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What’s Wrong with Love? The Self-Acceptance Quandary

Exploring the EFT Self-Acceptance Statement

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change,” said Carl Rogers, the founder of client-centered psychology. This is a central tenet in EFT… accepting yourself in spite of the problem helps you to change how you feel. Throughout the more than ten years that I’ve been teaching and mentoring EFT students, I’ve heard all sorts of variations on the set-up statement and I wanted to address some of the problems I have with them.

Having a person resonate with the self-acceptance half of the set-up phrase is an important aspect of EFT. A masterful practitioner, (or an effective self-EFT’er) learns that just like an affirmation that does not resonate, will result in less than hoped for results, a set-up phrase that makes too big a leap in self-acceptance or is to far a reach for the person, can be a significant source of EFT working slowly or not at all. Being sensitive and present to the client’s needs will mean you notice when the standard “I deeply and completely accept myself” is not resonating and an adaptation is needed.
Here’s just a smattering of the variations that I think can be used when adjusting to the needs of a client who is having difficulties with the standard self-acceptance statement (especially when dealing with issues of poor self-image, lack of self-worth, guilt, embarrassment and shame):
Even though I feel (this emotion)…about (this event)…
…I accept that’s what I am feeling
…I am open to the possibility that I can (or I am trying or learning to) accept myself

For children, a common adaptation might be:
…I’m a good kid
…I’m OK

But then out there I find:
…I accept myself and all my feelings
…I love myself
…I choose to release and surrender any attachment I have to this…
…I forgive myself and any others who have contributed to this problem
…Jesus or God accepts or forgives me

So what’s wrong with loving yourself, forgiving others, and accepting all your emotions?
You might be nodding your head in agreement that you have either heard some of these affirmations or self-acceptance phrases at one time or another when watching a tapping YouTube video or while listening to an online program or even when you were being guided by a tapping professional. These may well have felt resonant for you, or they may not have. I want to examine why they may not have.

On Accepting and Loving Yourself
The most accepted version of the second half of the set-up statement and the way I learned it from its creator, Gary Craig, was, “I deeply and completely accept myself”. This is in fact is the statement used in most of the research that supports EFT’s efficacy. The most commonly substituted word to the version of EFT that’s called Gold Standard or Clinical EFT, is the word “love” as in “Even though I feel embarrassed about the time that…I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” So many people automatically use that word nowadays that they don’t know it’s not official EFT. As far as I can tell in my research, the addition of the word love came from less than primary sources online.

Why is “loving oneself” a problem here? At the heart of things, it’s not. After all, to love oneself should be a goal of everyone who is tapping. The problem arises when we ask someone to repeat it when they really aren’t congruent with that. How can you tell? One of the signs that there is non-congruence is that the SUDs (0-10) emotional intensity level may not drop by much. Another way is that you (when tapping on yourself) or the client, has a hard time repeating the phrase, perhaps they stumble on the words as they say them aloud.

I can get most people to go along with me when I ask them to repeat, “I deeply and completely accept myself” but as soon as I insert the word “love”, I’ve often lost them. Don’t take my word for it, experiment and see for yourself. An exception to this is if the client already uses that phrase and is comfortable with its usage. In our trainings we teach students the importance of using the client’s words and if your client is a seasoned tapper and uses the word love in the set- up phrase, then as a practitioner you should follow their lead.

Religious Affirmations
Recently I received an interesting message from someone through Facebook. This person had just finished a tapping session with an EFT practitioner. She was feeling so befuddled that she wanted to speak with a master trainer about her session. She asked me if EFT was a religious cult. I assured her that it wasn’t and I asked her why she felt that way. She told me that her practitioner had insisted (not suggested) that she use the phrase, “…Jesus forgives me”. I asked her if she was Christian or whether her practitioner had inquired as to her religious beliefs before the session began, as I wanted to give the practitioner the benefit of the doubt. She said that she was not Christian, did not believe in Jesus and that the session had really triggered her as a result.

Using Jesus or God or any other term like that (even Universe) in your set-up phrase as a practitioner without consulting with your clients is an ethical breech in my opinion and at the very least, a recipe for losing clients. If you are a faith-based practitioner and you have disclosed that thoroughly in your disclaimer/consent forms, then by all means use it. If you haven’t, then please consider how it might feel to an unsuspecting client.

On Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a tricky one too. Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you. Those that teach forgiveness make it clear that when you forgive; you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness is not the same as self-acceptance for feeling a strong emotion. So like inserting the word “love,” we feel it’s best left out until the underlying work has first been done and then its usage can be truly congruent and appropriate.

When can forgiveness, and for that matter, choices (as in I choose to…) be applied in an EFT session? When the client really feels it rather than something they are just aspiring to. It might come in the form of a cognitive shift where the words and feelings come organically from the client when they say something like, “Wow, I think I can really forgive him now.”
There are established rules to follow closely when it comes to adding a positive spin in your set-up phrase (known as reframing). That is when the SUDs level is a 3 or less. I wish I had a nickel for every call that goes like this, “Alina, I’ve been tapping for years and I am not really feeling any changes with my …… (problems).” Me: “Can you tell me what you are using as a set-up and reminder phrase?” This is when I get one of two answers:
1. They tell me that they’ve been tapping using a tap-along script or video
2. They describe to me how they are doing “positive tapping” often including a selection of the overly hopeful aspiring to but not yet resonant affirmations phrases listed above.

Keep in mind, that these people who reach out to me are the very few who actually ask to find out why EFT didn’t work for them. Sadly most people won’t and just figure that EFT doesn’t work.

In closing I want to leave you with this thought if you are a practitioner. If you spend most of your sessions changing, altering, and including too many different phrases, especially for reminder phrases (with multiple emotions, physical sensations, events, aspects etc.), and doing lots of reframing for the client, then you will not be empowering your clients to tap on themselves. They will feel that YOU are the healer and YOU know the right and best words and then don’t feel competent nor confident in doing their own work on themselves, which is a critical part of the self-help aspect of EFT. In the model that we teach we say that at its best, EFT is a form of non-directive coaching and it’s all about empowering your clients. I always give my clients tapping homework assignments and I always spend time in their first session going over a tapping chart and instructions on how to apply basic EFT. I send them home to work on events we didn’t get to that are directly connected to their presenting issue. Because I have spent a considerable amount of time in that initial session modeling basic “super simple EFT” on events…they know what to do. I rarely have anyone saying, “I couldn’t do my homework.”

So, to summarize, in a nutshell…Keep it Simple. There is power in the simplicity of EFT.

Alina Frank
Certified AAMET Master EFT Trainer