How Acupoint Tapping Can Help Transform Relationships
Posted December 16, 2021
Relationships are challenging for everyone, yet the quality of your relationships correlates strongly with your happiness, sense of well-being, and even your physical health. Can acupoint tapping help you and your clients address the challenging issues that even the best relationships bring our way? Practitioners are, in fact, finding that the answer to that question is “Yes!” Tapping can be effectively applied to foster greater intimacy, trust, understanding, and ease.
This month’s article takes a close look at the power of energy psychology for improving relationships. It shows how tapping can be used to develop 7 key relationship skills and includes revealing examples from Donna Eden’s 44-year relationship with her husband and closest collaborator, David Feinstein (hint: it’s not always been easy, even after it’s become wonderful!)
Overcoming Differences in Relationships
We have identified 7 relationship skill zones where tapping can be particularly effective in helping people reconnect or overcome their differences in a relationship. Countless individuals and couples have gained substantial benefits from using acupoint tapping techniques on a self-help basis, and Donna and David are no exception! If you are a therapist, the principles presented here apply with couples counselling as well as self-directed tapping.
This article is based on a chapter in Donna and David’s book, The Energies of Love. The chapter goes deep into the details of how they needed to draw upon these skill sets as Donna worked through personal challenges that emerged within their relationship relatively recently. (here is the link to the chapter >>>).
7 Key Skill Zones for Better Relationships
Skills that will enhance any relationship involve developing the ability to:
- move through emotional intensity without escalating
- neutralize triggers
- trace current challenges to formative childhood experiences
- heal old wounds
- change lifelong patterns that trace to those wounds
- complete other “unfinished business,” and
- establish a vision of how you want yourself or your relationship to change and rewiring your brain to support that vision.
Tapping can play a vital role in each of these!
The theme you will see unfolding for Donna traces to a core decision she made early in her childhood that she would not cause trouble for anyone. Her sister and her brother required a great deal of attention from their parents, and Donna, the middle child, took on the family role of being the one who wasn’t a source of difficulty.
While this may seem somewhat trivial compared with people whose background includes abuse or the early loss of a parent, it was still a pervasive theme that limited Donna in many ways, and it got her into destructive relationships. Donna was aware of this issue and had worked on it before, but we are each a work in progress. Certain basic themes can re-emerge when we are ready to resolve them in new ways, and this can occur again and again, at deeper levels, as we evolve.
Relationship Skill Zone #1: Moving through Emotional Intensity Without Escalating
For many couples, well-travelled pathways in the brain are so profoundly established that they get “sucked into the same old lose-lose situation” even when they know they are going to crash if they travel along that path.
Tapping intervenes at the level of your brain chemistry. It signals safety, slows emotional reactivity, and allows you to take a breath. This makes it possible, at that moment, to look at your partner through fresh eyes and actively listen rather than react in old ways. So, tapping whenever one partner is triggered can ease things considerably. The challenge everyone finds, however, is that it is enormously difficult to stop and regroup once things have escalated. A way of heading off escalation is to use the “tap while you talk, tap while you listen” technique when a delicate topic arises.
The first time Donna and David tried this technique, it worked beautifully. Donna was in a situation where, due to unforeseen circumstances, she had to change some plans without consulting David. The change was clearly going to be a substantial inconvenience for him. This broke her deeply entrenched rule that she can’t “cause trouble” for anyone, so she was already on edge when they started to talk about what had occurred.
Part of the “no trouble” pattern was that when she did cause “trouble,” she expected the other person to be hurt, angry, or upset. As she began the conversation with David, she was already certain that he would be irritated. After all, who was she to make an independent decision that might inconvenience the one she loves! This, of course, has the effect of bringing out a defensive emotional response in the partner, and a simple conversation during a lovely walk in the park can turn into a bad dream of hurt, frustration, anger, or withdrawal.
How it Works: Staying Calm and Centered
Noticing that Donna was upset, David suggested they use the technique, both tapping while they talked and listened to each other. David later reflected that listening while tapping helped him receive Donna’s emotional charge without taking it personally. As Donna tapped while explaining the circumstances and listening to David’s response, she recognized that he was taking her in deeply and understood what occurred. They were both quickly done with it.
The next time they used this technique, however, it made things worse. So, they discovered an important caveat. If the incident you are tapping on touches into a theme that has a great deal of unresolved emotion, you may simply be escalating the situation, uncovering layer after layer without resolving a thing before the next unresolved emotion or memory has surfaced. If that occurs, do not continue. Instead, focus the tapping on the emotional challenge that just emerged in whichever partner. That is another way of moving through emotional intensity before it escalates.
