The Emotional Gripping Behind Pain
I know my mom will not mind me telling your this story.
It was new year’s day, 2010. My mother and I were sitting at the breakfast table in her home in Venezuela. She was restless, struggling with an incredibly itchy rash on her face and neck. As I ate my breakfast and read the newspaper, I was suddenly startled by an anguished, desperate squeal she let out.
“Aaaaaaaarghhhh!!!!” … I can’t really capture the degree of frustration, despair and exasperation in her tone.
When the rash first started on her eyelids, it seemed like an allergic reaction that would quickly go away. But after 2 days of anti-itch creams, it was now spreading to her neck. Her upper and lower eyelids were red and puffy.
The intense itch was driving her crazy. Nothing soothed it. Nothing made it better, and it wasn’t going away.
You might ask why she didn’t go see a doctor? In that moment we both wanted her to see a doctor. But it was January 1st in Venezuela. Nothing is open on new year’s day in Venezuela. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find a doctor in office before January 10th. And going to ER is simply out of the question, unless you have a limb dangling or you’re in the midst of a heart attack.
I had noticed her scratching and fidgeting for a while, but then when she screamed in despair, I knew that there was one thing we could do. That one thing was EFT.
EFT to the rescue…
EFT is short for Emotional Freedom Technique. It’s a quirky, weird yet powerful technique that can help with anything from fear and anxiety, to pain and physical discomfort.
I didn’t explain to my mother what we were about to do, I just told her to repeat after me. I asked how intense the itching was on a scale from 1 to 10; and she said it was 15. I started tapping with the fingers of one hand on certain acupuncture points as I told her to repeat after me, “even though I have this itch, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” We tapped for a few minutes on different points on the face and torso, saying at every point, “this itch”.
If you’ve never seen, heard or experienced EFT, this surely makes no sense to you. But after about 3-4 minutes of doing this, I asked my mother again, on a scale of 1-10, how intense is the itch now? She said, it’s an 8. It was a little less intense. She was noticeably calmer.
Then the most transformative part came next. I asked her, what are you feeling now? And she said, I’m just feeling hopeless that it will ever get better.
So I asked her to tap with me and say, “even though I feel hopeless that this will ever get better, I deeply and completely love and accept myself”. And we tapped on all of the points we tapped on before, this time repeating, “this hopelessness” at each point.
After a few minutes of that, I paused and asked her, “how intense is the itch now?” and her response was about a 4. She was a lot more serene.
We did a few more minutes of tapping and by the end, the intensity of the itch had gone down to a 2. She went to bed and took a nap and slowly started to recover.
The rash didn’t magically disappear from her face, but within 10 minutes she had gone from cries of despair to feeling absolutely calm. The sensation of itching DID in fact almost disappear. It went from a 15 down to a 2 in a matter of minutes. Over the next few days she was able to find something that did help the rash go away.
Under every experience of physical discomfort (itch or pain or whatever) there is an emotion. Usually that emotion is fear.
Especially when we experience significant pain, there’s what I call ’emotional gripping’ around the pain. The fear, anxiety or despair we feel does a number on keeping the pain in place and makes it worse. We want it to go away; we are irritated with the pain, or maybe feel victimized by the pain.
When we do EFT on physical pain or physical discomfort, the emotional gripping eases and as a result, the physical discomfort and the physical pain ease incredibly.
When I wrote about pain on the blog a couple of weeks ago, a former client wrote me and said, “I was surprised you didn’t mention EFT, you’re so gifted at that…” In our work together, we had done quite a bit of EFT for a variety of things, and she made me realize that on this blog and my newsletters, I often forget to mention the importance of observing, acknowledging and processing the emotions connected to our health challenges.
Any emotion you feel IS a physical experience and it will affect your physiology.
Any emotion you feel is experienced in your body as a combination of neurotransmitters working their way through your nervous system and various cells in your body. Those chemical reactions have a very real effect in your body.
When you use EFT to calm the nervous system and shut down the emotional freight-train that your emotions can be, the physical response changes.
Curious how to use EFT for pain?
I’ve put together three videos to walk you through it. I won’t explain how EFT works or how it works, it would be too long. Let’s just play “monkey see, monkey do”. Just repeat everything I do and say, and see for yourself what your experience might be. Post your comments here. I’d love to hear from you!
Clearly, in the following videos I’m showing you the general process. This will work for you if you’re experiencing some pain or discomfort right now. For those of you experiencing more complex things, we would need to be working one-on-one so I can investigate what is the whole picture that’s going on for you and we can dive in that way.
Give it a try anyway! And let me know.
- Assess yourself: Feel your pain or discomfort right now and assess it on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the most intense it can be and 1 is almost non-existent. Write the number down or make note of it.
- Do the setup statement: in the video we’ll do this together. The setup goes like this, “even though I have this pain, I love and accept myself”
- Do “the sequence”: follow along tapping on all of the points I’ll show you in the video while repeating “this pain”.
- Take a deep breath
- Assess yourself again. Rate your pain or discomfort on a scale of 1-10 and see how it feels after EFT.
Learn the basic sequence for pain:
Getting more specific with your pain and learning some variations:
Tapping on the emotions associated with the pain: