If you touch the body with attentive fingers, and pay close attention to the sensations, you will notice that there are points on the body that naturally attract your attention. These points feel different. And if you rub them or tap on them or poke them, they stimulate a healing response. Pain is relieved. We feel better.
We now know that humans have explored the healing potential of such points for well over 5000 years. Treatment of these points is part of the ancient medical history of many cultures, particularly Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which uses needles to stimulate these “acupoints.”
Recent innovations use a selection of these same points to put quick and long-lasting RELIEF at your fingertips… relief from stress, anxiety, fear, overwhelm, pain and suffering, distressing thoughts, disturbing memories, and limiting beliefs. You’ll hear these cutting-edge tapping techniques referred to by a variety of names including the generic terms Energy Tapping and Meridian Tapping Techniques (MTT) as well as by Thought Field Therapy (TFT) and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).
These tapping techniques use your fingertips to tap the points. But because the tapping looks so unusual—unlike anything we’ve seen in western medical culture—most of us want to know its origins. Where did this come from!?!? So to understand how these tapping innovations evolved, we’ll start at The Beginning.
Early Human Healing
As we begin this brief history, it is useful to imagine early tribal humans living in caves. Accidents, injuries, and disease were a part of their world, too, but they had to make do literally what they had available “at hand.”
When we humans hurt, our instincts lead us to hold, rub, and comfort the part that is in pain. Caring members of our tribe would reach out as well, offering the comfort of their touch in times of distress.
Over thousands of years, certain individuals with a keen interest in bringing relief and healing to others studied what worked. They laid their hands on the body. They explored. They felt the life energy beneath their fingers… pulses, rhythms, and flows.
They observed what restored balance and well-being… and what did not. These early healers were open to ways to support and accelerate the healing process, and they passed down their discoveries from generation to generation. No doubt, tribes with deeper knowledge of healing practices had a survival advantage over others.
Clues from a 5,000-Year-Old Mummy & An Egyptian Papyrus
In 1991 a well-preserved mummy, now named Otzi, was discovered frozen in a glacier near the Italian border with Austria. He is estimated to have lived over 5,000 years ago. Evaluation by scientists has shown that Otzi appears to have suffered from back pain and arthritis, and he had been “treated” using non-ornamental tattoos on and near points that today would be used for acupuncture treatment of Otzi’s medical conditions.
Moving forward in time to around 3,500 years ago, the Ebers Papyrus from Egypt (1550 BC) describes channels in the body that closely approximate known meridians, the lines of energy flow upon which the acupoints are located.
Animals, too, have acupoints and meridians. One possible reason that the Indian (Sri Lankan) elephant was successfully tamed (while the African elephant was not) is that acupoints were worked out that calmed the beasts and enabled them to be communicated with and trained. These are shown quite clearly in the illustration shown here, which was drawn some 3,000 years ago.
Chinese Develop Formalized Treatment
The earliest known complete text on acupuncture is the Huang Di Nei Jing or Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (Warring States Period 476-221 BC). This appears to be a compilation of all acupuncture knowledge to that time and is still the basis for modern acupuncture. The meridian channels, 365 acupuncture points, types of needles, and indications and contraindications were all documented in detail. Yet, even earlier signs of acupuncture development in China exist, including archaeological evidence of stone needles dating back to 1700 BC.
Acupuncture affects the flow of energy in the body, and it is the “disrupted” flow of energy in the body that leads to dis-ease and distress. Clearly, stimulating the acupoints for health purposes has a long history dating back to the stone age or even earlier. In the thousands of years since, the Chinese in particular have continued to use acupuncture as an integral part of their traditional medicine.
The medical practice of acupuncture, however, requires extensive training. Acupuncture is NOT for self-treatment.
From East to West… Acupuncture to Tapping
Felix Mann helped spread acupuncture from Asia to the west. He was the author of the first comprehensive English language acupuncture textbook, Acupuncture: The Ancient Chinese Art of Healing, first published in 1962.
