"Tapping? Oh that doesn't work!" It always makes me sad to encounter people who have written off this remarkable form of stress release.
If you're among the naysayers, I encourage you to use this article as a tool to re-evaluate your experience with tapping. If you've been giving it a try on your own and not seeing results, maybe this will help you tweak your process and move forward more quickly.
1. Check Your SUD level
SUD stands for Subjective Units of Distress. This is how we measure our progress in any tapping session. If you aren't paying attention to the SUD level before and after you tap, then it can be very difficult to tell when you're making progress. Those energy shifts can be subtle!
Different practitioners have different ways of measuring the SUD, but it will always be expressed on a scale of some sort. For adults I generally ask them to rate how "activated" they feel by the issue on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being "I feel fine and it's really not affecting me much at all" to a 10 being "this issue is about to make me jump out of my skin and it's very overwhelming".
When working with children or people who struggle to think this concretely, I will ask them to show me with their hands how big or small the issue seems to them. Hands close together indicate that the problem seems smaller, hands wide apart show me that they are feeling very strong feelings.
Especially when working on your own, it is very important to give yourself a SUD level right before you start tapping and then immediately after each round.
Often this number decreases by just a point or two. It takes some fairly astute self-reflection to sense when you are making these more subtle shifts. Without this self-reflective tuning in to your inner experience, it is quite possible to feel as if no progress at all is being made.
Sometimes the problem seems so large that small amounts of progress are barely perceptible. It is fairly common to be making good progress and not even realize it! The SUD helps you see exactly how much progress you are making.
2. Get More Specific
Tapping works best when it is laser-focused on a single aspect of a single problem. Try to get as specific as possible about what part of the problem is affecting you the most.
For example, instead of tapping on "This Argument With My Sister", try to dial in to exactly what it was about that argument that got you so riled up. You may have more success tuning in to details such as...
her sad tone of voice
the look of disgust on her face
the specific words she used that cut like a knife
she didn't listen to a word I said
she talked right over me and never let me speak
When tapping on a physical issue you can get more specific by describing the pain or sensation in detail. "This red, hot, stabbing pain in the left side of my knee" is more likely to get you there than tapping on "This knee pain".
3. Finish What You Start
It is certainly ok to pace yourself when tapping on big issues. Taking several sessions to work through one issue is perfectly fine if this is the pace you need. Always make sure you have truly cleared one issue before moving on to the next.
It is easy to get distracted by new memories, sensations or issues that pop up while tapping. Try to stay focused on the details you started with until you can get that issue all the way down to a 0-1 on the SUD level scale.
It's a good practice to jot down those other memories that come up so that you can circle back to them later. This will also curb your worries that you will forget about those aspects that need your attention. When I tap with clients, I write these things down for them so they don't have to stop our work and worry about it.
Besides a low SUD level, another way to know you are finished with an issue is when you find you have shifted the way you are thinking about that issue. We call this a reframing.
I'll share an example from my own experience. As I child I experienced many different traumas that eventually resulted in a diagnosis of Complex PTSD. I worked through each of those traumatic memories until they no longer held any strong feelings for me. They were just memories that no longer had a hold on me. I was finished working with them.
One thought lingered in my mind, though, and that was that I had had a terrible childhood. I had spent so many years dwelling on the negative events of my childhood that I was convinced there were no positive experiences to be found within the first 16 years of my life.
So one day I sat down on the bank of the stream in my woods and started to tap about this mindset that I had a terrible childhood. There were specific things involved in that and I tapped on those as well. Within a few minutes the thought occurred to me "My childhood really wasn't that bad." I tapped some more and a some positive childhood memories began to flit around in my mind. I tapped a little longer until I found myself saying out loud "I had a good childhood. Even though some bad things happened, I was loved and cherished."
My mindset had gone from "I had a terrible childhood" to "I had a good childhood in which some terrible things happened, and that's ok". This was a huge philosophical shift and remains the way I think about my childhood to this day.
You may not have this big of a shift, especially early on in your personal tapping work, but it is important to notice how your thinking is evolving as you tap. Once your thinking about an issue has moved into a neutral or positive mindset, it is probably safe to move on to the next thing.
4. What You Say Matters
The scripting is an important part of the tapping experience. While the tapping itself calms and soothes the central nervous system, the words that you use help to rewire your brain for that reframe in your mindset.
I once tapped with a client who was an experienced tapper. She had been tapping for a long time and had even tapped with a "guru" many years before. Because she had so much experience, I decided to let her choose her own scripting in our session. Within just a few moments her scripting began to move into a stream of somewhat meaningless positive affirmations and she quickly lost focus on our work.
The set up phrase:
even though I have this (pain point), I deeply and completely love and accept myself
provides a very important framework for our tapping success. As we come up with the scripts, we need to remember to always come back to the pain point, making it as specific as possible, while balancing it out with the occasional statement that relays the message of "whatever I feel and think is ok to feel and think".
This is the central point where you may want to seek the help of a professional tapping clinician. They are trained to dial in to the best possible scripting for the best results and will know when and how to press into the pain point and when to affirm the thoughts and feelings.
Which brings me straight to the last point -
5. Press Into The Pain
Our pain - whether it be emotional or physical - wants exactly what we all want. It wants to be heard, validated and understood. It wants us to see it and hear it and tell it that we're taking care of it.
In many ways, our pain is like a small child who taps away at his mommy repeating
until we look him in the eye and say "Yes?" Then he often will run off and need you no longer. He just needed to bother the heck out of you until he got some attention and validation.
Tapping on our pain fulfills this same purpose. When we focus on the pain that has been trying to get our attention for some time, we are saying to our internal selves "I see you. I hear you. Thank you for telling me what you need so I can work on it."
Tapping provides much needed self-love and self-care by focusing on the negative first in order to arrive at the validation that we are worth caring for. When we truly press into that pain and acknowledge it, it becomes much easier for it to release its hold on us.
I am firmly convinced that tapping *does* work every time. The gain may be small and imperceptible to someone not accustomed to tuning into it. At the very least, just the tapping alone will calm down that physiological stress response. I encourage you to keep at it and please let me know if this post has helped you to get those results you're hoping for!