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Official EFT Tutorial

PART IV - Advanced: Tapping Deeper Into Emotional Issues

Detective Work Within the EFT Tapping Process

Getting to Core Issues

The goal of great detective work in EFT is to find the central, or core, emotional issues that contribute to your client’s current discomforts.

EFt Tapping Core Issues image
Core issues can be puzzles hidden
deep within your clients' psyches

Core Issues are often formed in childhood, but can also be the result of a significant trauma like a car accident or sexual assault later in life.  As time goes by, these Core Issues can get buried beneath layer after layer of perceptions, justifications and protective devices, so they aren’t always easy to find.

Sometimes these core issues show up right away but, all too often, they are puzzles hidden deep within your clients' psyches and need probing and prodding before they display themselves.  If, for example, your clients don’t completely “get” the connection between past emotions and present complaints, they will not know how to provide the information you need. Further, even if they do “get” it, most people have found ways to cover up or rationalize emotional pain, and often don’t recognize that an event is still bothersome until someone (you) helps them dig deeper.

This article provides you with some useful approaches to finding Core Issues.  However, we are talking about an artistic skill here that needs to be customized to the client.  Our Art of Delivery videos are filled with examples in actual practice.

In a previous article we discussed Specific Events and their pivotal role in powerful EFT sessions. We also presented examples of global issues that could be broken down into Specific Events and used a fear of rejection as an example of how you can simply look for the events in which someone was rejected and address those with EFT. There are plenty of issues that point pretty clearly to the Specific Events behind them … here are some examples from that article, each with one simple question you could use to access related events:

  • "I'm afraid of rejection”: Can you tell me about the specific time(s) you have been rejected?
  • “I am claustrophobic”: Do you remember a time(s) when you were uncomfortable about being enclosed in a space?
  • “I have a lot of stress at my job”: Can you remember the first time, or other times, you felt stress at work?
  • “My mother and I always argue”: Which argument(s) still bother you the most?
  • "Men don’t treat me well": Can you remember the first time, or other times, that men didn’t treat you well?
  • “I have a fear of public speaking”: Was there a time(s) when you spoke in public and it didn’t go well?

Actually, when the Specific Events are right in front of you, you’re working with one of the easier cases … but there are others that will require more skill. For example, what if someone comes into your office and says “I’m a workaholic.”  Do you look for the Specific Events in which he or she stayed late at the office? Probably not. In this case, we want to target the events that seem to be causing the urge to work so much, so you’ll get better results by looking deeper. Similarly, if the fear of public speaking was caused by events with a father who criticized your client’s every expression, the question suggested above would not get you there. The examples are endless, so when you hit a brick wall, you’ll have to become a detective.

Developing Detective Skills

The quality of your detective work as an EFT Practitioner will determine how quickly or how thoroughly you can address an issue, and all of the following elements will be important in developing your skills.  

Road Map - Working with Tabletops, Table Legs and Aspects as the building blocks of emotional issues will be a tremendous help in organizing your approach and provides a useful road map to core issues.

Good questions - Although every issue will present its own challenges, the quality of your questions can move your sessions from global issues through Specific Events to core issues.

Insight & Experience - A comprehensive understanding of how issues are created with Writing on our Walls will provide a deeper level of skill and a great foundation for intuitive guidance.

Qualities - Any good detective has certain personality traits that can be developed by anyone and will further support the ultimate goal of collapsing Core Issues.

Testing - Being methodical, thorough and creative with all of the testing tools will provide valuable clues for finding hidden issues, and a more accurate indication of when your work is really done.

We expand on each of these topics below.


EFT Tapping Road Map image

The Tabletop Theory was discussed in an earlier article. It provides a very useful structure for navigating through the layers of an emotional issue and helping you recognize how all of the pieces are related.  We will not duplicate that discussion here, but recommend that you gain as much experience with that concept as possible. Once it becomes second nature to you, a whole new level of understanding will be available as a resource in your sessions.


EFT Tapping Questions image

Much of the information you need to successfully address core issues is carried in your clients' memories. As mentioned before, they don’t always know which pieces of information are the most valuable in their sessions, so you will need to be prepared with some conversation starters.

Let’s assume that your client has presented a general issue like “I can’t sleep.”  All of the following are useful questions to dig a little deeper.

