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EFT, trauma,
and the brain

Here you will find valuable information about what happens in our bodies and brains when we are stressed and when we are experiencing trauma, the difference between the two, and how EFT can help you process traumatic experiences and release the limiting beliefs that are burned into you.

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EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), known also as tapping, is a simple method that combines acupressure with elements of cognitive and exposure therapies. 

The former addresses how we see the world through thoughts that also shape our behavior, while the latter focuses on the therapeutic value of remembering traumatic life events.

Acupuncture theory teaches that energy flows through our body through pathways called meridians. Physical disease and emotional suffering can be caused by a blockage or interruption of that flow, and acupuncture or acupressure can be used to remove those blockages.

Clinical EFT is an empirically validated method, which means it uses a standardized, uniform approach.
Studies found that it’s extremely effective for releasing trauma, emotional distress, and mental health problems such as phobias, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Advantages of EFT tapping to clinical treatment in general:


  1. The limited number of sessions required to remediate PTSD;

  2. the depth, breadth, and longevity of its effects;

  3. no side effects;

  4. the limited training needed for the primary application of the method;

  5. its efficacy when delivered in a group format;

  6. has a simultaneous effect on a wide range of psychological and physiological symptoms and

  7. perfectly suitable for non-traditional delivery methods such as online and telephone sessions.

When we learn new things, new neural connections form in our brains, but transformational change can only occur when this process also unwires the old learning at the same time.

In the context of emotional healing, this means that symptom cessation takes place rapidly and completely without relapse, and remaining symptom-free is effortless.


At all times, a staggering amount of sensory data is flowing in through our eyes, ears, nose, and skin, channeled to the amygdala, the part of our brain tasked with deciding what’s a threat and what’s benign.

The amygdala is the gatekeeper and activates fight or flight whenever it perceives a threat.

Imagine encountering a tiger while walking in the jungle, so the danger is real. What happens?
Your Automatic Nervous System gets activated to keep you on your toes, mobilizing the energy and resources needed to deal with the challenging situation.
Adrenaline and cortisol are pumped into the bloodstream and coursing to your muscles, especially your arms and legs, for action—your blood pressure increases along with your glucose levels. Your eyes dilate, your respiration rate shoots up, your perception of pain diminishes, and your rational mind is bypassed.

Our body can’t tell the difference between a stressful thought and a stressful event. Stressful thoughts, imagined problems, and future events send our bodies into the fight-flight response; thus, we produce all the abovementioned neurophysiology of stress while having no objective reason to be on high alert.

This state of arousal is not meant to be a long-term condition. All that cortisol and adrenaline are corrosive, and all that blood going to our arms and legs has to come from somewhere—that somewhere being our digestive, reproductive, and immune systems, along with the frontal lobes of our brain.

Healing a cut on your finger is a low priority if you’re about to be torn into pieces by a predator. Digesting breakfast can also wait if you’re about to become a tiger snack. And you certainly don’t need to ponder philosophical questions about when your life will be over if you don’t climb that tree right now! 

A stressed brain reinforces the neural pathways dedicated to carrying stress-related signals at the expense of the brain regions responsible for memory, learning, and making high-quality executive decisions. 

This is one of the reasons PTSD symptoms often get worse over time, as neuroplasticity builds up the circuits of stress.


The brainstem, the part of the brain responsible for our safety, has some three billion years of experience honing our survival functions. At the same time, the prefrontal cortex, the nest of our rationality, is a recent evolutionary innovation. Its current form is "merely" a hundred thousand years old. The limbic system mediates between the two.


Talk therapies that engage only the parts of the brain responsible for cognition may have some effect on trauma resolution, but somatic—body-basedtherapies that involve the limbic system speak to the regions of the brain that respond to touch and other sensory input. They can nullify the fear response quickly and permanently.

Tapping on acupuncture points soothes the body. It sends a signal of safety to the emotional brain that counteracts the signal of stress coming from a stressful or traumatic memory. MRI studies show that acupuncture shuts down the brain’s fear centers, regulating the overstimulated amygdala.


