Treatment with Emotional Freedom Techniques
Nancy Gnecco, MEd, LPC, EFT Master, ACEP Diplomat
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“Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.” Napoleon Hill Contrary to popular opinion, procrastination is rarely caused by laziness, although it may appear so both to the procrastinator and to an outside observer. Just as addictions have, what we call in EFT, an “anxiety driver”, so does procrastination. On the one hand, the task may feel annoyingly inconsequential, an intrusion in our lives, forced on us by someone else or someone else’s deadline, bringing up old issues of control and difficulty with authority. On the other hand the task may feel overwhelming. We don’t know where to start. We may doubt our skills, our ability to complete the task, or we may have unrealistic expectations of perfection and are afraid of failure. Sometimes fear of success can be the driver behind the procrastination, implying being that success carries with it increased expectations of responsibility and perfection.
A client told the story of being eleven years old and having the task of cleaning out the rabbit cage, which she did in a typical, haphazard eleven year old way. One day, wanting to please her mother, she did an exceptional job cleaning the rabbit cage, scrubbing out the tray underneath, and making sure that everything was, in her words, “perfect.” Her mother was pleased, but after that, expected her daughter do as thorough a job eac
h time she cleaned the rabbit cage. It was an expectation that she didn’t want and couldn’t live up to, and her mother became repeatedly disappointed with her, telling her that the job she did wasn’t good enough.
The little girl internalized the belief that regardless of what she did, it wouldn’t be good enough.
This was the core issue related to her problems as an adult with procrastination. Now, if she leaves things until the very last minute she assures herself that she will not be able to put forth her best effort, and, although she may disappoint herself and others, at least no one will expect perfection from her, including herself.
At one time or another we are all guilty of avoiding or putting off something that needs to be done. We get stressed, feel guilty, maybe even create a crisis. For most people, however, procrastination does not impede normal functioning ability. In the end, we tackle the task and get it done.
Any of the following can be used as set up statements by an otherwise emotionally healthy person with some procrastination issues.
• Even though I have too many other things that take priority, I deeply and completely accept myself.
• Even though I continue to procrastinate because it’s a great way to get other stuff done, I deeply and completely accept myself.
• Even though the task feels overwhelming, I deeply and completely accept myself.
• Even though I can’t seem to get started, I deeply and completely accept myself.
• Even though I hate details, I deeply and completely accept myself.
• Even though I have an unrealistic perception of the time it will take to complete the task, I deeply and completely accept myself.
• Even though I expect perfection of myself, and it prevents me from realistically accomplishing what I need to do, I deeply and completely accept myself.
• Even though someone else is making me to do something and I feel controlled or manipulated, I deeply and completely accept myself.
• Even though simply don’t want to do it, I deeply and completely accept myself.
• Even though I work best under pressure, I deeply and completely accept myself.
• Even though I hate deadlines, I deeply and completely accept myself.
• Even though I may not have the skills needed for the task, I deeply and completely accept myself.
• Even though I’m afraid I might fail, I deeply and completely accept myself.
• Even though I’m afraid of succeedi, I deeply and completely accept myself.
• Even though I know I won’t do all the tasks on my list today, I deeply and completely accept myself.
If you wish to work on procrastination issues for yourself, first identify which of the above statements rings true for you, or causes you an emotional intensity. Then try to find at least three specific events that may have contributed to your “reason” for procrastinating, and clear these with EFT before clearing the more global statement. A specific event is one that can finish the following sentence: “The time when…”
The incident mentioned above about the rabbit cage is a good example of a specific event. If you have difficulty remembering specific events ask yourself the question, “What does this remind me of?” Do this while tapping the eye brow point which is thought to unblock the thinking process, reinforce determination, willpower and ambition.
For example: “Even though I have too many other things that take priority over doing my taxes, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
Event #1: The time when I was just out of college and my father called on tax day to see if I had done mine, and I hadn’t. I was angry at him and ashamed of myself.
Event #2: The time my husband did the taxes and didn’t get them done on time, and we had to get an extension.
Event #3: The time I forgot to pay the quarterly estimates and ended up with a big fine on April 15th.
A client told me recently that she had been procrastinating about completing her taxes as she does many other tasks. I asked her what would be the “downside” to giving up procrastination. “Oh,” she answered quickly, “Unless I have some big task looming I never get the little stuff done. When I’m procrastinating I just get so much other stuff done around the house.” She also said that if there were no big project on her mind she would have to face being alone. Home is an empty, lonely place for her since she lost her husband, so she fills her life with activities outside her home, and makes sure she always has at least one big project at home about which to continually procrastinate. This causes her great anxiety, but it does allow her to avoid dealing with the issue of her loneliness. Here, as with so many presenting problems utilizing EFT, we need to look “underneath” symptom and clear the traumas of loss, the “fear of the fear” of being alone in her house “with nothing to do”, and the belief that the only way she can get mundane tasks accomplished is by having the stress of a big project deadline facing her.
“Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.” Wayne Dyer
For most people procrastination is a manageable aspect of life. We put things off, and complain about having to do them, but eventually we “get down to it” and meet our obligations. For some people, however, procrastination interferes with normal functioning. It can create a vicious cycle of crisis, and loss of productivity, leading to more crises and more loss – loss of productivity, of self esteem, and even, in the extreme, of physical safety in the world. In the next part of this series we will meet Jay, a person for whom procrastination has “ruined” his life.
PART TWO – CASE STUDY
Jay came into my office dressed in a suit and tie, head held high, and very articulately told me that his life was falling apart. He is 32 years old, and is a lawyer, or wants to be, and presents as being highly intelligent, and even highly functional. He has been trying to set up a private law practice for two of the three years since graduating from a very prestigious law school. Unable to find the “perfect” job upon graduation he “took a year off” to study for his board exams living on money from a trust fund that had been set up for him by his grandparents. He didn’t think it would “look good” on his resume if he took a menial job during that time, and still refuses to take a “less than” job in his field, such as that of a paralegal, even though it would provide money with which to pay his bills and live a reasonably stable lifestyle.
He realizes that this is not logical. When his trust fund was depleted he simply stopped paying his bills, and started having major bouts of depression. He passed the law boards with flying colors on the first attempt, but only managed to get his license to practice by driving the four hours to his state capital on the day payment was due, so that he could hand deliver the check to the licensing board. He had procrastinated about getting his paper work in until it was almost too late.
He has now become paralyzed with inaction, self-doubt, and depression as he lives from crisis to crisis always in “survival mode”, never able to dig himself out of his “procrastination hole”. On his Intake Form, much of which I suspect has been filled out by his parents, he has been asked to list the events that have led him to seek treatment at this time for his procrastination problem. The following information has been revealed. These are not brought up in this session, however.
• He neglected to make a simple phone call to get his student loans deferred during that first year of unemployment, ignored the growing stack of school loan bills, and has had loan officials hounding him, for back payment. Hearing nothing from him, because he doesn’t return their calls, they have now turned his accounts over to a collection agency that is demanding the entire amount – well over $50,000.
• He has “maxed out” several credit cards, and his credit is ruined.
• He procrastinated about registering and insuring his car, which had been impounded, his driver’s license revoked until he completes those two tasks, and pays past parking tickets amounting to hundreds of dollars.
• He has six weeks to find a new place to live because he’s being evicted from his apartment, having not paid his rent for the past six months.
• When he found out that he was to be evicted he got a part-time retail job that pays $12. an hour, but he neglected the deadline for activating his health insurance through that company, and, consequently, has none. His ADD medications cost almost $200. a month, and his parents are no longer willing to pay for them.
• He has procrastinated about billing his few law clients, so money that he has rightfully earned is unavailable for him to pay his bills.
• He has been paying what bills he can with cash because the bank won’t give him a checking account. The details of this are unclear, but it seems that he overdrew his most recent account by $1200. Shame prevents him from dealing with the bank on this issue.
There is never enough money, so he just ignores his bills, keeping himself in a state of denial until external consequences threaten his very livelihood.
Jay was diagnosed with ADD early in his early college career, has been taking medication for that condition for 8 years. He has shame about his condition and the fact that he takes medication for it. A psychiatrist prescribes amphetamines, but Jay has not told the doctor about his debilitating procrastination problem, and he is unwilling to discuss possible changes in his medication with the psychiatrist. This is certainly a “tappable” issue, but it is far too early in the therapeutic process to begin even an EFT intervention since rapport has not been established, and trust is fragile. His parents have bailed him out repeatedly, and now, believing that they have been enabling his condition, are refusing to do more than pay for this therapy. Jay doesn’t believe that EFT will help him, but is here because they have insisted, and he is desperate. His hopelessness and despair are now palpable. No longer head held high, he loosens his tie, puts his head in his hands, and rubs his temples.
When asked how he feels right now he responds, “It’s hopeless. I feel like an animal trapped in a cage.”
Where do we start? How can we help this young man using Emotional Freedom Techniques? We know that it is always a good idea to start where the client is, and he has told me four things that are possible “doors”: he feels like “an animal trapped in a cage,” his situation is “hopeless”, he doesn’t believe that EFT will work for him, and he feels he is being forced into therapy by his parents.
