Several years ago, while I was visiting my dentist for a regular checkup, I became aware how, from my body’s perspective, even a seemingly simple procedure like tooth-filling could be traumatic if not dealt with properly.
While exploring the state of my teeth, the dentist informed me that one tooth had a cavity and was in an urgent need of a filling. Immediately after hearing the news, I noticed tension and resistance in my body, as if it was saying, “No, I don’t want anyone to drill a hole in my tooth. Don’t you dare come close to me with your horrible tools. I am going to defend myself!”
My mind quickly took over and suppressed all the resistance, discontent, and readiness to fight. I obediently opened my mouth and abandoned my body to the procedure, leaving it surrounded by sharp noises and tools of torture that devoured the flesh of my tooth.
“You can close your mouth, we are done,“ I heard the dentist say, and I opened my eyes. I thanked him, paid for my treatment, and rushed out of the office. I felt relieved to finally be outside. My body felt numb and frozen. I took several deep breaths in an effort to connect with my body and identify what was going on.
“How are you doing?” I asked it. After a long pause, it replied, “I feel violated. You did not protect me. You shut off my voice and abandoned me.”
Tears started to roll down my face as I experienced the trauma my body had gone through. “Please forgive me for being ignorant to your tenderness and sensitivity,” I whispered. “Forgive me for abandoning you and not preparing you for this procedure.” I spent the next couple of hours in a dialogue with my body in order to recover its inner harmony, trust, and sense of safety.
Recently, at a different dentist’s office, I learned that another tooth needed filling. Upon hearing the news, my body tensed up in anticipation of another traumatic experience. However, this time, I was determined to protect it from potential trauma and prepared for the procedure.
I sat down in a quiet place, closed my eyes, and brought my awareness into my body. I could feel that it was on guard and very resistant about the upcoming procedure. I began to explain to my body in detail why it was important to have the tooth filled, and promised that this time, I would not abandon it.
It gave me joy that as a result of that conversation, the tension and resistance dissolved. When I walked into the dentist’s office the next day, my body was calm and trusting. Before starting the procedure, the dentist asked me if there was anything he could do for me. In that moment, I heard the quiet voice of my body asking for a favor. The favor was quite unusual, nevertheless, I had promised to take care of it, so I shared it with the dentist.
“Could you please hold my hand for a minute? I want to connect with you and consciously give you permission to do this procedure on my body. It will protect my body from being traumatized.” The dentist looked bewildered for a moment, then smiled and offered me his hand. As I held his hand, I stated in my mind, “I give you the permission to treat my tooth. Thank you for doing a great job and for treating my body with care. Let this procedure be effective and gentle on my body.”
I thanked the dentist for accommodating my request and let go of his hand. Immediately, I noticed a sense of peacefulness, openness, and trust in my body. The simple action of giving conscious permission to treat me turned out to be immensely empowering. It allowed my body to feel honored and allowed it to be an informed participant, rather than a silenced victim. After the tooth-filling, I did not experience any discomfort or pain, and it felt like the treatment was well integrated by my body.
Since then, I have committed myself to making sure that every time anyone performs any treatment on my body, I intentionally connect with them in some way and give them permission to enter my personal space.
Our bodies possess deep wisdom and intelligence. Accessing these allows us to enjoy higher levels of well-being. My trauma with the first tooth-filling procedure invited me to connect with my body more intimately.
It taught me a valuable lesson about mindfulness that will help me to better protect it from trauma in the future.
Originally published with elephant journal
on April 16, 2017.