  • Why do you think that is?
  • If you don’t know why, then can you take a guess?
  • What happens when you try?
  • When did it start?
  • Is there a particular emotion that you feel in that situation?
  • How long has it been bothering you?
  • When was the first time you can remember feeling this way? What was happening in your life at that time or up to a year before?
  • If there was an event from the past contributing to this issue, what would that be?
  • If you could live your life over again, what person or event would you prefer to skip?

The main goal here is to find a Specific Event(s) related to the issue at hand. However, if your clients are having trouble producing any related memories, ask them to make one up...

  • “If there were someone else with your issue, what kind of experiences do you think he might have had?”
  • “If you could imagine an experience that might contribute to your condition, how would the story go?”

Your clients' imaginations will often draw on actual experience, so even if the details aren’t 100% accurate, you can still get somewhere. Asking lots of questions will help them add more detail, and tapping on any aspects that raise the intensity will address any underlying truth to the stories.

Once you have uncovered an emotion or Specific Event you can continue with some of these to get even deeper.

  • Who or what does this issue or feeling remind you of?
  • What does “hurt” (or appropriate emotion) mean to you?
  • What reason could that person have for doing what they did?
  • Is there anyone who may have unknowingly taught you to feel this way? (i.e. Who wrote that on your walls?)
  • What is the downside (penalty) of releasing the issue?
  • What is the upside (benefit) of keeping the issue?

These questions will provide loads of information that you could file away as aspects, opportunities to minimize pain, clues for testing, approaches to use, possible Setup phrases, Writing on their Walls, and so on. The more information you have, the more effective and creative you can be in your session.


EFT Tapping Insight image

There is no substitute for years of experience with emotional issues and Specific Events. Regardless of how many questions you have in your tool bag, it is your understanding of emotional issues that will produce the best questions.

The Writing on your Walls is a concept that can grow with you and will continue to provide insight with each new client, so we recommend digging in really deep with it. Apply it to your own life and pay close attention to how it affects the interaction between other people as well.

Meanwhile, we have a few pieces of insightful wisdom to help shorten your journey.

Core Issue Themes

It is valuable to be prepared for Core Issues before they show up and, with experience, you may see them before your client does. As you develop that experience, here is a list of common themes that often show up as Core Issues.

  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m not worthy of love>
  • It’s bad to make money
  • I’m not smart
  • I’m not valuable
  • It’s not safe to relax
  • The world isn’t safe
  • I don’t fit in
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Approval
  • Rejection
  • Safety
  • Judgment
  • Control
  • Anger
  • Authority

Getting Behind General Emotions

Feelings like stress, anxiety, grief, depression, or unhappiness are very general. Behind a generalized feeling, there are usually several specific emotions that have compounded upon each other until they can no longer be recognized. For example, let’s say that as a boy, your client was pressured by his father to get A’s in school. The price he paid for getting grades lower than an A was disapproval from the man he admired most. He only saw that disapproval a few times, but it was painful enough to drive him toward an endless pursuit of perfection.

Since then, his boss, his wife and his children all saw the most "perfect" version of himself. However, a perfect man doesn’t show his anger, his sadness or his disappointment, so whenever he had those feelings, he buried them behind a wall of “perfection.”  By the time he comes to you, all of those buried feelings have combined with the fear of disappointing people into one big general mess called anxiety.

While an EFT beginner might tap on “even though I have this anxiety” and eventually get some results, an experienced EFT Practitioner knows that there is much more to the anxiety than just the label. Understanding how these generalized feelings are created will help you recognize how deep you need to go to find the root of the problem, or how many parts you need to address to produce results.

Why did you choose that reaction?

Consider this … If  two people are confronted with the exact same situation, one person might choose helplessness as their reaction, but the other might choose disappointment or anger. Why is that?

Core issues have a way of coloring our general perception of the world. For example, as soon as someone has a profound experience of helplessness, it will be Written on her Walls and she will be evaluating new situations based on whether or not it will leave her helpless. Accordingly, there will be a string of events in which she felt helpless and it will become the “reaction of choice” so to speak.

The same would apply for someone who had a profound experience of disappointment, anger or anything else, but by exploring the events that originally put that Writing on those Walls, you can often find Core Issues.


