What is EFT and how does it work? Part 2

This is the continuation/recap of Part 1, which you can access here: https://brunosade.com/2022/05/19/what-is-eft-and-how-does-it-work-part-1/

  • We have a “thinking brain” and a “survival brain”.

  • If our “survival brain” perceives in any way that a situation isn’t safe (through “neuroception”), it’s going to make changes in our physiology to respond to that perceived threat.

  • These “survival mode” reactions, such as fight or flight or freeze, are designed to help keep us safe.

  • “Fight” might manifest as anger, rage, aggression, etcetera. It can be useful sometimes when setting boundaries, but can also make us say and do things we later regret.

  • “Flight” might manifest as worry, anxiety, fear, racing thoughts, avoidance behaviors, etcetera. It can be useful sometimes if we need to get away from harm’s way, but can also create problems, such as making us have a panic attack if taken to the extreme.

  • “Freeze” or “hypoarousal” can be like feeling numb, dissociating, feeling ashamed, depressed, etcetera. It can be useful when having to deal momentarily with something that feels too overwhelming or painful, but can create problems when not discharged once we are safe again. It can also make us feel helpless and hopeless and like “what is the point?”.

  • There’s nothing wrong with having these “survival mode” reactions when facing a real threat, but ideally, they should be short-lived and then we should fully return to a calm relaxed state. But trauma limits our ability to do that.

  • And sometimes these survival mode reactions don’t seem to be very helpful or adaptive to our current circumstances. And they tend to not feel very good. They make us feel, think and act in ways that maybe we don’t like very much.

  • The thing is, because our whole body and nervous system is now in that “dysregulated” survival mode state, we can’t “think our way out of it” with our “thinking brain” alone. Willpower, affirmations, positive thinking, reframing, might help us “cope” with those reactions to some degree (as long as they aren’t very intense), but they can’t really help us resolve them or release them.

  • When we feel “triggered” it’s because our nervous system went into survival mode. And this all happens below the level of our conscious awareness, it’s not something we consciously choose.

  • A “trigger” is a stimulus, such as something someone else says or does, that subconsciously activates an unpleasant or traumatic memory in your brain, and now the “survival brain” doesn’t feel safe anymore and therefore it generates an unwanted emotional or physiological reaction that you can’t fully control.

  • The intense physical sensations we might feel in response to those triggers or memories can also contribute to our nervous system not feeling safe.

  • With EFT tapping we can deactivate those triggers by sending calming signals to our “survival brain” (of which the amygdala is a part of) so that it can unlearn those unhelpful reactions, which allows us to then respond from a more balanced, calm and relaxed way.

  • And that is because we can now respond to that trigger, that thought or that memory, without any of that “survival mode” physiology that made it so difficult to address with our “thinking brain” alone. The tapping also calms down those intense and unpleasant physical sensations, allowing our nervous system to no longer feel threatened by those memories or triggers.

  • Our “thinking brain” and “survival brain” can then stop being at odds with each other. And we can feel at home in our bodies because our nervous system feels safe.

  • This makes it much easier to think, feel and act in the way that we want.

  • The key is to apply EFT as gently and thoroughly as possible to clear as many specific triggers as possible (one by one), so that our “window of tolerance” can widen and we can enjoy being in that regulated “social engagement” state more often.

  • This allows us to experience more and more “emotional freedom” as, eventually, those unpleasant emotional reactions will be less and less frequent, less intense and won’t last as long when they show up.

  • And with less stress in our system, our body is better equipped to rest, heal and regenerate from injuries or illnesses. 

That’s it for today. I hope this article was helpful to you. My name is Bruno Sade, and I’m a certified EFT practitioner with a mental health background as a clinical psychologist licensed in Argentina. I use EFT as a tool to help people (who speak English or Spanish) change their negative emotional reactions.

And, I’d love to know: does this explanation/perspective make sense to you? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below.

P.S.: You can find out more about some of the sources of inspiration for this article here:

  • Acupoint stimulation in treating psychological disorders: Evidence of efficacy. By David Feinstein, Ph.D. https://www.lifescriptcounseling.com/research/acupoint_stimulation_research_review.pdf

  • How Energy Psychology Changes Deep Emotional Learnings. By David Feinstein, Ph.D. https://evidencebasedeft.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/How-EP-Changes-Deep-Emot-Learnings-Feinstein-2015.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0Szy1p86yH0uTU6WWfX2oafbGF3E1JlgarqGs7y3x-FW5vNI5pyNRZwSw

What is EFT and how does it work? Part 1: https://brunosade.com/2022/05/19/what-is-eft-and-how-does-it-work-part-1/