Eleni Vardaki - tapping with students and parents

Releasing Emotional & Physical Pain: Can Tapping Help?

WHAT’S THE ISSUE: I’ve been teaching people how to tap since December 2018. In this article, I will share with you some of what I’ve learnt so far from my experience of tapping with teachers, parents, students and young adults about how tapping (also known as the Emotional Freedom Technique) can help us to:

The experiences and stories I’ll be sharing with you here today are for people who want to learn more about tapping for pain relief. If this is you, then you’re in the right place!

SIDE NOTE: When I’m sharing personal stories about people’s experiences with tapping, I always use pseudonyms to protect my clients’ privacy (Click here to read my Privacy Policy). 

WHAT IS TAPPING?

Tapping is a gentle emotional self-care tool that I’ve found to be particularly effective in reducing school-related stress in the students I work with, one-to-one. It is a self-soothing type of meditation that you can do independently, or with the help of an EFT Practitioner, by tapping on certain acupressure points on the face and upper body. It is often referred to as EFT, or the Emotional Freedom Technique. It is a type of meditation that combines modern Psychology with ancient Chinese medicine. It is a self-help tool that was developed by Gary Craig and Dr Patricia Carrington. Gary Craig’s background as an engineer helped him think in a ‘how-to’ way. This way of thinking allowed him to create the ‘mechanism’ for the tapping technique to work. Dr Carrington, who was a former Lecturer in the Psychology Department at Princeton University, added her valuable knowledge of Clinical Psychology to the foundation that Gary had created.

Tapping is an evidence-based stress management technique that has a strong scientific evidence-based. Let me give you an example. Thanks to a randomized control trial study (the Gold Standard of scientific research) conduced by Dr Church and his colleagues, we know that our bodies experience a chemical reaction while tapping that brings our cortisol levels down quicker than traditional talk therapy (Nick Ortner, The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living, p. 5). Cortisol is one of the stress hormones that is released in our brain. tly explains why tapping can be so powerful for working with students when they are feeling panicky or anxious about school-work, exams or deadlines. We also know that having too many stress hormones stuck in our body for too long is  bad for our health, because they cause chronic inflammation when they are stuck in our system for far too long. And it is a well-established fact that chronic stress, and therefore chronic inflammation, can cause chronic pain and serious diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Tapping helps us calm the stress response in our brain by calming the amygdala, which keeps us stuck in fight-or-flight mode. Not only does being stuck in fight-or-flight mode make it difficult for us to think clearly in stressful conditions like tests and exams, but it also prevents the body from moving into a relaxed state. The muscular tension that results from being in a chronic, or acute, state of stress increases aches and pains.

HOW CAN TAPPING HELP WITH PAIN?

For years, many doctors  were trained to believe that medicating the body was the only solution for pain reliefHave a headache? Take a pain-killer. Can’t bend over to tie your shoelace from lower back pain? Take a pain-killer. But what I’ve discovered from my work is that there is another (often complimentary) way to reduce pain in the body. Experiencing acute pain or chronic pain is commonly a source of stress

Pain makes it makes it hard for us to function, let alone communicate and go about our daily jobs and errands as we had hoped or planned. The more I worked as a Youth Mentor for Stress Relief, the more I noticed a pattern: a lot of the students I mentored, and their parents, were in pain when we started our mentoring or check-in sessions. So I started to ask the youths and parents I was working with if they wanted to try a technique called tapping, to see if it could help. Tapping is a self-soothing tool that can help us reduce stress-related pain, by reducing the emotional component of the pain.

I have learned that tapping on the physical manifestations of stress in our body is a great way to access our inner emotional education, because it helps us become more aware of the painful emotion(s) we have been suppressing. These pent up emotions are often contributing to the pain. This is particularly true when working with boys and men, who have been programmed by society to repress their emotions. Tapping to help reduce physical pain can help us rediscover our true selves, and what we really want and need – free from social pressures and expectations. We tap into our body intelligence. We tap into our inner wisdom.  

