Table Of Contents:
A Brief History Of Tapping:
Like many healing techniques, tapping has evolved over the years from ancient wisdom, lucky accidents, and case after case of miraculous recoveries when traditional methods failed. Handfuls of tapping techniques exist, with the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) style of meridian tapping likely the most popular & utilized in therapeutic contexts.
While tapping might seem woo-woo, weird, and worthy of skepticism, it turns out to be the missing link to the difficult cases that feel they’ve tried everything to heal their chronic symptoms with little or no success. When paired with a bioenergetic diet, tapping seems to move the needle when emotional issues and trauma might be the final root triggering a physical issue.
The technique traces back to traditional chinese medicine (TCM), with evidence of acupuncture needles and awareness of meridians dating to 100 BC, with some archaeological evidence of stone needles dating back as early as 6000 BC(1).
TCM observed pictures of disease and skilfully mapped out meridians and corresponding pressure points throughout the body. Chinese doctors noticed disruptions in meridian pathways (disruptions in the flow of “chi”) associated with specific symptom presentations. The basis of understanding blockages stems from the astute observations that disease can proliferate in the body due to stuck chi, leading to stuck emotions & pathological states, creating a bi-directional; flow of disturbance.
Anxiety corresponding with delayed gut motility and constipation & gut issues causing mental side effects is a simple example of how emotions can influence stagnation, and how that stagnation then feeds into the emotion.
As the use of chinese medicine blossomed in the west, innovation expanded upon TCM’s ancient findings.
Things got exciting in the 1960’s when George Goodheart, a chiropractor, started diving deeper into traditional chinese medicine meridians, noticing how palpating certain pain points correlated with diseases in the body. He also noticed that the patient’s emotional state profoundly impacted the state of their muscle function, later evolving into muscle testing & applied kinesiology techniques.
John Diamond, a psychiatrist, and Roger Callahan, a cognitive behavioral psychologist, took Goodhearts work a step further. Over the years, practitioners found that even just tapping on the points--without the need for needles-- could profoundly shift someone’s emotional state, symptoms, and energy. This culminated in excitement around acupressure-based therapies that the patient could now do on their own without the use of needles.
Practitioners realized that stimulating certain meridians with affirmations could help relieve clients emotional distress around an issue. Even more profound: Callahan realized that tapping certain points while exploring phobias and trauma-based responses could “cure” the issue, made famous when a client cured her water phobia while simply tapping the pressure points under the eyes while merely acknowledging her phobia. These bizarre techniques continued to attract more interest.
While many other noteworthy influencers expanded upon the concept of tapping to heal, Gary Craig is worth mentioning, as he developed The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) in the 90’s: now a very popular, simplified style of meridian tapping.
Similar to chinese medicine, he firmly believed that the cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body's energy system: free the blockage and the emotion is also released, working bi-directionally.
When certain stressors and traumas are not properly released, physical symptoms often result, heightening in severity with time. He found that tapping the meridians in specific sequences while stating acknowledgements of the discomfort, then choosing a more empowered or shifted perspective, it finally allowed the patient to release the weight fueling the resistance to healing. Gary heavily emphasized that there can be many aspects to an issue, introducing reframes, asking questions, and allowing the person to slowly dissolve the onion-like layers of their trauma and triggers.
Gary’s work heavily influences my own style of tapping. The EFT technique is the specific tapping technique I was first exposed to and now base my practice off of its core principles combining elements of exposure, cognitive therapy, somatic experiencing, and stimulation of acupressure points on the face and body to release the traumatic thought loops a person might be stuck in.
Learn More: Psychosomaticism: The Mind and Body Connection
The Benefits Of Tapping:
The benefits of tapping are sometimes felt immediately after a sequence, with rippling effects throughout the rest of the day. With practice, clients notice dramatic shifts in thinking even months and years later when a limiting belief or fear is finally resolved. What originally felt stuck suddenly becomes fluid and readily changed.
Oftentimes, people notice novel thought patterns and less emotional reactivity to triggers that were intensely overwhelming in the past. Traumas--both big and small--seem to finally lessen their hold on the present moment, opening up space for new habits, a felt sense of safety, and greater ease relaxing into life as it unfolds.
When asking clients what they notice after tapping, they’ve mentioned how helpful it is to “rewire” limiting beliefs and intentionally re-condition empowered ones. They notice a greater ability to trust themselves and their inner wisdom, let go of fears of judgement, and more agility offering themselves kindness, compassion, and grace.
