Managing Negative Thoughts with EFT and ACT

By Katina Cremona

My client, Graham (not his real name), announced at the beginning of our session that he was sick of waking up each day focused on things that weren’t working well. He would obsess about all the aspects of his life that he wanted to be better—and that seemed to include most areas—such as his work, relationships, and particularly himself. This would inevitably lead to overeating, smoking, or drinking alcohol and feeling even worse.

Starting with a SUD level of 7, we tapped on his current state, using words and thoughts he had mentioned during our conversation.

Even though nothing ever feels right, I completely love and accept myself.
Even though I feel stressed and anxious every day of my life, I completely love and accept myself.
Even though I don’t understand why I’m never satisfied with all the beautiful things I have in my life, I completely love and accept myself.

Graham’s SUD level went down to 5. At this reflection point, he said that his life has been quite good lately, but even though his external life had been stable, he noticed that he could flip-flop from happy thoughts to miserable, obsessive thoughts very easily. He wished he could stand back from his thoughts and not drown in them. When he was in a negative thinking spiral, he felt like giving up.

Even though I make myself miserable no matter how good things are, I completely love and accept myself.
Even though I can’t step back from my thoughts, I completely love and accept myself.
Even though it’s all too hard and I feel like walking away from it all, I completely love and accept myself.

SUD 4 out of 10. Graham began to reflect more deeply on his relationship to his thoughts. He said it felt irresponsible to step back from his thoughts; it would feel careless not to seriously consider each thought; he didn’t know who he’d be if he didn’t have all these dramatic thoughts; they were the only way he managed his anxiety; he’d be bored without them.

During our conversation, it became clearer that Graham had a polarized attitude towards his thoughts: Either he had to take every thought seriously or he didn’t care at all and ignored all of them.

We began tapping on these polarities for each tapping round, for example, the first tapping round emphasized Graham’s primary attitude: All my thoughts are equally valid, I don’t know who I’d be or what I’d do without my thoughts, I’d be bored, all my thoughts are important, I should listen to every thought I have, I’m careless if I don’t consider my thoughts, they are always right no matter how much they make me miserable…

The second tapping round focused on the opposite part: I don’t give a damn about any of my thoughts, that’s how I deal with my anxiety, I could walk away from my relationship, I don’t care about anything, the only way I feel confident is when I ignore my thoughts, I don’t want to think at all…

The third tapping round incorporated alternating these two parts: All my thoughts are important, some thoughts are not useful, I must listen to every thought, not all my thoughts help me…

After this, tapping rounds included the following phrases: I wonder what it would be like to be discerning about my thoughts? I wonder what it would be like to step back from them and see them, to decide which ones are useful? Maybe I don’t have to take every thought seriously, maybe my mind is not always helpful, maybe I can choose which thoughts to listen to…

Graham reported a SUD level of 1 and loved the idea of being more discriminating about his thoughts. This was a cognitive shift of realizing he could do more about how his mind operated than he previously thought. Earlier in our session, when Graham mentioned his desire to stand back from his thoughts, I began to think that ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) might be a helpful framework to supplement the work we were doing with EFT.

The third tapping round was inspired by my knowledge of this approach. ACT offers techniques of distancing from thoughts such as using metaphors for our minds such as a spoiled brat, a dictator, or a word machine. They suggest ways of defusing from our thoughts—to look at thoughts rather than from thoughts—like singing our thoughts out loud or repeating words until they sound meaningless.

Graham realized he didn’t have to be a victim of his thoughts and could experiment with some of the techniques I suggested, together with continuing to tap on the two parts we had identified.

I spoke with Graham a month later and he was happy to report that his thoughts were not making his life miserable in the ways they used to and that he was continuing to work on distancing from them with a gratitude practice, tapping, and ACT.

The first gratitude list Graham sent me was very touching: amongst many people, experiences, and qualities in himself that he was grateful for, he wrote: “I’m happy that I’ve been able to distance myself more from my thoughts—look at them from afar—discount them—laugh at them.”

This article was featured in:
EFTUniverse Weekly Peak EFT Insights Newsletter, 30/8/16

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