What are “table legs” and “tabletops” in EFT?

Increasing your effectiveness with EFT, part 39.

There’s a very useful concept in EFT that helps guide our tapping which is the metaphor of the “table legs and tabletops”. Today I’ll talk about what that is.

Basically, the concept of “table legs and tabletops” is something that allows us to distinguish between a general/global issue (the “tabletop”) and the emotionally charged memories that help keep it in place (the “table legs”).

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, one of the key questions to ask ourselves when it comes to EFT is: “How can we break this issue down into its smaller parts?”. The reason why this is so is that if we just try tapping “globally”, for example saying: “Even though I have anger issues”, chances are we aren’t going to go very far. It’s like we are trying to “bite more than EFT can chew in just one bite”. Using the tabletop metaphor, we could say it’s like we are trying to collapse the table by just banging on the tabletop with our fist as opposed to cutting down its legs.

On the other hand, “table legs” are usually emotionally charged specific events. They can be memories but sometimes also “future events” that, despite not having taken place in reality, still “hold the energy” of the problem or issue

A “tabletop” can be any kind of problem or issue our clients come to us with, like the “anger issues” I mentioned above. It can also be something like “procrastination”, “being overweight”, “having difficulty making friends”, etcetera. And it can also be a limiting belief, such as “I’m not smart enough”. 

A belief is actually a generalization that helps us make sense of the world, though it can sometimes limit our potential or keep us from taking advantage of opportunities that present to us. They can even keep us from trying. Because they are a “generalization” (such as “men are all bad” or “women are all bad”, “people like me don’t ever succeed”), it makes sense to think of them as a “tabletop”.

When it comes to “belief tabletops”, one way to come up with “specific events table legs” is to ask our client: “Where did you learn that to be true?” or “How do you know this to be true?”. Another way is to try thinking about the opposite belief, and notice why that doesn’t feel true. 

For example, if the limiting belief/tabletop you are working on is “I’ll never succeed financially”, if you try stating the opposite, “I can succeed financially”, notice the thoughts that come up, such as: “Yeah, right! What about the last time I tried and failed miserably? It was horrible having to tell my spouse that we weren’t going to be able to afford a vacation that year”. That would be a specific event that’s holding the belief “I’ll never succeed financially” in place and serving as emotionally charged evidence that confirms it.

If you can help your client reduce or release the emotional charge around those specific events, they’ll lose the grip over them and therefore the limiting belief will feel less true than it was before. If you do this with enough events, eventually the belief won’t feel very true at all. 

And it’s not like you need to tap on every single event or table leg that’s supporting a “tabletop” because the “Generalization Effect” in EFT eventually kicks in and takes care of the rest. 

Another question to come up with “table legs” is: “How is this issue showing up in your life?”. Basically, any question that allows us to come up with a time and place where we can see the issue at play (even if only an aspect of it), or that allows us to come up with a “picture” or “movie”. When we find a “table leg” it means we were able to go from the “global and abstract” to the “specific, tangible and concrete”.

So, to further clarify, let’s see some examples of “tabletops”:

  • A belief, such as “I’m not intelligent”.
  • A habit we’d like to change, such as procrastination.
  • A physical symptom (or, rather, the emotional contributing factors to a physical symptom). 
  • A certain fear or phobia.

And let’s look at some examples of specific events “table legs” for the “tabletops” above:

  • “The time when I was the only kid to fail the math exam in my class” (which contributed to the belief that “I’m not intelligent”).
  • “Imagining my cousin Claudia criticizing the video I create to promote my business, she might say that I don’t know what I’m talking about”. This “future event” might be one of the reasons why I’m procrastinating on creating that video.
  • “The time when I injured my leg while dancing”. This potentially traumatic event (because of the physical harm the body had to go through) might be contributing to the pain in my leg, and is something that might be best worked on with the help of an EFT practitioner.
  • “The time when I watched that movie of an airplane crash as a kid and I was so scared”. This memory might be contributing to my fear of flying.

Each “table leg” might have several emotionally charged aspects that need to be tapped on.

For example, the memory of “the time when I was the only kid to fail the math exam in my class” might include the aspects of “the sadness I feel now when I remember the look of disappointment in my teacher’s face”, and “the embarrassment I feel now when I remember how my friend laughed at me for having failed such an easy exam”.

So, to recap, a “tabletop” is a global or general problem, issue or belief. And the “table legs” are the emotionally charged specific events you might want to tap on in order to make progress on resolving the “tabletop” issue.

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 are some of the ways you tend to come up with specific events or “table legs” to tap on? Do you have any questions or comments about what I wrote? Is there any particular topic you’d like me to write about? I’d love to know in the comments below.

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