To Use or Not to Use the EFT Choices Set-up

The "subconscious" mind quote by Dr. Patricia CarringtonThe EFT Choices set-up and reminder phrases extend the scope of EFT considerably, but this doesn’t mean that they are always appropriate to use, or that the default self-acceptance phrase, “I deeply and completely accept myself” (or its equivalents) are not very useful.

I find the Choices set-up method the most effective approach under many circumstances and use it with my clients much more often than I use the default self-acceptance phrase. However, this new option has certain characteristics that make it less useful than the default self-acceptance phrase under certain circumstances. Consider the following scenarios when determining when to use or not to use the EFT Choices Set-Up.

Children and People with Limited Language Skills

When it’s important that a person be able to use EFT outside of therapy, in order to defuse immediate pressure situations, and this person does not have sufficient mastery of words or concepts to be able to create appropriate Choice set-up phrases for themselves, the ability to fall back on a default phrase is essential. Children and others who lack extensive language skills, for example, will need an invariable, easily remembered, consistent set-up phrase that they can apply automatically under any problematic circumstance. The  default self-acceptance phrase, “I deeply and completely accept myself” (or a variation of this) is excellent for this purpose.

This default phrase has been varied by many practitioners experienced in EFT as well as by the method’s founder, Gary Craig, when he uses some of his advanced techniques.  Until recently, however, the wording of the EFT set-up phrase has been aimed at helping people to accept themselves fully and wholeheartedly, and this intention is realized by a number of different versions of this phrase.  For example, the successful use of self-acceptance phrases designed especially for children has been reported by Ann Adams, Deborah Mitnick and Gary Craig.

Ann Adams, campus director at a residential facility for severely emotionally disturbed children, gives us an inspired account of Brandon and some other children with whom she has worked with EFT, in which she reports an extremely effective use of a child-adapted self-acceptance phrase, “I’m a really good kid.”  You may want to read her fascinating anecdotes about this use which can be accessed at

Another way of wording the self-acceptance phrase for children has been reported by Deborah Mitnick in an inspiring account of her work with her two year old grandson who was terrified of water. Because he’s so young, Deborah first did the tapping on herself while he watched her, and later he allowed her to tap on him directly.  She repeated the acceptance phrase, “He’s OK” (referring to her grandson) in somewhat of a surrogate manner by saying such things as, “Even though Ari thinks that water is dangerous, he’s OK,” and used the “He’s OK” acceptance phrase repeatedly while she tapped down many different aspects of his fear.  Her account is an EFT classic in terms of the way she identifies various aspects of this child’s complex fear. It can be accessed by going to

Similarly, Gary Craig reported the successful use of a children’s self-acceptance phrase, “I’m an awesome kid,” while working with Josh, a child who was traumatized by seeing his grandmother mugged, and was experiencing both fear and anger as a result.

Other practitioners have used “I love myself” or “I forgive myself” (usually with adults) or equivalents of these variations of the self-acceptance phrase.  All of these options are extremely helpful because they get at the basic self-rejection which underlies many of our upsets in life.

With regard to children and other populations with limited language skills, I therefore do not use Choices, but instead use a version of the default self-acceptance phrase. The simpler, more direct, powerful and easy to remember the statement is for such groups, the better it works for them.

It is, of course, possible for someone to create an appropriate Choices set-up phrase with the aid of a therapist/counselor/coach, or other professional with whom they are working, which they can then use as a default phrase at home when applying EFT in pressure situations. One can also make use of some general default Choices.  A default Choice I have been using successfully —because it applies to a wide variety of circumstances — is, “I choose to be calm and confident,” which I mentioned last month in the Library of Choices (Issue #2 of this newsletter). I find it particularly excellent when introducing EFT to new users and of great value in many other instances as well.  It is more believable to many people than the default self-acceptance phrase and extremely easy to remember.

