The Science Behind the Effectiveness of EFT Tapping

EFT is Becoming Evidence-Based 

It is difficult to imagine that EFT tapping or pressing on oneself can make any difference. Especially in the way, you feel physically or emotionally. But there is strong science that supports the overwhelming mountain of evidence that is continuing to grow daily. Evidence that supports the idea that the emotional connection between your brain, body, and event can be diminished or broken.  

Interestingly, a paper in the 2014 Review of General Psychology, examined 51 studies on EFT or tapping. The 51 peer-reviewed studies showed a positive outcome with a wide variety of conditions. Including anxiety, depression, physical pain, tension headaches, Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and more. The improvement ranged from slightly to vastly improved.  

New Neuropathways

The key is whether the added stimulus creates new neuropathways. In some tapping can reduce the way that an individual’s brain and body respond to highly emotional situations.  They then have a wider range of healthy emotional, cognitive, and physical responses to stimuli. This can be physical, visual, auditory, olfactory, or even imaginary.  

The EFT process of “tapping” does not even require actual tapping. It is simply activating acupressure points during emotional responses to diffuse or disconnect the emotion from the stimuli. EFT tapping can be performed alone or by another person. It is often simply tapping on easily accessed surface acupressure points on the hands, upper body, and face. EFT or tapping can also be adapted to simply applying pressure or rubbing on the points.  

It is believed that activating these points results in an increased flow of information to the brain through the piezoelectric effect. (The word piezoelectric is derived from the Greek piezein,-to squeeze or press, and piezo, which is Greek for push). The piezoelectric effect refers to certain material’s ability to convert mechanical energy into electric energy. EFT could therefore facilitate and increase the flow of electrical information through the nervous system. Taking those signals to certain key areas of the brain. This could have a profound influence on the way the information is perceived. 

Acupoint Stimulation Affects the Limbic System and Stress Hormones 

The amygdala is a critical part of the brain’s limbic system. It plays an important role in the sympathetic nervous system (otherwise known as the fight or flight response). In actual life-threatening situations, it can help us survive, but in most cases, it is activated in times of stress. Stress on our bodies can diminish our physical and mental well-being, especially if it is chronic.  

Chronic stress is harmful to our overall well-being. The ancient Chinese believed we have energy pathways that extend throughout our body that dictate our health. When these pathways are weakened or blocked it allows a disease to occur. Using touch, pressure, or tiny needles the energy pathways can be unblocked. Restoring a healthy flow of chi to the organ systems by stimulating these pathways and unblocking them. 

In fact, many believe good health and prevention of illness have been achieved using acupressure and acupuncture. Practitioners have been singing their praises for thousands of years. Even modern scientific studies show that both have a positive effect on the body and mental wellbeing of practitioners. Late studies are now showing almost the same results from simple stimulation like touching or tapping on the acupressure energy pathway endpoints. 

Polyvagal Theory & Neuroception: It is About Feeling Safe 

Stephen Porges describes Polyvagal Theory or Neuroception as one of the functions of our brain. Neuroception is believed to be a pre-conscious mechanism of recognizing safety or danger, knowing friend or foe. This is based upon interpreting another person’s tone of voice, body movements, and facial expressions. Our brain tries to make sense of the world before we have a chance to process it with our five senses. 

EFT can be done alone or with another person. There are many areas of one’s life that be safely handled by oneself. However, there are times when one should consider not taking on deep emotional issues alone. They would be better served by using EFT with an experienced professional. This is especially important in circumstances of single (and especially multiple) experiences of physical or sexual trauma. 

Get Help and Support 

Practicing EFT with another person has multiple benefits. We are observing an increasingly positive effect that is created by a safe and supportive relationship. Neuroregulation or the process of bringing our nervous system to a relaxed and balanced state is heightened by the presence of a supportive other.  

It is widely accepted that the positive social engagement aspect of the supportive other in an effective EFT session is a magnifying conductor. The “Vagus” nerve is positively activated helps us feel calmer, safer, and more balanced when talking about painful or difficult subjects. 

It has even been documented that certain acupoints when stimulated and activated can have a calming effect on the amygdala. The Amygdala is a crucial part of the limbic system. This is important because the amygdala is a key player in the midbrain or “emotional brain”. It acts as a guard dog, alerting the rest of the brain and body when something is perceived as dangerous. This includes spotting a potential threat to our well-being or safety. When we perceive a threat, our brain swiftly responds with fight or flight mode.  

Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline surge through our veins in an instant. This is meant to assist us in attempting to survive the impending threat by fighting or fleeing away from it. Research published in 2012 in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, documented that EFT reduced cortisol levels by 24%. This was significantly more reduced than the other therapeutic interventions offered in the study. This provides a potential explanation of how EFT helps reduce the stress load on our bodies that diminish our physical and mental well-being. 

Be Very Specific 

The EFT setup statement needs to be extremely specific. The more specific the recall of an event that is or has caused us a limitation or emotional reaction, the better it works. For example, “Even though I feel all this anger when I think of my dad making me shave my head in the summer before 3rd grade…” You may be asking why is thinking about and naming a specific experience so critical to EFT’s effectiveness? 

