You’re probably stressed about your finances. Most Americans are—and for good reasons. You may have tried any number of things in an attempt to get ahold of your finances and wrestle that gnawing anxiety into submission. But have you tried tapping on your forehead?
No, seriously. It sounds crazy, but it could help.
Budgeting apps like YNAB, investing apps like Acorns or personal finance strategies like paying off debts with the snowball method are commendable ways to get your spending under control and keep interest from mounting—and maybe even start saving up a few sheckles. But they all probably fall short when it comes to mitigating the panic you feel when you think about retirement.
Recent studies show a quarter of Americans have less than $1,000 saved for retirement and nearly half wouldn’t be able to cover a $400 emergency. And yet many think they’ll need at least $1,000,000 for retirement. Factor in the stubborn wage stagnation that’s persisted in the years since the Great Recession, and any kind of future financial independence—stability, even—seems hopelessly out out reach for many Americans. It’s enough to make anyone stressed. And while budgeting and investing apps may improve your prospects over a couple decades of diligent use, if you’re really freaking out they’re probably not going to make you feel much better in the short term.
What is EFT?
A friend’s doula in Los Angeles (of course) mistakenly described EFT as "Emotionally Friendly Tapping." That’s incorrect. It actually stands for "Emotional Freedom Technique" — but "Emotionally Friendly Tapping" is a much more accurate description of what actually transpires.
A form of self-therapy that welds together a grab-bag of influences like acupressure, neuro-linguistic programming, and good old-fashioned positive affirmations, EFT was originally popularized in the ‘90s by practitioner Gary Craig’s "EFT Handbook." By outward appearances a simple-looking practice, EFT has been lauded as having an outsized, immediate impact on stress and anxiety.
So what does EFT actually entail? Basically, tapping yourself on the head (and other acupressure points) and saying nice things to yourself. Here, take a look:
Is EFT science or pseudoscience?
As you might imagine, EFT has not been tenderly embraced by the mainstream psychiatric community. Depending on the audience, its reception tends to land somewhere between "beneficial alternative self-help therapy" and "full-blown quackery." A panel of clinical psychologists determined that EFT was "likely discredited" as a scientifically credible application in the profession of mental health.
But on a Reddit thread, one military veteran says EFT "appears to be an elaboration of a technique for relieving the symptoms of a PTSD-related panic attack that was developed by a therapist treating Rwandan massacre survivors and is now widely taught as a coping mechanism for American combat veterans," and concludes, "it is simply a relief technique, not a treatment."
Which seems apt. In the end, debating the objective merits of EFT seems akin to asking whether, say, playing golf is a science or a pseudoscience. The question itself is a non-sequitur. But if it reliably makes you feel better, who cares?
But does it work?
So, can EFT actually calm you down and restore your equanimity despite the external stressors rocking your world?
That’s probably different for everyone. I received a brief tutorial on EFT just before flying from Los Angeles to New York when a friend a learned of my relentless flight anxiety. Personally, I was about a 10 on the skepticism scale. Six hours later, in a plane circling JFK in the middle of a thunderstorm, bouncing wildly as it waited for the storm to clear enough to land safely, I found myself tapping earnestly on my forehead. And you know what? It actually kind of worked.
EFT is guaranteed not to help your actual finances one iota. All the head-tapping in the world won’t slow down the interest compounding on your credit cards or add a dollar to your IRA. But as you do your best to pay down debt and build up a safety net, it just make you feel a little better along the way.