The Life-Changing Power of Negative Thinking: How Focusing on the Bad Reveals the Good
In my many years as an EFT practitioner, there's one question my clients and students have asked me more than any other:
Isn't it bad to focus on negativity?
While I certainly understand where people are coming from with this question, my answer is always no. Here's why:
EFT is a release technique. It works by focusing on the issue while tapping.
Whether it's a speck of lint on your sweater, a smudge on a glass, or a traumatic memory, in order to remove something, you have to focus on it.
You can’t remove it by wishing it was gone.
You can’t remove it with affirmations.
You can’t remove it by looking in the mirror and giving yourself a high five (though is a powerful practice in its own right, it doesn’t heal grief, release trauma, erase fears, or eliminate limiting beliefs).
Therefore, in my work with my clients and students, I rarely tap on positive statements, because the positive doesn't need to be released.
Likewise, it doesn't need to be "tapped in," because, to a large extent it's already there as your natural state, and tapping away the negative reveals it.
I think of it as like tapping away clouds that are blocking the sun.
That's because we, as human beings, by our very nature, have within us innate joy, peace, gratitude, wonder, and love.
By tapping on the negative, we both heal it, and simultaneously reveal all of this wonderful stuff that's been there beneath it all along.
That being said, tapping on positive statements can be effective because they actually bring to mind the negative (often unconsciously), which then gets tapped away.
For example, if you tap on, "I will heal from this pain," the mind may automatically go to, "I'll never heal from this pain— it's too great. The loss is too big. The grief is too overwhelming," etc., and the tapping then releases that.
However, it's nearly always more efficient to focus on the negative specifically, rather than approach it indirectly, by using positive statements.
The Law of Attraction
People often say to me: “But what about the law of attraction? If I focus on negativity, won’t I manifest more of it?”
When they say this, they’re not realizing that regardless of how positive they choose to be, negative thoughts and feelings still show up inside of them.
For the most part, if you’re in pain about some aspect of your life, consciously or unconsciously, you’re already focused on negativity.
It's not a choice, it just happens, and it sounds like: "I'm really upset about my boyfriend lying to me," and "I'm afraid I'll never attain the level of success I'm striving for," and "I hate the signs of aging I see when I look in the mirror." You get the picture.
The wonderful thing is that when we meet ourselves exactly where we are, and tap on what's actually showing up inside is, rather than tapping on what we think we should be thinking and feeling, it releases the negativity and pain, leaving peace (and often joy, gratitude, love, inspiration, and motivation) in its place.
So if you want to tap on positive statements, by all means, do. Just keep in mind that when you're tapping on the positive, you're simply releasing the negative that focusing on the positive brings up for you.
Here are some more examples of what I mean by that:
A statement like: "My goal is to earn $200,000 this year," will often bring up, either consciously or unconsciously, beliefs like:
I'll never be able to do it.
I don't deserve that kind of prosperity.
I'm greedy and shallow for wanting to make that much money.
The real money (pun intended) is tapping directly on those negative statements until you don't believe them at all, and they have no emotional charge.
Simply unpacking and tapping out the world inside a statement like "I don't deserve that kind of prosperity," can take an entire tapping session, and sometimes more than one.
It all depends on why a person has that belief.
Usually a belief like that springs from traumatic experiences, and in order to release the belief, you have to release the imprints the trauma created. Which brings us back to the life-changing power of negative thinking:
You have to focus on the negative experiences in order to heal them.
Conflicting Neural Pathways of Positivity and Negativity
As I explained earlier in this article, focusing on the positive does not heal the issue. Just like you wouldn’t be able to remove a coffee stain from a white linen tablecloth by talking about how beautiful the tablecloth is. You have to focus on the stain itself.
Now that I’ve explained why it’s necessary to focus on the negative in order to heal it, focusing on positive things in very specific ways does have its place, and will create what I call neural pathways of positivity.
But these new neural pathways of positivity do not erase the neural pathways of trauma, of fears, of painful and limiting beliefs.
In order to remove those, you have to focus on them while tapping. Otherwise, what you have is a bunch of positive neural pathways AND a bunch of negative ones. That's okay. That's normal. That's part of the human condition.