We tend to experience more aches and pains in our body, irrespective of age, when we are stuck in a  chronic state of stress, or when we are going through a period of acute stress in our lives due to finances, relationships, or other life problems. For some people, the pain can show up in the form of migraines. For others it can lead to dysmenorrhea (the equivalent of migraines, but for period pain). It can also show up as chronic back pain, jaw pain from involuntary tooth grinding (also known as Bruxism), neck and should pain, and so on. While the location of the pain can vary from person to person, what everyone who’s tried tapping on the pain has discovered is the emotional component of the physical pain.

Often people have been given a doctor’s diagnosis and so they know there is a biological component to their pain. So they start the session thinking that tapping is not going to work (“They said it’s biological. They said there’s nothing we can do about it”), but feeling like they have nothing to loose by having a go…and then they are amazed when they see that the pain is significantly reduced, if not completely gone, by the end of the session! While I have seen this happen many times, I’m still in awe every time it happens.

In addition to relief for physical aches and pains, tapping can also help to alleviate feelings of intense emotional pain such as anger, panic and anxiety. Let me give you three examples of cases I have worked with. Pseudonyms will be used to protect people’s privacy in the personal stories that I share here, with you. 

CASE #1: TAPPING ON PHYSICAL PAIN

I once worked with a single-parent mum (let’s call her “Sarah”). Her daughter was getting bad grades in most of her subjects, and she’d developed an unhelpful habit of lying about how well she was doing in school, and about whether she’d done her homework.

During my routine parent check-in session with “Sarah”, it was clear that she wasn’t going to be able to update me on what she had observed regarding her daughter’s most recent behaviors and progress; she was in too much pain to really talk.

Before we started tapping, “Sarah” felt that the intensity of the pain, which started at her lower back and extending down into her upper left leg, was an 8/10. As we started tapping, it soon became clear that she had been suppressing a lot of anger about being lied to for so many years. After only 10 minutes of tapping on the suppressed anger, the back pain dropped to a 4/10. A couple more rounds of tapping, and “Sarah’s” anger had subsided. I asked her to check back in to rate the intensity of the pain in her lower back and leg.  

Silence on the other end of the phone (we did the tapping on Viber). She could not believe it…the pain was gone!

CASE #2: TAPPING ON EMOTIONAL PAIN

“Mario” had been getting bad grades in tests since the start of secondary school. He was failing in almost all his subjects when we started working together. He had problems focusing, and had been diagnosed as having borderline for ADHD. He was in danger of failing his finals, and he had  not done very well on his IGCSE mock exams. When we started tapping, “Mario” was feeling very angry towards his teachers, and he had a number of blocking beliefs that were getting in his way of achieving his academic potential in exam conditions. 

Before we started tapping, he had the following blocking beliefs:

When he continued to get bad grades, as the real exams got nearer and nearer, he started to blame his teachers. I asked him to tell me about how he felt about his most recent report from school, before we started to tap. Here is what he said: 

Here’s what came up for him, soon after we started to tap on this anger her felt towards his teachers: 

As we continued to tap, he started to feel a newfound sense of determination: 

By the end of the session, he had an “Aha!” moment, because he had shifted away from hearing the “I can’t do it” voice in his head, whose intensity had initially felt like a 5/10 in intensity, and was now getting close to a 0/10.

In the next mentoring session, we did some more tapping on this old blocking limiting belief (“I can’t do it”), and once it was completely released (Me: “How true does that feel, when you think about your final examinations?” Response: “0/10”), “Mario” started to talk in a more responsible, self-aware, and self-empowered way:

“Mario” passed all his IGCSE final exams this summer! Not only that, but most of his grades were As and Bs. My heart soared with joy for him, when I heard the good news; for the first time in his life as a secondary school student, he felt proud of himself, when he saw his exam results.

