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22. How to move through emotions -Tap-SET-PET

Written by Rachel Green, Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute, accredited user of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso-Emotional-Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and internationally recognised Emotional Intelligence Coach. Certified SET practitioner.

It is important to apply emotional intelligence skills in a practical way into our everyday emotional lives. A significant component of emotional intelligence and emotionally intelligent behaviour is the ability to stay emotionally adaptable and avoid becoming bogged down in unhelpful emotions.

This means that when emotions arise, we are aware that they are there, we can identify whether they are helping us or not, and we can respond constructively to them, including letting go of unpleasant ones.

Are you stuck in an emotion you don't like?

There is no shortage of emotions that may cripple our thinking or devastate our feelings of wellbeing. We can become stuck in feelings of resentment, bitterness, hurt, despair, helplessness, anger, anxiety, grief or being overwhelmed, for example.

  • Being stuck in an emotion we don't like can feel horrible.
  • Adding to our trauma, these emotions can hang around us for a long time and drag us down - if we don't know how to move through them and process them easily.
  • When we are stuck in them we may ruminate, wake up in the night going over things, or even avoid activities we want to do.
  • Worse still they can affect our relationships, our work and even lead us further into deeper emotional misery and tension.

There is a way out of stuck emotions! 

When we become stuck in our emotions and find they are hanging around for too long we need to process them and move through them easily. We need to let them go. This can be easier said than done. You have probably already tried - but still they fester.

There is a way out of stuck emotions! An emotionally intelligent way out. I don't mean bingeing on alcohol, food or drugs or doing retail therapy! In order to move our emotions we need a collection of effective emotional self-management skills.

  1. One of these is tapping on parts of our body. If you don't already know about this I will explain it more fully later as it is a very important emotional intelligence technique. I tap daily.
  2. There is a more advanced stage of tapping. There is a form of tapping where you say out loud all the thoughts you have, however outrageous, and tap at the same time.
  3. There is an even more advanced step that can be added too. As the thoughts are being spoken aloud some of them can be exaggerated in a playful way to show how, by holding onto some thought or belief, it is keeping our emotions stuck. This can help us to release the very idea. 

Let's look at each of these stages in turn and how they can help move through the emotions we are stuck in.

1. Tap - the Simple Energy Techniques (SET) way

One of the most practical and easy-to-use emotional self-management techniques that I know is called Simple Energy Techniques (SET). This involves tapping with two fingers on a series of psychological acupressure points around the upper body while focusing on your emotions or thoughts. It was devised by a medical doctor, Dr David Lake and a psychologist, Steve Wells, who drew on a technique called EFT which is less individualised in its application.

Here is a diagram of the tapping points.

Tapping is often done about seven to eight times gently on each of these points. This may be all that is needed to clear emotions that you have picked up during the day.

It may also help to settle anxiety, soothe anger or reduce frustration, irritation, sadness, resentment, hurt ... whatever painful emotions arise.

As I have already written two other articles on the basic SET tapping technique, instead of repeating everything here, please read the other articles. This one is on anxiety:

This one is on how to use tapping for relief from grief:

This third article will take tapping two steps further and go deeper to add voicing and exaggeration to it.

Want to learn how to use SET to help you release emotions that are gripping you so you can become skilled in using it to manage your emotions and develop your emotional intelligence? Come join with me in this exciting emotional intelligence coaching package and I will make sure it is personalised to you. I coach online around the world.

2. Tap and speak aloud

The key to this more advanced SET tapping is saying out-loud what is bothering you and what you are thinking, while you tap.

Emotions arise for many reasons. They are not always triggered by a current event, although they may be. Emotions may occur because of things that have happened in our childhood or our early adult life or even the previous week. They may also arise in response to our negative thoughts, our beliefs, values and opinions, or even by a frozen image, sound or smell.

This step involves honestly voicing the issues, thoughts, feelings, sensations or images that arise when we are feeling an unpleasant emotion, or thinking about a situation or person we find emotionally challenging.

As part of giving a voice to what is going on inside, I teach my clients to begin by saying the phrase, "I release all my emotional attachments to …" or something similar to this. (I acknowledge fully, I learnt this from Steve Wells.)

I encourage them to add on to this phrase the beliefs, values, emotions, thoughts, images or memories that are bothering them or which come into their minds, however stupid or wrong they may seem. It might go something like this:

  • "I release all my emotional attachments to the belief that I can never get over my anxiety."
  • "I release all my emotional attachments to going blank when I was on stage at the age of seven."
  • "I release all my emotional attachments to the belief that I always catch any cold going around."
  • "I release all my emotional attachments to the belief that I am useless at job interviews."
  • "I release all my emotional attachments to blushing when I speak to David."
  • "I release all my emotional attachments to the belief that people who disagree with me are idiots."
  • "I release all my emotional attachments to the frozen image of a hand at my throat."

None of these examples may be relevant to you – what matters is that you say out-loud the thoughts, beliefs and images which stop you from moving through your emotions easily.

