"If you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right"
– Henry Ford
When people say "I can" or "I can't" they are telling us the limits of what they think is possible for them in their world.
- I can't speak in public
- I can't fall in love
- I can't say that to my mother
- I can't leave this job
- I can't get out of this relationship
Each can't is a line in the sand which they can't cross.
In the NLP Meta Model "I can't …" belongs to a linguistic class given the very fancy title "modal operators of possibility", which are all about the way we talk about what is possible or impossible for us. The Meta Model gives us a way of challenging the statements beginning with "I can't …" This tapping technique is a combination of EFT and the NLP challenge to an "I can't …".
Let's go back to the line in the sand which the person thinks they can't cross. This line in the sand was probably formed long ago as a rule based on experience, it is probably held at an unconscious level, hidden from view. As far as the person is concerned now, the "I can't …" is self-evident and convincing. This technique is designed to unpack the underlying reasons for the rule so that they can be tapped on. To do this we use part of the NLP Meta Model which is a set of questions designed to uncover the hidden basis for a lot of our unconscious limitations and assumptions.
Like a line in the sand there are two sides to this internal line.
On one side there may be something stopping you from crossing over that line into a desired outcome. At some level you are being held back. Asking the question: "What stops you?" helps bring into awareness whatever it is that is stopping you from moving forward.
On the other side of the line there may be an undesired consequence of stepping over that line. At some level you don't want or fear the consequence of stepping over the line. Asking the question: "What would happen if you did?" helps you bring that undesired consequence into awareness.
This routine consists of a setup statement and tapping through while asking three questions.
Asking these questions allows the thoughts, feelings and memories provoked by the questions to be tapped on once they arise. Sometimes they do not need to be articulated, at other times the answers may include memories and feelings that have to be followed up and tapped out to get a full resolution. Because EFT can work speedily it is not often necessary to go into the details of what is stopping you or what the consequences of doing it would be, just bringing them into awareness allows them to be softened and undone by the tapping.
There is one further question (not part of the Meta Model) that is tapped on: "What if I could …? " This is an invitation to the tapper to take an imaginative leap into a future without this limitation which allows the tapping to work on any "negative" consequences of releasing this limitation.
One of my clients needed to make an important phone call that he had been putting off for quite sometime. He needed to make the call but couldn't.
I asked him to say "I can't make this phone call" out loud and give it a SUDs score from zero to ten. He said it was an eight.
We tapped on the setup statement "Even though I can't make this phone call, I accept myself and how I feel" – three times.
For the first round of tapping I asked him to tap on each of the points using "What stops me from making this phone call?" as the reminder phrase. He did this obviously accessing some thoughts and feelings as he went through the round.
For the second round of tapping I asked him to tap on the points using "What would happen if I did make this phone call?" as the reminder phrase. He did this more easily.
For the third round of tapping I asked him to tap on "What if I could make this phone call?" as the reminder phrase. He did this easily.
I asked him to score the belief "I can't make this phone call" from zero to ten, he said it was now a two.
I asked him about the "What stops me making this phone call?" round of tapping and he told me that he had a kaleidoscope of thoughts, feelings and memories in response to that question. I asked him to do one more round of tapping on "What stops me making this call?" He did so and reported that the "I can't make this phone call" no longer made sense to him.
Advantages of the questioning approach
You will notice that there are no clever verbal reframes or suggestions in this process just tapping + three questions. There are several advantages to using questions in this way.
- It is easier – All you have to do is remember the three questions and tap. You don't need to think of any reframes or other verbal tricks to get the result.
- It is exploratory – Because the questions are inviting you to notice what is going on in yourself it allows the tapping to be guided by your experience, leading to whatever feelings or memories played a part in the formation of these limitations.
- It is respectful – Since this follows your way of thinking about things there is no feeling that the solution is being imposed on you. Since the resolution to the limiting belief comes from your experience and resources it is more likely to be appropriate and last in the long run. The resolution can't be biased by anyone else’s limitations or ideas about what is happening or needed.
- It includes its own mental rehearsal. The addition of the "What if I could …?" question takes the resolution into the future and tries it on for size. Any problems with the solution can be explored and addressed within the process.
- Say out loud the "I can't … " and assess how true it feels on a scale of 0 to 10
- Tap out setup statement three times – "Even though I can't …, I accept myself and how I feel"
- Tap out one round of EFT using the reminder phrase "What stops me … ?" *
- Tap out one round of EFT using the reminder phrase "What would happen if I did … ?" *
- Tap out one round of EFT using the reminder phrase "What if I could …?"
* It is possible while tapping this round that you may get an idea about specific events or other things that stop you. Bear those in mind while you continue to tap. You can either continue tapping round after round on the question you are working on until these feelings settle or you might break off from the process entirely to deal with a troublesome memory and return to it later.
If memories or feelings that need tapping come up during the tapping round. Take care of those memories and feelings while they are still fresh.
Go back to the original phrase "I can't … ", saying it out loud again to assess its truth.
If there is still a charge. Repeat the four steps again, then check. Repeat this process as many times as necessary to neutralise the charge on that belief.Image courtesy of Numinosity (Gary J Wood)