Relationship Skill Zone #2: Shifting the Way You Respond to Triggering Behaviors in Your Partner
Beyond not escalating an argument, tapping can be used to change either partner’s response to behaviors that tend to trigger emotional upset. While best done with the guidance of a therapist, the partner who is not triggered can help guide the other through this process if they are able to set aside their own story, for the time being, so they are taking in and even being an advocate for their partner’s reality.
One of the dynamics in Donna’s theme of causing no one any trouble is that her needs, desires, and preferences are not always made clear, so she often feels dismissed by David, the one who is closest to her. However, how much is it that David dismisses what Donna has conveyed to him and how much is it that Donna feels dismissed though she never fully expressed her thoughts or needs?
This was the central problem in a situation where Donna felt that David had put some travel plans into motion without having adequately gone over the details with her. She was upset about it, and when she received the actual itinerary, she was triggered particularly strongly, feeling hurt, unseen, and discounted.
How it Works: Play the Scene in Your Mind
Donna brought to mind the moment she read the travel itinerary, how dismissed she immediately felt, and how she felt like she was talking to a blank wall when she told David about her feelings. David’s not responding in a more reassuring manner triggered Donna to be flooded with feelings about having made trouble by complaining. Now she felt she was being punished for it, even though that was not the case at all. David’s “strong silent type” understanding of what was happening was that by not responding, he was taking in and accepting Donna’s complaint. For Donna, it verified that she wasn’t allowed to cause trouble. She rated the incident at an 8, indicating strong emotional intensity and distress.
Donna started tapping on what just occurred: “Just because David is silent doesn’t mean I’ve been tried, judged, and convicted of wrecking the relationship by having caused trouble.” This was a step toward defusing David’s characteristic slow reactions from being a trigger for one of Donna’s core issues.
Relationship Skill Zone #3: Tracing Emotional Challenges in Your Relationship to Formative Childhood Experiences
This skill set is about looking into your past and tracing your current, recurring challenges with a partner to an early childhood memory. In Donna’s case, she found that her “can’t make trouble” theme was already in play when she was four. An early memory of a family outing came into her awareness. Her family had gone to a forested area in the mountains, and little Donna had wandered off and become lost.
As it grew dark, she was unable to find her way back. When time passed, and no one found her, she remembered trying to come to terms with her belief that they had all gone home without her. This seemed natural to her. She had caused trouble by making her family look for her, and she felt she understood completely their decision to leave her behind.
How it Works: Rate How You Feel
Asked to describe what it is like now to think back on that little girl who “understood completely,” Donna described a deep sadness. She reflected that “even though I comforted myself by saying I knew my Mama loved me, I also believed Mama’s love would fade into the background if I made trouble. And, in this case, it would be troublesome for the family to have to look for me.” Donna gave her feelings of sadness about this an 8 on the 0 to 10 scale. Once you have identified an incident from your past that is emblematic of the pattern you are wanting to change, you will be able tap on the unresolved feelings that are keeping you locked in the pattern.
Relationship Skill Zone #4: Healing Lingering Emotional Wounds
Tracing your issue back to a childhood memory can be powerful in and of itself, but it is often not enough. Emotional wounds can linger and impact experiences in adulthood, as you will see from Donna’s example below.
How it Works: Tap on What Emerges
Donna began to tap on her memory of the family outing in the forest. She started with this Acceptance Statement: “Even though I couldn’t make trouble, I deeply love and accept myself.” She tapped on it and a few other Statements as well as related phrases. After several rounds, the rating on her sadness in realizing what it meant for that little girl that they were not coming back for her had gone down to a 2.
At this point, Donna’s focus went to other situations from later in her life that had the same theme emotionally. She focused on one of them from her first marriage. She had a miscarriage and got an infection while in the hospital. But she signed herself out against doctor’s orders, left the hospital so that she wouldn’t cause a financial burden for her husband., and stayed by herself with no one to look after her since her husband was out of town
The Acceptance Statement she used for this new aspect of the theme was, “Even though I had that terrible loss that I didn’t let him feel, I deeply love and accept myself.” By this point, her rating on her sadness for the little girl was down to 0, but it was still a 4 for the young woman in the hospital. Donna then did several more rounds of tapping.
As her pain about the hospital incident receded, she was left with humiliation about having been such a doormat. After tapping to release the humiliation, a few other incidents with the same theme, also from Donna’s adult life, were resolved quite readily. The metaphor of peeling the “layers of the onion” is used to describe this process. You work with whatever emerges. The resolution of each specific issue builds on all that had been emotionally resolved before it.
