Tag Archives: Tapping

A brief experiment for Tappers

Yeah, I'm a Stargate fan. What of it? That Sanctuary thing was dreadful though.

Yeah, I’m a Stargate fan. What of it? That Sanctuary thing was dreadful though.

This one’s for all the tappers out there – people who believe in invisible energy meridians that are distributed throughout the body, and that stimulating the end-points of them can lead to positive effects. My contention is that tapping actually has no effect at all on the body’s energy meridians, because the body doesn’t have energy meridians; they don’t exist. My alternative hypothesis is that the simple act of tapping while reciting tapping ‘scripts’ may simple serve to distract you from the issue at hand.

I want to propose a little experiment to test this. The next time you feel the urge to tap, do some ‘sham’ tapping instead. What I mean is, do some tapping that shouldn’t work. I notice that none of these diagrams of tapping points feature any points below the waist*, so tap yourself on the leg instead. While doing that, recite something else, rather than your normal tapping script. Anything you like; a nice poem, your shopping list, whatever. For extra nerd-cred points you could try the Bene Gesserit litany against fear. If I’m right, and it’s the simple act of performing the ritual which is responsible for the (putative) effects, then this routine should be as effective as your normal one.

Of course, this is a highly unscientific experiment in lots of ways. Ideally we’d have a large group of people, subject half of them to a course of ‘real’ tapping and the other half to a course of ‘sham’ tapping, and then look at the different effects. Crucially, the people would be ‘blind’, in that they wouldn’t know anything about tapping or what the hypotheses and aims of the experiment were. If you’re already a committed tapper, you’re probably fairly invested in believing that tapping works, and as a corollary, are perhaps unlikely to be fully invested in my ‘sham’ tapping protocol. Nevertheless, humour me, and give it a go with an open mind. I’d be very interested to hear your impressions.

*Although there’s one obvious bodily end-point to stimulate down there… HUUUURRRRR.

Further thoughts on EFT – Tapping as a safety behaviour?

CBT_Anxiety_TreatmentI’ve written before about the Emotional Freedom Technique and Tapping; a pretty ridiculous-looking form of therapy that involves tapping oneself on the face and body in order to stimulate the end-points of ‘energy meridians’. It’s clear that this is essentially bogus, for the blank and uncontroversial reason that such energy meridians in the body simply don’t exist.

However, it’s possible that people derive some benefit from tapping/EFT, even though the mechanism behind it is bunk. The internet is awash with people who claim to have had extremely positive experiences with all kinds of things, including reiki, homeopathy, acupuncture, any of the various kinds of energy healing, and a whole host of other new-age touchy-feely alternative-medicine approaches; all of which have been determined to be basically ineffective in controlled trials. The positive experiences that people have with these things can be fairly safely attributed to some combination of the placebo effect and regression-to-the-mean. Most likely the same is true for those who derive some benefit from EFT/tapping.

So far, so uncontroversial. In this view, tapping is basically harmless and the only people suffering from it are people who willingly pay money for bogus therapies. However, I want to make an alternative suggestion; in people who tap for issues related to anxiety, tapping might actually be harmful, because it might come to be a safety behaviour.

Safety behaviours are well-studied characteristics of anxiety disorders, and the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) literature has many examples. This article explains them pretty well, but briefly, a safety behaviour is something that prevents engagement and exposure to the anxiety-provoking stimulus. For example, imagine someone who experiences panic attacks on trains, but  needs to take a train on their daily commute to work. One way of coping with this issue would be to simply get off the train at the next stop when the anxiety started to increase. A good CBT therapist doing exposure-therapy with this patient would instead recommend that they remain on the train and cope with their anxiety in other ways; this exposure to the feared situation, and the experience of being there and not having a panic attack (or having one, but then feeling the anxiety gradually decrease again) is the cornerstone of exposure therapy, and a very powerful weapon in the CBT therapists arsenal. In short then, safety behaviours are unhelpful in that they prevent exposure to the feared situation; they’re seductive, in that they reduce anxiety in the short term (by getting off the train, the situation is resolved and the panic attack doesn’t happen) but maintain, and perhaps even strengthen the association between a feared-situation and anxiety in the long-term. Some patients require many hours of therapy and exercises in order to reduce their safety behaviours, and this is generally a helpful process.