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The difference between everyday stress and emotional trauma is that when a distressing experience is stored as a result of a freezing response, the stressor (the stimulus that triggered the reaction in the first place) gets internalized.

Even if the original stressor is long gone, the memory or aspects of the memory can become a hair trigger for reactivating fight, flight, or freeze.

Let’s stay with the example of the tiger attack.

If you have no option to fight the tiger or escape, and you’re about to die and there’s nothing you can do about it, the parasympathetic half of your Automatic Nervous System will kick in.

This is in charge of relaxation to balance the stress response in general. In the face of imminent death (real or perceived), this relaxation equals the freeze response, just as an opossum’s playing dead.

But it’s no playing at all. Nor for the opossum, nor for us.

It’s not a controllable reaction and has nothing to do with cowardice or weakness.

The freeze response is a physiological phenomenon, a sudden and drastic relaxation that comprises a drop in heart rate and blood pressure, a letting go of muscle contraction in the bladder and bowels, a dilatation of the eyes, and maybe drooling.
A massive dose of endorphins enters in the bloodstream, enhancing a psychological state of shock.

As you stay cornered and the tiger is about to hurl herself at you, you dissociate from your body. Numb and floating, you detach from reality. And this is perfect because when the tiger rips you apart, you won’t even feel it.

But, if the tiger changes her mind and leaves you alive, this encounter may have survival value in the future, so your brain records it into the long-term (so-called procedural) memory that is used to keep knowledge always alive.

Wild animals shake and tremble after an episode like this. Their bodies complete the physical movements of fight or flight, discharging the freeze response’s energy. This tells their brain that it’s over, and the distress is actually transformed into increased resilience.

We rational humans cannot shake off and discharge our freeze response. The whole event and its energy will be stored in our procedural memory as if it’s still happening!


When the freeze response is triggered, procedural memory takes a snapshot. A vast array of subliminal inputs is recorded as part of an instinctual survival strategy. Because we do survive, these will be used as cues in the future, alerting our amygdala to danger.

The snapshot will contain all the information from each sensory channel present. Staying with the tiger example, the snapshot might include the particular color of his fur and eyes, the deep sound of his growl, ambient sounds from the jungle, the scent of the animal or a flower nearby, and the heat and humidity on your skin.

And other than that, your internal landscape will be registered, too. It will include your emotional state along with the corresponding sensations in your viscera and muscles. It will also hold—and this is a crucial element— whatever thoughts and beliefs were occurring to you at that moment to make sense of the situation.

These internal and external snapshots, coding the episode’s energy, are registered in the procedural memory but encapsulated by a coating of numbness—the dissociation of the freeze response.

In EFT, after neurologist and trauma expert Robert Scaer, we call it the “trauma capsule.”

Beyond storing clues that have survival value, the other protective function of the trauma capsule is wrapping up incomprehensibly terrifying events safely.


It’s like a barrier to our conscious awareness of the contents. So, as children, we can continue to function in an inescapable family situation or as grown-ups in our daily lives. In that sense, it’s highly adaptive—an essential life skill.


If the capsule has a thick enough layer, we may never fully experience the intensity of the trauma on a conscious level.

Unfortunately, for the subconscious level—represented by the brain's limbic system—the experience is held as a current event. Its energy is still stuck in our system, in our body, and neural pathways. We never really stop experiencing it.

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In Clinical EFT, we use four criteria to identify a traumatic event. These are the conditions that usually trigger the freeze response.

  • We perceive a threat to our physical survival, safety, or identity.

  • Our coping capacity gets overwhelmed, producing a sense of powerlessness.

  • We feel isolated and alone.

  • Our expectations are being violated – the unexpected nature of the experience

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Often, however, the shell of the trauma capsule grows thin. Prompts from the environment that match the capsule's contents may begin to provoke a reaction from the amygdala.


Even if they don’t register consciously, specific colors, smells, and sounds can act as triggers, evoking the memory and activating the original emotional distress, even if it does not enter our awareness.

They send our system back into fight or flight, and suddenly, our heart is pounding, we’re sweating and anxious, and we have no idea why.

