Towards the end of the massage therapy program, preparatory courses for the licensing exam were held. Called “intensives,” they featured a lot of visibly freaked out students waiting in a classroom for underpaid teachers to come in, shuffle papers, and hand out incomplete sample exams that featured such well crafted questions as:

“Q.36) Which one would you use the most caution?

A. Fibromyalgia

B. Option 2

C. Option 3

D. Option 4”

The woman in charge of writing these extraordinarily helpful dry-runs was also in charge of the department. Impressively tall and broad, with the sense of humor of a brick wall and years of experience in the field, I can safely say that she meant well. I can also say that she should have retired from teaching around the same time that Britney Spears was asking us all to assault her one more time.

tap tap

I can suffer fools gladly for a while. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, even though it goes against my general knee-jerk nature of being an asshole. I believe that everyone has a golden kernel of goodness somewhere inside of themselves, often obscured by layers of insecurity, fear, and macaroni-portrait-on-the-fridge pride. But I don’t have much tolerance for being ordered to believe in bullshit, and my well-honed skepticism went into full-on, sirens-blaring WTF?! detection when the woman, who I affectionately refer to as The Jackal, handed out a sheet of paper and instructed us all to tap away our fear of failing the boards.

On our bodies.

With our fingertips.

Like Morse Code performed by a bunch of amphetamine abusers.

I’ve heard about military boot camps, and about cult indoctrinations; situations where subjects are physically and/or emotionally broken to the point of being highly-suggestable blobs of flesh, minions for a cause, or blind devotees to some money-grabbing idolatry.

Inside of that dingy, fluorescent-lit classroom, looking at the sweaty, furrowed brows of the (much younger) students whose anxiety level regarding the state test had reached a crescendo, I half-expected The Jackal to bust out an electric razor and issue us fatigues.

“All negative feelings are caused because of some sort of dysfunction or disruption in your body’s energies,” she began.

This was the sort of woo-speak I’d become so desensitized to after two years in an alternative healthcare program that I continued doodling dinosaur vaginas in my notebook without so much as glancing at the handout.

“So I want you all to think about the state boards and what you’re feeling about them. How nervous are you?”

The other students bit their lips, wiped their faces. One quietly muttered an explicative. I shaded in a reptilian vulva and smacked my sugarless gum.

“Now, I want you all to give me a number on a scale of one to ten, ‘ten’ being scared shitless,” she smiled in the way that old ladies do when they say a dirty word, “And ‘one’ being like when you’re sleeping on the beach on a Saturday afternoon. Okay? We’ll start here. Sarah, what’s your number?”

“Uhmm, eight?” freckled Sarah with the ponytail said.

“Good. And you, Eric?” The Jackal continued.

Looking at the prematurely balding young man next to me, I realized that I was next on line to ascribe a number to my nerves.

“Ten,” Eric said emphatically, striking his hand on the desk.

“Ainsley?” Jackal asked.

“I’m not really nervous,” I said, shrugging.

The Jackal looked at me, unwavering. I thought of the movie RoboCop. “You now have fifteen seconds to comply.”

“One,” I said, exasperated.

Without missing a beat, The Jackal continued down the line. It was then I looked at the paper.

“EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE (EFT)! Setup…
Here are your two goals:

1)  acknowledge your problem

2)  accept yourself in spite of it

Do this by saying:

“Even though I have this _______________, I deeply and completely accept myself”.

The blank above represents the problem you want to address, so you can just insert things like:

This fear of spiders:

“Even though I have this fear of spiders, I deeply and completely accept myself.”

This humiliation at my eighth grade graduation:

“Even though I have this humiliation at my eighth grade graduation, I deeply and completely accept myself.”
Fear of failing a test:
“Even though I have this fear of failing the boards, I deeply and completely accept myself.”’

Now I was interested. What sort of fresh bullshit is this, I wondered.

don't tap me bro

“All negative emotions are rooted in childhood,” The Jackal explained. “This gentleman, Gary Craig, discovered this technique that can help you get rid of any sort of emotional trauma or pain. I did a workshop with him years ago and it was unbelievable. There was a lot of crying, a lot of emotional release, and at the end of the weekend, this guy who had ALS and had come in a wheelchair, typing up his words on a keyboard with his pinky finger, stood up out of the wheelchair and said, “Thank you.”’

“Whoa,” one of the students said, audibly impressed.

If I had rolled my eyes any harder, I would have seen my brainstem.

“So are you ready to try this out? You all should ace the boards, but if you do this tapping technique, it will keep you from being stressed out and the negative feedback loop in your head from failing you,” she said.

“I’m ready,” one kid replied, smiling.

“It’s better than me going back to smoking,” said another.

The protocol for the technique was simple. As per The Jackal’s orders, we were to identify our emotional problem, rate its intensity on the 0-10 scale, and think of a sentence to best describe it, such as, “Even though I realize I wasted two years of my life on a degree in massage, I fully love and accept myself.” Or whatever.