Certain problems dissolve after just one round of tapping, which continues to amaze & delight me when I witness a client’s breakthrough.
Oftentimes, trauma, illness, & chronic stress rewires the brain to scan for danger. The brain becomes skilled at imagining vivid, worst-case scenarios, leaning towards rigid thinking, over-seriousness, and a lack of spontaneity or ability to play. Tapping can start to interrupt these patterns. It offers new perspectives while lowering the chronic stress cascade, which allows the client to start to imagine a future no longer dictated by cortisol or fearful rumination.
Positive, hopeful, and creative thought patterns that might be underdeveloped in individuals dealing with chronic stress patterning are finally able to build momentum when an experience of parasympathetic, safety interrupts the outdated & limiting belief. As clients learn to relate to themselves and the world around them differently, they learn they can wisely respond to their stressors, versus continuing to react out of habitual stress & trauma patterns.
How To Tap:
At a high level, tapping involves applying pressure with the pointer and middle finger to the 9 meridian points while repeating specific phrases related to acknowledging the stressor, honoring & accepting the distress it has caused, and then finally choosing a more empowered interpretation of the situation. Normally, a practitioner will guide a client through a sequence depending on the stressor or trigger that is needing some tending.
By first acknowledging the triggers, stressful thoughts, and memories associated with the traumatic event or experiences, the client’s attention is gently guided to a new perspective, offering the brain & body a new possibility to what it feels like to shift.
For example, while dealing with the depression, hopelessness, & fear that often comes up with managing chronic illness, a round of tapping might help the client acknowledge how intense their journey has been AND invite in the idea that healing is possible, that life is worth living. Furthermore, they might shift their focus to the silver linings of being “ill” as they’re suddenly able to value what is truly important, how short life is, how precious their health is, etc. The healing seems to happen in the “AND.” This might be true, AND there might also be a new possibility to imagine, a new story that's a bit more hopeful to build momentum and neural pathways around.
Studies show that the fear center of the brain (the amygdala), starts to calm, crediting the synergy of the actual tapping with the phrases stated out loud.
Clients note significant improvement in ratings of pain, ptsd, cravings, depression, anxiety, & happiness. Brain scans show marked changes favoring relaxation and physiological measurements show significant improvements in cortisol, inflammation, immune reactivity, blood pressure, and heart rate variability after just several rounds of EFT/tapping. Not surprisingly, individuals show significant improvements in overall joy & well-being (PMID: 30777453, 22986277).
By addressing and acknowledging the root cause of distress, the body can start to feel safe and become accustomed to parasympathetic states of being that are often blocked by chronic states of high cortisol and PTSD-like reactions.
Beyond just 1:1 tapping with a practitioner, the therapeutic potential of group healing reflects in the observation that an audience tapping along with a practitioner who’s working with an individual usually notice that their symptoms improve too… even if their “stressor” is different from the targeted issue. Yet again, more anecdotal evidence that healing happens more effectively with support, connection, and a sense of belonging.
Who Can Use Tapping?:
Tapping can be used by anyone-- virtually anywhere--as an effective mind-body tool to self-soothe and gently, kindly, release tension from the body. I’ve even used tapping in an airplane bathroom and immediately felt relief, whereas some of my clients have done a session in the middle of a sleepless night, or while stuck in traffic as a way to mentally prepare for a large presentation at work.
The technique seems to have a positive cumulative effect and even offers an “afterglow” when effectively targeting the underlying issue.
To personalize your needs, get clear on what is causing you pain, learning to accept & acknowledge how disruptive it's been, and finally shifting your attention to the positive underlying emotion or how you’d like to relate to the issue at hand.
Try it for yourself to see.
It might just be another useful tool for lightening the stress load and maybe even finding some enjoyment & delight in the midst of a chaotic life.
About the Author:
Theresa Piela is the founder of Living Roots Wellness. A Colon Hydrotherapist by training, she now works as an independent health researcher & brain rewiring coach. Theresa holds space for 1:1 and group coaching, emphasizing “Brain Rewiring & EFT Tapping” for those with complex histories of gut-brain-trauma disorders. She focuses on supporting the most complicated cases of “chronic illness” that may have lost hope & the ability to connect to joy as a result of their illnesses. With pro-metabolic nutrition, learning to truly embody safety at the level of the nervous system, and release inherited & stored trauma, she empowers her clients with simple tools to reclaim their elegance, confidence, and strength and to ultimately, heal themselves.