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Articles & Ideas


The role of self-punishment in Dis-ease

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated.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

Steve Wells from Australia gives us his insights about how our diseases are often caused by self-punishment. He says, "How much illness results from us doing what we know to be “wrong” and then subsequently creating / experiencing an internal state of dis-ease about our own actions?  How often does our dis-ease with our behavior become dis-ease in the physical sense?  I think quite a lot." Please consult physicians on all medical issues.

Hugs, Gary

By Steve Wells

At one of our Advanced EFT and Self-acceptance workshops last year I was approached by a young lady who felt the beginnings of a migraine coming on.  She had tapped on the headache feelings and pain without result and the pain was just getting more intense.  She was worried that she would have to leave the workshop and go home to bed.

I asked her what she felt might have brought on the migraine and she told me that she had been a “bad girl” and had a coffee earlier that morning and this migraine was clearly coming on “as a punishment” for having had that coffee!  

This is an example of a classic double bind because this poor girl loved the taste of good brewed coffee and even found that having it helped her to perk up when she was feeling tired, yet as she told me “I love it, but I know it is bad for me”.  Now I know that drinking lots of coffee can have a negative effect on people but one coffee?  That seems a little harsh to me, to have to suffer so much as a result of having just one coffee.

As I listened, I realized she seemed to be manifesting the migraine in order to punish herself for being a bad girl and having that coffee!

The challenge with these sorts of situations is that the person often feels a victim to their own internal processes, as if what happens in their body is completely out of their control.  It’s as if they’re blindly following an inner commandment: If you have sinned by having a coffee then you must suffer by having a migraine.

And not only do you get to suffer physically, you also get to feel bad about yourself emotionally for being such a weak person and doing something you knew was wrong – and enjoying it too!  Now some may say that having a “conscience” like this has a positive purpose in keeping us on the straight and narrow. However this was clearly dysfunctional and intruding into this young lady’s enjoyment of life.  Shouldn’t a person be able to have one cup of coffee if they want one without having to suffer a migraine headache for the next 2 days?

We tapped for a while on the connection she had made, and of course I used our provocative approach (Provocative Energy Techniques – PET), humorously telling her in a mock serious voice that she had been a very bad girl for having that cup of coffee, that she clearly deserved to have that migraine as a result.  I further had her tap whilst focusing on the idea that she should be feeling bad for being so naughty as to think she could have a coffee – and especially being so bad as to actually enjoy it!

This was double reason for her to be feeling bad, and why she deserved to suffer even more!  As often happens when using PET this turned out to be exactly what she had been thinking to herself and when I said it out loud she laughed as she tapped and said, “That’s ridiculous” and “How stupid (of me) to think that way.”  I then had her tap on being angry with herself for manifesting the migraine and also for thinking so stupidly.  It wasn’t long before her migraine completely disappeared – and she was able to complete the rest of the workshop completely pain-free.

I have found that anger at yourself for having the problem is often one of the first things to treat, especially in cases like this where the problem doesn’t seem to be improving when you are just tapping and focusing on the symptoms.  In fact, I see self-anger as being like a lid that you put over the problem.  Rather than improving things, which it is supposed to do, it actually holds the problem to you more strongly.

I believe that at some time in the past she had learned to punish herself for doing wrong just as others – perhaps her parents - had punished her.  As a result, she had created a split-off part of herself to act as the punishing parent or teacher, who would carry out the punishment whenever she did something “wrong” - and manifesting a migraine headache became one way of doing this.  

I’m not saying she did this consciously, just that it became an internalized way of self-regulating her behavior in a manner similar to the way the adults in her life had tried to regulate and control her behavior.  We discussed this and she agreed – and went away to do more tapping on some of her childhood memories of being “a bad girl” and being punished.

I have begun to wonder just how many of our problems are due to this type of self-punishment.

I remember when I became sick a couple of years ago, my tapping and enquiry ultimately revealed an underlying self-punishment theme.  Ultimately, I’d signed up for an inappropriate schedule which would have taken me away from my family for an unbearably long period because I wanted to make a bigger difference in the world.

Ultimately however, this violation of my inner values (putting my number 3 value of making a difference ahead of my number 1 value of love and family) led me to become sick.  But was it ultimately really me who was controlling the punishment?  At some level, was I really punishing myself for “being a bad boy” and going against what I knew to be right?  

I now believe that this is at least partially what happened, and although it felt bad to let other people down at the time, I’ve always been glad that I made the tough decision to put my family first and do what I knew inside was “right.”  Perhaps getting sick was necessary at that time in order for to me to change my behavior.  But does this ultimately serve me, to have to get sick in order to do what enhances me?  Clearly not.

How much illness results from us doing what we know to be “wrong” and then subsequently creating / experiencing an internal state of dis-ease about our own actions?  How often does our dis-ease with our behavior become dis-ease in the physical sense?  I think quite a lot.

When I am doing right I can feel good about myself and allow myself to feel good.  The rest of the time I have to punish myself.  And why am I punishing myself?  So that I will do the things I know I should do (or stop doing the things I know shouldn’t be doing) in order to be happy.  Then and only then will I accept myself, and allow myself to be happy.  But it’s a zero sum game.  Because the continuation of the game requires us to continue to not accept ourselves, and ultimately we never get to be happy.

As Dr. David Lake said to one of his obese clients who insisted she wanted to lose weight and that she couldn’t possibly accept herself until after she achieved her goal weight: “But at that time you won’t be a different person, you’ll only be thinner.”  And so it is.

It seems counter-intuitive to suggest that accepting yourself can lead to change, that until you accept who you are, and what you are, and where you are right now you will continue to suffer. That as soon as you accept yourself and your situation, then and only then can you change.  But we’ve earned our suffering, we think we deserve it, and we’re darned well going to keep on punishing ourselves until we do what we know we should do and change things.  And then and only then will we allow ourselves to be happy and to accept ourselves.

Acceptance, even when you are starting at zero, allows you to see the door, then you can take a deep breath, stretch out your spine, get to your feet and start moving.  Acceptance does not lead to inaction as many people think; it actually empowers action.  Only through the door of acceptance can we access our true power.

Of course, there’s another side to this which I haven’t even mentioned here.  And that is the challenge of accepting our light, accepting that the person we can be is who we already are. Accepting all of yourself, your dark parts AND your light parts.  I wrote about this previously in my article “When Positive is Negative: Accepting Your Light” ( )

EFT can be a powerful tool to assist you to become happier with who you really are without needing to change anything, and especially without needing to punish yourself any longer.  And then by some strange paradox, when you don’t have to change, you are free to.

Steve Wells


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