We all have conflicting beliefs and feelings and perspectives within ourselves.
But you can actually erase the neural pathways of trauma (without erasing the memories themselves). You can erase fears. You can erase limiting beliefs. And the way to erase all those things is by focusing on them while tapping.
You will not erase this stuff, you will not heal it, by focusing on positive things.
And as I’ve explained, laying down neural pathways of positivity does not heal emotional wounds. Focusing on those emotional wounds while tapping does heal them.
In the example of self-esteem and confidence, we heal wounds to self-esteem by focusing on those wounds while tapping.
How to Lay Down New Neural Pathways of Positivity
We can further increase self-esteem and confidence by laying down neural pathways of positivity, but it’s not necessary to tap while doing that.
I find that it’s more effective to write down those statements than it is to tap on them.
For example, I have a practice that I do myself in which I give to some of my clients and would you write down three things that you did well yesterday.
Then you write down three things that you’re proud of yourself for. This practice helps to create neural pathways of positivity.
In this case, neural pathways of high self-worth and confidence, and there’s solid scientific studies to back this up.
But it’s not necessary to do this while tapping. Again, tapping is a release technique. It works by focusing on the issue while tapping. I know I’m a broken record here, but it bears repeating.
The Life-Changing Power of Spontaneous Cognitive Shifts
When you’re thorough with tapping, spontaneous cognitive shifts occur. Every time. If they haven’t occurred, you haven’t yet done enough tapping on that statement.
For instance, if the tapping statement you’re working with is “I’m inferior to other people,” if you tap on that long enough, you will spontaneously begin to think and believe that you are not inferior to other people, and that you are actually every bit as good as other people.
This is a totally reliable effect of healing with EFT. It happens every time. Again, if it has not happened, that’s because the person has not done enough tapping on that statement.
And you can tell that because the emotional charge (the SUDS number—subjective units of distress) on the statement is still a five or a four or three.
If you’ve gotten to a zero on the SUDS, and the spontaneous cognitive shift has not happened yet, I recommend using an additional scale which I call the truth scale.
Very often those two numbers, the emotional charge (SUDS), and the truth scale, come down at different rates.
The emotional charge can be totally neutralized—it’s a zero, and yet the person still believes the statement at a three which means that it still feels 30% true.
So then you keep tapping even though the emotional charge is gone. You keep tapping until it doesn’t feel true anymore.
You keep tapping until you don’t believe it anymore. When you no longer believe a belief, you’ve effectivly erased it. Now it’s just a thought which you used to believe (10 minutes of tapping ago).
And on the way to not believing it anymore, you’re going to suddenly start to have spontaneous cognitive shifts that sound like:
“I’m just as good as other people.”
“I’m just as valuable as other people,” and
“Other people are not any better than I am.”
A spontaneous cognitive shift is like an affirmation, only it’s one that you come to organically, effortlessly, because it’s what’s left when the overlay of the false belief is removed.
It’s important to note that the spontaneous cognitive shift nearly always comes before the truth scale number is a zero.
It’s like you start to get inklings or glimpses of the sun of truth shining behind the dark cloud of false belief, but the clouds are still there.
You keep going until it’s a zero, because a limiting belief that only feels 30% true can still hold you back, slow down, and keep you stuck.
So, with the intention of being the most positive, life-affirming version of yourself that you can possibly be, give yourself permission to be as negative as you actually feel about whatever it is you're working to release with EFT.
The more honest and authentic you are about your experiences, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs, the more effective and efficient your tapping will be.
When doing EFT on your own, if you aren't able to completely heal the issue you're working on, so that when you think about it, it no longer causes any stress, emotional pain, anger, or fear, I can help. Click here to learn more and schedule an EFT session or free consultation.
BY HEATHER AMBLER
Heather Ambler is an EFT practitioner and mindset coach in California. Through her private practice and online programs, she’s helped over 14,000 people in 81 countries heal the pain of losing a loved one, recover from trauma, release fears, erase limiting beliefs, increase confidence, and achieve goals. If you could use some help with any of these things, click here to learn more and schedule an EFT session or free consultation.