Through a process known as “kindling,” new environmental inputs can become associated with the memory, even if unrelated to the original experience. For example, the scent of one specific tropical flower can escalate to any flowery scent.

This snowball effect of kindling makes the world seem progressively more dangerous and may account for some of the more severe symptoms of PTSD and make the bed for panic attacks. More and more environmental cues can breach the trauma capsule, leading to hypervigilance and avoidance.

It’s clear that being attacked by a tiger, a severe auto accident, war, rape, physical assault, or natural disaster qualifies as a traumatic event.

Yet most people had several childhood experiences that met these criteria. Many childhood events that we barely remember might also have traumatizing effects.

Children are especially apt to experience the freeze response. They lack resources and coping skills, and their identity is still forming and easily threatened. As they also lack experience, bad happenings are more unexpected.

So, it’s no surprise that research showed it can take a surprisingly “minor” negative experience to traumatize a child.


It’s important to note that no one can determine what was traumatic for someone else.

This may be why many people seem to remember little or nothing of their childhood. Dissociation from early traumas seems to generalize and occlude most of the memories, even neutral or happy ones.

Trauma resulting from early childhood experiences often has an additional dimension compared to that acquired in adulthood. If its source is a parent or caregiver, someone whom the child expects will nurture and care for them, this violation of expectations at a time when the brain is forming produces profound emotional wounding.


A shattering adult experience such as war can also lead to deep emotional learning and the subsequent brain dysregulation characteristic of PTSD.

As well as shattering combat memories, early childhood trauma is encoded deep in the neural network.


Because our souls are part of the Family Soul, the lineage we are born into, we carry within us all our ancestors' experiences, struggles, pains, beliefs, and coping mechanisms—however catastrophic they may have been. So, we often recreate them in our own lives, even if we are unaware of their existence.


This carrying within is an energetic phenomenon that manifests and can be addressed at both the physical and psychological levels.


Genetics is epigenetics if you like.

Deep in our cells, in the spiral of our DNA, the imprints of the traumas suffered by our ancestors are hidden and preserved as our own.

In my work, I have found that in many cases, trauma capsules from our own past lives also surface.


They are part of our energetic and psychophysical system, so they can be released through tapping in a cathartic, yet gentle, way.

Image by Aravind V

On the inner journeys accompanied by tapping, we free ourselves from prison cells we never knew existed and in which the lock has been on the inside all along. Such a session is as indescribable an experience as a family constellation: you have to live it to be able to imagine it.

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The simple absence of emotionally reassuring cues from a parent or caregiver can be traumatic. So often, the trauma is not about what had happened but what should have happened but didn’t.


Taking the developmental stages of brain function into consideration has profound implications for the understanding of trauma.

The brains of babies show a predominance of delta waves, just like the states of deep sleep.
Then, between the ages of 2 and 5, we are in a theta state, also known as a super-learning state, because we absorb everything like a sponge—unfiltered and directly into our unconscious.

Theta is the characteristic state of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, in which the most vivid dreams occur, and is also the dominant wave during hypnosis, trance, meditation, creativity, tranquility, and being “in the zone.”
When a child in theta and delta is subjected to traumatizing events, they don’t have the cognitive capacity to reason or cope with the experience. With the brain in a superlearning trance state, these memory tracks are laid down at a level deeper than words.

This emotional learning is profoundly embedded in neural circuits formed early in life and reinforced by neural plasticity.

During the first 18 months of life, the limbic system is the fastest-growing region of the brain. It’s also the part of the brain that governs social connectivity.

Edward Tronick, in his famous Still Face Experiment, instructed the mothers of young babies around 6 months old to keep their faces impassive instead of interacting with their babies. He found that it doesn’t take being beaten or abused to disturb a young child.


The first six years of life are the most important time in our lives in terms of building and formulating our beliefs.

The raw materials for these beliefs come primarily from our family of origin.


Their roots are very often in our trauma capsules to be found.

Imagine you want to dance and sing across the street while holding your mother’s hand. Your mom notices that one of her more pretentious and judgmental acquaintances is standing on the same corner. In an effort not to look like having an out-of-control child, your mother grabs you roughly by the hand and says, “Why can’t you behave like a good girl?”


