No matter what issues we are dealing with, learning to elicit the positive intention in a person or a situation is about the most powerful, heartening spiritual practice I can think of.
You probably have heard about "psychological reversals," or "emotional saboteurs." Maybe you know that the beginning set-up statement in EFT is designed to treat these reversals. They tend to show up disguised as the problems in our lives.
At some point in our personal history, a particular behavior, symptom, or belief system appeared to be the best or safest or maybe the only option available to us. It may still be operating in us now. It feels like who we are now, our identity. We don’t question it. We soldier on with it. Maybe we got so used to doing/seeing/feeling that way that we didn’t even notice when the saboteur began to cause more trouble than it solved.
But deep inside this behavior or thought or pain, there still glows the need and desire and deserving of the safety and fostering that we are still trying to get for ourselves. It is showing up distorted into a problem now, but there is goodness at its center.
A problem can be like a Dark Angel in our lives.
When EFT "doesn’t work" it is often because we haven’t yet identified the positive intention behind what seems to be the problem.
When you are feeling under siege by an apparently negative emotion, behavior, symptom, or belief, ask the following questions—and expect interesting answers! Turn all the information you come up with into tapping set-up statements.
- What might be the positive intention of that emotion/behavior/symptom?
- If the part of you that is running that behavior were trying to get something for you, what would it be?
- This sure is getting my attention. What could be good about it?
- What is a context in which this would be useful behavior?
- If the part of me running this symptom/behavior could have access to other, more powerful and much more effective strategies to get the safety/protection/love/attention it has been trying to get for me, would it be interested?
- Hmmm…what else could I do to get what I really want?
Should I Keep the Pain to Make Sure I Learn the Lesson it is Teaching Me?
I did a telephone session with a woman who asked a wonderful question relating to healing chronic pain. She has had fibromyalgia for 20 years. This was our first session, and she was just beginning to explore EFT as a treatment modality. She had done a little on her own, but hadn’t worked with anyone else before using EFT in our session.
After I had gathered some information about her concerns, I asked what particular symptom or pain did she want to work with right now? Well, she said, she had a prior question she needed an answer to before we began.
Was there a chance, she asked, that EFT could be used as an "aversion strategy"? I asked her what she meant.
“I believe that life is meant to be experienced,” she said, seriously. “I don’t want to take away the pain if that means I am just taking the easy way out. Is there a lesson for me here that I will miss if EFT takes away the pain? I want to evolve! I don’t want to foster the laziness in me. I don’t want to not be proactive.”
I found that very touching. Here she had been in pain for 20 years, and was willing to continue to be in pain if there was still something to be learned from it. Only someone really strong and determined could say that!
Or…someone who was “getting something” from enduring the pain.
How many of us believe that we must endure great hardship in order to evolve into our higher spiritual purpose? While I really honored her desire to learn and evolve, I thought her strength and willingness to “take it in the name of growth” were seriously misguided.
I personally don’t believe that we are meant to suffer IN ORDER to learn. I do believe that our suffering is meant to get our attention, and let us know that there is something awry, something skewed in our personal belief system.
But I want to advance the heretical thought that we can learn just as easily, better, in fact, when we are relaxed and comfortable and looking forward to the creative possibilities instead of back toward all that we have not done perfectly. In my opinion, suffering seldom serves a higher purpose. I think that if it hurts, that is not good. I don’t believe in "No pain, no gain!"
If this woman has been hurting for 20 years she is definitely not taking the easy way out! She is not lazy. But her strength and resolve are being misdirected. Positive intentions, bad strategy.
Continuing the Battle, but Following Old Instructions
Coming back to that point about getting something from enduring the pain. It reminds me of a story that I heard about the Japanese soldiers in World War II.
In their book, The Heart of the Mind, Connirae and Steve Andreas tell about the Japanese garrisons of soldiers who remained on thousands of tiny islands in the Pacific Ocean. Most of these garrisons were dismantled after the war, but there had been so many that some were entirely missed.
The soldiers on these islands often took to the caves, struggling to stay alive and true to the mission that they took on to protect and defend their motherland. They maintained their tattered uniforms and rusting weapons as best they could, longing to be reunited with their central command. Even thirty years after the war had ended, these few remaining soldiers were still being encountered by natives, tourists, fishing boats.
Consider the position of such a soldier. As the Andreas’ say:
“His government had called him, trained him, and sent him off to a jungle island to defend and protect his people against great external threat. As a loyal and obedient citizen, he had survived many privations ad battles through the years of war. When the ebb and flow of battle passed him by, he was left alone or with a few other survivors. During all those years, he had carried on the battle in the best way he could, surviving against incredible odds. Despite the heat, the insects, and the jungle rains, he carried on, still loyal to the instructions given to him by his government so long ago.”
They ask, “How should such a soldier be treated when he is found? It would be easy to ridicule him, or call him stupid to continue to fight a war that had been over for 30 years.
But the Japanese government, bless them, took a very different tack with these old soldiers.
The Andreas’ continue:
“Instead, whenever one of these soldiers was located, the first contact was always made very carefully. Someone who had bee a high ranking Japanese officer during the war would take his old uniform and samurai sword out of his closet, and take an old military boat to the area where the lost soldier had been sighted.
The officer would walk through the jungle, calling out for the soldier until he was found. When they met, the office would thank the soldier, with tears in his eyes, for his loyalty and courage in continuing to defend his country for so many years. Then he would ask him about his experiences, and welcome him back.
Only after some time would the soldier gently be told that the war was over, and that his country was at peace again, so that he would not have to fight any more. When he reached home he would be given a hero’s welcome, with parades and medals, and crowds thanking him and celebrating his arduous struggle and his return and reunion with his people.”
