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Articles & Ideas


How to Identify and Correct Psychological Reversals

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™.  Best wishes, Gary

This detailed article by Lindsay Kenny explores many thoughts and "how-to's" regarding the Psychological Reversal portion of EFT's Basic Recipe. She looks at our existing understanding of the process and integrates some interesting thoughts of her own.

by Lindsay Kenny, Life Coach and founder of
the National Alliance for Emotional Health

I recently re-read an old article of Gary Craig's titled When EFT appears not to work and felt compelled to expound on his excellent editorial. We have become so reliant on EFT as a highly effective healing aid, that we become perplexed if EFT occasionally appears not to be working its magic. When this happens we need to remember that EFT is not the problem, but is rather the bridge to a positive outcome lying on the far side of an obstacle.

With a grasp of the problem, the knowledge of how to solve it, and the persistence to get there, a skilled practitioner can generally circumvent the blockage and reach the desired goal. Hopefully this article will give you some insights and tools to increase your successes with this remarkable tool.

Like Gary, I believe that the primary reason EFT appears not to be working resides in the skill of the practitioner, or lack thereof, rather than any shortcoming of EFT. Not being specific, not resolving the core issue, ignoring the original emotional cause of the problem, are just some of the reasons a practitioner might fail at resolving a case (all of which are detailed in Gary's aforementioned article). Gary has always emphasized that EFT is as much an art as a science, and I whole-heartedly agree.

I believe that the most overlooked obstruction to successful EFT treatments is what many call Psychological Reversals or Polarity Reversals (PR). And I also believe there's much more to Reversals than we originally thought.

Gary has always said that "We're on the ground floor of a healing high-rise," and I've gone back to the ground level to examine the foundational structure. Because, as long as there is an impediment to EFT as significant as Reversals, the unaware practitioner will be stuck in the basement punching a button to an elevator that just isn't coming.

For me, when it appears that EFT is not working, a primary key to rapid and effective treatment lies in identifying the different types of Reversals and how to deal with them.

This is, in my opinion, as important as "being specific," and "being persistent." My experience is that with about 80% of my clients and workshop participants, Reversals are not an issue. For the 20% who have a Reversal, however, its discovery and elimination is paramount to a successful resolution of their issues. The bad news, then, is if Reversals are unrecognized and untreated they can stop EFT in its tracks. The good news is, that once discovered, the solutions for correcting Reversals and therefore resolving the issue, are fairly simple and highly effective.

I break Reversals down into two basic types, each with several sub-categories.


The first type of Psychological Reversal is what I consider General Polarity Reversal, or GPR. If a person has GPR rubbing the "sore spot" or karate chop (KC) point during the setup will usually (but not always) take care of it, allowing EFT to work.

GPR can be caused from several factors:

( Negativity - chronic negative thoughts

( Addictions - addictive personalities or addictive substances in the body (including alcohol, nicotine and sometimes prescription medications)

( Dehydration - since the body's electrical system is conducted by water, the lack of water will cause the energy system to be sluggish or severely repressed

( Toxin or substance sensitivity - this could be something the subject just ate, clothing, carpeting, metal in or on the body; such as pins, fillings, metal plates, or even jewelry, a watch or cell phone

Performing the standard set-up procedure (on the sore spot or karate chop point) will usually fix negativity or unknown GPRs. Addictions, dehydration and toxin GPRs, however, are seldom eliminated by doing the set up statement. A good clue to whether or not someone has GPR is if their SUDs (subjective unit of distress, scale of 1 to 10) remains the same, then they may very well be reversed. You'll learn how to remedy reversals throughout this article.

General Polarity Reversal simply means that the electricity or energy in the body is "agitated", or "going in the wrong direction". Therefore the polarity is reversed. Think of the experiment in grade school where you used a magnet to attract tiny particles of metal on a piece of paper. The positive end of the magnet pulled the particles toward it, aligning them up neatly, all going the same direction. The negative end of the magnet, when directed toward the metal shavings, caused the particles to repel from the magnet, scattering and separating them into going in all different directions. In a sense, that's what happens to our body's energy when a negative force, like those listed above, is introduced into the system.

Another way to look at our body's energy field or polarity is to compare it to batteries in a tape recorder, flashlight or a battery-operated toy. The batteries that run the gadget must be installed with the positive and negative polarity seated in the right direction. If not, the appliance simply won't work. Similarly, our body's "batteries" need to be positioned correctly for us to function properly. I'm neither a scientist, physicist, nor energy specialist, so forgive my amateur analogies here. But this is simply a way to visualize a tangible connection or bridge to our mysterious energy system.

