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Emotional Freedom Techniques

Emotional Freedom Techniques

I am delighted to highlight the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a self healing tool that uses your body’s natural stress-reduction points to produce rapid emotional change (Craig, 2011). I use this technique with nearly all of my clients and am amazed by the efficacy for which it works. EFT can lessen and/or alleviate the emotional suffering that occurs from depression, guilt, anger, grief, post traumatic stress disorder, phobias, anxiety associated with public speaking, trauma, and many other emotional difficulties.*

This technique commenced with Dr. Roger Callahan’s psychological research on phobias in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and was further simplified by Gary Craig in the 1990’s (Craig, 2011). EFT is an “emotional” version of acupuncture that does not use needles for implementation; instead the individual “taps” certain meridian points on his or her body. This tool consists of several basic steps that take only a few minutes to learn. The EFT practice includes defining the problem, rating its intensity on a scale of 0-10 (both before and after the procedure), a set-up statement (explained in the “how to” video), and “tapping” on select acupressure points. The videos below highlight the effectiveness of EFT, how it works, and examples of EFT in “action”. Happy Tapping!

EFT Introduction

EFT Tapping Points


EFT “How To”


EFT Professional I


EFT Professional II

***Note: If you find yourself debilitated by your distress, worry, or anxiety it is a good idea to consult with a mental health professional. For pertinent information about selecting a suitable practitioner please visit the Mayo Health Clinic.

Resources

Craig, G. (2011). The EFT Manual. Santa Rosa: CA, Energy Psychology Press.

EFT Universe

The Tapping Solution

Couples/Marriage

Three Easy Steps to Improve your Romantic Relationship (and even the World)

 

Mirroring. Empathy. Validation.

I love being a relational therapist. Not only do I have the opportunity to bear witness to people’s relationship improvements, but I am also able to assist couples in transforming their family lives. Strong couples positively affect families, which to a greater degree impacts communities, nations, and the world. It is interesting to discover that being a part of even a small transformation can create a great change. Thich Nhat Hanh, poet, Zenmaster, and former Nobel Peace Prize Nominee often explains, “ if we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.” Increasing the joy and satisfaction in our own romantic relationships makes the world a better place.

We want to enjoy our partner and benefit from an amazing relationship and yet it just does not seem that simple. Our partner is often bothering “us” in some form. If he or she would only change BLANK, then we could experience true happiness. I can relate to this in a profoundly personal way! One example of this circumstance existed in my marriage. My husband is quite specific about the way he deals with his recyclables! He has a habit of constantly “policing” the recycling and trash after I throw things away. In the beginning I was surprised; I would spend “hours” cleaning the kitchen and separating our compost, trash, and recyclables. While I enjoyed a rest after my kitchen duties, I noticed he “slinked” into the kitchen. I heard the noise of movement and thought to myself, “What is going on here?” He came out of the kitchen and proclaimed that eggshells indeed belonged in the compost not the trash, and for the “last time” only plastics 1 and 2 were recyclable – not numbers 3 and 4 (geez, didn’t I know anything). At first, I found this quite funny. I would respond with, “What are you the recycling police?” But, after a while I felt he was similar to some CIA agent, watching my every move to insure that numbers 5 and 6 did not even contemplate the plastic bin reserved for numbers 1 and 2. Well, I will be the first to tell you that numbers are not my strength! But worse than that, with time, what once was funny turned into an “issue”. .. . I even contemplated going to my neighbor Brea’s apartment for a “recycling reprieve”. Sure we are just talking about bits of plastic and food, but I started feeling judged, watched, and even criticized.

That is the thing about improving a romantic partnership; it is never about the event that just occurred (at least – not usually). More often than not, it is the conclusions that we draw about ourselves and our partners from the event. Instead of thinking to myself, “Wow, my husband just loves the environment so much that he puts extra care into recycling.” I thought, “My husband obviously thinks I am not smart and that he is the only expert recycler in the family.” From this assumption, I am not going to be the “kindest” partner to him and there will be less peace in our house. Lately, we have been working on three easy steps to change our “assumptions” that we make about one another. It involves using a technique coined by Harville Hendrix and Lynn Hunt’s Imago Therapy. The steps are as follows: mirroring, validation, and empathy.

As I write out these techniques, I acknowledge that they may sound “cheesy”, however, what I like best is – they work! If you find yourself feeling stuck with your partner and unable to move forward in a disagreement, I encourage you to try them out.

MirroringFirst, mirroring involves using “I” language, where one person sends a “message” to convey his or her hurt feelings leaving out blame statements toward the other partner. In terms of our recycling issue it would sound like this, “I feel like you don’t trust that I will put the recycling items in the correct bin when you constantly rearrange them and that you are watching me like the “CIA” – which leaves me feeling angry.” Then my husband, in order to mirror back, would say something similar to, “Let me see if I have this right. You feel like I don’t trust you because I rearrange the recyclables, which, you think, is similar to the CIA and this leaves you feeling angry.” At this point, I can tell you that I am already feeling better, because whether he agrees with me or not, viola, I feel understood!

 

ValidationSecond, validation entails supporting your partner. This does not necessarily mean that you agree with your partner, but given the information your partner provided that you might be able to see his or her point of view. My husband in this situation could say, “That makes sense to me, because I would not want to feel like I was under the surveillance of the CIA.”

 

EmpathyThird, empathy involves putting yourself in the “shoes” of your partner and imagining what he or she may be feeling. My husband might say, “I imagine you might be feeling angry at me and maybe a little frustrated, too. Is that what you are feeling?” After this conversation feels complete, the next step would be to repeat the process with the other partner. My husband could then explain the reasons why he was on surveillance duty and the importance of proper recycling etiquette coupled with his feelings.

