Why your struggling inner child(ren) may need more than a tapping script.

9 March, 2023 by Andy Hunt

EFT/Tapping is a wonderful self-help tool. You can use it to soothe difficult emotions and ease painful memories.

It’s so good, you might think that if you just tapped on the symptoms of your problem, complete relief would be quick to follow.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work that way.

A quick Google search will give you hundreds of tapping scripts or tap-along videos for your problem. However, even though tapping along can soothe the distress at the time, those old feelings usually come back later.

It’s as if tapping on the symptoms of the problem is like wafting away smoke. If you don’t put out the fire there will always be more smoke to waft away.

Annie’s Story

Annie is in her thirties, for as long as she can remember she has had the uneasy feeling that she is not wanted (and couldn’t possibly be wanted).

Although she has lived with a loving partner for ten years, she often imagines that she is about to lose him to someone who is ‘better’ than she is.

In spite of his obvious love for her, she finds it hard to believe that he does love her and that their relationship will last.

She doesn’t like to feel this way and does her best to conceal her reservations. She doesn’t want to upset him so she always puts him first to ensure she keeps his affections.

But, even when things are going well, she feels a deep-seated unease about her relationship and how long it will last.

Annie discovers tapping. She sees it on YouTube (so it must be true) how quickly you can soothe uncomfortable emotions by tapping. She hopes that it might be possible to tap her way out of her distress.

Unfortunately, the tap-alongs and the tapping scripts that seem to fit her situation only give temporary relief. Sometimes they even seem to make things worse by putting her in touch with some painful emotions she would rather not feel.

To know why the ‘tap-along’ approach is not helping we need to step back from the symptoms and look for the root causes.

Stepping back from the symptoms to find the causes

At first glance, Annie had a good childhood in a loving home. She was the first child of a couple who desperately wanted a boy. Their initial disappointment of getting a girl soon passed and her parents looked after her and loved her.

When Annie was four, her mother became pregnant with her second child, a son. Annie’s parents were delighted to get the boy they had always hoped for.

When her brother James was born Annie stopped being the centre of attention. The boy was the apple of his parent’s eye and Annie was sidelined. She was looked after well enough, but had to live on the crumbs of her parent’s love and attention.

We all need attenion

All children need attention, so Annie began to look for ways to get what she needed. On the surface, she tried to be good to make her mum and dad love her again, underneath she was angry at them and her brother.

With a child’s keen sense of what is fair and not fair, she resented all the love and attention her brother got. She soon found out it wasn’t safe to communicate this to her parents. Expressing that anger and resentment led to scolding, shaming and even less attention. She learned to keep those feelings to herself.

Over time Annie began to feel more alone, fearful of complete abandonment, neglected, angry and resentful. Because she couldn’t express it she hid those feelings from her parents and even from herself.

She began to think that she was not wanted, that even when she was wanted it could be taken away at a moment’s notice. She concluded that other people got the love and attention. She became adept at spotting her parent’s displeasure with her and worked hard to make sure that didn’t happen.

These thoughts, feelings and perceptions became internalised as a part of herself that was exquisitely tuned into the dangers of rejection and abandonment. As Annie grew up, this younger part of her (a ‘younger self’) stayed frozen in her distress trying her best to be wanted.

So what is a ‘younger self’?

That depends on who you ask.

Different schools of therapy use different terminology. Younger parts are sometimes known as inner children, sub-personalities, ego-states, ECHOs, schemas, etc. The descriptions of these parts of ourselves will also differ depending on who you ask.

For our purposes we can say that Annie’s four year-old ‘younger self’ includes:

  • Stress and distress The painful emotional cocktail of the young Annie who felt abandoned is the ‘feeling signature’ of that younger self. Those painful emotions are also the glue that keeps the younger Annie suffering and in place. Those emotions are resistant to change.
  • Behaviours The young Annie can only do what she could do at the time. When you are four you don’t have a lot of life experience to call on, Annie could only cope with her situation with what she could do at that age. Our young minds adopt these behaviours as the best way to handle the situation at that time. These behaviours persist over time as ‘the only’ way to deal with these situations. These patterns of behaviour are remarkably resistant to change.
  • Beliefs Annie came to some conclusions about life as a result of that experience. She concluded that she was not wanted, could easily be abandoned, and that other people were more important than she is. The conclusions that the younger self comes to, her beliefs and thoughts, are held in place by the stress and distress of the original situation. Those beliefs are resistant to change.
  • Perceptions We learn to survive by paying attention to what is important. Young Annie became sensitive to the possibility of abandonment or neglect, she paid close attention to the verbal and non-verbal signals of the other people in her life so she could maximise her chances of getting some love and attention. Those filters of perception are resistant to change.

This younger self is ‘frozen in time’ she is stuck in her stress and distress at the age she formed. She isn’t able to grow and develop as Annie grows up and matures. She can’t take advantage of the new skills, understandings and resources Annie may develop later. However old Annie gets the younger Annie who fears abandonment and tries hard to be wanted will always be four.

This process could be quite invisible. A casual onlooker might just see a happy family, a loving couple with a confident and relaxed son and a quiet slightly withdrawn daughter.

Back to the present

Although she is now in a happy relationship and is well liked by her friends, Annie’s four year-old self is still vigilant and fearful of abandonment.

Her adult self feels uneasy and has no idea why. Without reason, she fears that her partner will find somebody better and desert her. She knows this isn’t true but the part of her that is afraid of abandonment won’t (or can’t) listen to reason.

She knows she tries too hard to please, even if it gets annoying to the people she is close to. She can’t help it, at some level the fear of displeasing them terrifies her, she has to keep them happy.

She sometimes feels unreasonable anger when her partner or friends appear to be paying more attention to someone else. But she can’t express this and feels ashamed that she is, in her own eyes, being so stupid.

Annie feels that her mature adult self has been hijacked by a younger self who is reliving the long gone past.

However much she taps for the anger and resentment it seems to come back. When she taps on feeling not wanted the feeling seems to go for a while and then returns as if she had never tapped in the first place.

So what can Annie do if the videos, tap-alongs and scripts aren’t working?

Rather than working on the symptoms, Annie needs a way to find and change the root causes of her distress.

Fortunately, there are many different tapping approaches that could help Annie release the effects of the past experiences.

In standard EFT the practitioner would look for early life experiences where these beliefs and feelings originated. Identifying those experiences and tapping on the memories could undo Annie’s difficult emotions and limiting beliefs.

But, there is another way. In Identity Healing the practitioner ‘finds’ the ‘younger self’, that part of Annie that is experiencing and running her distress, soothes her and gives her all the resources she needs to change. Once the younger self has been freed from her stress and distress, and given what she needs, she can be invited to grow and evolve to join Annie’s adult self.

Now Annie would be able to live more from her resourceful adult self rather than being hijacked by a younger self.

If this sounds more complicated than following a tap-along video or a tapping script: you are right, it is!

However, the benefits of this work if well done are life changing and profound.

In the real world it’s even more complicated. In this article, Annie has only been troubled by one younger self. However, most of us are wandering around with many younger selves, struggling to help us survive.

We are walking kaleidoscopes of our younger selves, contained in our adult selves. Some of those younger selves are desperate to be healed.

If Annie’s story and this explanation resonates with you, then you need to go far deeper than a script or video can take you to resolve these problems. Using Identity Healing with the help of a skilled practitioner may be just what you need.

Image courtesy Mark Filter from Pixabay