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Articles & Ideas


Some thoughts on secondary gains - and what to do about them

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated.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

Hi Everyone,

Stewart Robertson from Scotland discusses the EFT Table Top Metaphor and then shows how he adjusts it to take care of secondary gains. He also suggests several questions designed to discover these pesky items.

Hugs, Gary

By Stewart Robertson

Gary and others talk of a well-known metaphor explaining the structure of an emotional problem. Allow me to extend on the thinking a little.

In the traditional version the problem itself is a tabletop, with the legs beneath representing the specific events contributing to the current-day problem.  By collapsing some or all of the legs, the tabletop will become unstable and should fall over, providing emotional relief from the bigger issue.

My extension of this thinking supposes that two different sets of legs support the table.  One central set are of a similar emotional flavour to the tabletop (e.g. an anger problem supported by specific events charged with that same emotion).  A second set around the outer edge of the table represent the secondary, accidental benefits the problem provides.  Although secondary, these still help hold the tabletop upright.  And they are usually of a different emotional flavour to the tabletop (e.g. being angry helps me be assertive; helps me get things done).

Common sense says that if we swing our emotional axe - EFT - at the centre legs straight away it will deflect off the outer legs first; our efforts wasted.  And even if we could somehow collapse the centre legs without the outer ones, the secondary legs would still easily hold the table upright.

Along these lines, most of us trying to make a change in our lives may do so by hacking away unknowingly at the wrong part of the problem.  Many of us are unaware of any secondary, accidental advantages of holding onto the problem, and we take aim only at the primary issue.  And then we wonder why EFT “doesn’t work.”

A seasoned EFT’er knows WHEN to work on WHAT issues.  Working first on only the outer table legs has different (and much more interesting) results.  Sometimes when we have first collapsed the accidental benefits, the tabletop automatically falls over, unsupported by the central legs alone.  As you know, in many cases the client will deny all knowledge of the original problem, or insist it was never an issue to begin with.

Clearly there is much more to say on this important topic.  Meanwhile, if the problem you or your client face is proving difficult to budge here are some helpful questions to ask:

• What are the possible upsides to holding on to this problem?

• What are the downsides to having the solution?

• What happened the last time you achieved a solution?

• Will others know who you are without this problem?  Will YOU know who you are without this problem?

• In what way will not having this problem make you seem unimportant … too similar … too different?

• In what way will not having this problem be unsafe … dangerous … stressful … insecure … uncertain … unfamiliar?

• Will having the solution change others’ expectations of you?  Will it change YOUR expectations of you?

The answers often point to significant secondary areas requiring your early attention before the main tabletop will give way.

Hope it helps.

With gratitude,



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