Chasing the Pain/Sensation

Increasing your effectiveness with EFT, part 8.

How to use the EFT Gentle Techniques to start taking the edge off of something that might be too intense otherwise. Today we’ll review: Chasing The Pain/Sensation.

Remember the “Goldilocks and the 3 bears” analogy that I used in Part 3 of this series? Basically, the soup can be “too hot”, “too cold” or “just right”. The same applies to whatever we make the target-focus of our tapping. “Too hot” would be when the intensity is too high and overwhelming. And “too cold” is when it doesn’t bring up any intensity whatsoever because it doesn’t activate or “light up” the energetic and neural pathways that are connected to whatever issue we want to tap on.

So what do we do when we want to tap on something that is “too hot”? Well, the same as with a bowl of soup, there are ways of approaching it so as not to get our tongue burned, such as gently blowing some air on it, or starting eating at the edges of the bowl, where the temperature tends to be a bit cooler.  

This is what the Gentle Techniques of EFT help us do: they allow us to start taking the edge off of something that might be too intense and overwhelming if we were to face it head-on, by putting some distance between us and the heat. So today we are going to talk about another one of these Gentle Techniques, known as “Chasing the Pain” or “Chasing the Sensation”.

Now, let me first mention an important caveat: even though I’m going to talk about how we can use these Gentle Techniques by ourselves, if you suspect you are dealing with a traumatic event (for example, something where your physical integrity might have been compromised), then I strongly recommend you work on this with the help of an experienced EFT practitioner. However, if the memory is quite upsetting, but not necessarily traumatic, such as an argument you had with a friend, then you might consider trying out some of these Gentle Techniques.

Ok, so what is “Chasing the Pain/Sensation”? It’s basically when you notice that the event or memory you chose to work on has a very high intensity, to the point that it’s bringing up uncomfortable sensations in your body, so you put the event aside for a while, and tap while just focusing on the unpleasant sensation, describing it in as much detail as possible. So the setup statement might be something like: “Even though I have this discomfort in my chest, it’s shaped like a ball, it’s red, it’s temperature is hot and feels very heavy, I accept myself anyway”. After each round, you tune in to the sensation again, and notice if there’s any change in how you would describe the sensation, and adjust your setup statement accordingly.

To explain this further, I’m going to contrast it with Basic EFT. But first, I’d like to clarify a few things regarding the name “Chasing the Pain/Sensation”. It’s actually originally known as “Chasing the Pain”, but pain is just one of the many uncomfortable physical sensations we could experience in connection to a memory/event (there’s also nausea, tightness, constriction, tension, etcetera), so “Chasing the Sensation” feels like a more accurate name. And why does the name include the word “Chasing”? The reason for that is that it’s common for “Shifting Aspects” to show up after each round of tapping, where maybe the sensation now appears in a different body location, or instead of it being a “dull ache” now it feels like a “tightness” or something else, and it has a different color/size/temperature/texture, etcetera. So, what you do is you chase it round after round (by adjusting your setup and reminder phrases accordingly) until its intensity level is only a 2 or below. 

Because of the mind-body connection, what tends to happen afterwards is that when you revisit the event/memory you were working on, you’ll notice it feels less intense than it would have felt if you hadn’t done all those rounds of “Chasing the Pain/Sensation” before. It’s like you were working on the event “behind the scenes”, because those physical sensations you were taping on were actually connected to specific parts/aspects of the event with an emotional intensity attached to them. 

And this connection goes both ways. Back in the early days of EFT, people noticed that sometimes after releasing all the unpleasant emotional intensity attached to an event or memory, suddenly their physical pain wasn’t there anymore (or was less intense). And, likewise, they noticed that if they were working on a very intense event, and suddenly the body started “calling for their attention” by presenting them with an intense physical sensation, if they stopped to address it by tapping on it directly, then afterwards the event/memory wouldn’t feel so intense anymore. 