Next, we were to “affirm” the phrase by tapping the ‘karate chop’ part of our hand, the meaty section along the pinky-side of the palm. After tapping the side of our hand for about ten seconds while reciting that special, magic phrase, we were to tap our eyebrow, the space next to our eye, under our eye, under our nose, our chin, our collarbone, and our armpit. The order appeared to be important. While, to me, these were all arbitrary points of the body, all of equal import to the placebo effect, the theory behind EFT is that these are key “meridian centers” of energy, as per traditional Chinese medicine theory. After two years of being force-fed Asian Bodywork Technique drivel, this was the least irksome of the facts.

Once the tapping was done, we were to take a deep breath, and then give The Jackal our new, post-tap number associated with our sensitivity phrase.

“Uhmmm, four,” Sarah with the ponytail said.

“Two,” almost-bald Eric said.

A pause.

She stared. I stared.

“…”

A locking of eyes, a locking of horns. Somewhere in the room, a kid on their iPhone sent a text message.

“One,” I said, defiant.

And so it continued, down the lines of eager students, most of whose numbers were lower. If the second number was the same, excluding yours truly, The Jackal had a simple answer.

“Your set-up phrase wasn’t strong enough. You need to choose a better word. Instead of “scared shitless,” find something even more intense,” she said.

At this point, my eye-roll had developed into a burning jaw-clench. I had to figure out what the fuck was going on, before my magic number for rage became a power of ten…

tap test tap

Do you have $600, time to kill, and a willingness to believe? Then you, too, can learn from one of woo-master Gary Craig’s puppets and tap away your issues using the ‘power’ of EFT.l

Based off of alt-med bullshit musings known as “energy psychology,”

Craig crafted Emotional Freedom Techniques as an intervention model, based off on an amalgamation of TCM meridians, neurolinguistics, and another fringe pop-psychology embezzlement technique known as Thought Field Therapy, or TFT.

Cited by the American Psychological Association as “lacking a scientific basis,” TFT was cobbled together by psychologist Roger Callahan as a healing modality.

The main differential between Callahan’s approach and Craig’s is that Callahan believes that particular algorithms are essential to the efficacy of TFT, while Craig asserts that positive results of the technique are possible, so long as a simplified formula of tapping were followed. Although this may sound like an assertion of the placebo effect at work, that would probably work against both men’s aim to take your money. And heal you. That, too.

The beauty of TFT and EFT, other than the fact that, much like my “holistic health” program, they’ve been funded by gullible, desperate chumps, is that there’s no way to apply a randomized, double-blind controlled study on unblocking ephemeral ‘emotional energy’ through hand taps. Lucky Callahan and Craig.

tap tap tap

Are you high enough to be on board the TFT/EFT train? Good. Because the next station is called “Voice Technology,” and, man, does it work. According to Callahan, it’s almost 100% effective. And it’s done over the phone! Phone taps. Literally.

“Voice Technology is a proprietary technology which allows for the rapid and precise diagnosis of perturbations by telephone through an objective and unique voice analysis technology. By precisely identifying and modifying perturbations (active and specific disturbances in energy thought fields), negative emotions can be collapsed and healed within minutes. Thought Field Therapy (TFT) involves the rapid decoding of perturbation sequences to restore and transform energy flow, resulting in the reduction of negative emotions and stress.”

Really. By listening to you chatter about your feelings, or what you ate for breakfast, a VT practitioner will tell you what super-special-and-unique points for you and you alone to tap! It’s like a diagnostic model, only without all of that pesky science getting in the way.

“But I could really use some help dealing with the fact that I’ve hated my dad ever since he didn’t show up to my soccer game when I was five,” you’re thinking.

Or you really want to get over your fear of zebra finches, or quit eating a whole box of Fudge Stripe cookies in one sitting. Whatever. “Talking on the phone sounds easy enough,” you muse. “And if it works…”

Perhaps you’re seduced by the idea of a quick fix, or you’ve found alternative therapies to work for you in the past. Hey, everybody’s entertained by something different at the big top. I’m not going to judge what has given you joy, freedom, or a lighter wallet. So what about the numbers? How much is this call going to cost you?

Try nearly $300 per session, most likely with a $1,500 minimum to get those guaranteed results. And you thought phone sex was expensive.

Why so much dosh for someone to wonderously tap away your issues from over the phone? Because Callahan’s individualized training in VT costs $100,000. Yes, you read that number correctly. A cool 100K to become a licensed woo-peddling healer of untestable taps, capable of healing people of everything from MS to a fear of bees over the phone. What’s more, you’ll be part of a top-secret society, as every trainee has to sign a confidentiality agreement, thereby keeping the methodology under lock-and-key.

Which is to say, The Jackal is highly underpaid. Even though she attended that weekend-long seminar with Gary Craig, she was there, giving away the tap-tastic mysteries of our innate healing powers. But I guess if you think about it, maybe it was a legitimate transaction. There were twelve students in the room, at an estimated $13,434 of total tuition for each of us who made it this far in the program…

You can crunch the numbers, I’m not so good at math. But maybe my lack of arithmetic skill can be solved by tapping it away.

tap tap tap