What to do if a memory shows up before you were done with the previous one

Increasing your effectiveness with EFT, part 24.

In today’s article I want to talk about a question that I notice comes up all the time in the different EFT trainings I’ve attended: “What happens if we are working on a specific event and another one shows up before we have released all the unpleasant emotional intensity connected to the first one?”. “Should we continue working on the specific event we were working on, or should we start tapping on the one that showed up?”. 

There are mainly two options and both can be ok. But before describing them, let’s come up with an example. Let’s say you are working with a client on her fear of public speaking, and you are tapping on a recent memory where she had to give a presentation at work, but it was a disaster because she was so nervous. You start tapping on the embarrassment she feels right now when she thinks about it, and after that round she says: “Actually, now I’m thinking about this other memory from 5 years ago when I was asked to make a toast at my best friend’s wedding and I refused because I was too afraid”. 

So let’s discuss the two options. The first option is to make a note of the new event that showed up and ask your client to see if she can put it aside so that you can go back to working on the recent memory of the failed presentation at work, until it doesn’t have any unpleasant emotional intensity left.

The advantage of this approach is that it’s more systematic, in the sense that you don’t move on to a different aspect/event until the previous one is fully resolved. It also makes it easier to track what was worked on and what hasn’t been worked on yet. There’s a sense of “There might be many aspects and/or events to be worked on, but at least what we’ve worked on so far has been fully resolved”. It gives you a sense of walking on solid ground.

But here’s the disadvantage to this approach: Sometimes it can be very hard for the client to ignore or put aside the new memory that showed up (being asked to make a toast at her best friend’s wedding) and go back to focusing on the previous one (the recent failed presentation at work). 

I know that, personally, when I’m the client, I wish my mind would work in that systematic way of “let’s not move on to the next aspect before the previous one is fully resolved” but, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work that way. Once something else shows up for me, it feels very hard to put it aside and go back to what I was working on before. It’s like the new aspect/event that showed up feels more current and relevant for me right now. Trying to go back to the previous one feels like I wouldn’t be meeting my subconscious mind where it is.

Which is why I believe that sometimes the path of least resistance is option number 2. This option basically involves putting aside the memory you were working on (the recent failed presentation at work), and instead asking your client if she’d like to work on this other memory that just showed up (the time when she was asked to make a toast at her best friend’s wedding). 

In that sense, you can treat each new thought/memory/aspect that shows up during or after a tapping round as the next layer of the onion. Even if the previous one you were tapping on isn’t fully resolved yet. When you follow and tap on the different aspects and/or events as they come up it’s called “daisy chaining”. 

Sometimes what happens is that eventually (near the end of the session) one of the aspects that showed up last no longer has any emotional intensity, and nothing else seems to be coming up. And then when you backtrack to check the previous aspects that came up, they also don’t have any intensity. This is thanks to the “Generalization Effect”. So it’s like by tapping on those next layers of the onion, you were still continuing to work indirectly on the previous ones.

Now, the disadvantage of this approach is that it’s not as organized, systematic and structured as option 1. Sometimes it can feel like you are tapping on many things without fully resolving any one of them. 

However, the advantage is that from a client’s perspective it can feel like less of a struggle (it can be hard to try to stay focused on something that their mind is no longer focused on, and trying not to think of the new aspect that is kind of calling for their attention). So I think that the advantage of option 2 (“daisy chaining”) is that it’s more tailored to how the mind works (or, at least, to how the mind of some people, myself included, works).

When we do EFT, we are tapping, among other things, into our subconscious mind and right brain hemisphere. Both of them tend to work in a somewhat less structured, systematic and organized way than the left brain does. The connections the subconscious mind makes don’t always appear to make sense at first glance, however, if it’s presenting us with something, there’s a reason for that, and usually the connection reveals itself eventually. As we tap on the different layers of the onion we get closer and closer to the most relevant aspects of the issue. And sometimes, it’s only then that the previous “outer” layers of the onion can be fully cleared.

So option number 2 requires us to trust the process. But, again, each approach (option 1 and option 2) has advantages and disadvantages and both can work well. I tend to prefer the second one, but it’s a matter of personal preference. 

A caveat worth mentioning is that if it’s a first session, and the event that’s popping in is a very traumatic event, I might suggest to the client that we don’t work on it that day. Instead, we can tap a few rounds to help the client regulate and/or orient to the here and now and then place the event in a safe container or location of their imagination, to be left there until we revisit it again in the future. I believe that in this case by continuing to work on the more recent and “safer” event, we might still be working indirectly on some of the aspects of the traumatic event we placed in the container. Because if that traumatic event came up, there’s a reason for that: there are probably some shared neural pathways between the two events.

Something worth adding is that these two approaches can be combined in varying degrees. For example, maybe you are tapping by yourself (doing self-tapping) and you start working on a specific event, and then another one shows up for you before you were done with the previous one. You can go ahead and follow that “daisy chain” (the new event that came up), and then when that’s a bit calmer, you can go back to the previous event and continue working on it.

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: What do you tend to do when another event or aspect shows up before you were done working with the previous one? Do you have any questions or comments about the tips I shared? I’d love to know in the comments below. 

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