This question was posed to me by a participant in my EFT Circle class recently , and as a question-loving person myself, it sent me off on a research project. I knew that the side of the hand is the place in EFT that we tap for what is called Psychological Reversal. What captured me in the question was the “Why.” I realized that I had some knowledge but not enough for a complete answer.
Even though it is a little scary to be asked a question that I can’t automatically shine at answering, especially when there are lots of people listening, I actually like the experience. I reframe it to mean an opportunity to learn something, and then share what I have learned. And I love learning and sharing.
I will give you the direct answer, first. Then later I will probably offer some more articles on Psychological Reversal, a term first introduced by Roger Callahan. When EFT “doesn’t work,” it is often a sign that there is a paralyzing conflict held deep within.
The direct answer to the question is about the energy meridian at the side of the hand, the Karate Chop point in EFT, which is the small intestine meridian. Each energy meridian is part of a network that is related to a body organ or function, and each one embodies a way of thinking, a story about what is happening inside us, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, our way of responding to life.
When the energy is flowing freely, the small intestine meridian’s essential purpose is to support our choices about what information to incorporate when we are feeling divided, or pulled in more than one direction. This makes sense when we think of what the small intestine does physiologically. Its job in digestion is to separate what is most useful in the food from what will become waste.
The small intestine meridian is paired with the Heart. According to Chinese medicine, the Heart holds the Spirit, the totality of the person’s life force as it expresses through the personality. So the function of the Heart network is to propel the blood, enfold the Spirit, and maintain awareness.
The small intestine protects the Heart by filtering out negative input, both from food waste and effects of damaging energies like shocking surprise, deep sorrow, or even overwhelming joy. When we are under a lot of stress, the Heart is disturbed and our thinking becomes confused, and we become exhausted, breathless and anxious.
The Heart meridian is the most important meridian for healing thought, feeling and personality. A balanced Heart energy is joyful, radiant, out going, loving, generous, optimistic, and giving. When it is unbalanced it is careless, forgetful, distracted, restless, maybe unrealistically idealistic. Often when I ask someone my favorite question, “Where do you feel that emotion in your body?” they will say something like “a heaviness in my chest,” my heart hurts”, “my heart feels tight and constricted.”
So think about what we are doing when we tap on the side of the hand in EFT. In thought and action, in intention and in energy, we are saying to ourselves inside: Even though I have this stressful problem that is upsetting me, I love and accept myself and how I feel anyway. Even though I am having these stressful experiences, and am telling myself negative things about my self worth, I understand and appreciate myself anyway, and I am doing the best I can. There is hope! I value my Spirit.
How does this relate to Psychological Reversal?
Just as the small intestine’s job is to filter out waste from nourishment in what we eat, emotionally its job is about sorting out, as best it can, the conflict that is created when a conscious part of our mind wants one outcome, and an unconscious part of our mind wants another, conflicting outcome.
What we believe or are told to believe can contradict our experience.
What we intend can be contradicted by what we find ourselves doing.
This is what is called Psychological Reversal. Here are some ways to spot it. When EFT “doesn’t work,” look to the inner soldiers who are trying to help. They are working from a strategy that was useful when it was adopted, probably a long time ago, probably one that meant our very survival in their family. It is their family’s ancestral story about how life is.
If you suspect a Psychological Reversal in yourself or your client, approach it gently, with deep acceptance and compassion. Help the person to move from their distress and disruptive behavior to understanding that they have been trying to take care of themselves with a long outmoded strategy that used to work, but is just getting in the way now.
It is always useful to invite the person to ask inside, of the part that is managing the conflicting behavior, “If there were a better, more powerful and effective way to get what you are trying to get by perpetuating this conflict, would you be interested?” See if you can get a yes. If you don’t get a yes, don’t barge in anyway! Go slowly, find a way to gain rapport with the part that is holding on to the conflict.
Clues for practitioners to be aware of
(or for you, if you are your own practitioner)
The client really wants attention, not healing
Point that out as gently (or bluntly) as necessary. Reframe and explore together alternative ways for them to get the attention that they need from themselves.
The client needs to have the surge of drama in her/his life that having the problem creates
Ask about that, and tap for it consciously. Use reframing language that speaks to the unconscious mind about safety and forgiveness and ease. Explore interesting, appealing alternatives together. Help them to come to an understanding that they may be addicted to the adrenaline rush of having the deadline, or they may be trying to find a way to feel important in others’ eyes through having this dramatic problem.
