I have struggled with appointments to the dentist for as long as I can remember. So much so that I have needed to take 2 Valium just to get myself into the chair for a check up and clean. I have tried to establish a rational connection to my dental phobia for years but my conscious has always struggled to make a clear and definite connection to the root cause.
When my mind goes searching for memories it picks up a few threads but nothing that jumps out in my mind. I have searched the internet for insight, cures and treatment for dental phobia but much of what I have read and researched falls short of encapsulating both an understand or solution to my affliction. This saw me delaying dental procedures for years until the pain became so overwhelming that I was forced to take action. I have white knuckled my way through extractions, 2 root canals, 4 crowns and several fillings. Thank God they anesthetized me to take out my wisdom teeth and if I could have afforded it I would have chosen to be knocked out for every single visit.
So what is dental phobia? A phobia is defined as an intense and unreasonable fear. Just reading the word unreasonable gets my back up! Whilst many people say they have a phobia they often have some anxiety but they do not have a paralyzing and overwhelming dread that sees them avoiding necessary dental treatment. I would intentionally call my dentist prior to an appointment and explain that once I walked through that door I would be a crying, shaking mess. I would often hear in their voices some doubt that I would be as nervous as I described but once they experienced my overwhelm they were generally very compassionate.
Now I don’t consider myself a fearful person. I catch and release spiders. I have done bungy jumping, sky diving, flying trapeeze and white water rafting. I actually quite like to put myself in new and novel situations and like the rush of adrenaline combined with a sense of achieving something that I might have once thought challenging.
But when it comes to sitting in that chair I have very little control over the degree of disabling distress. In fact the Valium barely takes off the edge and have been told I needed to find something stronger.
It really hasn’t made much rational sense to me as to why his has been such a source of distress to me… until now.
This week I went for my regular clean and check up. I hadn’t been for 12 months simply due to a lack of time and so the clean took a bit of extra gusto. I sat in the chair drug free and whilst it certainly was not comfortable I was OK. No tears, no shaking, no feeling helpless and out of control, no digging my fingernails into my hands, no conscious control over my breath, no loud music to drown out the noise of the drill, no palpitations. Nothing.
It was all gone. I am finally free. I had a feeling that I had cured my dental phobia but I needed to put myself in that chair to truly see what would happen.
You see I have been doing a process called TRE 2-3 times per week for the last 9 months. TRE stands for Tension (and Trauma) Releasing Exercises. This simple yet powerful process discharges sensation that has been stored up and pent up in the nervous system for years and in my case decades. You see our nervous system has an innate ability to heal and restore itself just like our immune system has the innate ability to combat bacteria and viruses. For the nervous system this innate mechanism involves movement that looks a lot like shaking. Yet in our modern society when we observe shaking we have a cultural perspective that shaking equates to a loss of control, an inability to cope, weakness and something to be diminished.
In times of overwhelm our defense mechanism automatically kicks in and takes over. This can send us into fight, flight or freeze. The freeze can either be a total shutdown or a more functional freeze that allows us to move through the experience in a very numbed down state. Our body is doing exactly what it needs to do in order to get us through the experience however the fragments of sensation that occur in the activating event get stored both visually and viscerally meaning on our body.
If we consider the nervous system in light of a phobia we can see that the sensory fragments are the activators of the extreme anxiety and overwhelm. The smell of the dentist hits me as soon as I walk through the door. The feeling of being reclined in the chair makes me feel powerless, the vibration of the drill reverberates through my entire being and even having my teeth flossed feels like they are being extracted.
I have an idea of the original event that triggered my phobia. It’s actually a little embarrassing. When I was 14 years old I decided to starfish into bed after a particularly exhausting day and instead of my head hitting the pillow my front teeth hit the bedside table and I snapped one of my front teeth in half. I hadn’t even had a filling and so my initial introduction to dental work was a root canal and a crown. When I think back to those appointments my memory is very vague and I have very little emotion attached to the recall. I don’t remember it being pleasant but I certainly don’t remember being traumatized by the experience.
This is actually quite a common phenomena when considering trauma particularly when the event is relatively minor in the grand scheme of the true tragedies of life. When we go into functional freeze our physiology sends out natural opioids to our brain and body. These opioids function to minimise physical pain and provide a calming, anti-depressant effect. When we are traumatized areas of our brain shut down including Broca’s area which is responsible for language and our prefrontal cortex which is responsible for rational thought. It makes sense then that during times of stress we sometimes make poor decisions, struggle to make simple decisions, have difficulty concentrating and recalling information.
The beauty of TRE is that it is a purely physical process making it highly useful for concerns such as phobias, anxiety, PTSD and developmental traumas. It works by activating neurogenic tremors which then discharge these old stored sensations and allow them to move through the system. There is no conscious recall of events and I would say that 95% of my tremoring has lacked any kind of contextual meaning.
Understanding what I have learned about the nervous system during times of overwhelm it makes complete sense to me that my dental phobia stems from me hanging on and hanging in there during that first root canal and crown. Further dental visits have simply added to the sensory backlog until my entire nervous system blew out. With the regular use of TRE I have diminished the back log to a far more manageable baseline.
I now teach this amazing process to people. I have seen people become free from chronic pain and grief, reduce their stress and anxiety, deal with anger and other highly emotionally charged states and relieve themselves from issues that have been plaguing them for many years.
The healing potential for TRE is widely applicable because it gets to the root of where our stress, trauma and tension is stored and allows the body to safely discharge it bit by bit. In doing so people’s capacity to deal with stress improves, energy levels are restored, health concerns are minimized and more importantly people start to reconnect with a natural state of equilibrium, self reliance and harmony.
Whether you are wanting to find greater ease in life, let go of the past or find your way through a difficult time I am here to support you. Call me for a free 15 minute consultation to discuss the ways in which I can help. Finding greater ease than ever before is often simpler than we think. So give me a call on 0419 101 665 or send me at email email@example.com
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3 x Individual TRE sessions
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