It’s appropriate to stop here and recognize that an entirely unique paradigm of medical treatment going back thousands of years was condensed and no-doubt imperfectly translated from Chinese to English through this book. No book alone is adequate training in such an ancient, hands-on healing art. However, what such incomplete disclosures can evoke in a true scientist is a sense of curiosity. Is there a way to take this information and apply it in new and useful ways?
Such a scientist was George Goodheart, Jr., a chiropractor. A lifelong student, he was curious about all forms of healing. He learned about acupuncture in the early 1960s, reportedly from studying Mann’s research on acupuncture meridians. As he palpated the body with his fingers to find the causes of pain, it was a natural step to try tapping on the meridian points with his fingers.
Goodheart explored the connection between the meridians associated with certain body parts and illness in the body. He became aware that the emotional state of the patient affected the response and strength of the muscles. In 1964 he advanced earlier research and developed a method of muscle testing that is now called Applied Kinesiology.
Then in 1966 he wrote a manual on strengthening muscles that were shown to be weak while holding certain meridian points. (Phil Mollon, Psychoanalytic Energy Psychotherapy, p.32)
John Diamond, a psychiatrist, became one of Goodheart’s students in 1973. He began using muscle testing as part of his practice and found he could identify core psychological issues more quickly. He would use affirmations while stimulating certain meridians to help his patients get emotional relief. He delineated through testing with clients which particular emotional state was associated with each acupuncture meridian.
By 1979, Diamond’s model had expanded to integrate aspects of psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, kinesiology, preventive medicine… music, art, and humanities… alongside stimulating meridian acupoints… truly a holistic approach.
Roger Callahan, a psychologist, studied Applied Kinesiology with Goodheart’s group, including John Diamond. He was a pioneer in cognitive and behavior therapies and had been doing psychotherapy for 30 years prior to his “ah-ha!” moment:
Callahan had been working for a year and a half with Mary, a patient of his who had such an overwhelming fear of water that she could not even get into a bathtub without it precipitating an anxiety attack. Although he had tried every anxiety reduction technique at his disposal with her (including suggestion, placebo, clinical hypnosis, behavioral therapy, rational-emotive, systematic desensitization, distraction techniques, progressive relaxation, client-centered therapy, and exposure), the progress had been slow and discouraging. Mary couldn’t even approach the swimming pool on the grounds of his office, or allow water to contact her body, without suffering.
One day while they were working on this fear in his home office, Mary complained about a feeling in the pit of her stomach whenever she thought about water. As it happens, there is an acupuncture point located directly beneath the eye which, according to traditional acupuncture, is linked to the stomach meridian.
Dr. Callahan asked her to tap on that point. He did this on the assumption that this might balance a possible disturbance in her “meridian energy system” and thereby lessen her stomach symptoms. He had no idea that it would have profound implications for the future of his practice and for psychology.
Mary agreed to tap under her eyes… and when she did so a totally unexpected thing happened. Instead of merely experiencing relief from her stomach symptoms, she called out in surprise that her fear of water was suddenly gone! Callahan didn’t take this too seriously at first because it seemed so unlikely, but then he watched her get up and run toward the swimming pool!
At this point he actually became somewhat alarmed because he knew Mary couldn’t swim, so he ran after her to make sure she didn’t fall into the pool. Mary let him know that she did remember that she could not swim (healthy and normal caution), yet she felt surprisingly free of the panic. When she walked near the edge at the deep end of the pool, an area she had never been able to approach before, she began splashing water on her face. It turned out, as strange as it seemed, the process of tapping under her eyes while she was talking about her fear of water, had eliminated her fear on a permanent basis.
Callahan decided to explore the possibility of using strategic tapping on certain meridian points to treat other phobias as well. While not all the phobias responded to the tapping procedure as rapidly as Mary’s had (although some did!), this experience marked an important turning point for a new era of energy psychology.
Callahan Techniques eventually became known as Thought Field Therapy (TFT) and are still in wide use today. With TFT the client thinks of the problem while tapping the specific points and monitors the emotional intensity using Subjective Units of Distress (SUDS). During his exploration, Callahan found that some patients had what he called Psychological Reversal (basically a resistance or fear to getting over the problem… whether conscious or not).
