Stepping Back To Tap

Image courtesy of Fiona McAllister Photography
Image courtesy of Fiona McAllister Photography

Do you ever feel stuck?

Stuck in an unpleasant or unhelpful mesh of thoughts and feelings that is hard to get out of.

If you know EFT perhaps you have tried to sit down and tap your way out of it.

Tapping often works well but sometimes problem states can be difficult to get out of.

Problem states can be sticky.

What’s a state?

I’m using the word state, borrowed from NLP, rather than the word feeling to describe the experience of a problem, because state is a much broader and useful concept.

Your state is the way you are in any particular moment, it is the dynamic combination of your posture, breathing, thinking, remembering, imagining, feeling: all the different parts of your physical, mental and emotional experience.

If you are experiencing a problem state, it may be difficult to be clearly aware of what is going on.

When you are inside the jar it’s hard to read the label.

What we need is a simple approach to temporarily get out of the problem state, to have a look from the outside at what is going on so that we can work with it from a different perspective.

We can achieve this with a very simple technique that needs nothing more than a little bit of imagination and some floor space.

When we have some experience of this process we can use it to give us a different way of tapping on our challenging states.

Before we get to the tapping it might be useful to have a practice run of the process so that you can have the expereince of ‘stepping outside yourself’.

Important: This is an advanced process, please read the article to the end before trying it out.

Stepping Back (without tapping)

This process works best when you are on your own or you are with very tolerant company because it looks a little bit weird if you don’t know what is going on.

  1. Find a space, stand still and notice what it’s like to be you standing in this space.
  2. Physically take a step back, while imagining that you are stepping outside yourself and leaving that ‘other you’ where you were standing.
  3. Then physically take another step back to gain a little more separation, then ‘look back’ at that ‘other you’ that you imagine is still standing in the original space. Of course this is all going on in your imagination, it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel that you are good at visualising, get whatever sense you can of that ‘other you’ standing there.
  4. Take a few moments to observe that other you, notice what you notice about them. How are they standing? How are they breathing? What are they thinking or feeling? How do you think and feel about them? Take a few moments to notice all that.
  5. When you have noticed all there is to notice, physically step back into that ‘other’ self, re-occupying your original position.
  6. Notice how you are thinking and feeling now.

Most people have the ability to look out at the world through their own eyes and to imagine looking at themselves as if from the outside. Most people switch between these internal points of view without even noticing they are doing it. (see end of article for cautionary note)

Sometimes just the act of ‘stepping outside ourselves’ can change the way we think and feel, it gives us a different perspective on how we are.

Benefits of stepping back

There are three main benefits to ‘stepping back’ out of our experience in this way.

  1. Change of physiology – each problem state has its own physiology, muscle positions, posture, breathing patterns – physically moving to a new location can change your physiology and loosen the hold of the state.
  2. Change in perspective – if you are inside the jar you can’t read the label. Being ‘outside’ the problem shifts your perspective to that of an observer – more distant, objective and perceptive than it is possible to be from the inside of the problem.
  3. Change in sensory system – if you are feeling bad then you are feeling (and possibly talking to yourself about what you are feeling) i.e. you are using the parts of your brain that process via feelings and language. If you are on the outside looking in you are ‘looking’ or using your visual processing system. Using a different processing system takes you out of the systems that are part of the problem state and allow you to process the information in a different way.

For these reasons alone, having an ‘external’ perspective on ourselves can help us change.

However we can add tapping into the process to help us resolve some of the emotional components of the problem state.

Stepping Back (with tapping)

  1. When you notice that something is wrong or a struggle for you. Take a few moments to get a sense of what that is like for you as you occupy the problem state.
  2. ‘Step out of yourself’, imagine that you are temporarily going to leave your body where it is. Take one or two steps backwards, imagining that you are stepping out of your body until you have a sense of that ‘other you’, the one with the problem is at a distance.
  3. ‘Look’ at that ‘other you’ over there, what is going on for them? Have a sense of what is going on for that other you, over there. What are they thinking? How are they feeling? How would you describe their emotional state?
  4. When you have a sense of what is going on for them, tap for whatever problem thoughts and feelings they may be experiencing.
    • For example if that ‘other you’ looks angry you might tap using this kind of setup phrase:
    • Even though s/he looks angry … and this kind of reminder phrase s/he looks angry.
    • Tap for ‘them’ as though they were another person, substituting she / he for I.
  5. Describing them in the third person helps you stay out of what is going on.
  6. Notice what is going on with that other you as you tap for them. How strong are their emotional states?
  7. As the emotional states reduce, you may notice other emotional states or thoughts that are going through their mind. Tap for each of these in turn.
  8. Eventually that ‘other you’ will look more settled.
  9. Step back into that ‘other you’
  10. Notice how it feels now. What is different in the way that you think and feel?


  1. Do this in private unless you have very supportive family and friends.
  2. You do need to move – doing this in your imagination won’t work so well because you will still be trapped in the physiology of the problem.
  3. If you are in a public situation where you can’t tap you can still use the stepping out of yourself part of the process to get a different perspective to what is going on and return later to tap on what you find.

A cautionary note

The capacity to view our experience from the inside or from the outside exists in a continuum.

At one end of the continuum there are some people who are completely immersed in their own viewpoint and have great difficulty stepping out of their own experience to ‘look at themselves’ from the outside. If you only see life through your own eyes, you may find this process difficult, and may need some help to learn the skill of mentally stepping in and out of your own experiences.

At the other end of this continuum there are some people who feel as if they are always on the outside of themselves looking in on their lives. If this is so, they may find the stepping back into themselves challenging.

Sometimes this ‘external perspective’ is a useful defence mechanism, often developed in childhood because living inside their experience is too painful. If you recognise that you occupy the external viewpoint, and find the thought of stepping back into your experience anxiety provoking, you may want to skip this whole process.

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