Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve written about mindfulness and self-awareness and given you some tools to explore. This week, I’m going one step further – possibly one step further into woo-woo land then you might be willing to go – but again, please give this a try before you just roll your eyes and give it a miss. The new tool? Tapping – also known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
Tapping was “discovered” in 1980 by Roger Callahan. Callahan, a psychologist, had some knowledge of acupuncture meridians. He discovered that tapping your fingers on different points of the meridian could have some pretty amazing results. (If you’d like to read some research on meridians, check out this paper on the National Institute of Health (NIH) website). The NIH also provides substantial research findings on Tapping being successfully used for health issues such as anxiety and depression. I know – woopty doo. What does this have to do with your Horsey Life? A lot my friend, a lot.
In this post and this post, I discuss some exercises you can do to de-stress from a long day before you head out to hang out with your horse. (I’ve been told that wine is also an option.) But what if you’re dealing with more than the “It’s been a long and crappy week and it’s only Monday” kind of stress? What if you’re dealing with genuine fear or other emotional roadblocks? Number one – I’ve been there, heck, everyone I know who’s involved with horses has been there at one time or another, so no self-recriminations allowed. Denying an emotion or feeling does not make it go away.
The elephant in the room
Honestly, fear isn’t that socially acceptable. There are lots of peppy phrases like, “Feel the fear and do it anyway”, and, “There’s nothing to fear but fear itself” and a favorite: “FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real”. Yay. I’m sure those quotes and phrases made you feel 100% ready to tackle whatever you fear and get on with your life… or not.
While these lofty quotes can be inspiring, they’re missing a critical element: the HOW. How do you “Face the fear and do it anyway”? How do we convince ourselves that the fear we’re experiencing is just… the fear itself. (Awfully chicken and egg, if you ask me). What about the fear that you’re going to fall off? The fear you’re going to do something wrong with your horse? The fear that the vet bills are 250% more than you budgeted? Those are only feared because… we’re just afraid of fear??? I think not!
Let’s back up a step and have a quick biology lesson. Our fear responses were developed to save our butts long, long ago… (I really want to add, “in a galaxy far, far away”, but I’ll resist.) Saber-toothed tiger entering from the right? Run like hell to the left. Survival of the fittest was the day-to-day reality.
Fast forward a few millennia. Last time I checked, the only Saber-Toothed Tigers around now are just various collections of bones. Not very threatening. But in an effort to keep us safe, our amygdala takes any perceived threat and prepares your body for the running-like-hell part of the situation.
Perceived threat. “I’m going to be 5 minutes late to work” and “That ambulance was heading in the general direction of my house.” are the only things your poor amygdala has to work with these days, so it makes the most of what it’s got. Seemingly insignificant incidents can kick our good old reptile brain into overdrive. But having muscles prepare for flight, in part, by taking oxygen away from our fore-brain, usually doesn’t help our modern-day situations. Critical thinking skills go out the window, fill up the tank with cortisol, and boom – you’re a wreck.
Now instead of being late for work, substitute going for a ride on a windy day when your horse is a bit spooky. Or your instructor mentioning doing some jumping or riding in the big, open field this week. To lower your flight response and significantly improve your chances of having a lovely ride, you need a way to break that connection between the trigger (it’s windy) and the fear (I’m gonna die!). And Tapping, or EFT, is just the tool to do the job.
Next week, we’ll get into the actual tapping, and I’ll have some tapping meditations you can try for various situations. In the meantime, if you’d like an overview of the actual tapping process, check out THIS page and THIS page.
Questions or comments? Drop them in the comment box below, I’d love to hear from you! Prefer email? You’ll find me at email@example.com.