Watching a woman with her little girl when out walking the dog, I got to thinking about how our anticipation of events and how we react can have such a powerful effect on our children.
Take for example the child who is scared of dogs unexpectedly encountering one being walked towards them whilst out with Mum. Now us Mums will do anything in our power to protect our babies from fear, pain and discomfort so what do we do? We take our child’s hand in ours to provide comfort of course. So, even before the child has had chance to register the dog and decide how to react, Mum has anticipated the child’s fear and done what she always does in these situations. She has fired off the “fear” anchor! She has unwittingly used that particular physical act to elicit the emotion of fear in her child.
Working with children with phobias I frequently find that dealing with the parents’ desire to spare their child distress is one of the most difficult aspects of the process. With the best intents in the world, we make it harder for our children to overcome their irrational fears! Most of us (reluctantly in many cases,) encourage our children to pick themselves up if they fall over and let them learn through their own mistakes, and yet inadvertently we can increase the power of phobias with our demonstrations of support.
I am not suggesting for one moment that we throw our kids to the wolves, nor that we shouldn’t protect them from real dangers, but perhaps taking pause and holding off for a short while to allow them to process their own reactions is possible. Try re-framing the anchor by taking their hand a few moments later than usual, and praising them for their bravery rather than making it an action which re-enforces their fear.
As a young child I was subjected to the type of archaic dentistry which causes nightmares. The military dentists were of a school which believed it was good practice to remove a woman’s teeth and replace them with dentures without hesitation. This happened to my poor Mum after she gave birth to me! I had allegedly absorbed all the calcium from her teeth and they couldn’t ever recover. They left her with six teeth. It’s little wonder I may have picked up a little bit of fear through her. Then there were the curious theories about my ‘wiring’. I would be given an anaesthetic injection in one part of my mouth, and go numb in another area completely. The response from dentists back then?
“How strange! You must be wired up funny ............. but we’ll go ahead anyway.”
By the time I was an adult I had a mouth full of metal (we won’t even talk about the amalgam issue here,) and a deeply embedded fear of the dentist. It was a fear based on experience and the unseen protector in my head would react even to the suggestion of dentistry; the sound of wood being drilled; the smell of mouthwash; anything resembling a dentist’s tools, all sent me into a nervous state.
Yesterday I had two fillings. I looked forward to visiting the dentist, felt really calm as I sat in the chair and ENJOYED the hour I spent there. So what changed?
Firstly I must credit my dentist. He is a lovely, calm person who trained in his native South Africa where hypnotherapy was an optional part of his training. He uses the best technology and materials available to him, employs a fabulous nurse and has taken the time to understand the best way for me to be treated. For instance he explains the drugs he uses for anaesthetic, the qualities of the filling materials and most importantly he lets me know what to expect when he starts to drill.
Another aspect of visiting the dentist which has changed is my mindset. I know that when I leave the dentist’s surgery I will have a greatly improved smile. I only have one amalgam filling left so most of my teeth are now white and natural looking. I also know that I will get to spend a large part of the appointment on the beach, enjoying the warm sand supporting my body as the sun shines down and the sea gently lulls me into a more and more relaxed state. Using self-hypnosis is not so very different to having a sci-fi style transporter belt. I decide where I’m going, and I take myself there.
Clients often ask for recordings of processes we use together, and whilst of course there is a place for them, they are no substitute for managing your own mind in any given moment. Self-hypnosis offers an opportunity not just to bring about positive changes but also to adapt a process to absolutely any situation, and use outside stimulus and vivid positive memories to create peaceful escapes when you need to. Here’s what I did in the dentist’s chair yesterday.
Following the pre-talk and explanations of what was about to happen, the nurse switched on the overhead light and handed me the sunglasses. I closed my eyes and was immediately transported to a beautiful beach where pain did not exist. (My personal affirmation is that I feel no pain, only sensation.) I remained there whilst the dentist administered the anaesthetic injections (yes, there were two!) We then had a little chat about how personal hypnosis is to an individual, (specifically relating to the sound of seagulls and the smell of barbecuing fish.) Then he started to drill. Now this particular drill’s function is to break up the old filling into chunks for easy disposal, and it uses copious quantities of water which create a light mist on the face. So I popped myself on a sailing boat, leaning hard over towards the water which was gently spraying onto my face. The sound of the suction became a steady breeze and I tuned out the sound of the drill. It was spectacular and I was enjoying it so much, that the dentist had to raise his voice to bring me back to full awareness! With all the filling done, the treatment moved on to cleaning. It was all going well until it came to one particular tooth and I felt a very unpleasant sensation! So I deepened the self-hypnosis, spread the dentist’s drug induced numbness to the whole of my mouth and relaxed. I then emerged with bright, shiny clean teeth, and the only pain involved was the bill.