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Articles & Ideas

Using EFT

Using EFT for Self-Doubt

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated.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 excellent (and personal) account by Steve Wells from Australia gets "behind the scenes" of his own self-doubts and provides useful tools for resolving this nagging (and often fictitious) dilemma. This is important reading because ALL of us (including our clients) are plagued with self-doubt in one form or another.

Please note that Colin J. Larcombe applied this technique with great success when it first appeared on our email newsletter. His results follow Steve's article below.

By Steve Wells

I believe if the world's ten greatest problems were lined up, self-doubt would be one of them. Self-doubt underlies our deepest frustrations in not moving our lives forward. It is one of the greatest stoppers to human potential there is. It is what we need to overcome if we are to achieve our goals and it's also what we must move through if we are to gain peace with ourselves.

Doubt and fear go together like hand in glove. Self-doubt is often mixed with fear although it can also stem from lack of self-acceptance. Inability to overcome self-doubt leads to inaction, and inaction - particularly on important life goals - over time leads to frustration and anger at self. In its strongest form, self-doubt can lead to self-hatred, even disgust.

In my peak performance work with athletes and business people, I have not worked with a single person who hasn't had some elements of self-doubt. And along with everyone I know, I've suffered with this problem myself. I find working with myself leads to some of the greatest distinctions for helping others, so once again I'm going to "bare my soul" and describe one of my more recent "learning experiences" in the hope that - as with the other work I've described in the area of self-acceptance - this will assist you on your own journey.

The story begins with a workshop I ran last year. On the third day of the workshop, due to a damaged pipe in the area, the water failed to flow, the toilets clogged up and the air conditioning system failed, leaving us in oppressive heat for the rest of the day. My session in the afternoon was less than perfect in these conditions and - despite the positive feedback from participants and reassurance from my good mate David Lake (who has to say good things like this, after all he is my friend!!), I felt terrible after the session. I flew home that night feeling down on myself, and quite miserable.

I decided I needed to do some work on this issue, so I immediately took out my notebook. I find in doing personal work with EFT that journaling the issues as I go really helps. When at home I do this on my computer, typing the issues and concerns onto the screen as a starting point, and typing out any significant thoughts and feelings that come up as I tap. There's definitely something in this process of getting the thoughts and feelings onto paper or onto a computer screen. It is also a real affirmation of the changes you've made to go over these writings weeks or months later and marvel that you could previously have even entertained such negative ideas.

So there I was on the plane, feeling totally disgusted with myself. In our work, Dr David Lake and I have found exaggeration, particularly of the negative (although it can also be used productively on positives) to be a particularly powerful tool for not only gaining perspective on problems but also to ensure that we access the most damaging negative thoughts and beliefs for tapping on. The exaggeration helps not only to focus the issue and bring it to a head, but also to offset the intensity of the damaging thoughts and feelings. Since we don't need a strong intensity to work with the issue but we do need to tune into them it may seem paradoxical but its nevertheless true that tuning in via exaggeration ensures there is an element of distortion and dissociation that can offset some of the emotional intensity. The exaggeration process has several other benefits which I won't expound on now, but I will say that, particularly for problems involving negative self-evaluation I have found it a powerful tool for self-help as well as in therapy.

Prior to commencing tapping I wanted to get all of this out on paper, so I began a list of "101 Reasons Why I'm Inadequate". As it turns out I was only able to come up with 42 reasons, and some of them were repeated, but I thought that was probably sufficient for the exercise! It's funny how when you get into these negative states, a range of other "concerns" about yourself that don't normally bother you take on the quality of indictable criminal offences! So apart from the upset about my presentation, my list included a range of general problem behaviours, such as "I yell at my kids", "I eat too much", and "I don't exercise regularly enough", through to more challenging problems such as "I have regrets in terms of a lot of stuff I've done in my life", through to problem beliefs about self and "the way I am", such as "I'm disorganised" and "I worry too much" to statements on life goals such as "I haven't achieved ultimate success in my life" and "I'm not a multi-millionaire yet". And of course, there was the triggering issue of the day "I didn't do a perfect job presenting today".

