Researchers at New York University measured the fear response through taking readings of “skin conductance” before and after volunteers were exposed to a blue square while being given an electric shock on the wrist. (There is a part of me that is appalled that real people were given enough of an electric shock to produce a scientifically measurable physical fear response when exposed to a blue square and I really do honour those people for their sacrifice in the interests of science.)
“Conductance”, according to Collins English Dictionary, means this: “the ability of a system to conduct electricity, measured by the ratio of the current flowing through the system to the potential difference across it”. This means that the electrical – or energy – flow across the skin both exists and can be measured. Energy flow reduction – or disruption – also exists and is measurable.
The discovery statement in EFT is “All negative emotion is caused by a disruption in the energy system” (my italics).
Often, when we talk about energy flow in the body, people’s eyes glaze over and they dismiss what we are saying as all a bit weird and unscientific. Yet here, researchers at New York University are not just taking this energy flow in the body for granted, but also the fact that emotion reduces or disrupts it and proving that disruption by measuring the effects of it with scientific equipment.
This is huge for EFT practitioners.
Having caused the emotional trauma by electrocuting volunteers, the researchers then set about treating the conditioned fear response to the blue square produced in the volunteers by showing it to them – in essence, the researchers had conditioned a phobia response to the blue square by electrocuting the volunteers every time they saw it.
The researchers treated the phobia by desensitisation – showing the volunteers the blue square and not electrocuting them over and over again, so that their perception of the blue square as dangerous underwent a cognitive shift. The article doesn’t say how many times the blue square had to be shown to the volunteers before the cognitive shift occurred.
However, the outcome indicates that the disruption to the energy flow caused by the emotional trauma can be made to go away and that this effect can be measured. Of course, we EFT practitioners know this – we see it every day with our clients: a few rounds of tapping and the phobia is gone completely. But we would go further, addressing the other aspects to the phobia – the room in which the electrocutions took place, for example, and the researcher’s face as they pressed the button to cause pain in the volunteer and so on, so that it is not just the phobia response to the blue square that’s gone, but also the emotional response to the whole situation surrounding the core experience.
However, the point here for us EFT-ers is that this experiment is scientific proof that what we do is possible and measurable.
Time Constraints and the Setup Statement
The researchers found that the treatment would only work within a specific (and measurable!) window of time after the original trauma.
You will note that throughout the experiment, the volunteers were passive – they were having stuff done to them, rather than interacting and being part of the process. As we practice EFT, we use the setup statement partly to help the client tune into the memory/core issue, which, I suggest, is why EFT has no real time constraints – the core event could have happened yesterday or 50 years ago. When the client is tuned into the specific event, the memory is brought into the present time and we are able to tap on it as if it were within the window of time the researchers describe. Professor Anke Ehlers, an expert in post traumatic stress disorder at London's Institute of Psychiatry, was interviewed by the BBC about the research is quoted as saying: "People need to realise it is the memory that is fearful and not the current reality." With EFT we recognise that it is the memory that is fearful … but the effects are felt in current reality.
With EFT, we help the client to tune into the energy disruption, release it through tapping and become free to move forward in their lives.
The research is hailed as the beginning of a new, drugless approach to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We have already been practicing this drugless approach since the 90s.
Bridging the Gap
This research and other research projects like it is so important because it helps us as EFT practitioners to bridge the gap between our experience of EFT and the belief systems of other people. We can use this type of research to show that what we do is not “weird and unscientific” but is actually cutting edge – EFT has been highly effective in helping people with PTSD since Gary Craig first developed it … and now the academic world is just beginning to do the research that demonstrates it.