This message goes directly into programming your subconscious mind, creating all sorts of limiting beliefs, such as you can’t be physically expressive, you have to be “good,” you are a bad person, you don’t deserve your mother’s (therefore, anyone else’s) love, or you always need to be concerned with how others see you.

Our experiences in these early, critical years shape our worldview and our brains for life, creating a neurological lens through which we live all our subsequent experiences.

 They are the primary determining influence on who we feel we are, whether we see the world as a safe or scary place. Whether or not we believe we are worthy of happiness and having our dreams fulfilled.

With EFT, we can easily diminish the profound impact that seemingly insignificant events from this period had on us.

If your parents were “helicopter” parents, that is, they constantly hovered and came to your rescue at the slightest impediment you faced, then such incidents may have left you with the impression that you aren’t capable of surviving on your own. Perhaps you have decided that you can’t make it without a romantic partner, or you are frozen by the thought of taking even the smallest risk in business.


If, however, your parents were on the opposite end of the spectrum (not abusive, just not very present), then you may have come to the conclusion that no one will ever meet your needs in a romantic relationship, or maybe you engage in extremely risky social behaviors in an attempt to finally be noticed.

Lessons about safety, security, relationships, and attachment learned during early childhood's theta-delta super-learning trance are almost impossible to unlearn later. 

Image by Yuris Alhumaydy

Acupoint tapping helps people who lost touch with themselves feel safe in their bodies, sometimes for the first time. This provides them with a base of security from which to begin the healing process and start to unpack their trauma capsules.


When we experience an event so disturbing that it cannot be assimilated into ordinary consciousness, we separate ourselves from the experience. This is what we call dissociation. (See the trauma capsule section.)


Dissociation separates the episode and allows us to remain functional.


This is especially true when, as children, we cannot escape our families and lack the mental resources to process traumatic events.

When we are little, we can protect ourselves by finding a way to stop feeling all the things we cannot handle: pain, fear, anxiety, sadness, and anger. But it's not really possible to eliminate just one emotion from the range; we need to turn off the feeling function itself—dull it down—as much as we can.


Since emotions are also bodily experiences, we know instinctively, even as kids, that the best way to do this is to tense our muscles and hold our breath or make it shallow. This numbs and anesthetizes as much as possible.


We practice this so much that by the time we grow up, for many of us, the tense muscle tone, the shallow breathing, and this dissociative state will become our default way of functioning: not being in touch with our emotions or bodies.

EFT is unique among therapeutic approaches in that it actually makes deliberate and systematic use of dissociation in the healing process, recognizing its protective function.

EFT uses three “Gentle Techniques” to work on events that are so traumatic that they cannot be approached in ordinary states of consciousness.


These allow you to detach just enough from your disturbing experience to feel safe while tapping.

This creates enough psychological distance to make it possible to begin the healing process.

The felt sense of safety will quickly demonstrate that reducing the emotional intensity around the event may be possible.


With this encouragement, you can approach the event at your own pace, dissociating less and less until you can tap on the memory itself without the “protective barrier.”


Randomized controlled trials show that as well as successfully treating PTSD symptoms in traumatized veterans, EFT reduces the occurrences of “somatization,” the array of baffling physical ailments that have no medically discernible cause. One of the three Gentle Techniques is aimed explicitly at physical symptoms.

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In a Clinical EFT session, we go through a sequence in order to allow your brain to revise even long-consolidated beliefs and traumatic experiences.

At the beginning of a session, we most often vividly recall the symptom or presenting problem and the emotional learnings underlying it to activate them.


At the same time, we introduce a contradictory, soothing experience through tapping and eye movements.

The physiological signal of safety usually trumps the psychological sign of danger.


As we tap together, your limbic system—the emotional brain—is being deactivated, PTSD-linked genes downregulated, and cortisol lowered at the same time that the traumatic event is being held in memory.

The juxtaposition of connecting with the troubling scene with no physiological stress is the mismatch that is the necessary ingredient for the mentally activated scene to be reconsolidated in a new way.