On those days when you just feel "off," when you're stumbling over words, dropping things, bumping into walls, or slipping off the curb, your polarity may be out of whack (or reversed). One of the ways to test our GPR is with muscle testing.

* If you are not familiar with muscle testing please read the explanation and try the experiments at the end of this article)


The second type of Reversal is what I call SBS or Secondary Benefit Syndrome. This type of reversal occurs when the subconscious mind perceives that it is better or safer to keep an issue like negative emotions, chronic pain, extra weight, or a bad habit, than to eliminate it.

Since this is seldom a conscious choice, most people will initially disagree with you if you tell them that they actually want to keep their problem or issue. Of course they don't consciously want to stay emotionally or physically in pain. But the subconscious is a powerful entity, usually exhibiting dominance over our conscious desires.

An example that's easy for most people to understand is the Secondary Benefit Syndrome for people with weight issues. Even though consciously someone may desperately want to lose that extra 50 pounds, their subconscious may be thinking otherwise:

"What if I lose the weight and.....":

7 I still don't get that promotion I want

7 I still don't have many friends

7 I'm still not pretty

7 I'll so pretty that I might get raped again

7 I'll feel deprived of all the foods I love

7 I still don't find the relationship I yearn for

7 my chubby friends start resenting me

7 my clothes won't fit and I can't afford a new wardrobe

7 my skin gets all saggy

7 I'll get too much attention

7 my life still sucks

For someone who has carried around extra weight, trauma, chronic pain, or a phobia for years it becomes a part of his or her personality or even his or her identity. To lose the problem could, to their non-rational subconscious mind, be very threatening.

For instance "If I get over this issue...":

- I won't have an excuse anymore for my life not working

- I may not know who I am anymore

- I won't know how to act as a functional, non-victim person

- I won't get the attention (or sympathy) I get now


A very public example of this type of SBS, in my opinion, is Muhammad Ali, who has suffered with Parkinson's disease for many years. Several times he has been offered a simple operation known to eliminate the tremors he lives with constantly. Yet he continues to deny the operation: not because he's afraid of it, but perhaps because his Parkinson's serves him at many levels. As a champion boxer Ali was considered one of the greatest boxers of all time. He was idolized by millions of people around the world. However, he was considered by many others, to be a rude, narcissistic, cocky, and arrogant athlete. He was also a divisive figure who was often ridiculed for his flamboyant behavior and controversial personality.

As a sympathized Parkinson's patient, however, Ali is revered as a compassionate, generous humanitarian. He is now a much respected and loved by virtually everyone and is one of most highly sought after speakers of our time. He now is perhaps even more popular, and certainly more appreciated than he was as an able-bodied boxer. To his subconscious, and perhaps even to his conscious mind, he is better off with Parkinson's than without it.


Another example of SBS was "Emma", a retired, 70 year-old physician who had been confined to a wheel chair for several years due to a car accident. During a break in my workshop I caught Emma in the empty room standing by the coffee maker. She was standing on her on two feet and moving around fairly easily. "Oh my" I said, "I didn't know you could walk"!

"Most people don't", she replied, startled. "I just use the wheel chair in public." What an odd thing to do, I thought. "Tell me why that is, Emma" I said. "If you can walk, why wouldn't you choose to do that all the time?"

"Well, I hadn't really thought about it," she replied, "but I guess I get more attention in the wheel chair. I can show up late for appointments or leave early without being hassled. People open doors for me and everyone is so much nicer. I get a lot of other privileges too, including preferential seating at plays, dinners and other events." (Most people don't "get it" quite this easily)

"So if EFT could help get you get over your pain and up and out of that wheelchair for good would you want that?" I asked.

"No, I guess not," she said, kind of sadly. "I've been to countless doctors and nothing has worked. Maybe that's why when I did started feeling better, I stopped going to physical therapy and doing other treatments. I suppose I must like being an invalid. Do you think that's weird?"

I didn't want to tell her what I was thinking. She was quite bright and amazingly perceptive of her own dilemma, when confronted with it, so I did tell her this: that perhaps after being admired and respected as a female doctor for most of her life (during a time when that was quite unusual), she felt a certain emptiness when she retired and moved to another state. The accident that caused her to be wheelchair-bound gave her back some of the attention she had lost as a doctor. Technically, she was reversed on getting better, but now her Secondary Benefit Syndrome had become a conscious choice. Perhaps someday she'll decide that being able-bodied and pain free is better.