He found that affirmations or tapping on the small intestine meridian on the side of the hand (our Karate Chop point) while thinking about the issue would normally resolve this. He also developed the collarbone breathing technique and 9 Gamut procedures for unusual cases. (Mollon p.52) Callahan found that there were certain patterns of tapping points that worked well for specific problems. He published these tapping algorithms so muscle testing or other advanced forms of diagnosis were no longer required in all cases.
Several of Callahan’s students investigated simplified versions of his procedures, exploring whether muscle testing and his version of “diagnosis” were necessary.
Patricia Carrington is one of these early tapping pioneers. By 1987, Carrington had developed and was using for her patients and in workshops a “single algorithm” tapping method which she called Acutap. This method intentionally did not use any diagnostic procedure such as muscle testing. She simply asked people to tap on all of the acupuncture end-points each time they did a round of tapping.
Using this method, Carrington was able to help her clients in ways that had never been possible before. During the years since, she has continued to be a leader in the field of meridian tapping, and her Choices Method played a key role in bringing client-centered positive choices into the tapping process.
Gary Craig, who developed Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), was also a student of Callahan. In 1995 he released his own tapping techniques which involved tapping all the meridians in sequence… without concern for the order. He added the reminder phrase, spoken at each tapping point. He also emphasized that there can be many aspects to an issue, and he introduced reframes, questioning, and other story-processing approaches that would be familiar to anyone who has studied Neural Linguistic Programming (NLP). He also encouraged people to allow the words to flow “though them” as they tapped rather than getting stuck on doing it the one “right” way.
Craig makes the point that he was a Stanford-trained engineer, not a mental health or medical professional. Against the strongly held opinion of many traditionalists, Craig felt that tapping could become a “universal healing aid” and wanted to share this information with everyone… so people can try it and see for themselves whether tapping relieves their emotional and physical pains. By making the tapping process simpler, providing a free manual to all who wanted it, publishing a free email newsletter with case studies, and offering for sale a comprehensive library of EFT instructional videos, Craig was a leader in spreading the word about tapping to the general public. (Gary Craig retired in 2010 and released EFT into the public domain.)
Other meridian techniques that have grown from the earlier discoveries include: John Diepold’s Touch and Breathe (TAB) method, Be Set Free Fast (BSFF) by Larry Nims, Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT) from Tapas Fleming, ReMap by Steve Reed, and Simplified Energy Therapy (SET) and Provocative Energy Therapy (PET) by Steve Wells and David Lake. There are many others. And you will also hear the term Meridian Tapping Techniques (MTT) used by practitioners as well.
Please remember that when we use the terms Energy Tapping or Tapping, they are meant as a generic terms encompassing many different techniques, methods, and approaches. For example, we consider TFT and EFT to be “energy tapping,” although clearly there are differences (and even disagreements) between Craig and Callahan about the strengths and benefits of their approaches. This is common as any field matures. We see the same thing in “massage therapy” and “bodywork” (generic terms) where over 200 styles are known by different names. Some of these names are protected and controlled by their trademark holders (such as Feldenkrais Method® and Trager®) while others are not.
Does it matter which technique you use? Yes, and no. The best way we can describe it, especially if you are not familiar with any of the tapping techniques yet, is that it is like answering the question, “Do you like rock ‘n roll?” For most people there are some rock groups they like and others less so (or not at all). Elvis is quite different from AC/DC, Kiss, or the Grateful Dead. Madonna is similar to but certainly not exactly like Cher or Lady Gaga. Get the idea? As Billy Joel sings, “It’s still rock ‘n roll to me!”
For example, what we’ve done in our guide, Transform Your Emotions with Energy Tapping (EFT), is show the tapping points most commonly used worldwide by EFT and MTT experts in a single tapping algorithm that leaves out the 9 gamut procedure found in TFT and the long form of EFT… blended with our own interpretations about how to best explain and introduce our free-flowing version of energy tapping to others. Still rock n’ roll? We think so!
