How can we tell if a client’s neural pathways are activated during a tapping round?

Increasing your effectiveness with EFT, part 22.

As I’ve mentioned before in Part 3 of this series and in my latest video about The Optimal Activation Zone, for EFT to work at its best we need to be “tuned in” while we tap. In other words, we need to bring the issue to our conscious awareness and connect to how it makes us feel in our bodies. This is because, when we are able to do that, we are activating the neural pathways and energy pathways connected to the issue, that the tapping then uses to do its job.

A colleague recently asked me: “What are some ways that we might know that a client’s neural pathways are being activated during a tapping round?”. So today’s post is going to be about that.

To answer this question, I revisited a book I read last year called “Simplified EFT”, by Valerie Lis. The author says that tapping doesn’t work on thoughts or memories, but on our physiological response to them. In other words, it works on our emotional reactions (which we tend to feel somewhere in our bodies).

Therefore, the first way to notice if a client’s neural pathways are being activated is when we ask them, for example, when thinking about a certain memory or future event that came up during the session: 

“What feeling, emotion or sensation do you notice coming up for you now when you think about that? And do you feel that anywhere in your body?”, and they respond that right now they are feeling… (fill in the blanks with whatever feeling, emotion or sensation they mention). Even if they don’t know how to describe it, it probably still means that those pathways are being activated. Especially if they are feeling it somewhere in their bodies.

Another way is when the person becomes tearful, swears or uses “bad language”. This kind of spontaneous expression of emotion tends to also indicate that those pathways are being activated.

Those above would be signs to notice before the tapping round begins. Let’s look now at some signs during the actual tapping round:

  • Again, if someone becomes tearful.
  • When a new aspect/statement emerges while tapping on any of the points. For example, the client is saying the setup statement, and suddenly adds: “And what bothers me the most is that she didn’t even apologize!”. 
  • When someone yawns, laughs, belchs, etcetera. These tend to be signs of release and for there to be some release, it means that those neural pathways were probably activated in the first place. For me as a client, for example, yawning tends to be the telltale sign of release.

And what are some ways that we can tell after the tapping round is over that the client’s neural pathways were indeed activated? I think any one of the following:

  • The client mentions that the emotional intensity of whatever aspect you were tapping on has now decreased.
  • There’s a shift in aspects (they are now focusing on something else) or perception (they are now perceiving the situation/issue/event in a different way). Anything that signals “oh here’s the next layer of the onion”. For example, when you ask them: “what is most noticeable about this memory now?”, and they respond with something like: “Now it’s not so much his tone of voice that bothers me, but the look he had on his face when he said that to me”.
  • There’s a “cognitive shift”. In other words, they are now perceiving the situation in a more empowering way, such as “I know that whatever happens I’ll be ok”, or “I realize that we were all doing the best we could”.

Going back to that book I mentioned above, something else that’s interesting is that, according to the author, there are broadly two main categories of clients, in terms of how they process emotions: direct processors and indirect processors.

Direct processors are people that, when they get emotional, they tend to detect responses in their bodies.

Whereas indirect processors tend to be a bit more “stuck in their head bubbles” and when they get emotional, they have higher thresholds. They must go over or around these thresholds before they perceive responses in their bodies.

She says that in general as an EFT practitioner you’ll find direct processors to be easier to work with than indirect processors. I myself as a client can relate more to being an indirect processor.

So if we translate these terms into the language I used on the “Optimal Activation Zone” video, we could say that “direct processors” tend to find it easier to activate those pathways, and usually the “temperature of the soup” is warm enough or even hot.

Whereas indirect processors tend to find it a bit more difficult to activate those pathways (there are ways we can help them with that), and the challenge with them is “how to prevent the temperature of the soup from being too cold” when they tap.

And this might vary according to each person. For example, as an indirect processor client (which I believe I am), being asked for SUDs numbers or being asked to describe in detail physical sensations in my body makes me go into my “head bubble” and “tunes me out” of what I’m actually feeling.

Some people find it easier to keep those pathways activated while tapping if they use the same reminder phrase throughout each round (e.g “this anger in my stomach”, or the golden nugget statement, such as “she told me I was such a jerk”). Whereas others prefer for the practitioner to change the statements on each point (e.g. alternating back and forth between “this anger in my stomach” and “she said I’m such a jerk”). 

Regardless of what the person is saying out loud while they tap, what I think matters most is what they are actually focusing on inside. In order to keep those neural pathways activated while tapping, some people might find it easier to keep their attention on a certain mental image, or a certain statement or phrase, or what they are feeling in their bodies. Or a combination of any of the above. It’s about finding what works best for each person.

So, to recap, for EFT to produce shifts, the client’s neural pathways connected to the issue they are working on have to be activated (otherwise the temperature is “too cold” and nothing much happens). What I mentioned above are different ways we can tell whether those pathways are being activated or not.

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: Do you agree with the idea that for EFT to work best those neural pathways have to be activated? What are some of the signs you watch to determine if they are being activated? Do you have any questions or comments about the tips I shared? I’d love to know in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “How can we tell if a client’s neural pathways are activated during a tapping round?”

  1. I’m wondering how does this play in with psychological reversals or secondary gains or how do you determine the difference between an “indirect processor” and PR or SC?

    1. That’s a great question, Alan. Personally, I don’t resonate very much with the idea of “psychological reversal”. I prefer to think more in terms of “what other aspects are yet to be uncovered?” or “How can we get even more specific?”. Some of those aspects that could yet be uncovered are, as you said, “secondary gains”, which I like to think of in terms of “a part of me that is worried something bad will happen as a result of no longer having this problem”. So how can we make a future scenario imagined event out of that bad thing that could happen as a result of no longer having the problem?

      With regards to how to distinguish an “indirect processor” and someone with “secondary gains”, I haven’t thought about that question before, but what comes to mind right now is that “indirect processor” if someone who has some difficulty connecting and being aware of their emotions and where they feel them in their bodies. Whereas “secondary gains” sometimes show up after several sessions when progress sudenly stops. Does that make sense?

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