If someone really doesn't want to change, I don't feel it's ethically proper for me to make them wrong about that. I may discuss it with them and offer my opinions and their options, but the subconscious mind has a profound affect on our decisions and actions. Most likely my logic, or anyone else's, will not persuade a "professional victim" to change their identity.


Remember that SBS is seldom a conscious issue. Few people who suffer from pain, trauma, phobias, and countless other problems would deliberately choose to remain in pain, unhappy or traumatized. But their subconscious can throw up a roadblock that's a powerful impediment toward eliminating the issue. Once SBS is discovered, however, it is fairly easy to overcome.

I'd like to tell you about "Ted", a 53 year-old client I dealt with a couple of years ago. Ted was a walking example of multiple issues and numerous reversals and the catalyst for my deeper probing into Reversals. It might help if I use Ted to demonstrate the different types of Reversals so you can learn as we unfold his story.

Ted came to me for his depression, but said that he also experienced headaches, anger, chronic pain, muddled thinking, negativity, and what he called "chronic bad luck". Additionally, he had been physical and emotionally abused as a child. His problems, however, only started about 20 years ago.

My first question was, "What happened 20 years ago when your issues began?" He proceeded to tell me about a serious car accident he was involved in that resulted in a broken hip and collarbone, extensive burns, and numerous other injuries. He was hospitalized for three months before enduring an additional eight months of rehabilitation, chronic pain, depression, and extensive physical therapy. Clearly this was a traumatic experience and painful memory for Ted.

Things got even worse, however, when on the way back from his final physical therapy treatment he was broad-sided in an intersection by a drunk driver! Talk about bad "luck!" Not only was Ted seriously injured again, but also the same hip he had been working on for almost a year was crushed - and so was he, emotionally.


We started working on the trauma from both accidents. In remembering the first accident his intensity was at a 10. I like to consider myself a skillful practitioner, so I was beginning to feel dejected when we just couldn't budge his number down at all. He had numerous aspects to several issues. We were being specific about his issues and tried several approaches, such as exploring his level of guilt, anger, resentment, being the victim, it being his fault, other's fault, etc. But nothing was working. We also went back to his childhood and tried working on the anger and resentment from his abuse then. But there was still no reduction in his SUDs level on any subject.


I then asked a question that I should have asked at the first stumbling block: "How much water have you had to drink today"? None, he said, other than a couple of cups of coffee. Well yikes! Everyone should have at least 64 ounces a day, and this was at 2 p.m. already. Obviously he was dehydrated (a big cause of PR) so I had him drink a full glass of water. Now we should get somewhere I thought. But Noooooooo. Nada. He was still in the same place with his issues.


I then muscled tested him for GPR and sure enough he was still Reversed. Drinking the water hadn't fixed it, so I asked if he had any allergies or food sensitivities that he knew of. No, he didn't think he did. I muscle tested him on some common food sensitivities like wheat, corn, rice, soy, dairy, and eggs (by simply asking him to say the words, while pulling down on his arm). That seemed not to be an issue, although there are thousands of things that he could be allergic or sensitive to.

Next I asked if he had a cell phone on him (another thing that often stops EFT in its tracks). He did and it was in his pocket, so I had him turn it off and put it across the room. Now I was sure we'd get some where, but we didn't. We would do a round on a specific issue and his number remained at a 10.


"Man", I thought. "This guy's a tough case". Then I thought of Sandy Radomski's demonstration of heavy metals and the negative affect they can have on us (in Gary's Specialty Series DVD). "Ted, old pal," I said, "do you by any chance have any metal plates or pins in your body?" "Why sure!" he said. "I've got a big metal plate where my hip was crushed". I should have thought of this before, but at the time was just beginning to grasp the different aspects of PR. I muscle tested for sensitivity to his hip replacement by having him put his left hand on his hip while I pulled down on his right arm, which was very weak.

Yippee! Finally we'd found the culprit - I thought! Next we starting clearing him of his hip replacement sensitivity (he didn't know what kind of metal it was, and it didn't matter). I had him put one hand on the hip and rub his set-up point with the other hand and using Dr. Pat Carrington's choice statement had him say:

"Even though I'm sensitive to this metal in my hip, I choose to have my body accept it as safe and healthy."

The reminder phrase was:

"This metal sensitivity" on the first round

"I chose to have my body accept this metal" on the second round, alternating on the different points with "Remaining sensitivity"

On the third, the reminder statement was

"It's ok for my body to accept this metal hip".