Identifying a specific time and place when something occurred or is occurring, makes it much more manageable for your brain. Tapping on “all of the times that…” or “the way she always makes me feel” often includes so many incidents connected to the statement that it can be overwhelming and inadvertently increase a person’s stress response. Recalling a specific incident involves the activation of the frontal lobes of the brain. These structures enable us to picture or imagine things. The process of bringing a specific time to mind is proving to make it more accessible to change. Resulting in a greater probability of finding healing. 

Hyper-Detailed

 For some memories, we will recall many details… “Like the time that I drove down the I-5 with my family in the pickup up the grapevine and we ate chicken soft tacos and…”. This type of memory is known as an “explicit” or narrative memory. They are remembered in words. While “implicit” memories are the unconscious memories tied to feelings or emotions. These memories are often associated with early childhood and/or traumatic events. They are sometimes repressed or forgotten by the conscious mind. These kinds of memories are often the source of our physical stress response in certain situations. Because they are just below consciousness they leave us wondering why we are experiencing so much anxiety and stress. Without recognizing why we are feeling that way. 

Positive Results from Focusing on the Negative 

Besides just the tapping physically, there is another important EFT concept that is required. It is sometimes referred to as focusing on the negative. It makes up the first part of the setup statement. “Even though I feel this pain in my back…” It is also used in the reminder phrase “This pain, this pain…” The reminder phrase helps to keep the person tuned in to the problem. It also and introduces an element of observing or mindfulness. 

The medial pre-frontal cortex in our brain is involved with interoception. Interoception is a perception of sensations from inside the body. It includes the perception of physical sensations related to internal organ function such as our heartbeat, respiration, hunger/fullness, etc… The autonomic nervous system activity related to emotions is also included in our interoception. Commonly thought of as our ability to look inward and notice what is going on in ourselves.  

It has an important regulatory and dampening role in our stress response. Interoception also helps explain the effectiveness in stress reduction resulting from mindfulness meditation practices. Very often people misunderstand the process of thinking about a negative feeling, holding tight to the idea that they should only focus on the positive. But the truth is feelings are just indicators of our thoughts, and thoughts are just thoughts. We give them power and we can remove that power as well. It is important for us to learn to not be afraid of our thoughts or emotions. We can take control of how we react to thoughts, but we must accept that we think thoughts. Acceptance of the uncomfortable feelings that we are experiencing, like pain, anxiousness, anger, frustration, guilt, and shame set up the possibility for change.  

Rewiring The Body and Brain 

The acceptance statement is the last part of the tapping statement. It is the part that comes after the negative part. For instance: “Even though I feel this anger in my stomach thinking about getting left at the altar, I deeply and completely accept myself.”  

The importance of self-acceptance cannot be overstated. You must learn to accept yourself and acknowledge that you have significance. Some even think that tapping while stating the acceptance statement may be a way to facilitate a somatic implanting of the affirmation. It is now widely believed that we should work toward unconditional self-acceptance. The unconditional part means accepting oneself regardless of how you behave or have behaved and whether other people approve, respect, or even love you. 

An important aspect of the self-acceptance statement is that the person saying the phrase must find a statement of congruent acceptance. In other words, the statement should ring true. You must be able to accept what you have done, said, felt, and feel or it will not believe it. This statement is performed simultaneously while tapping sending electromagnetic signals of information to the brain and nervous system. So, it is considered by some to be a potent element of this technique. 

This can be a profound tool for healing. But you must be able to believe it. Therefore, when creating a powerful tapping statement, you may need to alter the form closer to “I hold the possibility that maybe someday I can accept myself.” The phrase “I deeply love and accept myself” is one that we can all aspire to. But it may take lots of tapping and self-forgiveness before being able to use it truthfully. 

Rewiring Core Beliefs 

The contrast of stating a negative situational feeling with a statement of self-acceptance creates a powerful contrast. Interestingly, this blatant comparison, this swinging back and forth repeatedly in an EFT tapping session appears to be a requirement for permanently changing or removing old binding or limiting beliefs. The beliefs that no longer serve a benefit to you and can cause dysfunctional patterns and behaviors. 

Wrapping it Up 

Weaving the specific events of a past or present situation with a new emotion that is being presently felt, creates a new rich neural network that offers the possibility of rapid and profound change. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change how thoughts, memories, sensations, and patterns of behavior are processed. Neuro-rewiring of the brain and the subsequent messaging to the tissues of our bodies through the nervous system, hormones, and neurotransmitters may help explain why EFT tapping is quickly emerging as such a powerful tool for healing. If you are interested in learning to use EFT yourself, check out my Free 3 Day Workshop on Using EFT tapping to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs

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Aaron Jarrels, EzineArticles Basic Author

Aaron Jarrels

I am focused on helping anyone who wants to expand their reach. I help people overcome their limiting beliefs and show them how to gain the confidence to eliminate imposter syndrome that hinders success. I specialize in assisting people with shifting their mindsets and help them master the skills necessary to achieve professional and personal success.