Tapping appears to be used a lot for anxiety relief, as this video (and many other videos/sites) suggests. My thought about tapping for anxiety then is, what if tapping becomes a safety behaviour? Tapping in an anxiety-provoking situation might serve to reduce the anxiety just because of simple distractibility. In fact it may be the spoken or sub-vocalised ‘scripts’ that accompany tapping that are more effective; something recognised by many previous authors. Unfortunately, this might have the effect of preventing the full exposure to a feared situation that is necessary to  learn that the fear will eventually reduce, and that the situation can be coped with. Just as for other safety behaviours, tapping might well be beneficial and highly reinforcing in the short-term (i.e. it reduces the anxiety) but harmful in the longer term. Some safety behaviours can be highly dysfunctional and, once entrenched, very difficult to eliminate.

Tapping, or the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). What. The. Fuck.

OK, buckle up space-cadets, this is a weird one.  The Emotional Freedom Technique is a kind of psychotherapy, developed in the 90s, that draws on a variety of pseudoscientific bollocks, including accupressure, our old friend NLP, various kinds of laying-on-of-hands-type ‘energy’ therapies and a good dose of very confused neurobollocks.

Essentially, what happens in an EFT counselling session is that you discuss your problem, while stimulating the ‘end points of the body’s energy meridians’. This stimulation takes the form of tapping yourself; on the head, the face, wherever.

Here’s a demonstration video from this site. Forget the bullshit at the beginning and skip through from about 2 minutes in, where she starts literally hitting herself in the face:

She’s hitting herself in the face! What is she doing? If you saw someone doing this in the street you’d assume they were having some kind of psychotic episode.

There are lots of ‘tapping’ sites out there (like this one), but this one is by far the most egregious in terms of neurobollocks. Projecttapping.com appears to have some serious money behind it, and is chock-to-the-brim with teeth-grinding neurobollocks:

“According to Neuroscience, every memory you have is encoded in your brain with an emotional charge. This charge then creates a neural pathway to signal an appropriate physiological response every time you’re reminded of an experience relevant to that memory. For instance, you might start trembling every time you’re faced with the possibility of public speaking. Tapping helps you rewire these neural pathways, so you can eliminate both the subconscious and conscious fears that cause negative reactions in you. After just a few sessions you’ll already notice the difference: fears that once caused you to doubt yourself, reject wealth or avoid change will begin to melt away.”

Also, apologies for the extensive quotes, but this one is just too good not to share too:

Tapping positively modifies your DNA
A study conducted by the Heartmath Institute showed that when a study participant evoked strong positive emotions like love and appreciation through practices like Tapping, their DNA unwound and increased in length. Negative emotions, on the other hand, caused strands of their DNA to shorten and in some cases disappear. In other words, working with your emotions allows you to change your genetic make-up and your life.

There you have it folks, positive emotions unwind your DNA, negative ones make it disappear! There’s also a weird undercurrent on that site about money and wealth – apparently if you’re poor, it’s probably because you’re ‘afraid’ of being wealthy and pushing money away. Riiiight.

There’s plenty of ridiculous stuff on the internet of course, so this is nothing too remarkable. What’s slightly weird about this particular site is that projecttapping.com is published by a company called Mindvalley, who describe themselves as ‘Pushing humanity forward through innovations in education and culture-hacking’. They seem to be a really weird blend of very up-to-date marketing and some really hackneyed new-age bullshit. The kind of company that California just seems to be so good at producing for some reason. Take a look at their ‘about’ page, if you have a chance. Have you ever seen a more self-satisfied bunch of touchy-feely hipster twats? Piss off with your bullshit ‘culture-hacking’ and ‘online meditation portals’. Do some real work.