By David Lake, MD
I maintain that relationship work is sometimes fraught with peril due to the intensity of the painful emotional reactions unleashed in the context of bickering, struggling, fighting, and enduring the partner’s "doing what they do."
This is far worse than merely a "wrinkle in the great silk sheet of life." The intensity is vastly disproportionate to the provocation, and sometimes there is an eruption or earthquake!
If it were not such a regular occurrence, misery or divorce would not be so common.
EFT is an essential tool of self-help in order to bear with a reactive crisis. It is first-aid par excellence. In my life I have encountered very few tools like EFT that have such elegance, effectiveness, and application.
We are all subject to emotional fire and flood in relationship, yet not so sanguine about our survival. When we feel threatened, love becomes very conditional. In our hurt we indulge in blame and fault both inside and outside our carefully constructed world.
There are few reliable ways to achieve relief and release when such primitive feelings rise up: violence, including rage, self-harm, learned helplessness, and depression result all too frequently.
Obviously, humans will do nearly anything to alleviate these overwhelming reactive feelings. This must include life-affirming techniques like EFT if our inner world is to shift toward healing.
In the same way that the life force rises up and clings to desperate action in extreme danger, I think that our instincts work against us when we feel threatened by our partner (they may not wish to threaten us but we feel it anyway).
Harville Hendrix (Getting the Love You Want) explains such subjective fear and anger. He considers that our primitive reptilian brain is activated by the event.
We decide it is NOT SAFE.
Part of us wants to lash out and deal with the danger to our self-esteem, or run away or submit. It doesn’t feel “natural” in this context to treat ourselves when we have been manifestly treated "badly" by another.
Two questions (or their variations) immediately spring to mind:
1. Did they mean to do it? (have I lost my best friend/are they the enemy now?)
2. How am I going to react? (according to the show business theory of psychology, our audience will either applaud, fall asleep or walk out—then we either change our show, or take it up the road to a new audience!)
There is usually little time for thought in such a situation as our emotional reactions tend to develop quickly.
I use and teach EFT for the devastating feelings that follow a hurt delivered by someone to whom we are vulnerable. (Of course, it is cold comfort to know that these are actually our own programmed, conditioned responses from the past, which we call right and wrong. They hurt all the same). They will happen in every relationship.
We cling to the illusion that such a hurt for us will be utterly rare, while blind to the fact that we might deliver the same to our partner intermittently!
The radical part of this program involves asking yourself quickly the third, important question:
What would love do here?
When you experience the immediate effect of this question you will also feel the polarity of the linked, negative blocks or beliefs in full force. This also activates further your primitive fight-or-flight stress reactions.
Apply EFT to such negative phenomena. Focus on your body discomfort—where you feel these feelings (if you can identify a place).
Apply it quickly.
Apply it at length.
Apply it continually until you do experience a shift and some relief.
Apply it even if you don’t know what you are doing—it is your own deep hurt from long ago that you are treating. Treat yourself now and first and see what is left afterward. Tap (for example) on “these tears”; “this empty feeling”; “stomach emotion”; “my heartache.” Tap on the words that were said, the look on the partner’s face, or how “stupid” you feel for being in this position.
I accept myself deeply and completely even though . . .
“This is too much”
“I can’t deal with this”
“This is the last straw”
“It’s happened again”
“He/she promised me”
“My world is collapsing”
“I can’t live like this”
“I said never again”
“This is unforgivable”
Tap on deep hurt, anger, shame, fear, sadness, and all the emotions you might feel within. Follow these feelings—and any impressions and associated memories if you can—while they are fresh, and when you can make the time and space. Keep tapping regardless—in the crucial time after the disruption.
As always with EFT, it is the "doing" rather than the "thinking about" that heals the problem.
Be pleased you are dealing with a major wobbly. This action is the psychological equivalent of applying pressure to a wound while staying calm.
When you feel calmer, you have the chance of using strategic thinking and coping the best you can. Imagine a world where you are not “wiped out” by such a hurt, no matter how painful.
You are breaking the chain of your couple problem by helping yourself. You decide about further resolution, action or help, based on your best judgement of what actually happened. You may also have had enough of any mistreatment.
There are possibilities for the two of you only when your true self shows up—your human "being." EFT helps that happen.
If you are curious to read more about how EFT can help with relationships, visit Tapping Deep Intimacy.