This is not about being positive but about being truthful

This is not about being positive but being truthful about what is going on inside us, even if it is barely at a conscious level. It may just be a thought flitting through, or an image arising briefly, or a feeling coming up. It may sound ridiculous. It may sound crazy. It may feel scary.

Some of the thoughts we have are nonsense and lies. Our minds can distort much of our experience. We make negative stories out of things, we create stories that have no relationship to the truth or we hold onto horrible events as if they are still occurring when they are not – but the emotions remain.

The vocalising is exactly what we are thinking. We are not trying to distort it or make it better. It is important to tap on whatever comes up.

My experience is that the thought or image has far less power over me when I voice it aloud while tapping. It also helps me understand exactly what is going on.

The benefits of tapping and voicing for releasing emotions

The advantage of this method is that:

  • It is a self-help technique.
  • It can be used whenever a person wishes.
  • It can be used by oneself.
  • It can be done in private so nobody else knows the silly things we are saying to ourselves.
  • It costs no money.
  • It involves no travel.

This does not mean that it is used without also going for professional help. I've been lucky enough to go to the guru himself, Steve Wells, and to have several sessions with him with two hours of tapping and voicing at a time. This was initially how I learnt the technique so that I can now do it on myself. The guidance of an experienced professional person in this method I have found invaluable.

I can't promise tapping with voicing will work for you but I have been delighted with the results I have seen my clients and myself achieve.

Would you like to learn how to move through emotions and develop your emotional intelligence under the guidance of someone experienced in using these techniques? Yes! Then come and join with me in this exciting emotional intelligence coaching package. I will make sure it is personalised to you. Also, you will know I have personally used these techniques to great benefit on myself. I am not coaching from a book.

If you have a serious psychiatric or psychological illness, including ptsd, please do not use these techniques without the consent of your health practitioner.

3. Tap with SET + speak aloud + be playful with PET

Once you have got used to voicing the thoughts and beliefs in your head, the next stage for those who wish, is to become playful with the ideas you produce and to challenge them, often through exaggeration.

This stage must be conducted with kind gentleness and a sense of humour. It is not a critical nor sarcastic manoeuvre. Have a twinkle in your own eye! If you can't manage this on your own seek out a practitioner who can help, (a person who uses this calls it Provocative Energy Technique (PET), as taught by Steve Wells).

The key steps

  1. Listen to yourself. This is the first step.
  2. Then check out what you have said for any hint of ridiculousness.
  3. Then exaggerate what has been said to highlight the absurdity of it in a way that you start denying it.
  4. All the time you are tapping while you do this.

I am concerned I am over-simplifying the steps involved and not doing justice to all the subtle and sophisticated aspects of PET, so please know this is only an introduction. I know many of you reading this will already have used the technique with me in coaching, which will help.

An example

Imagine your partner has left you and you are feeling scared about the future and are sure you are not going to find anyone else and the loneliness will be unbearable.

Tap to help reduce the feelings of being scared, voice these concerns and then exaggerate the underlying assumptions:

  • "Of course, I am not going to get another partner, I am far too ugly for that."
  • "Of course, I am not going to cope with living on my own, no one else has ever been happy doing that."
  • "There's not even any point in trying to meet new people as no one will want me."
  • "Loneliness is an inevitable outcome of living on my own."
  • "No single person has ever had a happy future."

I hope you can see that these are exaggerations but they hold some implied truth based on what has been said.

What also happens is that they are likely to produce a rebuff, such as "I am not that ugly" or "But Frankie loves living on her own". In this way the emotions attached to these thoughts are reduced, as long tapping is continued. That is an essential component.

Emotional summary

Developing emotional agility, the ability to move through and transform unhelpful emotions, is essential for our emotional wellbeing and a critical component of being emotionally intelligent.

Using a variety of techniques to help maintain our emotional wellbeing is essential. This article outlines how to go beyond simple tapping to add voicing and exaggeration to help release unhelpful or stuck emotions.

It is not the only method to use, it is just one of many. I find it most helpful when I combine it with a regular meditation practice and the Feldenkrais Method. Others find it helpful when combined with regular sessions at a psychologist. Others find it helpful just on its own. And some don't like it at all! However, trying it is a good place to start for most people.

If you have any concerns about using it please seek the help you need, especially as I am not a psychologist and some emotional problems are severe or very deep seated and require more than this to shift them. Also, if thinking about your issues triggers others it may be best to use this technique under the guidance of someone well qualified and experienced in its use, rather than going it alone from the beginning. That is what I did.

What response will you get? Well it is unlikely that you will move from dismay to feeling ecstatic in one go! I find the emotional movement occurs over time. It also may bring up tears or tiredness. Many of my clients find themselves yawning and I may cry during or after sessions. Then I am free of the emotions holding me back. Now that is emotional intelligence in action!

Coaching on emotional intelligence is available with me. Feel able to book into my emotional intelligence coaching package to learn how to develop high skills of emotional self-management and greater emotional agility. I love helping others do this.

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