A gentle way to talk about “secondary gains” in EFT

Increasing your effectiveness with EFT, part 62.

There’s a term that is used both in EFT as well as in some psychotherapy models (it first came about in Freudian psychoanalysis) called “secondary gains”. It basically means a subconscious reason to hold onto the problem or issue that the person is wanting to resolve, and that acts as an obstacle to its resolution.

Some people talk about it in terms of “the upside of keeping the problem” or “the downside of no longer having the problem”. 

Personally, I’m not a big fan of the term “secondary gains”. I don’t use it when I talk to clients. The reason being is that it can sometimes imply that the person doesn’t really want to get better. Some people might interpret it as judgmental or like an accusation that they are doing it on purpose.

The way that I prefer to talk about this, and that I actually think about it myself, is like this: “If there was a part of you that was afraid something bad might happen as a consequence of no longer having this problem, what might those negative consequences be? In other words, what might that part of you be trying to protect you from specifically?”.

And by the way, whatever concerns these parts of us might have, I believe they are to be heard and respected. They are not to be quickly dismissed or judged. Some of these concerns and fears might require some tapping, and other times we might have to consider creative ways to meet every part of that person’s needs (the part that wants to no longer have the problem, and the part that’s afraid something bad might happen as a result of that). 

Let’s discuss a few examples. Let’s say that there’s a part of you that is afraid that if you didn’t have back pain anymore, you would have to say yes to other people’s requests a lot more often. In other words, your back pain is your body’s way of saying no.

That’s a very valid concern. One way to tap on this would be to notice how you feel about the idea of saying no to someone else’s request, even if your body isn’t experiencing any physical pain. Do you notice any uncomfortable feelings coming up as you imagine saying no to the other person’s request without your body having to say no on your behalf? Then you can use EFT to diminish and/or release the intensity of those uncomfortable feelings.

Another example: Let’s say there’s a part of you that’s afraid that if you were to no longer be afraid of public speaking, you would become overconfident and walk into speaking engagements totally unprepared. Again, that’s a valid concern. Has that ever happened before? (Not having prepared enough for a presentation and having to deal with the consequences of that). If so, that would be a useful memory to tap on.

Also, with the example above, how do you feel about the idea of no longer being so afraid to speak in public but still investing enough time and energy to properly prepare for any speaking engagement you might have? How can you honor the concerns that this part of you has? Is there any unpleasant emotional charge imagining yourself having to prepare for your presentations? If so, that’s a “future event” you can tap on.

A third example: let’s say that there’s a part of you that’s afraid that if you didn’t have any physical pain, you would lose your disability benefits, and therefore, you would lose a very important source of income in your life. That’s a very real concern, and nothing to be ashamed of. Maybe that part of you is afraid that you’d never be able to find an alternative (and less painful) source of income. Are there any past or future events related to that belief that come to mind? If so, it can be useful to apply EFT on them.

To recap, “secondary gains” are nothing to be ashamed of. Rather than thinking of them as any kind of “gains”, I prefer to think of them as protection mechanisms: a part of you is trying to protect you from something bad that it thinks would happen if you were to no longer have the problem or symptom you are trying to resolve. The good news is that by listening to this part’s concerns, and maybe tapping on them, you can find ways to soothe them, so that you can gain more freedom with regards to how you want to live your life.

Lastly, as I usually say, if you suspect that a memory might be too emotionally intense and/or traumatic to work on your own, or you’d like help implementing these tips, feel free to enlist the aid of a certified practitioner with a mental health background, such as myself, to help you with that. The same applies if you feel like it might be too hard to keep track of all the different memories and aspects at play. Feel free to get in touch with me, even if only to ask me for some free advice or guidance on how to tap on something by yourself.

That’s it for today. I hope this article was helpful. 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 triggers.

And, I’d love to know: What are some reasons why a part of you might be afraid of no longer having a certain problem in your life? 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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