That being said, to gain a better understanding, let’s contrast “Chasing the Pain/Sensation” with Basic EFT. If we think about the full name of “Basic EFT”, which is “the Basic Recipe of EFT”, we can start thinking about its ingredients, which are: a specific event (set in the past, present or future), an emotion (even if the emotion is “this ‘arghh’ feeling”) and a body location (if any). 

Sometimes in Basic EFT we might use a few words to describe how that emotion feels on that part of our body, such as: “Even though, just thinking about that argument I had with my spouse last night, I feel this anger in my belly, and it feels like a volcano ready to explode, I accept myself anyway”, but we don’t go into a lot of detail describing the sensation. The main focus of Basic EFT is the emotion (that we feel now in response to the event) that we are seeking to get unstuck and release.  

Now, in Chasing the Pain/Sensation we toss all that aside, and just use the most prominent body sensation that is being felt right now. You are not mentioning the event, any aspects within that event, or any emotions. And the only intensity you measure is the intensity of the physical sensation. So, then you ask yourself (or if you are working with a client, you ask the client) questions such as: “if it had a shape, what would it be? if it had a color, what would it be? if it had a size what would it be? if it had a weight, what would it be? if it had a temperature, what would it be? if it had a texture, what would it be? Is it moving or is it still?”, etc. 

And you include all that information in the setup statement. For example, “Even though I have this pain in my right leg, with an intensity of 6 out of 10, shaped like a spear, it’s black, it doesn’t have any temperature or any texture, and it’s not moving either, I deeply and completely accept myself”. And the reminder phrases could be something like:

Top of the head: “this pain in my right leg”

Beginning of the eyebrow: “with an intensity of 6 out of 10”

Side of the eye: “shaped like a spear”

Under the eye: “it’s black”

Below the Nose: “it doesn’t have any temperature or texture”

Chin point: “it’s not moving either”

Collarbone: This pain in my right leg”

Under the arm: “with an intensity of 6 out of 10”

After the round, you ask yourself (or the client) those same questions again, and adjust the setup and reminder phrases accordingly. Once there are no unpleasant sensations with an intensity higher than a 2, you might want to consider switching to a more in-depth processing technique, such as Basic EFT. Or, if the intensity is higher than a 2, but after several rounds, there’s no change in the intensity or in any of the qualities that describe the sensation, then you might want to switch to another Gentle Technique, such as Tearless Trauma or Sneaking Up.

Something important to mention is that, as I explained in part 4 of these series, we can work with whatever level of awareness is available to us. So, if you can’t think of any color, shape, texture, temperature, etcetera, don’t worry about it. Just focus on whatever information about the sensation is available to your conscious awareness, even if you can’t put it into words and it’s just how it feels in your body. If, on the contrary, you get too hung up on the words, then you stop activating the neural and energetic pathways that are connected to whatever issue you are working on.

Also, this technique tends to work best for people who are very kinesthetic in nature. In other words, people who tend to be somewhat connected or attuned to the feelings in their bodies.

Now, chances are you are not going to be able to fully process an event by just applying “Chasing the Pain/Sensation” alone. Eventually you might need to start focusing on the event more directly with Basic EFT or Tell the Story (if it’s a “big T” traumatic event). But with “Chasing the Pain/Sensation” you’ll be able to take the edge off enough so you can apply these other more in-depth techniques in a safe, gentle way without burning your tongue (or your client’s). 

By tapping in this way, you are diminishing those unpleasant physical sensations so that the EFT process can be as safe and gentle as possible, as opposed to having to “grit your teeth” and feel really uncomfortable. And you are honoring your body’s “call for attention” by addressing it directly.

That being said, if after many rounds of “Chasing the Pain/Sensation”, it still doesn’t feel safe to approach that memory directly, then that might be a sign that it’s best to enlist the aid of a certified practitioner to help you work on it together.

That’s it for today. I hope this post 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 emotional reactions and also to help them overcome their fear of rejection.

And, I’d love to know: have you ever used any of the Gentle Techniques? What do you think about “Chasing the Pain/Sensation”? Please share in the comments below.

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