"I realized that parts of me are just like those soldiers"
I told this story once to a class of people learning EFT, and as I finished noticed that one woman had tears spilling from her eyes. I asked her if she would be willing to talk about what she was experiencing. She said:
“I was feeling so sorry for those soldiers, and so moved by how they were treated, and then I realized that this is how I need to treat myself. For so long I have ridiculed or criticized or tried to shut away those parts of me that react so automatically in stuck ways that I don’t like myself for.
“I could see how those parts of me are just like those soldiers. When I was little, the temper tantrum, or the crying might have worked, sort of, but those ways of dealing with hard times or difficult people don’t work anymore. They just make things worse now! And then I just shut down, and grinned and bore it (…but I wasn’t doing much grinning). That doesn’t work either.
“I have been still fighting battles that have long since ended, and then fighting with myself for doing that. But I can’t seem to stop! I get so mad at myself! But hearing this story made me realize that there are parts of me that have just been trying to protect me and keep me safe, and they have been doing their best. But they just have those old tattered uniforms and rusty weapons that don’t work any more.
“Some part of me is probably thinking, I have been this way for so long, I think of it as just who I am. And then the scary question comes – who would I be without these behaviors? How do I know who I really am?
“At least now I know that I should, and can, honor those old soldiers in me. They were just doing the best they could. They meant well. They were trying to protect me when I felt I couldn’t protect myself. Once I honor them for what they were trying to get for me, maybe I can find other, better ways to get what I really want, deep inside."
What are your inner knights in shining armor?
Some of our common “inner soldiers” that have been working over time (and working overtime), have been trying to protect us from what we are afraid of. They might show up in our lives as pain, or illness, or allergies, or work-aholism, or addictions, or anger, or overweight, or compulsions, or hyper-sensitivity, or…
These soldiers may be trying to protect us from:
being found out
giving up guaranteed income
becoming like our parents
When EFT “doesn’t work,” look to these examples of inner soldiers who are trying to help. Tap for the resistance and the fear.
Here are some questions you can ask that might help to discover what YOUR Dark Angels are wanting for you. Use them in your EFT set up statements.
You, this part of me that is running this (anger, fear, overwhelm, pain, or…)_________ , what are you trying to get for me?
What are the benefits for me of feeling/acting this way?
If I didn’t have this _________ , what would I lose? What would be
Use these questions to go deeper:
So if I had _________(what I am trying to get) , what would having that get for me that is even more important?
When I have _________(what I am trying to get) , how will having that benefit me?
What becomes possible now?
If you keep asking these questions recursively, the answers will go deeper. Listen to your answers.
Maybe what I really want is attention, not healing. In fact, my unconscious mind might be thinking, if I actually healed, would I still get as much attention?
Maybe I am craving the surge of drama in my life that having the problem creates?
Maybe I am unconsciously thinking that if EFT works I won’t have an excuse to: take care of themselves / meditate / read / take self-help classes / take vacations / or see all these practitioners of healing modalities.
Maybe the presenting issue is a red herring or smokescreen for the real issue(s). What is it keeping me from thinking about?
Maybe what I want is actually a “should” adopted to please someone else.
Maybe I’ve been working on anger, but it is really a cover for fear. (Or you’ve been working on fear, but it is a cover for grief. Or you have been working on sadness, but it is a cover for anger. Or…)
Be alert to the possibilities!
You can put the positive intention into the EFT choice.
I have done a few here, just following my own intuition for the words. Try your hand at it. Doing this will help you to get a feel for the true, deeper intention that is getting distorted and showing up as the limiting behavior.
“Even though I don’t want to get over this problem, and I am resisting getting over it with all my strength, I love and accept myself anyway, and I choose to find better ways of keeping myself safe.”
“Even though I am too angry to get over this, I love and accept myself, I forgive myself for being angry, and I choose to learn how to stand up for myself in ways that feel better to me.”
“Even though I will be too vulnerable if I get over this problem, I love and accept myself anyway, and I choose to be surprised at how easy it is to discover my own inner strengths.”
“Even though I might become powerful and successful if I heal this, and that really scares me because people who are powerful and successful are put down for being selfish – at least that’s what my family believes... I love and accept myself anyway, and I choose to act powerfully and successfully in a way that includes other people and reflects their strengths. I can be humble and strong at the same time.”
A Powerful Spiritual Practice
I always assume that if something is blocking the flow of spirit through a person toward manifesting the best of themselves in the fullest possible way, that block has some positive intention. I think of it as a part of us that has been trying forever to get something for us, usually safety or protection. It is like a horse with blinders, a single-minded one trick pony.
This part only knows how to do this one strategy, and it is stuck in the ON position. It doesn’t realize that it is now causing you problems. It only notices that the condition that it is so desperately trying to protect you from is getting worse. So it applies its strategy even more intensively.
I will ask, “Now, if this part of you could have access to other, more powerful and much more effective strategies to get the safety/protection/love/attention it has been trying to get for you, would it be interested?” The answer is always yes.
All of these questions make it possible to take the basic, generic recipe of EFT, and design elegant phrasing that touches the hidden parts of our psyche, using the precise words that are the keys to freeing those parts that had been caged.
The “positive intention” questions and “Where do you feel that in your body?” are the two questions I ask most often, especially if some objection seems to be in the way of growth. I use them over and over, in every possible context. They are endlessly useful.
Here is another generative question to ask, when a person has begun to open to the flow of change within, and has a new sense of direction and choice. It is, “Tell me about a time in the past when you felt this way/did this.” The purpose here is to reveal to the client that s/he has ALWAYS had this capacity to be smart/creative/loving/assertive/compassionate.
It is a revelation to discover that you have been good all along!
With my love and blessings all around,