Relationship Skill Zone #5: Transform the Patterns That Grew Out of Early Emotional Wounds
Even after significant emotional healing, the patterns that can become embedded in an individual’s relationships do not automatically shift. But at that point, these patterns are usually ready for an intervention that does shift them so a new behavior or emotional response can be established. The Outcome Projection Procedure is a powerful technique that can help with this.
It begins with envisioning a hoped-for outcome rather than a symptom or troubling situation. It continues to use a 0-to-10 rating, but in a different way. It rates the believability of the hoped-for result, with 0 being that it is impossible and 10 being that it absolutely could happen. Except for these differences, the Outcome Projection Procedure uses the same basic process as before.
The theme that Donna wanted to change involved the way she would still hold back from exerting her will if it would disappoint or inconvenience someone. This often came up with David in work situations (couples who work together often grapple with a unique set of relationship challenges). She selected a situation where it would be difficult to get what she wanted. She imagined herself expressing her intentions, with strong resolve, to David and two other administrators in their company.
How it Works: Visualize the Outcome You Want
Donna began by visualizing herself, presenting her request with confidence and without guilt. On the 0 to 10 scale, with 10 being that it was totally believable that she could do this successfully, she gave it a rating of 4. It was plausible that she could make the request with confidence, but it did not feel very likely.
Donna began with this Acceptance Statement: “Even though I’m not very confident that I can pull this off, I deeply love and accept myself.” As she then tapped on related phrases, she also imagined herself in the situation, presenting the request effortlessly.
After a number of rounds of tapping, her believability score increased to a solid 8. She reported, “I now believe the vision that I’m one of them. It isn’t me against them or them against me. We’re together as long as I stand firm.” Because believability may not reach 10 until the person has actually experienced the new behavior in a real-life situation, a believability score of 8 will usually translate into the person’s life quite readily.
Relationship Skill Zone #6: Complete Any Other “Unfinished Business” in Your Emotional Life
At this point, the Energies of Love book shifts from Donna as the case illustration to their clients. They explain this in the book by noting, “We will now allow Donna to return from this naked display of emotional conflicts, necessary when being used as a demonstration case, to the relatively privacy of being an author.”
The couple used to illustrate this sixth set of skills showed how baggage from an earlier marriage was impacting the current relationship. Unhealed emotional wounds from an earlier time in your current or previous relationship may be an invisible force keeping your marriage or partnership from moving forward. While such wounds are a source of vulnerability, they can become a source of greater strength and resilience after being processed and healed.
It is not necessary for old wounds to fester and limit the possibilities for your future together. The same tapping protocols that are used in individual work can be applied with either partner. An advantage of having the partner witnessing the process is that, even before the tapping has had its effect, identifying these ghosts from the past promotes empathy and also helps the partner to not take behaviors rooted in past relationships as personally. And as the tapping does heal old wounds, it becomes a cause for celebration for both partners.
Relationship Skill Zone #7: Establish a Strong Vision of How You Want Yourself or Your Relationship to Change and Rewire Your Brain to Support that Vision
The first 6 sets of skills are for managing conflict and overwhelm, defusing emotional triggers, healing old wounds, and changing deep patterns. This 7th set is the icing on the cake. Can you hold a vision of the way your relationship could evolve and embed that vision into your nervous system? Here are the initial instructions for accomplishing that, from The Energies of Love:
Relax deeply. Feel how life will be once the inner change you hope for has been achieved. Allow a vision that symbolizes this change to emerge. Write it down or share it with your partner.
Of course, this may be the beginning of its own journey. Psychological reversals may emerge, such as “It’s not possible for me to have a great relationship” or “I don’t deserve to be loved.” The established protocols for tapping on these obstacles apply in a couple’s context as well as when working alone. Ultimately, however, you will come to a vision that you can fully embrace, and you can then use tapping to vitalize that vision so it guides you in your day-to-day choices and understanding of what’s possible.
Achieving Greater Intimacy and Happiness
You can use the above methods to identify and tap on forces within yourself and in your relationship that may need to be transformed so you and your partner can achieve greater intimacy and happiness. While you may sometimes want a skilled practitioner to help you use these techniques to navigate through complex territory, acupoint tapping is always available to make things better in the moment, and it can often facilitate lasting changes in long-standing patterns.
As mentioned earlier, this article is based on a chapter from Donna and David’s book, The Energies of Love. The chapter includes details such as the actual dialogue and phrases Donna and David used in overcoming challenging patterns in their own relationship, and it provides helpful guidance and important insights along the way. Click here to get access to the full chapter >>>
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