Tapping is also highly effective in groups, whether at an in person workshop, over the phone, or through the internet. Gary Craig called this Borrowing Benefits. It is well documented that people in the audience or on a group teleconference who tap along while the practitioner works with another person usually notice that their issues go down in intensity, too… even if their issue is “unrelated” to the tapping that is being done! This has meant that thousands of people have benefitted at unprecedented levels from cost-effective group coaching using tapping who never would have been able to afford traditional private sessions.
Applications of Tapping
The greatest impact on human potential may come from specific applications of Tapping. Let’s look at why… using the example of computer technology.
Most people know that computers require programs (also called applications) in order to do anything useful. People who used early computers were essentially all “programmers.” They had no choice! If you wanted to use the computer, you had to learn all the ins and outs.
Today, of course, there are hundreds of thousands of skilled programmers and app developers worldwide… and billions of people who benefit from those applications. Those billions do not need to learn all the ins and outs of computer hardware and software in order to reap the rewards!
Just as you do not need to study computer programming to send an email, we feel that you can immediately benefit from Tapping using pre-packaged applications that address your specific needs.
One of the early leaders in developing specific tapping applications is Carol Look. In 2001 Carol published a manual for applying energy therapy to the “application” of weight loss. She followed with a manual to help people quit smoking. These manuals guided practitioners and motivated individuals in both the key questions to ask and the specific tapping rounds that can shift the fears and limiting beliefs that block someone from being successful.
Tapping applications help build awareness as people tap. For example, in Carol’s Attracting Abundance program, she has tapping for dozens of issues that block us… including procrastination, fear of success, guilt about having more than others, and the limiting belief that money is “bad.” Some of these energetic issues are obvious, and others are only recognized when we “try them on” and feel whether there is an intensity that shifts when we tap. Carol also introduced purely positive rounds of tapping into her programs. Tapping while saying these positive phrases helps to uplift our energy while exchanging limiting beliefs for empowering ones.
Rick Wilkes and Cathy Vartuli began their collaboration on tapping applications (as well as the Thriving Now Circles) in 2007 with programs for self-sabotage, trauma relief, and more. They incorporated inner child work, traumotology (the study of trauma and how it effects the mind and body and human well-being), and new research on mirror neurons to develop what they call Inner Tapping. They’ve found this approach to tapping empowers the user in unique ways and clears old hurts and traumas very thoroughly. They also teach about body guidance and boundaries at a fundamental level to help clients tune into their inner wisdom and intuition… and to feel safe and confident in the world.
If you’d like to learn more about specific applications of Tapping, go to Thriving Now. We have hundreds of articles and tapping scripts to help you address your issues and find calm and confidence!
Tapping today is at the forefront of new Emotional Technologies. We are recognizing that we humans and everything around us are made of energy. This living energy has patterns… colors, sounds, and textures… that vibrate as a dynamically evolving creation of our consciousness.
Even a non-musician can tell when a note sounds “wrong.” In the same way, each of us can hear, see, and sense the disharmony inside our own bodies, in our family and friends, and in the world around us.
But what shall we do with that awareness? Can we shift these vibrationally disharmonious energies in ways that are ever more pleasing to us? YES, we can!
It starts with our most intimate relationship—with our own body-mind. As we build awareness of our reactions to ourselves, to others, and to the world, we can use Tapping to take the “stress and strain” out. We can train our body and our mind to feel surprisingly calm and confident, no matter what. In such a state we have access to choices we simply do not have when we’re stressed. We can choose to set and maintain healthy boundaries with others. We can choose what is a YES for us rather than “should” on ourselves. We can choose love rather than fear.
Can Tapping really do all that? Try it. Try it on something that stresses your body. Try it on some small fear that keeps you from doing what your heart calls you to do. Feel into your emotions and notice your thoughts. Do you feel any relief? If so, explore with us. Share with us. Join with us in developing this living art… the Heartistry of Emotional Freedom.
Want to learn more? Get your free guide to getting started with tapping (EFT).