I decided that this list was too much to cover in one tapping session on the plane, and besides I didn't really want to do all that much tapping publicly, so I did what I often do in public situations and tapped mainly on the meridian point which works best for me which is the side-of-the-eye point. I also did several rounds of simply touching and rubbing the points, as well as several rounds of imagining the tapping. I did this as I read through each of the statements that I had written, internally restating them and exaggerating them, both within the set up statement and at each point. For example, instead of just making the statement "I yell at the kids", I exaggerated the meaning and consequences of this so that it became "Even though I am a terrible father ..."

When I began to focus on my "failure" at presenting that day I really "got stuck in", exaggerating how poor the performance was. Of course, this combined well with the tapping and as both the tapping and the exaggeration worked their magic I was able to put into perspective the events of the day, realising that not only was it a hot day but that I had also not had much sleep the night before and despite this the presentation was still ok (rather than being terrible) and many people would have thought it was quite good. I still knew that it could have been improved but I no longer felt so disgusted with myself over my "poor performance".

I still had my long list of personal faults however and I knew that the next time I had a negative experience like this similar thoughts and feelings would be provoked. So I took my list home to work with and at a time when I had a decent opportunity to work through these, I went to work on them.

So there I was with my list of personal failings or faults. I started by lumping them all together and just inserting the statements into the set-up and repeating them in my mind as I tapped. I combined about 3 or 4 problem statements at a time in each set up statement, for example, "Even though I don't exercise regularly enough, and I'm fatter than I should be, and I eat too much, and I haven't achieved ultimate success in my life... I deeply and profoundly accept myself"; "Even though I'm not as smart as a lot of other people, I don't stick to a lot of things, and I'm disorganised I fully and completely accept myself; "Even though I yell at my kids and I worry too much and I put things off and have heaps of things I should be doing I fully and completely accept myself."

I instantly smiled to myself when I began to combine these statements together, the juxtaposition providing the contrast to start putting things into perspective. I then began tapping, repeating one problem statement per point (For example:. Eyebrow: "I don't exercise regularly enough", Side of eye: "I'm fatter than I should be", Under eye: "I eat too much"; Under nose: "I haven't achieved ultimate success in my life"; Under mouth: "I'm disorganised"; Collarbone: "I don't stick to a lot of things"; Under arm: "I yell at my kids sometimes". As is usual in the approach used by Dr. David Lake and myself I took a deep breath at the end of each round of tapping. We've found this provides a space for balancing, clearing, and processing. Of course, often the breath taken by clients at this point is spontaneous as it was in my case - I started to realise as I often have in doing this work that to "Name the demon" is to begin to release its hold.

As I progressed through the problem statements, I began to exaggerate both their severity and the consequences they would cause in my life. I took each problem statement and initially made the statement as I'd written it, then followed this with an exaggeration of the same idea and/or an exaggeration of the consequences of this problem in my life. Sometimes, when I noticed that there was some particularly strong intensity associated with a particular area, I continued the exaggeration further, stringing it out until I was able to gain some perspective.

For example:

"I'm disorganised" (My original statement) I followed with "and that makes me completely and utterly hopeless"(exaggeration) and "I'm a complete mess" (continuation of the exaggeration process). As I did this I began to smile and even to laugh as I tapped on the negative extremes. At the end of the round I was hit with the thought, "I'm not all that bad a person really, these are just some negative beliefs I've latched on to!"

Of course, the paradoxical secret is not to "accept" such reframing statements either from your clients or yourself until they can be said and felt with total congruency. So I continued with: "Even though I am an absolute failure (Exaggeration of my original statement of "I haven't achieved ultimate success"), "... and I'm a terribly abusive father" (My exaggeration of "I sometimes yell at my kids"), "... and I worry constantly for good reason because I have a lot of things to worry about" (My exaggeration of "I worry too much"). Each exaggeration statement I made provoked both a shock of recognition as well as a slight resistance against the statement. We see this often in our provocative approach - when clients are joined in their negative position they become free to consider the other side of things. I've found it can work just as well when working with yourself on your own issues. (Although I would like to caution you that if no positive reframes or emotional shifts come up after exaggerating your problems and tapping on them for a reasonable period of time you should consider going and working with a skilled practitioner and therapist - There's often a limit to how far you can go in self help, even though we don't know exactly where that limit is on any particular issue!).