We already have several global issues we could tap on, but Jay is in such emotional crisis in the moment that I begin by just tapping on him, telling him that he doesn’t have to do anything except sit there and breathe. He is clearly “tuned in” to his distress. This is a situation in which we are going to have to “Sneak Up On The Problem.” 2
I ask him not to focus on the problem, or any aspects of emotional intensity, but, if he were to do so how intense does he think he would become? He feels certain it would be a 10, so we tap a few rounds of:
“Even the thought of facing my procrastination problem is a 10, I know I don’t have to think about it now…I just have to tap.” He takes over the tapping. After a couple of rounds he reports that perhaps he could think about it now.
Before doing that, however, I ask him what’s going on with his head that he need to keep rubbing it? Is he in pain? He replies that this is something he does when he feels nervous so I make a guess that he isn’t at a zero and have him tap on,
“Even though I think I could talk about it now, I am still feeling this nervousness in my head, and I am okay.” It takes three rounds before he unconsciously removes his hands from his head. He says he remains “pretty calm” when thinking about having to talk about the problem, so we get a bit more specific, working on the statements he has given at the beginning of the session.
“Even though I feel like an animal trapped in a cage, and my situation is hopeless, I’m doing the best that I can right now.” (Intuition tells me that asking him to “love and accept himself” at this point will only traumatize him more, so we stay away from that wording for the time being.)
“And, even though I know that EFT won’t work for me, at least I’m here trying it.”
• Eyebrow: I am trapped like an animal in a cage.
• Under eye: …so I pace back and forth in my cage accomplishing
• Under nose: I’m embarrassed to even be talking about this
• Collar bone: EFT won’t work for this procrastination
…And another round alternating between, “animal trapped in a cage” and “I want to get out of this cage”.
A few more rounds and his distress has decreased to below a 3. So, following intuition, I mention the fact that his parents have refused to bail him out any more, and ask him how he feels about coming here at their insistence. They are “making” him come here, and in exchange they will allow him to come live at home if he doesn’t find another place to live before being evicted from his current apartment.
Carol Look’s “Refusal Technique” jumps into my mind:3 and we spend some time with:
• I refuse to let them control me.
• They can’t make me do this.
• I won’t tell my doctor how bad this is.
• I won’t consider other possibilities.
• I refuse to have EFT work for me.
• I refuse to give up my procrastination.
• I refuse to view this as a bigger problem than procrastination.
As the session comes to an end I ask Jay to go back to the image of the animal trapped in the cage. “The animal is still trapped, but he feels calmer.” I do not test further due to time constraints. We agree that it is good for the animal to feel calmer. I ask him how he feels and he reports that he has “a little hope”. He says he is willing to come back for another session, and we schedule it for the next day. He is still in crisis, still has developed no plan or skills for how to get past it, how to dig himself out financially, or how to deal with his procrastination problem. However, he feels calmer, and somewhat encouraged. I am hopeful that in the next session we will be able to begin to address the specific events.
As practitioners who want to help people it is important to recognize that procrastination is usually the person’s best attempt in the moment to manage profound underlying anxiety, and self-sabotage. We can best help these folks to build up the low self esteem that always accompanies the pattern by giving them better tools to deal with the “anxiety driver” behind the procrastination. EFT is one of those tools.
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Nancy Gnecco, LPC, is extensively trained in the use of psychological symptom management and the emotional effects of psychogenic illness. As a Licensed Professional Counselor, Nancy brings to the Energy Psychotherapy session a solid background in mental health and school counseling. She incorporates dynamic short-term modalities which provide rapid, effective, often permanent relief from most psychological problems, without abreaction, without the damage effects of re-traumatization, and without the use of medication.
These modalities offer multi-dimensional depth psychotherapy: healing that bypasses the cognitive and treats problems at their source - the body’s energy.
Nancy has attained the highest certification possible in the EFT community - then called EFT Master, now called EFT Honors Certification, and has been utilizing and teaching Meridian Tapping since 1997. With a Master's Degree in Education, Nancy brings a wealth of professional and personal experience to her highly experiential sessions and workshops. She is also a certified Trainer in Tapas Acupressure Technique, and Comprehensive Chakra Therapy, as well as an ACEP Diplomat.
Posted August 01, 2010 03:25 PM
Nancy this was a great article for me, since I am a good procrastinator! It has been difficult to address my own problem, but I am making progress slowly. Thank you for posting this example. I am grateful.
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