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, on my journey to becoming an Accredited EFT Practitioner. The experiences and stories I’ll be sharing with you here today are for people who want to learn more about tapping. If this is you, then you’re in the right place!
PLEASE NOTE: When I’m sharing personal stories about people’s experiences with tapping, I will be using pseudonyms. I take my clients’ need to protect their privacy seriously. Only if I receive parental consent to do so in a way that protects their own, and/or their child’s privacy, do I share their stories.
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’s a type of meditation that can be done on your own, or with the help of an EFT Practitioner.
Tapping (which is also often referred to as the Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT ) 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. The late 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.
We still don’t know everything there is to know about how EFT works in the body.
But we know, from an independent study done by the University of Harvard, that our bodies experience a chemical reaction while tapping that rids our body of the two harmful stress hormones: adrenaline, and cortisol. We also know that these stress hormones are bad for our body, because they cause chronic inflammation when they’re stuck in our system for far too long.
Finally, we know that chronic stress, and therefore chronic inflammation, causes pain and diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
Tapping helps us calm the stress response in the 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 relief. Have 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 as a professional Youth Mentor is that there is another (often complimentary) way.
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.
I also learnt that tapping on the physical manifestations of stress in your body is a great way to access emotional education, because it helps people become more aware of the painful emotion(s) they’ve 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 wants 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’re stuck in a chronic state of stress, or when we’re 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 they know there is a biological component to their pain. So they start the session thinking that tapping’s not going to work (“They said it’s biological. They said there’s nothing we can do about it”)…and yet!
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.
Pseudonyms will be used to protect people’s privacy in the personal stories that I share here, with you.
Let me give you three examples.
CASE STUDY #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 weekly 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. She couldn’t believe it…the pain was gone!
CASE STUDY #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.
“Mario” was feeling anger towards his teachers.
Before we started tapping, he expressed the following beliefs:
- “I’m going to fail my final exams. I always fail.”
- “I’m no good at academic work.”
- “I’m a bad student.”
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:
- “I’m angry with my teachers, because I feel like they don’t believe in me. I feel like they’ve given up on me.”
- “I want my teachers to motivate me.“
- “I want my teachers to give me an idea for how to improve.”
Soon after we begun to tapping session on his anger towards his teachers, this is what came up for him:
- “I realize the issue is that I don’t believe in myself.“
- “I don’t believe I can do it.”
- And he then realized that “the person who should believe in me the most is myself.”
As we continued to tap, he started to feel a newfound sense of determination:
- “I wanna sit and concentrate.”
- “I wanna see how I’m gonna do well.”
By the end of the session, he had an aha moment, because he’d 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.
We tapped on this old limiting belief, and once it was released, “Mario” started to speak in a self-empowering way:
- “I can improve my memory.”
- “It’s me who needs to put the effort.“
- “In the last few years, I was saying to myself: ‘I can’t do it’, all the time. But now I feel that I can do it.”
“Mario” passed his final exams, this summer! 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 feel proud of himself, when he saw his exam results.
CASE STUDY #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 crisis. Her 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 mentoring 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.
So 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 time. She 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 confidence.
By the time we’d 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 it!
She 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 AND RECOMMENDATIONS
In this article, you saw three examples of how tapping (EFT) can help:
- People who’re suffering from physical aches and pains.
- Students with a history of getting bad grades.
- Students who are suffering from exam-related stress and panic attacks.
If you’d like to learn more about tapping, I’ve added a list of book recommendations that you can dip into if you’re curious to learn more in the list of References at the end of this article.
For examples of how tutors and classroom teachers are using tapping in their work, you can watch the following two interviews I did for a free online training event for schools back in 2018:
- Tapping Away Exam Stress, with Nicole Dubruel de Broglio.
- Wellness and Awareness in Elementary Classrooms, with Bonnie Green.
Last but not least, if you want to have a go at doing some tapping meditations, Nick Ortner has very generously created a wealth of free audio meditations that you can listen to online.
You’ll see that most of the guided meditations on the Tapping Solution Blog are only 5 to 10 minutes long, and they address a wide variety of problems, such as overcoming anxiety, self-doubt, and procrastination, as well as releasing guilt and frustration (and more).
You can download these tapping meditations onto your laptop or your phone for easy access, if you prefer.
Bruce Lipton (2004) The Biology of Belief.
Eileen Dombrowski, Leena Rotenburg, Bick Mimi (2013) Oxford IB Diploma Programme: Theory of Knowledge Course Companion.
Gabor Mate (2011) When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection.
Jessica Ortner (2018) A Guide to Get Unstuck and Find Your Flow.
Nick Ortner (2012) The Tapping Solution for Pain Relief: A Step-By-Step Guide to Reducing and Eliminating Chronic Pain.
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.
Patricia Carrington (2009) Discover the Power of Meridian Tapping: A Revolutionary Method for Stress Free Living.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Is there anything in this article that resonates with you?
Anything you’d like to add?
We’d love to hear from you. Let us know in the comments below.