 

While using the techniques of mirroring, validation, and empathy are no replacement for relational therapy, I hope you find them to be helpful tools for your relationship. Even though, at times, I still find my husband “examining” our garbage rather closely, I do not feel as irritated by this action. After all, the happier we are as a couple, the better our kids will feel. Stronger families build strong communities. My husband and I experienced this on a personal level, the better we became at communicating, the less trash was thrown away and the more plastic we “properly” recycled!

Resources

Imago Therapy Website

Hanh, T. (1987). Being Peace. Parallax Press, Berkeley, California.
Anxiety/Stress

5 Easy Ways to Decrease Anxiety

 I don’t think it is necessary to overstate the effect that our stressful culture may have on our lives. However, it may be helpful to offer a little background information. According to the National Institute of Health (2008) forty million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders. Stress and anxiety negatively impact physical health and has been associated with a plethora of medical conditions such as, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and reproductive disorders (Stahl and Goldstein, 2010). In recent years our technology has changed; while this has offered us many positive ways to be informed and stay connected, it has also led us to be available 24 hours a day. Stress and anxiety often occur from feeling “attached” to work and school day and night.

Seventy-five percent of my clients enter therapy with anxiety related symptoms. It is my strong belief that that while anxiety will never disappear completely (it is a part of our biology), it can be decreased to a functional level in people’s lives. Our brains are constantly monitoring whether situations are safe or not. When the brain detects a potential threat it triggers a response to fight, flee, or freeze; this causes physiological changes in our bodies such as shallow breathing, increased heart rate, and the release of pain numbing endorphins (Stahl and Goldstein, 2010). This system seemed to work well when we were surviving off of the land and fighting for our lives against predators. However, many humans these days are more likely to find themselves giving a presentation, going on a date, or dealing with traffic than fighting off a Woolly Mammoth. For example, our brain may decide in the line at the grocery store that we are in physical danger, which can result in heightened anxiety or even a full blown panic attack. Once you have experienced an exaggerated stress response to an everyday situation, you know you do not want it to occur again!

The question is what can we do lessen our anxiety to a manageable amount. Below I have listed five simple strategies to lessen anxiety and strong responses to stress that you may do each day. Many of my clients have had the experience of going from extreme stress and panic attacks to living a life with a manageable amount of anxiety.

1. Develop a Meditation Practice

Consistency is more important than length of time spent on meditation practice. According to Janet Solyntjes, mindfulness based meditation senior-teacher at the Shambala Meditation Center in Boulder, Colorado, if you dedicate fifteen minutes a day consistently to practice, you will notice the health benefits almost immediately. Research by Davidson and Kabat-Zinn (2003) discovered that those who have developed a consistent meditation practice obtained decreased levels of stress, a stronger immune system, and feeling “content” more often.

If you are interested in starting meditation practice, but do not know where to begin, you may check out http://students.sfu.ca/health/healthpromotion/yourhealth-videoandaudio.html and click on the free meditation practices offered by my colleagues Dr. Erika Horwitz and Cathy Trudeau of Simon Fraser University. Both the “mindfulness” and “progressive muscle relaxation” downloads are a great place to begin and take only 10 minutes each!

2. Physical Exercise

 

Maintaining a physical exercise practice not only benefits the look and feel of your body, it is also important to maintain low levels of stress. The Mayo Clinic reports exercise prompts the brain to produce endorphins, which are natural mood-enhancers, and that focusing on your body’s movements helps take your focal point away from your frustrations. Find an activity you truly enjoy, so that exercise won’t seem like just one more thing on your to-do list!

3. Hold your Neurovascular Points

When you are feeling the stress, worry, and anxiety enter your body and mind you can hold your “neurovascular” points for three minutes. It is just that easy! The neurovascular points are acupressure points that when held reprogram your autonomic nervous system to keep the blood in your forebrain, which will allow you to think clearly and cope better in stressful situations (Eden, 1998). Next time you feel stressed, try it out and determine if it works for you. My husband and I have illustrated how this activity works below.

a) Lightly place your index and middle fingers on your forehead and place them on the frontal eminences (the two “bumps” about an inch and a half above your eyebrows).

b) At the same time, place your thumbs on your temples next to your eyes and breathe deeply.

c) As the blood returns to your forebrain over the next few minutes, you will find yourself beginning to think clearly!

4. Start a Gratitude List

What we focus on increases. Spend a few minutes each day writing down several things that bring you feelings of gratitude. You may become aware that even the smallest events in life can generate a large amount of gratitude and good feelings. The more content we feel, the less distress gets in the way!

5. Spend Time with your Community

Humans are social animals and we need to engage with one another. If you look at your calendar and notice that during the next week all of your appointments revolve around work or school obligations, then make a plan to see a friend, join a dance class, or watch a sporting event with others. When we isolate, we tend to feel more distress then when we are connected with those that we love.

 ***Note: If you find yourself debilitated by your distress, worry, or anxiety it is a good idea to consult with a mental health professional. For pertinent information to help you find a qualified therapist in your area please visit http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mental-health/MH00008/METHOD=print.

 Resources

 Eden, D. 1998. Energy Medicine. New York, New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam.

 Stahl, B. & Goldstein, E. 2010. A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook. Oakland, California: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

 Mayo Clinic. 2010. Exercise and stress: Get moving to combat stress. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise-and-stress/SR00036. Accessed March 7, 2011.

 National Institute for Health. 2008. The numbers count: Mental Disorders in America. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml#Intro. Accessed March 7, 2011.

 Solyntjes, J. 2007. Personal Interview. Shambala Center for Meditation.