When experiencing a negative emotional state, angry, upset or fearful your brain goes on alert. It prepares your body to go into a full-blown fight or flight response. This response evolved to mobilise the body to face an external threat i.e. think of tiger coming after your ancient ancestor, all the body’s defence systems are turned on to support either the fighting or fleeing from danger. Your adrenalin pumps , your muscles tense, and your blood sugar all rise to give you that extra energy to meet the challenge.
The stressors in ancient days were very real threats to survival, today however the fight or flight response is rarely activated by physical threat. Most of our fight or flight responses are triggered internally, as the case Mary who had water phobia, her body went into a threat response when she thought of water.
Daily life is filled with small fight or flight experiences i.e. your boss sends you an email that upsets you, you sit down to eat lunch, you stress about your weight, you go home to a messy house, kids not behaving, not doing their home homework- in all these scenario’s your body is preparing to flight or flee.
One might say that their body does not go into fight or flight over these small events, but in fact it does. It’s not the adrenalin or the cortisol rush you would get if you were chased by a tiger, but it is a lower grade response when you add up hundreds or thousands of these responses in a given week or month the cumulative effect on the mind and body is massive. The on-going fight or flight response leaves us worn down, sick, upset, overweight, stressed out and generally unhappy with our life situations. What tapping does, with amazing efficiency is halt the fight or flight response and reprogram the brain and body to act and react differently. Let’s see how this happens.
The amygdala and the limbic system
Science has established that the stress response begins in the Amygdala. The Amygdala is part of the limbic systems or midbrain. The limbic system is the source of emotions and long term memory, and where negative emotions are encoded.
The Amygdala has been called the body’s smoke detector. It signals the brain to mobilise the body in the fight or flight response. An early negative experience can program the amygdala to raise the alarm when something similar triggers in the future. If you spoke in front of the class in fourth grade and someone laughed at you because of mispronunciation, your embarrassment may have caused the mind and body to connect “danger “ when speaking in front of people.
So while tapping on the meridian endpoints, somehow and we are not sure why, a calming signal is sent to the body and the amygdala recognises that it is safe. What’s more, tapping while experiencing or even discussing a stressful event counteracts the stress and reprogram the brain, this is the past threats with present signals and tells the amygdala whether or not the present signal is an actual threat.
Research at the Harvard Medical School over the past decade has shown that stimulation of selected meridian acupoints decrease activity in the amygdala and other parts of the brain associated with fear. In MRI and PFT brain scans, you can clearly see the amygdala’s red alert being called off when acupoints are stimulated. This is exciting cutting edge research.