When we start using EFT on our own to address the traumas from our past, often by tapping along with scripts or videos, we sometimes have a tapping session that leaves us unsettled.
We may feel anxious, edgy, or even fearful. In some way, our body is telling us things aren't right. This can be frustrating when we're working alone. We may think EFT isn't “working right” or question if we’re “doing it right”.
In reality, when that happens we can pat ourselves on the back, because we’re on track to getting some real work done. In the process, it’s just that we have activated our Sentinel and our Protector. If we recognize this, we can keep using EFT to help retrain our Sentinel and our Protector.
Who are the Sentinel and the Protector and why are they pestering us like this?
If we have experienced trauma we naturally develop coping mechanisms. It can be useful to think of these mechanisms as characters in our own personal story. We can imagine a Sentinel character and a Protector character.
The Sentinel's job is to warn us of danger. If we've been traumatized our Sentinel is often on overdrive all the time. Anything that feels remotely like the traumatic situation will get the Sentinel agitated. If we begin to move toward that territory deliberately through EFT, our Sentinel feels very threatened and does all it can to get our attention.
If we ignore our Sentinel and continue to move toward the dangerous feelings, our Protector may swing into action. When we're in balance our Protector will help us protect ourselves in healthy ways. When we're not, our Protector can sometimes choose unhealthy behaviors like overindulgence, addiction, avoidance, and even dissociation. This is not a failing on our part; it’s a result of not having had the opportunity to learn, strengthen and exercise healthy coping skills.
We know our Protector is kicking in if we start to seek out, or revert to, behaviors that aren’t good for us but provide temporary relief. This can also be accompanied by a sense of futility, helplessness or self-blame.
Fortunately, we can enlist EFT to help us recognize our Sentinel and our Protector, and stay present with our discomfort long enough for EFT to help us reduce the unpleasant emotions.
First, meet yourself where you are.
Put a name to your feelings and create a set-up phrase—but don’t tap it yet, we’re going to flesh it out.
Even though I feel edgy and anxious, I deeply and completely accept myself.
Now, invite your Sentinel to the party.
Even though I feel edgy and anxious, I deeply and completely accept myself, and I recognize that this may be my Sentinel trying to warn me.
Go a step further and express gratitude to your Sentinel.
Even though I feel edgy and anxious, I deeply and completely accept myself, and I recognize that this may be my Sentinel trying to warn me. I thank my Sentinel for warning me of danger.
Tap this phrase until you get your SUDS level (the measurement of your distress) down to 2 or less. If thanking the Sentinel at this point results in self-judgment, leave the thanks off and tap simply on the recognition. When you have gotten your SUDS down, tap a second round including the gratitude phrase.
Next, if you’ve already started to do things that aren’t in your best interests in order to calm and distract yourself, invite your Protector to the party as well.
Start out with the set-up phrase that describes your behavior:
Even though I’ve started eating too much candy again, I deeply and completely….
And finish it with recognizing your Protector:
Even though I’ve started eating too much candy again, I deeply and completely accept myself, and I recognize that this may be my Protector trying to protect me. I thank my Protector for protecting me the best it knows how.
If you can’t quite thank your Protector for making you gorge on candy, you might add, “I thank my Protector for trying to protect me, even if that doesn’t seem good for me.”
Again, tap your SUDS level down as low as you can get it, always tapping down the tailenders or “yeah buts” that you have toward your Protector if they come up.
You can even finish off by inviting your Sentinel and Protector to join you in learning better ways to do their jobs. Masha Bennett’s excellent article Getting All Our “Parts” Working Together, in EFTFree.net’s article archives, will give you great ideas for doing so.
Ange Dickson Finn is an AAMET Accredited Certified EFT Advanced Practitioner. She is based in Houston, Texas, USA, and works with clients over the phone and via Skype. Ange has helped clients with issues including physical pain, health and well-being, work-related stress, equestrian sports and relationships. Visit her on the web at www.TapIntoYourself.com or www.RideWithoutFear.com.
From the EFTfree Archives, which are now a part of AAMET International.
Originally published on March 17, 2012.