CASE #3: TAPPING ON EMOTIONAL PAIN

This summer, I worked with a recent high school graduate, “Christina”, who was in the middle of an exam-related crisisHer mother called me to ask if I could help “Christina”, who was had recently failed to pass an exam. 

At the time, “Christina” was on her own in the UK, where the family had booked a room for her to stay for a few days, so that she could go to one of the designated testing centers. A week prior to our first tapping session, “Christina” and her family were informed that the British Government had introduced a law in 2017 that forced all applicants for teacher training courses to sit two additional exams, which they call the “Numeracy Test” and the “Literacy Test”…on top of the university entry exams (A Levels, IB Diploma exams, European Baccalaureate exams, etc). 

Fortunately for future teacher training applicants, it looks like the British Government will be scrapping this inhumane quantity of additional testing for future teaching candidates as of April 2020. But for “Christina” who was applying for entry in the fall of 2019, the current laws still applied. “Christina” passed her Literacy Test on the first go, but she was stuck on the Maths exams. The mother was worried about her daughter, because she had a big panic attack in the middle of her second attempt to pass the Numeracy Test. She had to pass this Maths exam with a mark of 80% or more. She only had 2 more days left to prepare for her third (and final) re-take attempt of the Numeracy Test. She was alone in a foreign country, and she was feeling overwhelmed by the time pressure and the whole situation.

By the time I spoke with “Christina”, she was in great distress. She’d never had a panic attack before, and she was still (understandably) trying to recover from the experience she’d had the day before. When she thought of her final exam retake, she felt that the feeling of overwhelm were a 10/10.

Before we stated the tapping session, “Christina” believed it was impossible for her to pass the exam with so little timeShe believed she needed a year to study for the test, in order to pass. Failing the last two attempts had totally shattered her confidence. When she thought back to that second exam, she remembered how stressed the other students in the test center were. She was shocked by what she saw. The memory of other students’ stress responses was making her feel even more distressed at the thought of going back to the test center.

The more we tapped, the more she released her pent-up fears of failure and her frustrations with the system and the time pressure…the more her feelings transformed from feelings of stress and overwhelm, to feelings of hope and confidenceBy the time we finished tapping, she’d gone from feeling that she needed a year to prepare for this Maths exam, and that it was impossible to make it with only 2 days to prepare…to saying she felt confident that she could do itShe was able to think clearly, and to independently come up with a practical five-point plan for how she could improve her study strategy (without me prompting her to do so).

Two days later, my phone rings while I’m enjoying the view and the conversation with an inspiring conference participant, as we sat on top of a double decker bus in Budapest. The 2019 ENSEC Conference was coming to an end, and the university students who had organized this event for us had offered us this wonderful complementary sight-seeing experience. So there we were, happily on our way to see the incredible Buda Castle. It was “Christina”, calling me from the UK: “Hi, is this a good time to talk? Eleni, I passed!!”  

For my fellow teacher colleagues out there, I’m sure you can relate with the joy that comes from seeing your student(s) overcome a challenge, thanks to their  independent effort and willingness to get out of their comfort zone to try something new.

SUMMARY

In this article, you saw how tapping (EFT) can help…

WHERE Do we go FROM HERE?

If you would like to learn more about…

REFERENCES

  1. Bruce Lipton (2004) The Biology of Belief.
  2. Gabor Mate (2011) When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection.
  3. Jessica Ortner (2018) A Guide to Get Unstuck and Find Your Flow.
  4. Nick Ortner (2012) The Tapping Solution for Pain Relief: A Step-By-Step Guide to Reducing and Eliminating Chronic Pain.
  5. Nick Ortner (2014) The Tapping Solution for Stress-Free Living.
  6. Nick Ortner (2018) The Tapping Solution for Parents, Children & Teenagers: How to Let Go of Excessive Stress, Anxiety and Worry, and Raise Happy, Healthy, Resilient Families.
  7. Patricia Carrington (2009) Discover the Power of Meridian Tapping: A Revolutionary Method for Stress Free Living.

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