Visualizations and guided imagery are time-honored ways to do forms of meditation that work for many people in many situations. But as I said before, we’re not all alike, and even for ourselves it pays to have a treasure box full of different techniques to call on when we’re stressed.
I thought about that this morning as I sat in the dentist chair and had my gums gouged and teeth scraped, all in the name of keeping as many in my head as possible for as long as possible.
I’ve been going to a dentist since I was seven years old. My earliest “teeth” memories are of climbing up steep, narrow steps in terror, dreading the pain that waited at the top behind that dark door. No wonder I can’t sit through horror movies!
Most of the younger generation, thankfully, don’t have this kind of experience built into their nervous system, because dentistry has progressed so far. But I know personally that there are still young people who react to the dental chair with unreasoning panic.
For them I’d like to recommend trying accupressure techniques I’ve been using since 1998, when I got extensive training in TFT (Thought Field Therapy). I now use a simpler method called EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) that seems to work quite well with many forms of anxiety.
You can easily learn the sequence of tapping by following the modified directions in bold below, taken from Gary Craig’s free manual available on his website (click here).
During the first go-round, every time you tap on an area, think about your fears, keeping them clearly in mind. Sometimes, surprisingly, this in itself reduces the anxiety around them. OR, if it works better for you, start with the next instruction instead, omitting this first step. Find out what works.
Do a second round of tapping in sequence, and this time use reminder phrases at each point you tap on. Here are some examples: “I can choose to relax about this.” “I am safe.” “I can relax and release now.” “I can be comfortable right now.” You can repeat some of them or add others that come to you.
Repeat these phrases to yourself and keep tapping in new rounds for as long as you need to. Usually your body will respond and work with you to decrease your tension.
After you’ve practiced by actual tapping on your body and know where the points are, try this: as you are sitting in the dentist chair or doctors office visualize yourself tapping on these points and feel the imagined pressure as you do. Silently say, as you mentally tap each point, “I can relax.” “I am safe and comfortable.” “I can release,” etc.
In my case this has worked beautifully not only today at the dentist but also when I had a nuclear stress test where my nose was literally inches from the scanner for 20 minutes at a time. The first time I had a Cat scan, I had a full-blown panic attack. The second time, I used tapping from the get-go and sailed through.
A client of mine recently had a body cast made for special radiation, which took several hours. The staff couldn’t believe how calm she was in spite of not being able to move. They thought she had gone to sleep. “No,” she said, “I was tapping.”
Here are the instructions:
From Gary Craig’s manual:
Tapping tips: You can tap with either hand but it is usually more convenient to do so with your dominant hand (e.g. right hand if you are right handed).
Tap with the fingertips of your index finger and middle finger. This covers a little larger area than just tapping with one fingertip and allows you to cover the tapping points more easily.
Tap solidly but never so hard as to hurt or bruise yourself.
Tap about 7 times on each of the tapping points. I say about 7 times because you will be repeating a “reminder phrase” while tapping and it will be difficult to count at the same time.
If you are a little over or a little under 7 (5 to 9, for example) that will be sufficient.
Most of the tapping points exist on either side of the body. It doesn’t matter which side you use nor does it matter if you switch sides during The Sequence. For example, you can tap under your right eye and, later in The Sequence, tap under your left arm.
The points: Each energy meridian has two end points. For the purposes of The Basic Recipe, you need only tap on one end to balance out any disruptions that may exist in it. These end points are near the surface of the body and are thus more readily accessed than other points along the meridians that may be more deeply buried. What
follows are instructions on how to locate the end points of those meridians that are important to The Basic Recipe. Taken together….and done in the order presented….they form The Sequence.
**At the beginning of the eyebrow, just above and to one side of the nose.
**On the bone bordering the outside corner of the eye.
**On the bone under an eye about 1 inch below your pupil.
**On the small area between the bottom of your nose and the top of your upper lip.
**Midway between the point of your chin and the bottom of your lower lip. Even though it is not directly on the point of the chin, we call it the chin point because it is descriptive enough for people to understand easily.
**The junction where the sternum (breastbone), collarbone and the first rib meet. To locate it, first place your forefinger on the U-shaped notch at the top of the breastbone (about where a man would knot his tie). From the bottom of the U, move your forefinger down toward the navel 1 inch and then go to the left (or right) 1 inch.
It is at the beginning of the collarbone and we call it the collarbone point because that is a lot easier to say than “the junction where the sternum (breastbone), collarbone and the first rib meet.”
**On the side of the body, at a point even with the nipple (for men) or in the middle of the bra strap (for women). It is about 4 inches below the armpit.
**On the outside edge of your thumb at a point even
with the base of the thumbnail.
*On the side of your index finger (the side facing your thumb) at a point even with the base of the fingernail.
**On the side of your middle finger (the side closest to your thumb) at a point even with the base of the fingernail.
**On the inside of your baby finger (the side closest to your thumb) at a point even
with the base of the fingernail.
**The last point is the karate chop point. It is located in the middle of the fleshy part on the outside of the hand between the top of the wrist bone and the base of the baby finger.
Please notice that these tapping points proceed down the body. That is, each tapping point is below the one before it. That should make it a snap to memorize. A few trips through it and it should be yours forever.