There is no feeling quite like heartbreak. The unwashed hair, the self pitying, the inevitable month of “look at me living my best life without you” thirst traps. I was dumped earlier this year, two days before moving house, meaning I couldn’t lift a mattress up the stairs without bursting into tears. It’s chaotic and tragic and no amount of motivational quotes forwarded to me via Instagram was going to get me through it.
But then a friend bought me something seemingly quite random: a 21-day course called “Heartbreak to Soulmate With the Magic of Tapping”. It sounded odd to say the least – beyond the realms of wanky and woo woo. But then again, I had nothing to lose. And I needed something to help me believe in life after love. But what even is “tapping”? And how is it supposed to heal heartbreak?
Tapping, also known as Emotional Freedom Techniques or EFT, is an alternative treatment and mindfulness practice used to help treat distress of all types, from being dumped to feeling anxious. The method is practised by quite literally tapping certain parts of your body’s acupressure points with your fingertips (the head, collarbone, ribs, chest, underarm, etc) while saying out loud whatever’s been bothering you.
Crucial to the technique is counteracting any negative beliefs with positive ones. For example: “Even though I feel like a haggard, bitter old crow who can’t bear the thought of trawling through Hinge yet again…” – tap, tap, tap – “I am actually a hottie and deserving of love.” Think of it as basically like DIY CBT or mindfulness, but with a physical component derived from traditional Chinese medicine.
Tapping your body might sound way too simple to be effective (if it worked, wouldn’t we all be tapping ourselves after every inconvenience?). But a lot of people swear by it. One study on the effects of tapping showed a 90 percent improvement in tapping therapy patients in comparison to 63 percent of those receiving CBT. Plus, only three sessions were needed before an individual's anxiety was reduced, as opposed to an average of 15 in CBT.
“Tapping is going to help you fully feel what you're feeling and process it without shoving it down,” says Lauren Frontier, 32, a tapping practitioner based in the US. She’s been tapping daily for about three years now. “You can reprogram new, more empowering beliefs that leave you feeling lighter, freer, more whole and more empowered to live from your truth rather than your fears and doubts.”
Carla Carolina Watson, 29, based in the UK, agrees. She’s been tapping for around five years. “Working with these acupressure points is like peeling an onion; getting rid of the dirty outside layers in order to get to the beautiful tasty parts that will help us make a delicious meal,” she says, adding: “These acupressure points when experiencing heartbreak, trauma or PTSD are like a stuck sink. The energy gets trapped without a chance to properly flow away.”
Sounds abstract, but also promising. That said, would it get me through a gut-wrenching heartbreak? Throughout the 21 days, my own experience with tapping was complex. At first I felt like a bit of a loser tapping away at my head in my room and saying things like “I’ll probably die alone because there's no one left” and then replacing that with “No! My person is out there and I'm so glad I haven't given up!”.
After a while though, the ridiculousness of it did start cheering me up. In a way, it was the ultimate form of reverse psychology. Saying outrageously sad things about myself felt silly and overly dramatic when spoken out loud. As I sat in my bedroom using my hand like some kind of floppy fish to repeatedly hit myself over the head with while saying how unlovable I was, I realised I really did deserve more than this.
And then, about two weeks in, the yawning started. According to Stephanie Dodds – an EFT practitioner and founder of the aforementioned 21-day course – yawning, sighing and even laughing while tapping is supposed to indicate that the technique is actually working. Was my negativity leaving my spirit one finger tap at a time? Or was all this yawning just proof that I was now bored of being heartbroken and thwacking myself over the head?
I wasn’t going on any shit dates during my tapping era either, which probably helped. “I’m very serious when it comes to advising people not to date until they have finished the course,” Stephanie had warned me. “We have to create new patterns, not recreate old patterns. We want to get into our subconscious mind so we can deal with it.”
After a while, I did understand where Stephanie was coming from. All too often I have spent the post break-up period engaging in ill-advised “glow ups” and mindlessly scrolling through Hinge instead of sitting with my feelings. This time though, tapping helped me to actually spend some time with myself. And while 21 days felt a little quick (this was no Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), I did admittedly emerge feeling better than when I administered the first head tap.
“Tapping helps me re-awaken a certain strength that had been sleepy or ‘stuck’ somewhere inside,” adds Carla. “An optimistic voice blossoms inside me, helping to ignite an inner fire that fuels me. That’s when I tell myself ‘Fuck that, I got this’ and sometimes that's all I needed.”
Carla’s words might sound a bit hippy-ish on paper, but now I also kind of get it? Yeah, I might not necessarily be adding tapping to my daily routine, but there’s absolutely nothing lost in trying. And it’s better than drunk dialling your ex or getting really into Diablo or something.