Although I was still doing general tapping at this point, I wanted to locate the areas of greatest intensity for myself so that I could gain maximum relief. It was my aim to initially "go with" the negative position rather than opposing it. That is, to accept the problem rather than deny it. I've been doing this so long in therapy it has become second nature to me, so I found it fairly easy to do for my own problems also on this occasion. Since EFT works on the negatives, this is what I want to be focusing the tapping on, as this is what I want to transform by applying EFT to the negative "attachment" and releasing it. This may not sit well with other practitioners who prefer to always insert positives, however in my opinion often all that does is suppress the negative impulses and beliefs, lead to a loss of self-acceptance, and send the issues and problems underground where they can wreak havoc on our nervous system. We tend to do tapping on positives only when there is a resistance to them and a negative intensity associated with them. As I mentioned, we believe EFT works on negatives. When it does so, positive thoughts and feelings arise naturally without needing to be "programmed in".

I've found that acknowledging the "truth" of the problem, actually helps us to put it into perspective, and empowers us to more effectively deal with the problem. When that "truth" is hurtful or painful, exaggeration is a useful tool to reduce the emotional intensity and inject a shift in perspective. In my case I began to realise just how much my unrealistic expectations and tendency to criticise myself were the biggest problem. So here I was again, tapping for self-acceptance. (Grrrr. I thought I had expelled that demon!)

As soon as I realised this, I began to tap on my self-anger: "Even though I'm putting myself down" and "Even though I'm expecting too much of myself", and "Even though I'm beating myself up (and I'm angry at myself for beating myself up)". Its tremendously freeing to allow the negative beliefs to be there and tap on them rather than opposing them, and also to allow the opposing thought to be stated simultaneously, such as: "Even though I'm beating myself up too much ... but I totally deserve it and if I don't stop beating myself up I'm going to get really mad at myself and beat myself up some more ... I fully and completely accept myself." True acceptance means accepting all parts of ourselves, and allowing each to have its voice.

After tapping on the fact I was "Beating myself up" about all my problems I was touched with the thought that I just felt totally "at a loss" to know how to deal with myself at this time. After allowing this thought to be, and then tapping on it, I was immediately struck with the philosophical question, which was the real me, the observer or the observed? This was another clear indication that I had begun to shift away from seeing the problems as myself and myself as the problem. I'd begun to move beyond my previously contracted identity.

One thing I've realised is that the self-acceptance journey is ongoing, however each time that an incident or issue such as this has brought my own negative self-assessment to a head the tapping I've done on that issue has brought me closer to such experiences, the experiences Gary Craig called "God moments" in his Flagstaff workshop. When we realise this, then moving through our problems becomes the vehicle for our own self-expansion, and provides the doorway to new ways of being in the world.

Steve Wells

Follow-up testimonial by Colin J. Larcombe


I thought I would write to let you know about the success I am having after reading Steve's EFT for Self Doubt message. As you know I have already used EFT successfully for giving up alcohol (9 months now and despite an odd tappable pang, I have not drunk a thing).

I was recently made redundant and thought it was about time I changed my lifestyle. I have been an occasional option trader and thought I would give it a proper stab. All was going ok recently until some market jitters and I made some serious mistakes which virtually put me back to square one.

I was reading Steve's mail and I had thought about doing this before but never really got around to it. I thought this is the time to attack it. I wrote out in longhand all the things that could be considered negative , from very specific things like "I resent giving up my early mornings to get the kids ready for school" to more general things like "I am petrified of wasting my life".

I then typed all of these items (72 and counting) into Excel and grouped them by subject. The main headings were GENERAL, MONEY, FAMILY, SEX, COMPUTER, TRADING and FRIENDS. Once I had this list I just went through each item building paragraphs with them and tapping at the same time. It was interesting to see just how many of these caused sighs (a sign for me that the negative energy associated is released).

Having taken 15 minutes to run through the first list, I then set about work with a remarkable sense of calm. I was able to prioritise most of my work and I got a relatively large amount done. Normally, I would think of something to do and then do it later or just surf on the web.

Now each day, when I get a negative thought, I just add to the list. Each morning before starting work, I print out the list and run through it.

What is fascinating is that it is as if cobwebs have been cleared from my mind. Whilst there are still some issues lurking it is amazing what freedom this gives and I have been able to make breakthroughs that had not been possible before.

Two of my phrases that are very telling are

If I am the person I think I am then I should be winning.

I haven't got the life I want because my mind isn't clear enough.

I know that life offers many rewards and I am determined to get them. 99% of the battle though is getting the mindset right to create them though. This daily tapping technique is one step towards this.

All the best

Colin J. Larcombe


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