In my long and quite personal – apologies for that – introduction to this subject, I referred to an “evidence-based energy psychology technique” and promised that I would have given further details in the follow-on article. Here we are then, introducing, for those who don’t already know it Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT.
Often referred to as “psychological acupressure”, the technique allegedly works by releasing “blockages” within the “energy system” which are said to be the source of emotional discomfort and a variety of physical ailments. The idea is that such blockages, in addition to challenging us emotionally, often lead to limiting beliefs and behaviours and an inability to live life harmoniously. Resulting symptoms are emotional and/or physical and include lack of confidence and self-esteem, feeling stuck anxious or depressed, the emergence of compulsive and addictive behaviours and a variety of pain syndromes. An EFT treatment involves the use of fingertips rather than needles to tap on the end points of energy meridians that are situated just beneath the surface of the skin, combined with an extremely simplified form of talk therapy. The technique is so simple that it can easily be self-administered. A wide range of free tutorials are available here for anybody wishing to know more.
Now, I must admit that, when I first learnt about EFT, my toes curled up inside my shoes big time. Even with all the weirdness that I have painfully come to accept during my ten years as a student of psychical research, the idea of an “energy system” that can be “blocked” and lead to emotional or physical consequences made very little sense to me. But, before dismissing this as the umpteenth new fad in pop psychology and alternative therapies, I wanted to investigate a little more, especially because the proponents claim this to be an “evidence-based” method, that is one supported by experimental evidence.
And, lo and behold, there is in fact a plethora of papers in which outcomes, such as, for instance, levels of pain or degree of depressive symptoms, are measured either between two groups, or between the same people before and after EFT. These studies – several dozens – are concerned with conditions such as anxiety, depression, pain and other physical symptoms, phobias, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, cravings and addictions and in support of weight loss. There are plenty of clinical reports, which describe the use of EFT with various groups, e.g. university students, prisoners, refugees, or abused children. There are comprehensive reviews and meta-analyses, drawing general conclusions about the characteristics of the method.
The conclusions leave little room for discussion, and the status of EFT as an evidence-based practice is summarized in this statement published in the American Psychological Association journal Review of General Psychology:
“A literature search identified 51 peer-reviewed papers that report or investigate clinical outcomes following the tapping of acupuncture points to address psychological issues. The 18 randomized controlled trials in this sample were critically evaluated for design quality, leading to the conclusion that they consistently demonstrated strong effect sizes and other positive statistical results that far exceed chance after relatively few treatment sessions. Criteria for evidence-based treatments proposed by Division 12 of the American Psychological Association were also applied and found to be met for a number of conditions, including PTSD.”
Here, I cannot resist pointing out the ghastly treatment the skeptic-dominated Wikipedia reserves to EFT. As usual, we find feature newspaper reports, opinion pieces and review articles attacking the method, whilst the posting of any of the more than 100 outcome studies, randomized controlled trials, meta-analyses, and review papers supporting the method is actively censored by the guerrilla skeptic editors. Amen to that.
The question is, however, What does all this have to do with my being a “low responders” to aerobic and muscle training?
Well, after having gone through the EFT tutorials a few years ago and after having applied the technique with apparent considerable success for minor ailments with family and friends, it has dawned upon me, in recent times, that perhaps something could be done to lessen the impact of the genetic condition that makes me essentially untrainable. What if – I asked myself – the expression of this genetic makeup was exacerbated by my own beliefs of being weak and untrainable? If I cannot change my genes, can I perhaps slightly modify their expression?
So, I searched for any research on the use of EFT to improve athletic performance. And found some!
There is no point in annoying my readers with all the personal details of how I applied the EFT techniques onto myself, basically accepting the idea that my lack of progress can be at least in part determined by “energy imbalances” or “energy blockages”.
The important fact is that, to my surprise and delight, the method appears to have worked. As I was saying in my previous article, I have a very sensitive way to gauge my progress – the difficulty of the routes that I am able to climb. You may remember that, for years and years, my ceiling was at the “5c+” level. With great effort, I could manage a move or two at the “6a” level. Now, at the indoor climbing wall where I train during winter months, I climb six of the seven “6a” routes, from bottom to top. I also climb several “6a+”, and, quite astonishingly, I completed three “6b” routes.
Does this mean that I have changed my genetic makeup and I will be competing in sports climbing at the next Olympic games? Not in the least. But something has definitely happened. A performance ceiling that has been with me since I got into this mountain climbing craze, eight years ago, has definitely been broken. I have also worked with EFT on the sense of constant fatigue that has plagued me for the last year or so (despite my healthy and sporty lifestyle) and on the muscle and joint pains I didn’t know what to do with. And all that has definitely improved. I mean definitely, markedly. If you were to ask me how much my situation has improved – between sports performance and general well-being – I would answer: 25%. Yes, as exquisitely personal, intuitive and unscientific as that can be, I would say that I am 25% better then I was before.