This Choice set-up phrase is also a very good selection for client homework using EFT because it is so widely applicable, and in addition is extremely useful in anticipatory EFT where one is troubleshooting in advance an anticipated difficult situation, whether this be an upcoming surgical procedure, a job interview, an examination, or a confrontation with another person.  To be calm and confident under difficult circumstances is highly desirable and most people will perceive it as so.  It is therefore a very “congruent” (internally consistent) default set-up phrase to use.

Creating EFT Choices Set-Up Phrases Without Knowing the “Rules”

Why do we not simply ask people to make up their own Choices set-up phrases?  Wouldn’t that be easier?  I believe the answer is that it’s important for people to observe certain rules when making up Choices, generally the same rules as those which apply to traditional affirmations.  If a person doesn’t know the rules governing the creation of valid Choice statements, he or she could inadvertently word a Choice in a counterproductive manner and is probably better off not trying to do so without outside help.

Anyone familiar with the precision of wording which is required in all suggestion techniques will understand why this is so.  The “subconscious” mind is as literal as a computer when it interprets a command given to it, so we have to be extremely careful what we ask it to do because it could misinterpret our request just as a computer often does, with an undesirable result.

There are many common mistakes that people make when formulating the Choice portion of the Choice set-up which often makes it important to have outside guidance when formulating a Choice set-up.  All of these can be avoided but it requires experience to do so.  I encourage clients to formulate their own Choices as much as possible, but they usually do so, at least at first, with my guidance.  I consider it unwise to assume that any wording will be appropriate for a Choice because I have had too much experience over the years with people making occasionally ill-chosen and even self-destructive Choices for themselves.  People do not always know consciously what is in their own best interest and may need some questioning to unearth this.

Since the Choice set-up phrase “I choose to be calm and confident” can’t really be misused, it can be viewed as an extremely safe option, as can the standard default self-acceptance phrase.

Self Esteem Issues

The concept of deeply and completely accepting ourselves in order to counteract our distress in any and all situations may seem illogical and silly or uncomfortable for many people, however.  They will frequently wonder just what self-acceptance has to do with feeling better about their problem. This is a good reason for using the Choices method when it is indicated — it bypasses some of the initial skepticism which some people experience about EFT.

However, when the issue addressed is one of self-esteem, the self-acceptance phrase has proven, time and again, to be enormously effective.  It enables the person to validate and forgive their own self (and thereby to indirectly validate and forgive others) in a compelling manner.  I have by no means abandoned the use of this valuable phrase in my EFT work, but simply use it more sparingly and more strategically than I did previously.  Actually, I find that the default self-acceptance phrase now takes on more meaning for me because it is no longer automatically employed.  I select the times when I will use it and the times when I won’t, and know exactly why I am doing this in each case.  I am therefore getting even greater benefit from the default self-acceptance phrase than I did before.

Effects of Repetition by Rote

If used repeatedly for round after round in EFT, the default self-acceptance phrase can become a form of rote repetition for some people and therefore be less effective.  They may say, “I deeply and profoundly accept myself” so often that the meaning of this statement becomes lost or dulled. This is due to a process known in psychology as “habituation,” meaning that that which becomes too familiar to us will cease to be noticed.  For example, when we first wind up a clock we hear it ticking, but soon this sound fades from our awareness because it is our makeup to tune out any familiar noise perceived to be safe.  This saves us from being distracted by sounds or other stimuli which do not require our attention.

The Choices method keeps the person alert and focuses their attention on what they are actually saying, rather than relying on the repetition of mere words.  However, I want to emphasize that despite the fact that it can become automatic at times, the default self-acceptance phrase has proven itself to be extremely valuable in thousands of cases.  It may be for people what we call a “conditioned stimulus” for self-comfort which can bring us back to our own selves and give us relief.

In general, the question of whether to use the EFT Choices set-up phrase or the default self-acceptance phrase in a particular instance is a clinical judgment.  The EFT Choices set-up phrase is a relatively recent addition to what Gary Craig calls the Art of Delivery and as such it extends the scope and precision of  this method when appropriately used, but it is not always appropriate and the default self-acceptance phrase is an important option to have on hand.

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