The sensory aspects of the memory, as stored in the trauma capsule, hold the event's emotional and energetic charge. Our goal is to extinguish all these details and manifestations of the traumatic/stressful experience.

During several rounds of tapping on the acupoints, the stuck energy of a stressful or traumatic past experience will be released from the body’s energy system, and a new one will overwrite the old worldview.

Throughout these steps, unconscious memories and learnings enter the conscious memory and integrate with neural pathways that support established coping strategies.


We examine and appreciate their earlier adaptive functions and eliminate their automated, unrecognized influence on current perceptions, thoughts, and behaviors.


This is how unprocessed, unconscious emotional memories and learnings find resolution through EFT tapping.

These memories won’t be “extinguished” in the sense of being erased. What is extinguished is the emotional distress associated with the memory.

You can test this days, weeks, or months after the session by recalling the event again.


The memory is usually still intact but without the emotional charge.


This will probably lead to changes in perspective, new insights, approaches, and emotional experiences.

You’d expect that the memory or trigger would evoke pain and stress, but the anticipated emotional reaction does not occur because acupoint tapping temporarily deactivates your emotional brain.

We can tap away our own individual traumatization, fears, and one limiting belief after another, enjoying a happier and more balanced life!

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In Clinical EFT, both bodily experiences and a protocol involving eye movements, tapping, humming, and counting are present while maintaining a firm focus on the here and now.


The immediacy of physical safety effectively counterconditions the old stress response.

Even though you were traumatized in the past and you're thinking of a stressful event, this body-focused approach reminds you that you are safe in this moment.


Brain scans before and after treatment show that this breaks the association in the brain’s limbic system between the stressful memory and the fight-or-flight response.


Once the association is broken one time, it’s usually broken for good.

That’s why long-term studies that follow participants long after their EFT therapy sessions are over find that their recovery is permanent. Studies have shown that more than 80% of the veterans suffering from PTSD were permanently rehabilitated after a maximum of 10 sessions of EFT.

In one research determining what was happening inside the bodies of people taking a one-week EFT workshop, a comprehensive panel of physiological markers, as well as psychological conditions like anxiety, depression, and PTSD, were measured.


The changes in physiological markers of health were extraordinary. Cortisol—the main stress hormone—dropped by 49%. Salivary Immunoglobulin A (immune function marker) rose by 61%. Resting heart rate fell by 8%, while blood pressure was reduced by 6%.


The blood pressure, cortisol, and heart rate figures showed that participants were markedly less stressed at the end of the week than at the beginning. Participant pain dropped by 66%, while happiness increased by 13%.

Most of the improvements held when follow-ups for psychological symptoms were performed a few months later.

Research shows that body-centered approaches such as EFT can alleviate most emotional distress, anxiety, and trauma-related conditions in just a few sessions. Treatment timeframes range from one session for phobias to ten sessions for difficult diagnoses such as PTSD.

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Book a free consultation!

In this 30-minute free online meeting, we can talk about what you need or want to work on.
You can ask your questions, and we can assess whether we would be a good fit for one another in a coaching-mentoring relationship.


About me

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Anyez is a phenomenal practitioner! She creates the most warm and safe space to explore disturbing emotions and events. I never cease to be amazed at her ability to tune into her intuition and divine guidance in leading a session. There's always a new technique or creative way of gently opening up her clients for thorough processing and releasing of what no longer serves them. I highly recommend placing yourself in Anyez's capable hands. She's an absolute artist and makes healing a pleasant and easy process.

Amanda Wonderland

My mentor at EFT Universe

Hi, my name is Anyez Lorincz; I’m a Clinical EFT practitioner, meditation teacher, family constellations facilitator, and writer.


I help people who feel unhappy, anxious, unfulfilled, and lost in life to make inner peace, unwavering happiness, and purposefulness their everyday experience.


I know all that well. I, too, was at a point where there seemed to be no way out, but I was determined to find it.


And I did. I learned to lift myself by my hair, and today, I live my days with constant joy and gratitude, feeling like champagne bubbling in my chest. I know who I am and why I am here.


Sharing what I learned is my mission because I know there is another option than suffering and that loving yourself and living a life you love is possible.

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