by Steve Wells, www.eftdownunder.com, Copyright 2005
In this article I’d like to give you just a couple of the distinctions I’ve learned on applying EFT effectively to anger. I’d like to start by acknowledging Dr. Larry Nims, developer of the Be Set Free Fast (BSFF) approach, for what he taught us about treating anger in his Sydney workshop back in 1999. Basically, Larry contends that underneath anger is almost always one or all of the following emotions: anxiety, fear, sadness, hurt, deep hurt. If you apply your energy treatment (in this case EFT) to just the anger you’ll often find that the anger resists the treatment, or that you still find more anger because the underlying emotion is continuing to drive the angry feelings. If you can identify what this underlying emotion is and treat that you will often be surprised how rapidly the anger subsides. In my personal experience in treating men with significant anger issues, the underlying problem is almost always hurt or deep hurt. Since anger is the only negative emotion that men are allowed (and yet not allowed) to express in society it often arises as the external expression of their underlying hurt. Treating the hurt feelings – and the genesis of those hurt feelings which are often rooted in in family of origin incidents from the past – can often rapidly release the anger.
Rick: I agree with Steve that when we’re using EFT on anger, look for the feelings underneath. Just be aware that sometimes those feeling show up first, followed by the anger. I was working with a client last night, a woman, where the anger showed up last. Many young girls are raised to “be nice” and are not given permission to feel and express anger. After we had tapped through the deep hurt, sadness, and feelings of being trapped and betrayed, it was the anger that popped up. Which was healthy! For men, acknowledging the deep hurt can lead to deep healing. For “nice girls” acknowledging the anger can do the same.
I once had a client who would become so upset with his partner that he would chase after her when she walked out of an argument and ultimately ended up violently pushing and shoving her. He came to therapy because he was confused by his own level of aggression and concerned about what might happen if he didn’t get help. We worked on the underlying hurt feelings, which were linked to issues in the past with his father. I also had him focus on what it felt like being in the heat of the argument with his partner and we applied EFT to the feelings this generated. This immediately led him to sense a greater feeling of control and correspondingly less need to control his partner. Now several years later he says “I just don’t have any of those aggressive motivations anymore.”
Another point I’d like to make is that anger is a driving emotion. This is why it can be difficult sometimes to get the tapping happening in the middle of an angry incident, the person is just too involved in their own expression of the emotion to stop and tap. In these cases I recommend that EFT be done at neutral times so that whenever incidents happen which might trigger the angry episodes it is likely that less emotion will be triggered and if triggered the level of intensity is likely to be less.
Rick: Steve refers to anger as a driving emotion. Yes, driving like a forest fire drives the innocent animals in front of it. The person doing the raging can, if he is used to using EFT, start tapping while he is raging. It’s rare to see that happen, especially for those new to EFT. Even us old hands have a difficult time remembering; when we’re angry, it is a different part of our brain that is in control…
I had a client when I first used EFT who taught me this. He’d been having angry outbursts whenever his girlfriend didn’t do something she should have done, for example she’d leave her shoes and clothes lying around. He came in to our second session and said that EFT hadn’t worked because his girlfriend had left her stuff lying around and when she came home he’d had a major temper outburst and ended up breaking the glass shower screen in a fit of rage. When I questioned him about it he admitted that he hadn’t actually tapped at all since he’d become too upset and instead just reacted to the situation. I suggested that instead of waiting for the anger-provoking incidents to occur and then try to get himself to tap in the middle of the angry feelings that he instead tap several times daily for ‘any anger’ (whether or not he was aware of feeling anger at the time) and also spend some time anticipating events like this which might cause him to get angry, and spend a bit of time thinking about them and tapping on them. This simple two-pronged approach was enough and as far as I know he’s never had a violently angry incident since.
So if you are the one who wants to help someone else to overcome their anger problem, be wary of asking them to tap when they are in the middle of an angry outburst (Don’t try to talk to a drunk when they are drunk and don’t try to tap an angry person when they are angry – unless you know what you are doing or have a black belt in aikido!). Instead, seek to discuss things – and tap with them – at a more neutral time. At that time you can work with them to identify the underlying emotions associated with the anger and encourage them to tap on those. Be aware of your own limits and ask for help from a qualified therapist if you aren’t making progress, also, with both children and adults remember there’s still a role for behavioral consequences and limit setting at the time. AND tap on yourself for the feelings generated in you by their behavior (Such as anger, anxiety, sadness, hurt, deep hurt).
In my personal work with anger I want to offer one further distinction I have found useful. When someone close to you does something upsetting, the angry hurt feelings can sometimes be overwhelming. On a few occasions I’ve found such feelings to be so strong that EFT seems to have little effect in reducing the hurt. Recently, I was tapping after an upsetting incident with my wife and getting nowhere when I decided that instead of just tapping on the hurt and angry feelings I would try tapping on what it was I felt my wife ‘should’ have done (instead of what she did do. So I thought about what it was I felt she should have done while I tapped on the points (Even though she should have done X but she didn’t I deeply and completely accept myself), and within seconds the hurt angry feelings subsided. The relief I felt was instant and I’ve since used this successfully at other times when I’ve become upset at something someone has done (or not done that I felt they should have done!). I’ve recently started sharing this with clients who’re also starting to report positive results. I think the reason it works is because it causes us to focus on what we are really attached to, our personal rule that they have broken. By tapping on this you are actually going in to the area with the strongest emotional attachment and releasing that attachment with the power of EFT. See how this works for you, and please feel free to send me your feedback.
Rick: This point about tapping on what the person SHOULD have done is an extremely valuable approach. It lays bare our expectations, gets our energy system precisely in tune with what we think would have made us happy but didn’t happen, and let’s that release through EFT. Try it!
This is incredable insight. I almost gave up on Eft after some success with it, because I got absolutely nowhere when I became angry. Once I became mad at my husband I would try to tap on the anger and the cortisol would just keep pumping and I would be just as mad when he came home from work as I was when he left. therefore I thought it really was not going to work for me. I know from your comments I now need to approach it another way. I like the approach of tapping on what he should have done to address the hurt. I recently did this with an old wound caused in childhood by my mother and it was tremendosly healing. thanks
Anger is a powerful energy to work with. Glad you found this insightful Meg. “I recently did this with an old wound caused in childhood by my mother and it was tremendously healing.” Working with a coach can also help, since it the anger energy when we don’t feel supported can be more gracefully redirected when… we’re actually being supported! Hope that helps. Ask away if you have other questions. -Rick