EFT Tappng Qualities image

A scientific approach will go a long way towards good detective work.  Some people are born with a natural interest in scientific subjects, and are fascinated by how things work. People with scientific minds like to break down any process into all of its different parts, and watch how they each contribute to the overall picture. They immerse themselves in puzzles, equations, and mechanics just to see how they unravel.

As you may already know, EFT was designed by a scientist (me), an engineer to be exact, and the scientific nature in my detective work is easy to recognize. True to my natural character, I'm not satisfied with “Thanks, I feel better.”  Rather, I want to know “Why? Which part feels better? How much better does it feel? Where is the evidence?”  More importantly, I immerse myself in the issue as though it were a puzzle and I'm never pressured by obtaining any particular result.

Many were not born with a scientific leaning, but the skills can still be developed. Below I have identified the most important qualities in good detective work, and trust that all readers will recognize at least one direction in which they can grow.

Incurable Curiosity-

You can be armed with hundreds of questions, but if you aren’t genuinely curious about how your client’s world is put together, you won’t know how to use them. Sometimes one insightful question will open a wellspring of information, and other times, you may need several simple questions to do the same thing. Often you don’t know where you are headed with an issue, and neither does the client, so an abundance of simple questions will guide both of you one step at a time. Either way, the quality of your curiosity is often more powerful than a list of brilliant questions.

Detachment -

This doesn't mean being aloof or insensitive.  Rather, it means detachment from your results as well as detachment from your clients.  We will address these one at a time.

  • Detachment from your results means that you approach your session as though you are conducting an experiment. With each issue and each approach, you know that it might work and it might not. If not, you’ll try something else, and you don’t feel any anxiety about the outcome. There are never any failures, only new information. You’re not worried about doing it wrong or looking bad in front of your client. Rather, all ego has been put aside for the sake of the experiment and you enjoy the challenge that each puzzle presents.
  • Detachment from your client means that feeling needed, having a connection, or gaining approval do not drive your passion. If your experiments don’t produce results, the client may not come back for another session, and if you’re detached, that’s OK. If not, you might feel anxious and be tempted to use other tactics to avoid rejection.

Patience -

Patience with yourself, patience with your client, and patience with the process are all important for good detective work. Do you remember Columbo? Columbo was a very crafty detective from an American TV show in the 1970s. His investigative process was curious, methodical and amusingly unsophisticated. His greatest virtue was having the patience to wait until all the pieces of the puzzle laid themselves out in front of him … and then he would have a brilliant, seemingly obvious, insight that would miraculously solve the case. EFT can be exactly like that. There are a lot of variables at play, especially with complex issues, and sometimes the big answers don’t show up right away but patience and persistence do pay off.

All three of these qualities will encourage you to be present in your sessions and put your ego aside. In that space, you will have access to better insights, better questions, better intuition and better results, so take this opportunity to evaluate where you can grow.  The end result will be well worth it.  The Art of Delivery videos profusely display these qualities at work and provide you with a major resource for ideas and approach.


EFT Tapping Testing image

Testing includes not only the 0-10 intensity reports, but also the wide variety of methods given in our Testing article.  Testing methods should be used until the issue can no longer be triggered and thus, ultimately, testing tells us when the work is truly complete. It also tells us when we have more to do, and it can point our detective work in the right direction.  Testing and detective work are so intertwined that it is impossible to have one without the other.

Among the major downfalls for EFT Practitioners is that they do not test thoroughly enough.  Why is that? We suspect that it has something to do with confidence in themselves or their work. It may be that some people are raised to achieve very high standards and others are satisfied no matter what the results. It’s hard to pin one reason on so many people, but is an area where most people need work.

Keep in mind, if you are faced with an issue that is not responding well to the EFT basics, or the Specific Event you have chosen is not providing relief for the overall issue, more proving is called for. Rather than trying to apply the basics beyond their capabilities, or reverting to “creative” global approaches, dig deeper into your client’s emotional structure and find some better material to tap on.


© Gary and Tina Craig
All Rights Reserved

Please note: This Tutorial, while useful, was replaced in 2014 by my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. More efficient. More powerful. Full explanation given in my free, easy-to-read e-book, The Unseen Therapist