At the mind-body-spirit conferences I attend everyone is usually most interested in exploring the spiritual qualities associated with the energy centers of the upper chakras. The 5th throat chakra is about speaking your truth. The 6th third eye chakra is about tapping into your intuition. The 7th crown chakra is about divine connection. No wonder all the metaphysically-oriented seekers want to hang out in that part of the body’s energy field!
However, as Margaret Lynch Raniere, one of my EFT teachers, emphasized in her Ignite Your Power Course most of the healing action happens in the lower four chakras (2021). It is those lower emotional shadow issues we don’t want to deal with that block our healing progress. We would prefer to avoid fear in the 1st root chakra, anger in the 2nd sacral chakra, shame in the 3rd solar plexus chakra, and grief in the 4th heart chakra, often resulting in related dream content.
Fortunately, a few dozen ACEP conference attendees in Baltimore were brave enough to participate in my Transforming Symptoms of the Lower 4 Chakras in Physical Illnesses post conference intensive based on my prior 2020 blog Healing Lower Chakra Shadow Issues in Physical Illnesses. In addition to doing experiential exercises tailored to each of the lower 4 chakras, we also discussed many case reports, some of which are included in this article.
According to clinical psychologist Anodea Judith, the chakras develop in chronological order from the womb through birth into adolescence (2004). We also know from the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study that trauma during this time in childhood is the greatest risk factor ever discovered for the development of chronic illnesses later in life, more significant than smoking or alcohol abuse.
The ACE questionnaire begins with 3 questions about physical, sexual, and emotional abuse which correlate with the shadow issues of the three lower chakras. One of the other 7 questions is about parents getting divorced which correlates with grief in the 4th chakra. The wounded healers I know with high ACE scores learned early on to dissociate into the upper chakras or out of the body altogether due to childhood trauma.
The connections between chakra imbalances and illnesses are highlighted by neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and medical intuitive Mona Lisa Schulz in collaboration with Louise Hay (2013). She has significantly enhanced the value of Hay’s intuitive information by sharing important scientific references from the psychiatry/psychology literature correlating each chakra with associated mental and physical illnesses.
The 1st chakra develops from the womb through the first year of infancy when a baby’s main concern is whether it is safe to be in the world. If it is not, fear is the dominant emotion that impacts health in the lower extremities, as well as fundamental functions of the body like the immune system. I have noticed that my coaching clients with autoimmune disease have violent self-defense dreams, an appropriate metaphor for misguided antibodies attacking their bodies.
Somatic metaphors were first brought to my attention by New Zealand clinical immunologist/psychiatrist Brian Broom who introduced me to the concept of symbolic diseases (2012). After practicing rheumatology for a few years, he concluded that many of his patients had psychosomatic illnesses, not only the ones with fibromyalgia, but also the severe cases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
The same is true for multiple sclerosis (MS), as one of my ACEP teaching partners, holistic physical therapist Terry Lynch discovered many years ago. While working a high stress academic job with a long commute and raising small children she went blind in one eye driving to work and was diagnosed with optic neuritis, an early symptom of MS. It was her wake up call to change what she was afraid to see in her life and heal herself through energy therapies.
The 2nd chakra develops during the “terrible two’s” when a toddler who feels safe becomes mobile and starts to explore the world. The next thing they do is to reach out and grab objects, often met with an adult shouting No! The result is either guilt or anger which may impact the organs of the pelvis or if repressed, cause chronic pain as described by physiatrist John Sarno (1991). My coaching clients with pain often have anger dreams.
The pioneering work of Dr. Sarno has been continued after his 2017 death by orthopedic spine surgeon David Hanscom (2016), mind-body internist Howard Schubiner (2017), and psychotherapist Alan Gordon (2021). I recommend all their books to my pain clients after I explain to them that the seemingly ominous findings on the MRI scans of their backs may just represent changes of aging that can be seen in normal volunteers with no symptoms.
That was the case for one of my coaching clients who had debilitating back pain for 5 years before undergoing unsuccessful surgery with unfortunate complications. He was put on multiple medications including methadone and gabapentin without relief until he read the books and started with EFT. His tapping phrase was “angry that surgeon butchered me.” After a few sessions he reported, “I’m feeling better than I have in years! So. Damn. Good!”
The 3rd chakra develops between ages 2 and 4 when the preschooler is starting to transform into an autonomous individual. It is a time when the young ego is particularly vulnerable to shame that stunts the emergence of self-esteem. Eating disorders and obesity may stem from this imbalance including the later onset of diabetes. Warning dreams about sugar may occur in the prediabetic phase when sweetness in life is lacking.
