Meeting My Friend Pain

The Projects
At the start of 2017 I had a blank canvas ready to be populated by several projects, each of which would include a number of personal challenges. Whilst two of the projects were related to relaunching my business and professional life, the third project was, and is, one that involves an enormous part of my personal and social life as well as the working one.
It involves a subject that is – for a great number of us – very “up close and personal.”
The Dentist.
My third project is the restoration of my dental wellbeing. After some years of neglect, the state of my dental health was – to put it mildly – run down. In fact, parts of my mouth resembled that of a person who had been run down – by a vehicle!
The Challenges
So, the Project began – and after some time on the first waiting list, I eventually got to see my new dentist! He prodded and poked and assessed my status which appeared, on the face of it, to be a “Good News – and Bad News” type of scenario.
“You have, amongst other things, a dental cyst in the roof of your mouth – probably as a result of one of the front teeth dying off,” he said. “The good news is that it is not malignant, so no concerns there. However, it does need to be removed as soon as possible, as part of the overall treatment plan.
The “bad news” was only bad inasmuch as there was a lot of work to do, and I would be – at the end of it all – no stranger to the dentist’s chair, the sound of drills, spitting blood and regular encounters with oral discomfort.
So, my challenges in this project are centred around pain – and, of course, in matters of a dental nature, the pain is an all too inescapable and “in your face” issue.
The Background
My personal and practical knowledge of hypnosis, the entire hypnotic domain, and of our being able to bring a level of control to our state of mental and physical wellbeing, is quite extensive. I had, therefore, a favourable background of resources that would assist my upcoming challenges. There is also a rather subjective tolerance that we all have – i.e. The Pain Threshold.
I’m fortunate, if indeed such fortune is a good thing, to have a rather high pain threshold. We never know what our own threshold is, until we cognitively encounter pain that is well up the scale. And because pain IS such a subjective AND emotional experience, one person’s agony is another person’s dull ache.
The other thing about my own pain threshold is my familiarity with it, and the level to which I can embrace the pain rather than brace myself against it. And the embracing or bracing – like that – comes hand in hand with my use of hypnotic means.
Hypnotic Means
So, what are the implications when I speak about hypnotic means?
The first implication starts long before I sit in the dentist’s chair. This is where I need to embrace the upcoming visit, rather than brace against it. If I am accepting of what is going to take place then I am in control of my own wellbeing. If I am not, through anxiety or fear, then the whole experience – when the time comes around – will be at the mercy of my emotions. Once I embrace, then there is no pre-tension and I can just put the anticipation out of my mind. I may have some thoughts about what may take place, but I am not going to pay attention to them – for I know that paying attention to them will not serve me, or my embracing, well.

The second implication starts once I am “in the chair,” so to speak. It might be considered that once we are in the chair then we are at the mercy of the dentist – yet I would contend that we are, in actual fact, at the mercy of ourselves. If our relationship with our thinking is such that we are more on the side of Brace rather than Embrace, then we will be rigid not relaxed, our breathing will be shallow and rapid not deep (abdominal) and slow. Where in our bodies we are breathing, at this stage, is a VITAL gateway to further hypnotic means.

Our rate and level of breathing has a direct relationship with our frequency levels of brainwave activity. And our brainwave frequencies are much lower in meditative, reflective, imaginative and somnolent states.

The third implication is, as I see it, guiding ourselves through that GATEWAY and exploring our inner experience. I know that the more I can allow myself to explore that inner experience, the less I will notice the extent of my outer experience. The outer experience may well be unavoidably noticeable and very REAL – however, having duly embraced it I have almost made a deal with my consciousness to leave it emotion free.
The fourth implication is about the emotional content of pain. One of the underlying features of the “Inside Out” nature of reality is in the area of our emotions – what they are, and why we can often feel “at the mercy of” our emotions.
If we feel that life happens to us (OUTSIDE IN), then it is a very short step from there to believing that we cannot bring any control to our emotions. This gives reality to our understanding that our emotions are uncontrollable hard-wired responses, that we are stuck with them, and they are part of the way WE ARE.
If we feel that life happens to us and how we react and respond to it is our choice (INSIDE OUT), then it is a very short step from there to understanding that we CAN bring control to our emotions. Once we know we DO have a choice, then we discover that our emotions are CONSTRUCTED** – and that WE are the constructors!

(** How we construct our emotions is explored in Lisa Feldman Barrett’s excellent book “How Emotions Are Made.”)

In terms of the emotional content of pain that I have constructed for myself, I know that the language of my self-talk plays an important role. I can, in theory, tell myself how much something hurts, and I can then go and search for instances where I can – and have in the past – felt sorry for myself. Here is where I am paying more attention to the needs of my EGO, than to anything else. If the needs of my EGO go way back into my childhood, say, then pain was something that needed something especially nice to soften the harshness of the experience. The concept that my pain is constructed from is designed to keep the emotional content out – so I may say “ouch”, or “aaagh”, yet there are no EGOtistical overlays. The pain is just what it is – a message from injured area to brain sent by the nervous system.
The Crescendo in the Treatment

I am writing this some 24 hours on from the latest episode in my Treatment Plan – a hospital appointment to remove one wisdom tooth, five decayed, broken or worn down top front teeth, and the enlarged dental cyst from the roof of the mouth.

I describe this as the crescendo, since all other restorative treatments have been done by my dentist and, once this part is complete, he will then prepare a denture for me to replace the five top front teeth.

This was – as they say – the BIG one.

I could have had it all done under GA (general anaesthetic) which might have, for some, have been a softer option. However, under a local anaesthetic, I would have had much more cognition of the experience and I know that the healing would be much better and quicker using this route. Plus – and it was a big plus – my knowledge and use of hypnotic means would enable this to work on my terms.
Finally, I like a challenge; I like to take myself to whatever limits I may have previously set; and, weird though it may appear, there’s a curious payback in terms of self-esteem when I meet -and EMBRACE – my friend PAIN.
The appointment started at 9.30am. I met the surgical team, we had a chat and I was told what they would be doing.

Once in the chair I was administered a series of injections of local anaesthetic. The wisdom tooth was to come out first followed by the five top front teeth. The cyst removal was the major part, followed by suturing the wound in the roof of the mouth and the final clearing up.

In his excellent book “The Open Focus Brain; Harnessing the power of attention to heal mind and body,” Dr Les Fehmi describes a number of exercises, designed to imaginatively explore our inner spaces – starting with “the space between our eyes.
This I have found to be an effective hypnotic induction as well as a personal go-to means of re-accessing mental equilibrium. It was a great help to my means of “letting go” during the removal of the dental cyst – where I was able to breathe deeply, explore the space and just float away whilst the surgery team performed the necessary, and often rigorous, procedures.  I experienced a sense of calm detachment, even though there was some involuntary tension in certain unrelated parts of the body!
I am now into a period of recuperation, repair and renewal, with pain killing and anti-inflammatory medication to hand, used sparingly though not daringly!


I am SO glad I took on the challenge rather than take the GA route. I have learned even more about myself, hypnotic means, and – above all – my friend PAIN, which is quite a different animal when we are able to leave Emotion out of the equation.