By Dr. David Lake
It needs to be said that tapping on energy points (as used in EFT and SET) is not a panacea. There, I’ve said it. You can “try it on everything” but that doesn’t mean everything is going to respond! It’s important to acknowledge the occasional failures of the energy psychology techniques because only in this way can there be transparent progress and some intellectual rigour. Let’s also remember that these techniques are not a therapy in themselves.
The way these marvelous techniques work is not known. As such, those of us experimenting in the field have only our observations and experiences to guide us. One of the problems that beset a new field of treatment is dogma; this means that things must be done in a certain way and not questioned too much. Neither should there be unbridled creativity or licence to change techniques around (I am joking). The real problem here is the way we think about what we are doing—or more likely, don’t think about it. There is a lack of critical thinking in the world today and a great deluge of pseudo-science. In a new field let’s have the grace to say “We don’t know”.
Here are a few current controversies and thought experiments to pique your critical thinking.
1. Using tapping in pregnancy
So far it seems that the 12 points used by Roger Callahan in TFT and subsequently by Gary Craig in EFT and us in SET are safe. Add a few other multipoint areas (crown of the head, inner and outer wrists), and you have enough points in general use to answer the question: “Are the points safe to use in pregnancy?” After 10 years of intense, uncontrolled ‘experimentation’ the answer is probably “yes” (this is empirical evidence). However, a few acupuncturists claim that some of these points are not safe. Theory versus practice, you might say—but where is the research and trials? There are very, very few of these. So “use your own discretion”. Considering that a woman of childbearing age, wanting to be pregnant, and using tapping generally, will be pregnant for some weeks before she knows it, it had better be safe.
2. Does tapping affect positive emotion?
The answer is “no”. Or is it? Extensive use of tapping can induce a state of emotional dullness in some people. Generally there is little effect on positive feelings and this is just as well, almost a fail-safe procedure for the naïve beginner. Let’s not assume that all meridian stimulation is entirely beneficial even if we want it to be.
3. How does tapping change a physical affliction if there is no obvious emotional component?
According to Gary Craig, the cause of all negative emotion is a disruption in the body’s energy system. But there are many other factors involved in injury or pain, and it’s possible that tapping is a mediating process which removes the barriers to healing, regardless of emotional issues. For example, tapping is a good candidate to have an effect on the body’s endorphins (naturally occurring morphines). Why should a technique exist in isolation and not combine with the other pathways and processes in the human body?
Certainly tapping affects the final common pathway for nervous system expression—especially for traumatic stress—and can permanently change those stress feelings. This is easy to demonstrate.
4. Does tapping help treat the basis of severe depression, or psychotic disorders?
Sometimes it does. Mostly it does not. This is rare: to find that tapping is the sole treatment and agent of change in these conditions. Of course there is no current research as such (in a scientific way) to justify this statement. And some isolated anecdotes of astounding recoveries give hope to those who wish for the best outcomes in treating such afflictions. In the real world of treating severe depression it may be possible to use the meridian system alone, either through tapping or specialist acupuncture, to bring about great clinical change. My point is that this is not a common result at present, and to accept that does not block thinking about improving things.
5. Can you tap without using points?
Of course you can. Although there are meridian points all over the body, so it is hard to miss them, some early techniques for treating children’s emotional problems used tapping or patting on both sides of the body (usually on the limbs). These were derivative techniques of EMD/R, the eye movement technique. Presumably they worked by distracting the usual cortex functions. They were very effective (just don’t call it “tapping”!).
6. Can a treated problem return?
Yes, it can. Larry Nims, originator of BSFF, says that any problem can recur under enough stress. And an under-treated problem is more likely to do so. While all of the original meridian techniques have great merit and application’ none appears to be superior in itself. It depends on the user and the way it is integrated in an approach.
7. What is the next level of the healing high-rise?
Gary Craig has often referred to this idea and says we are on the “ground floor”. Actually I am hoping a reader will answer this question. Possibly the next level is a streamlining of the general approach, and a simplification. The work of Larry Nims in ‘coding” the whole treatment approach to a cue word is enticing. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to get some permanent positive change to those parts of our belief systems that harbour our negative self-image like old concrete? Or even to stop any pernicious mental activity altogether? Possibly the other parts of the human system like the chakras and self-awareness are more important than we know.
Where will these changes be coming from, I hear you ask?
As they say in Thailand: “Up to you!”