How to let go of unhelpful identity beliefs

Identity Relief Process

By Andy Hunt, NLP & EFT Trainer

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“I think therefore I am” - Descartes
“I am what I am!” - Popeye

When we grow up we sort through masses of experience to come up with an understanding of the world and ourselves. Part of this understanding is of the aspects of our experience we label 'I', 'myself', 'me' – names for parts of the person we are.

As we grow up and have experiences we begin to give ourselves, or accept them from others, qualities and capabilities. I am a good boy, I am helpful, I can't do that, I am lazy and so on. These beliefs about ourselves, our identity beliefs, can be helpful or hindering.

  • 'Helpful' beliefs: I am confident, I am a good person, I can cope ...
  • 'Unhelpful' beliefs: I am lazy, I am bad, I am tired, I am scared …

Notice that saying 'I am tired' is quite different from 'I feel tired', a feeling will pass and change into something else, an identity belief will stay with you through time and affect all your experience.

Most people don't have any difficulty living with helpful identity beliefs they find them supportive and agreeable. The unhelpful identity beliefs are much less appealing. They feel uncomfortable and they limit our ability to act and change.

Beliefs are compulsive, they guide our perceptions and actions to reinforce themselves.
For example: if you have the belief 'I am tired' it functions as a description of your state and organises your actions and perceptions to focus attention on developing and noticing the tiredness it describes. It is a description and a mantra rolled into one, acting as a small scale self fulfilling prophecy.

Identity Relief Process

This process uses a blend of EFT and NLP to release the identity beliefs. It is divided into two parts, a set-up process and the belief releasing part.


  1. Ask the person to remember a time when they felt compassionate. Any example of compassion to a living being will do, people, children, pets or animals.
  2. Invite them to connect again to that experience of compassion and feel it fully. Give them the time to sink into that memory and really feel it.
  3. Ask them to extend their dominant hand palm up. Ask them to imagine that feeling of compassion flowing down through their arm to form a 'bubble or globe of compassion' resting on their out-stretched hand.
  4. Ask them what colour that bubble is. When they have a good sense of that 'bubble of compassion', suggest that they leave it 'hanging in space for later' as they take their hand away.


  1. Have them to recall one of their identity beliefs 'I am …' e.g. 'I am scared'
  2. Ask them to be with that thought for a little while, then give it a score on a scale from 0 – 10 where 0 means the belief has no validity or intensity and 10 means that it is very intense or true.
  3. Then with gentle curiosity ask them “How old is the 'I' in 'I am …' “? Make your voice tone gentle and enquiring, allow them to guess if they need to and acknowledge whatever answer comes back – it may be a surprise to them
    “How old is the 'I' in 'I am scared'?” …. Very young … 4 years old I think.
  4. Ask them to imagine that younger self up on a movie screen in front of them. Point in front of them to help them imagine the screen.
    “Imagine that 4yr old you, over there on a screen”
  5. Ask them what is going on around them and what is going on inside them up there in that situation back then. Give them time to process that information. If they have trouble answering this question suggest that they ask that younger self how they are feeling
    “What is going on for that younger you? How are they feeling?”
  6. Start tapping for that younger self on the screen using the following set-up statement three times.“Even though s/he is [feeling], I accept him/her and how he/she feels”
    “Even though she is feeling scared, I accept her and how she feels”
  7. Tap on the meridian points with the reminder phrase “S/he is [feeling]”
    “She is scared”
  8. Continue tapping until that feeling is greatly subsided. Repeat for any other unpleasant feelings to do with that situation until that 'other you' is completely calm.
  9. Invite them to remember the bubble of compassion hanging just where they left it. Suggest that the send that bubble of compassion up into the screen so it completely surrounds that 'younger self'. Have them watch what happens when the compassion surrounds that younger version of themselves. Give them enough time to process that experience. Ask them to nod their head when they have finished.
  10. Invite them to bring back that younger self from the screen into themselves. They may stretch out their hands to welcome that self back or use some other metaphorical way of bringing in that younger self into their body.
  11. When that younger self is 'inside' ask them to invite it to grow up to their current age taking advantage of all their later experience and wisdom. Give them time to do this. Ask them to nod when they have finished.
  12. When they are completely settled. Ask them to say out loud the original belief statement (I am …) and notice what effect that has on them now.
  13. If there is still a charge on the belief ask them again “How old is the 'I' in that belief” and repeat the process.

The advantage of asking the age of the "I" in "I am scared" is that it takes you directly back to the core event. It requires much less detective work than might be needed if you were doing it indirectly.

Once the original event has been found, the charge on it can be reduced by tapping for that 'other' you, in EFT parlance it's a variation on the Tearless Trauma Technique. Being able to observe from the outside of our younger experience seems to give us the ability to notice feelings and interactions that are not available when tapping on the memory from the inside as in the Movie Technique.

When the situation is quieted the 'application' of compassion adds an extra dimension of comfort and soothing to that younger self. These unhelpful identity beliefs are often formed in situations where we are alone or being abused so there is no comfort available at that time. Adding compassion now seems to soften the experience and give a flavour of being cared for even after the length of time since the event.

Inviting the younger you back in is simply to re-integrate what we put out there on the screen at the start of the process and to allow the 'I' that ran the belief to update it's knowledge and skills. We learned these beliefs at an early age when we had few resources and little experience to go on inviting that 'I' to grow up to your current age allows the part of us that is running that response to take advantage of all the skills and understandings you've had since.


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Author's Bio:

Andy HuntI work with people who give themselves a hard time, so that they can feel comfortable in their own skin and get on with their lives

I’m a Master Practitioner and Trainer of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), and also a Practitioner and Trainer of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). I’ve been practising NLP for ten years and EFT for six. I’m a member of the Neuro Linguistic Psychotherapy and Counselling Association (NLPtCA) my professional body and follow their code of conduct. I’m also a member of the Association for the Advancement of Meridian Energy Techniques AAMET




Cynthia R.
Posted September 11, 2010 11:27 AM

Thank you... neat process with lots of room for creative variation, too...


Andy Hunt
Posted September 11, 2010 03:10 PM

Glad you liked it and I hope you find it useful.


Posted September 13, 2010 01:27 AM

Thanks, Andy. I tried this on myself and got a great result in just a few minutes!.


Posted September 13, 2010 02:08 AM

Hi Christa, that's great. It is my hope that people will find this technique useful for themselves and others. Thanks for trying it out.


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