Several years ago I was speaking to a friend about managing emotions when he suddenly piped up with, ‘have you tried EFT?’ EFT stands for emotional freedom technique but it is often referred to as ‘tapping’. The idea is that when you feel a really strong, uncomfortable emotion, you tap a sequence of acupuncture points and the emotion loses its intensity and/or disappears. So being a person up for most things, off I went to be taught EFT and read some books about it. Subsequently, I could be found tapping at various points throughout the week.
Now EFT did seem to work, most of the time. Whether the tapping was inducing some kind of release or whether it was simply distracting me, I could not really say. After a tap, a calming did usually occur. However, after several weeks of tapping, the instant impact was not the main or overriding benefit I gained. The most valuable thing that I gained was the ability to focus inwardly and consider what I was feeling. It also meant that I stopped reacting in the heat of the moment to any perceived ‘affront’ as instead of responding, I would think, that’s interesting, a strong reaction. tap tap. Where am I feeling it? tap tap. Which of my ‘buttons’ was pressed? tap tap! Needless to say the person who had instigated my reaction was standing there thinking I was bonkers.
So the gift EFT gave me was actually improved emotional literacy as 1) it made me really focus on what I was feeling, where and why 2) it created a gap between emotional reaction and response and 3) made my emotions all about me and my responses and not things other people were responsible for.
So in terms of how we can help children become more emotionally literate, a similar model can be applied. We can simply help our children to:
- recognise that they are having a strong emotional response,
- be able to name the emotion
- be able to consider what triggered the emotion
- pause to consider the best response (and not carry out a response the heat of the moment)
Tapping inadvertently taught me to do these things, but a child need not tap (thought it would do them no harm). Anything that could be invested in as calming a strong emotion could work in a similar way e.g. self hugging as it is the tuning fully into an emotion that triggers all of the benefits of emotional literacy.