His sensitivity seemed to be gone, based on muscle testing. Now we're finally going to get somewhere I thought. But we didn't. There was no movement after doing a couple of tapping sequences. Clearly he had been thinking negatively for some time which would definitely affect is GPR, so I had him do the karate chop reversal technique for a minute or so. His polarity then tested fine with muscle testing, yet we were still getting no where on his issues. I'm usually not this patient and was getting pretty frustrated. Couldn't I just smack him one time? Or would that be wrong?

I had two choices at this point, throw him out the window with his frigging cell phone and hip replacement, or keep plugging away. Fortunately for both of us, I remembered Gary's mantra on being persistent, so we took the latter route. "Geeeez" I thought, "dehydration, cell phone sensitivity, metal sensitivity, and GPR with his negativity! What else could be wrong with this guy? Or am I still missing something?"


Only then did I remember my favorite Reversal: the Secondary Benefit Syndrome. Because he had lived with his issues for so long, this should have been a red flag to me early on. But I was having hot flashes that day, so that's my excuse for not catching SBS sooner. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Anyway, I muscle-tested Ted again having him say, "I really do want to get over my depression, the trauma from my accidents, and my other issues." No surprise, he tested weak on each and all of his issues, in wanting to get over them.

I explained SBS to Ted, and he understood the concept, but couldn't believe it could be true for him. Just for "fun" I asked him the following questions:

What would be the downside of getting rid of these issues?

What would be the upside of keeping them?

Is it really safe or in your best interest to let them go?

Would it harm others, will you be "lost" without them, and are you afraid to get over these issues, etc.

Ted's answers were interesting. He admitted that he had lived with his problems for so long that he wasn't sure what his identity would be without his victim status. Would his wife expect more of him? Would he be without an excuse for his life not working? And could he function as an able-bodied and able-minded man? He expounded on each aspect of the questions for awhile and it seemed to open his eyes to what was going on. Even though these questions and his answers wouldn't fix Ted's reversals, it was an enlightening experience for both of us.


To fix his SBS reversals I had Ted do the karate chop (KC) using several reversal phrases:

Even though:

I don't really want to get over this depression (trauma, chronic pain, etc.) I deeply and completely accept myself

I don't really want to get over any of my issues....

It may not be safe to get over my issues....

I won't know how to act if I get well....

I won't have an excuse for my life being messed up....

I don't really want to be a functioning, responsible adult....

I don't want to forgive the people that ruined my life....

I don't want to be "normal"....

I'm afraid I this won't work and I'll never be well....

We then muscle-tested again and Ted was strong on the positive affirmation of: "I really do want to get over my issues." (We tested each issue separately as well.)

Please understand that fixing a Reversal, does not fix an issue. It only clears the pathway for EFT to work. Now, 90 minutes into Ted's session, we once again started his treatment and immediately started getting positive results. He was going from a 7 or 8 to a 0 in just two or three rounds (it was interesting to note that none of his issues were at a 10 as they were when we first started.) We blew through the accident traumas, each with several aspects that collapsed readily, such as anger, resentment, guilt and sadness.

Even though Ted was a remarkably patient and trusting client, we decided to end the session just short of two hours and schedule another appointment. I gave him homework, which included drinking 6 glasses of water a day, and doing the karate chop every 15 minutes of his waking hours until we saw each other again.

For negative thinkers who are massively reversed like Ted, doing the karate chop frequently helps un-reverse "chronic" GPR. It's worthy to mention that if someone is not reversed, then doing the "cure" for a reversal will do no harm. It will not reverse them. I also had Ted start working on the Personal Peace Procedure (PPP) to get all of his past negative events and issues out on the table. The PPP, is in my opinion, the strongest complimentary EFT tool available to clear out old garbage, restore peace of mind, and promote happiness, and joy.


By the next time I saw Ted he was doing considerably better. He was no longer in the GPR mode and he had worked through several issues on his own. We handled some of the more difficult ones together, like his childhood abuse, and I sent him on his way to continue working on the Personal Peace Procedure on his own. I followed up with him a week or so later when had just finished his PPP (which takes most people a month or more to complete). I found him to be energetic, optimistic, happy and definitely not reversed. He said he had not experienced such peace of mind and joy in his entire life. I love this job!


As I stated in the beginning, reversals are only one impediment to a successful EFT treatment, but it is often the one that causes people to say, "I tried EFT, but it just didn't work for me". I hate it when that happens.

We know EFT works, and my wish is for practitioners, as well as those using EFT on their own, to do everything possible to remove the obstacles that impede EFT's success. Good luck in tracking down and resolving those illusive Reversal rascals.

