In my opinion, this question, “Do words matter in EFT?” boils down to – whether you need more or fewer words in EFT? We use words in EFT; it could be a single word, a couple of phrases or descriptive setups. I haven’t yet come across any variation of EFT that doesn’t use words at all especially when EFT is used as the primary healing tool, whether it is mental tapping where you repeat affirmations in your mind, tapping with one single word, or tapping and talking.
What is Thinking?
Thinking is defined as “the manipulation of mental representations of information. A representation may take the form of a word, a visual image, a sound, or data in any other sensory modality stores in memory. ”  This shows that words accompany a lot of thinking processes.
Do you think of situations/events in images or do you use words to describe things to yourself? Think of your favorite restaurant – most probably you will “see” an image of your favourite restaurant accompanied by internal self talk about the restaurant –whether it was good or bad, how the food was etc.
Most of us rely more on one way of learning than the other – auditory learners rely more on listening and visual learners more on seeing. If you are an auditory person, you will identify more with words than images. The opposite is true for visual learners.
How do you talk to yourself?
Irrespective of the learning style, we engage in self talk, we talk to ourselves –albeit silently. When people say – silence your inner critic – they are referring to the critical self talk that we engage in. When people say, “think positive” – they are referring to the positive self talk. EFT is unique as it helps in addressing our self-talk; releasing negative self talk and paving the way for positive self talk.
Simon Jones and Charles Fernyhough  suggest “that our ability to talk to ourselves is very similar to regular speech.”
If you engage in a lot of self-talk, then using wordy EFT statements will work really well for you.
For example if you think –
“I should have passed that test. Why didn’t I study properly for it? I know I could have done it if I studied well. But I didn’t. I’m so angry with myself. What will I do? Can I prepare again?”
You could say all this in an EFT statement and then go ahead with whichever thought sticks more in your head.
Even though I should have passed the test…, I accept how I feel.
(Proceed with what is more prominent in your head)
Example – Anger
Even though I feel angry that….(describe it), I love and accept myself
If you rely more on images and less on words, then tapping on the image in your mind with short EFT statements and single phrases might help.
Just visualize the test and see how you feel – notice the sensations in your body and tap on each point with a phrase that describes what you feel. Make simple statements.
“Anxiety”, “This discomfort in my chest”, “I’m nervous during the test” etc.
Language helps us to communicate with others, and is tied with how we see and understand the world. In EFT, language plays the key role in the healing process. The language in which a person speaks to himself “internally” will often be his native language. Geo-specific EFT encourages use of native verbal expressions during tapping. You can find more information about Geo-Specific EFT here.
Default setup Phrase
EFT and its key component, the affirmations, were created in English by the EFT Founder, Gary Craig, an American English speaking gentleman. Hence, when we use EFT with people whose native language is different from English, we need to understand that in many languages, there is no exact translation for words ” love” and “accept” , especially in the context of oneself; self-love and acceptance may not be looked upon favorably in some cultures.
I have found that the resistance to “ I deeply and completely love and accept myself” can be present due to two reasons –
1. When we are unable to accept ourselves due to low self-worth and have difficulty in being compassionate to ourselves. This could be because of having felt undeserving as a child, being criticized a lot by parents, traumatic incidents etc. There could be many reasons for this.
2. When we are unable to say the default setup phrase because it conflicts with our cultural and linguistic framework. I have found while working with clients from different nationalities that in many languages, there is no exact translation for words ” love” and “accept” , especially in the context of oneself; self-love and acceptance may not be looked upon favorably in some cultures. This is another reason for resistance to the default setup phrase. You can get more information here.
Whether we use a few phrases, utter words silently or verbally, talk and tap or use wordy EFT affirmations – words do matter in EFT. You might take one word and tap or use a lot of words to describe events and feelings; customize according to what suits you.
Sometimes when you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin or what to say, you can tap and breathe on each point. But you will most certainly need words when you address specific issues.
1. Feldman, R. S. (2011). Understanding Psychology. New York: Mc Graw Hill.
2. Jones, S. R., & Fernyhoug, C. (2007). Thought as action: Inner speech, self-monitoring, and auditory verbal hallucinations. Consciousness and Cognition, 16, 391-399.