Letting Go of the Guilt Attached to Being Ill Using EFT

When I work with clients who are seriously ill, one of the strongest negative emotions they often feel around being ill is guilt. They feel guilty because they can’t work or do the things they once did; guilty for needing care and support; guilty for resting, and guilty for not doing enough in general. The challenge with this limiting belief is that it influences our rest time. It can lead to us dismissing our bodies’ needs because there is just so much to do and we “should be doing more”. We decide to soldier on instead.

Whenever a client suggests she should be doing more, or she isn’t doing enough, I like to introduce the possibility that perhaps relaxing is enough. We are unlikely to recover if we are preoccupied with berating ourselves for not having the energy to clean the house, go to work, or socialise. It is so important to listen to our bodies’ messages and respond by taking some time to recuperate.

When I was housebound with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, there were specific symptoms which flared up when I had pushed myself too far. In the early days, pushing myself too far might have meant watching TV for half an hour, or showering and washing my hair. I soon learned that these activities were too much for my body because my leg muscles and knee joints would start aching, a migraine would start or I would feel completely exhausted. At first, I was frustrated and deeply disappointed in my body, so I ignored the symptoms. This usually meant I would end up in bed for the rest of the day! I started to listen to my body more and more. As soon as one of the symptoms worsened, it was my cue to rest. I strongly believe that adopting this protocol was one of the main reasons I recovered from this debilitating disease relatively quickly. I chose to let go of the guilt I felt about taking time to meditate, do breathing exercises or sleep because I realised in the long term, resting would facilitate my recovery.

Demanding, and sometimes overwhelming words, such as ‘should’, ‘must’ and ‘ought’ can be replaced with ‘could’: “I could be doing more, but right now, relaxing is enough”. If my clients feel resistant as they regard this, it is very useful information for me. There might be some negative self-talk coming up, such as “I don’t have time to relax!”, “I need to soldier on”, or “relaxing is what lazy people do”. With powerful limiting beliefs such as these at work, the subconscious will not feel safe enough to consider the possibility of resting and ultimately, healing.

When I worked with Paul he said he was surrounded by so many things that needed doing and they were all shouting at him, demanding his attention. He felt guilty if he rested, and likened the way he felt to wearing a belt which was slowly tightening around his waist, preventing him from taking a comfortable breath. As we used EFT on the negative emotions he felt, his perspective altered quite considerably as he realised that by taking the opportunity to rest when he needed to, he would have even more energy to complete the tasks which surrounded him. The sensation of the tightening belt dissipated and he was left feeling calm and confident.

Andrea told me she didn’t deserve to take rest time because that would make her feel even more guilty about being ill. She told me she overloaded herself by constantly doing things and making sure she was busy. The majority of her activities revolved around striving to make herself better. Somehow, she had developed the belief that she had to keep on “doing something” in order to recover from her illness. She believed that if she wasn’t doing something to “fix” her health, she certainly didn’t deserve any rest time.

Using EFT, we tapped on all of these beliefs and Andrea began to realise that these were, indeed, limiting beliefs. She told me that all she truly wanted to do was relax yet she was scared of letting go of her current behaviour. She realised that her routine of overloading herself and keeping busy was a way of maintaining control. She became afraid of letting go of this behaviour pattern in case it wasn’t good for her. The most fascinating part of her dialogue was when she explained if she stopped “doing stuff” and getting things done, something bad would happen to her. I reframed this by suggesting that if she stopped doing stuff, perhaps something good would happen. Andrea understood this immediately, realising I was implying that if she stopped ‘soldiering on’, perhaps her body could have an opportunity to heal.

The following is some of the EFT I used with Andrea, and if this subject resonates with you, I thought it might be useful.

Start by tapping the two karate chop points (KC) together and repeat the following three times:
“Even though for whatever reason, there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to let go of this guilt, there’s a bigger part of me that wants to accept myself and move on.”

The purpose of this is to clear any resistance from the subconscious mind. Once this is cleared, we are ready to apply regular EFT on the issue at hand. When we tap on our limiting beliefs, traumatic memories and pain, we shift our perspective, gently allowing our subconscious to consider change. Once the subconscious realizes there is nothing to gain from holding on to the problem, it is open to changing.
Now tap the karate chop point on the other hand while saying the following:

“Even though I feel guilty for resting, I want to accept myself anyway
Even though there’s so much to do and I should be doing more, I accept who I am and how I’m feeling about this
Even though if I rest, they might think I’m lazy, I deserve to accept all of me now.”

Now tap the following places while saying each of the phrases below:
• top of head: I don’t know who I’d be
• eyebrow: Being sick has become my identity
• side of eye: Everyone accepts me in this role
• under eye: and if I recover, they’ll expect more of me
• under nose: I’ll have to resume my responsibilities
• chin: and that’s too much for me right now
• collarbone: I feel threatened by the possibility of changing
• under arm: I’m afraid to change
• top of head: I want to enjoy the freedom that whole health offers me
• eyebrow: I want to make a commitment to my healing
• side of eye: I deserve to feel safe enough to recover
• under eye: I don’t have to feel obligated to change
• under nose: I choose to feel curious about the possibility of changing
• chin: and how exciting my life will be
• collarbone: I’m starting to feel curious about who I could be without

this illness
• under arm: I deserve to change now

After you have tapped through this round, write down how you’re feeling and any new thoughts which have come up, then tap again, changing the wording if you need to. Remember, the phrases you use are simply a way of outwardly expressing how you’re feeling. You don’t need to be creative – just state what’s on your mind.

BOLA TANGKAS