The entire ACEP community is grateful to Peta Stapleton for her ground breaking work in EFT science (2019). Her Tapping for Weight Management Online Program evolved from her clinical expertise in complex eating disorders with food cravings being the simplest topic for her to study. As one of the few academic energy psychology researchers in the world her research including fMRI provides a solid platform for moving EFT into the mainstream.
My first attempt at using EFT for food cravings came when one of my Duke Integrative Medicine acupuncture patients mentioned that she had to eat a big chocolate bar every night after dinner to calm her nerves. We tapped using the phrase, “I crave chocolate when I am anxious.” She came back a month later saying that her freezer was still full of chocolate bars, but she hadn’t eaten any of them. She also was proud to report she had lost 5 pounds.
The 4th chakra develops between ages 5 and 7 when the early grade school child is learning how to be a social being. The challenge of creating and navigating relationships may result in grief about attempts that fail or losses that occur. Lung and sinus diseases related to grief can occur due to related Chinese 5 element metal imbalances. Visitation dreams as a form of after-death communication may guide and facilitate the healing process.
Author Michael Singer addresses heart chakra concerns in an elegant way as he teaches you how to untether your soul (2007). He emphasizes the need to keep your heart chakra open no matter what challenges you face. His use of the Sanskrit word samskara draws some interesting parallels with energy psychology in representing lingering impressions from our past actions that need to be released for healing to occur.
Sometimes this release can occur in the context of a group setting without individual coaching. It happened to a participant in one of my workshops who was suffering with reactive airway disease and chronic bronchitis unrelieved by inhalers provided by her pulmonologist husband. “The revelation of grief localizing in the lungs and sinuses was truly an epiphany for me! The tapping cleared it almost immediately, and I have remained clear since then.”
In 2019, while volunteering in the Duke University Medical Center Lupus Clinic, I developed a brief protocol to begin to address these issues that could be administered in a half hour right after a patient’s appointment (Pittman, 2021). Many of them had never done any mind-body-spirit approaches before, so we did 5-minute sequential sessions of meditation, expressive writing, tapping, and self-hypnosis. The feedback from them was uniformly positive.
In the June ACEP chakra workshop we used the same approach for each of the chakras, but modified the meditation mantras and subsequent tapping phrases to address the different shadow emotions. The focus was on “I am safe” for the 1st chakra, “I am free” for the 2nd chakra, “I am enough” for the 3rd chakra and “I am grateful” for the 4th chakra. Any objections that arose to these affirmations were considered tail-enders that were used as tapping phrases.
You can easily incorporate these additional techniques into your tapping practice. I use a 10-item personal peace process with my clients where they list the top 10 worst events of their lives. As homework, they do expressive writing prior to using EFT. When they are done tapping, they burn or shred what they have written as the final step in releasing it from the body. In addition, they all keep a dream diary to guide their tapping process (Burk & O’Keefe-Kanavos, 2018).
Broom, B., Booth, R. & Schubert, C. (2012). Symbolic diseases and “mindbody” co-emergence. A challenge for psychoneuroimmunology. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 8, 16–25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22225930/
Burk, L. & O’Keefe-Kanavos, K. (2018). Dreams that can save your life: Early warning signs of cancer and other diseases. Rochester, VT: Findhorn Press.
Gordon, A. & Ziv, A. (2021). The way out: A revolutionary, scientifically proven approach to healing chronic pain. London, UK: Penguin.
Hanscom, D. (2016). Back in control: A surgeon’s roadmap out of chronic pain. White River Junction, VT: Vertus Press.
Hay, L. & Schulz, M. L. (2013). All is well: Heal your body with medicine, affirmations, and intuition. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.
Judith, A. (2004). Eastern body, western mind: Psychology and the chakra system as a path to the self. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.
Pittman, T. (2021). Alternative pain therapies offer effective solutions. Duke Health Clinical Practice Today Rheumatology. January 26, 2021. https://physicians.dukehealth.org/articles/alternative-pain-therapies-offer-effective-solutions
Raniere, M. L. & Raniere, D. (2021). Unblocked: A revolutionary approach to tapping into your chakra empowerment energy to reclaim your passion, joy, and confidence. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.
Sarno, J. (1991). Healing back pain: The mind-body connection. New York, NY: Warner Books.
Schubiner, H. (2017). Unlearn your pain: A 28-day process to reprogram your brain. Pleasant Ridge, MI: Mind Body Publishing.
Singer, M. (2007). The untethered soul: The journey beyond yourself. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Stapleton, P. (2019). The science behind tapping: A proven stress management technique for the mind and body. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.
Originally published 9/27/2023 in ACEP Fall 2023 The Energy Field.