The client unconsciously thinks that if EFT works and they heal, they won’t have an excuse to take care of themselves / get care from others / meditate / read / take self-help classes / take vacations / or come see you
Tap for the fears and the resistance. (Reassure them that they can still come see you even if they are healthy!)
The presenting issue is a red herring or smokescreen for the real issue(s)
Tap for the fears and resistance, once the real issue is discovered. (The client may not even know it is there)
What the client wants is a “should,” adopted to please someone else
I like asking the question, “What do you want out of life? And after
they have talked a bit, ask this: “What do you yearn for?” That elicits a deeper level of answer.
You’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!
Here is a good example of how Psychological Reversal might show up in a person’s life.
Using ADD as a creative safety strategy?
I worked with a man, now in his 40s, off and on over the course of several years. He had first come years earlier for troubles with his learning style, which was making it hard for him to complete college and go on to find work that really nourished him.
He is what they call ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I personally think of this learning style as bright, often gifted, sensitive, intuitive, perceptive, an associations/connections/Big Picture thinker who has trouble showing up smart in a logical linear system. I think “disorder” is an unfortunate label to put on this creative peoples’ way of processing information.
I used lots of different modalities with this man over the years, as I learned and practiced them. When he came to me again awhile back, I was surprised that he was still trying to pass the Latin class that was all that separated him from graduating. I wasn’t surprised that working with him that time I had better and quicker success with EFT than with anything else I had tried.
In the course of the session he came to realize that he was using his learning style and his confusion to keep himself from passing this class. Half unconsciously, he thought to himself that if he passed and graduated, he would have to actually test himself in the world. He was afraid he would find out that he wasn’t smart after all. He would have to take on more responsibility. There were lots of shoulds and have to’s, which is typical of what I have found in identifying reversals.
At one point he suddenly burst out “But if I got rid of all that then there would be no issue!”
Quickly he began to sweeping up around that comment as if to cover it up, but it was out there. I had heard it—no smoke screen.
“I would have to face myself!”
“I would have to actually be present in the world!”
The problem—“my learning disability,” which over the years in this sensitive person had been a difficult challenge for him—was now something that was limiting his progress. Now he wanted to move ahead, but his unconscious mind had become committed to keeping him safe from failing.
Way back there in his past, somehow, he had brilliantly but mistakenly turned his “learning disability,” into a strategy. Its positive intention was to keep him safe from a judging, critical world—in which he felt alien and ineffective.
We tapped on all the statements we had elicited, using them as set-up statements, beginning of course with tapping on the side of his hand. He ended the session in a state of meditation, staring into the flame of the candle on my table, saying quietly:
“Whenever this confusion comes up now, “I know I have a choice. I can always choose to honor the flame at the core of my being.”
I think there is more to do, but this session was a big step forward for this man.
Here are some common “inner soldiers” that may have been working, over time (and working overtime), to get something for us that we thought we couldn’t get for ourselves. As you read them, with your issue in mind, tap on the Karate Chop point.
Remember what we are doing here: we are tapping the small intestine meridian, whose job is to sort out what parts of our thinking we want to keep because they are nourishing and growth-ful, and what parts we want to let go of, because they are toxic to our system. We have been divided. Of two minds. In a double bind. One part of us has not really had a voice – it has had to “speak” in disruptive behavior and physical and emotional pain. We are wanting to digest all this, and let go of what we no longer need. We are wanting to return to fostering a generative inner harmony and a peaceful Heart.
Use your intuition to sense the true, deeper intention that is presently 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 don’t know who I will be, or how to be in the world if I heal this problem, I accept myself anyway, I believe in myself, and I want to learn to listen to the signals of my body, and make choices based on what feels good and flowing and easy to me. I am learning to trust the process of my life.
“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 or prideful—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.”
No matter what issues we are dealing with, learning to elicit and support the positive intention in a person or a situation is about the most powerful, grounded spiritual practice I can think of.
It makes sense to imagine that by tapping on the side of the hand, we are bringing to conscious awareness, acknowledging, and giving voice to the stressful anxious thoughts that have been agitating our Hearts. At the same time we are instructing our energy system to hold ourselves in an accepting wholeness. There is no limit to finding the goodness that is embedded in how we express who we are inside.
We are healing our own Hearts, and thereby the Heart of the world.
With my love and blessings –