My best to all, Lindsay Kenny


* If you have never done muscle testing, then don't get discouraged if this experiment doesn't work for you at first. But you might want to try it, just for fun, with a friend (Let's call your friend "Bob", so we don't have to deal with gender-proper pronouns). Muscle testing is actually a great way to demonstrate not only polarity reversals, but how sensitive our meridian system is to negative thoughts and emotions.

Start by standing facing each other (or you may stand behind him) and have Bob put his dominant arm straight out from his side at shoulder level. Next ask him to resist when you try to pull his arm down. To test Bob's resistance strength put your non-dominant hand on his wrist and pull down. You're doing this to get an idea of how hard you need to push to get his arm to move, not to see how strong he is. This is not a strength contest, rather a resistance test, so make sure Bob isn't forcing his arm up, in order to keep you from pulling it down. Everyone has different strengths and you need to practice with each person to establish a base-line of his or her strength before beginning the actual experiment.

Next, have Bob place his non-dominant hand on top of his head, palm down and tell him to resist as you pull down on his out stretched arm. It should be fairly steady, not moving down more than a fraction. Then have him turn the hand on his head, palm up. Pull down again on his outstretched arm (while telling him to resist). This time his arm should go down fairly easily, or at least several inches. The simplest explanation of why this happens is that Bob will have "reversed the polarity on his batteries". When his hand is palm-down on his head (where a "contact" point resides) his "batteries" are in correctly. With the palm up, the connection is broken and his strength will wane. So, palm down on his head = arm strong: palm up = arm weak. If, however, Bob's arm does not go down when the hand on the head is palm up then Bob has some form of General Polarity Reversal.


Here's a quick way to generally to fix GPR. Have Bob do the Karate Chop (KC) for about 10 seconds. (That's bumping the little-finger-side of his hands against each other, karate chop style.) Test him again the same way and the arm should be weak when the palm is up. If it's still strong with the palm up, then he's still reversed and may be dehydrated or have one of the other causes listed previously.


Now, as long as you're in this position you might want to do another fun little polarity experiment. I have participants in my workshops do this with each other to experience the affect negative thoughts; words or emotions have on their energy system. This time let's use your friend "Ann". Ask Ann to put her dominant arm out straight from the shoulder and do the general polarity test as done above with Bob, hand on top of head palm down, then up, etc. Now ask Ann to resist, with her arm out, while saying "My name is Ann". As she's doing that, you pull down on her arm. If her name is really Ann, her arm should be strong. Next, ask Ann to say "My name is Roger", (or Clyde, Frank, Suzy, anything other than her real name). Ask her to resist while saying the false name statement and her arm should go down fairly easily as you pull on it.

This simple little test, along with the palm up/down test, is usually surprising and fun for most people who have never experienced muscle testing before. Using this, along with the other examples below, is how I build the bridge to EFT that Gary talks about often. Of course muscle testing with everyone you meet or talk to about EFT is not practical. But in a one-on-one session or workshop, muscle testing is both fun but functional in describing the "zzzzzt" effect that Gary refers to regarding negative emotions.


Have Ann say some alternating negative and positive words while resisting you as you pull down on her arm with each word. For instance have her say "butterflies" (arm should be strong when you test it), then "September 11th" (arm will be weak), "sunshine" (arm strong) "tsunami disaster" (arm weak) "beautiful flowers" (arm strong) "cancer" arm weak, etc. Think of your own positive and negative words or statements. This simply demonstrates how sensitive our bodies are to negative thoughts, words, or non-truths. If just saying a negative word can make someone go momentarily weak, it's not much of a leap to imagine what a traumatic experience, anger, stress or frustration must do to our body's and overall health.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Please don't write me (or Gary) if you have problems with these muscle testing examples or experiments. I'm an EFT practitioner, not an expert on kinetic energy. Muscle testing, even in this simple form, often takes practice to master. And there's SO much more to muscle testing than I've outlined here. J You can find volumes of information on muscle testing on the internet and with practice and determination can become proficient at it.

While muscle testing can be a handy tool to use with EFT, I strongly discourage your use of it with clients until you are proficient at it and confident with it. If done incorrectly, muscle testing can produce false information, which may be worse than no information at all.

Furthermore, muscle testing is not essential to experiencing tremendous successes with EFT. Thousands of practitioners seldom or never use it. Others, like me, use it as a metaphor to demonstrate how negative emotions affect us physically, to support our intuition, or to test different aspects of EFT. As with everything in this article, please use it responsibly.


Explore our newest advancement, Optimal EFT™, by reading my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™. More efficient. More powerful.