’
      • I am aware I am feeling ‘this feeling’

Defusing Problems

Most of the time we have more than one thought going on about an issue or problem. We can use this ‘defusion’ technique to work through the threads of a problem situation.

  1. Think of a situation that is challenging for you
  2. Use the ‘defusion’ process to tap through the first thought that comes to mind when you think of this issue.
  3. When you have completed the three rounds of tapping think again of the problem situation. Process the next thought that enters your mind.
  4. Repeat this process until you run out of time or thoughts about the problem.
  5. Think about the problem now. What is that like for you?

The aim of this process is not to change the situation, or your feelings about it, but to disentangle you from the barbed wire of your thinking. So that you can approach the difficulty from a more balanced, less hooked perspective.

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