SHARING SPACE: Birth Regression for Dental Phobia
\"I'M BEING BORN! I'M BEING BORN!\" my patient cried out, distress and amazement in her voice, her face a grimace. \"I'm being born.\" Her back arched stiffly as she gripped the arms of my reclining dental chair.
I'm sure I was more surprised than she was, and all I could manage to blurt out was, \"Say that again.\"
\"I'm being born, I can't get my breath and I just want to get out of here,\" she rasped. She twisted in the chair as she recalled and re-experienced her helplessness, her panic, her desperate need to take that first essential breath.
\"Say it again.\" I said, not sure of my way.
\"I can't get my breath, and I just want to get out of here.\" Her voice softer now, she settled back into the chair a bit more with each repetition of the phrase.
\"I can't get my breath, and I just want to get out of here.\" She seemed not so tense now, her back no longer arched.
\"What happens next?\" I asked, feeling a little calmer, yet no more certain of my direction.
\"It's okay now, I can breathe.\"
\"Good,\" I said. It sure was okay now. I was suddenly aware that I had been barely breathing either. I could breathe again, too. I wondered if this was the way obstetricians felt every time they delivered a baby. I was glad I had chosen dentistry as a profession.
This scene occurred during the first treatment appointment. The young woman shared with me that she had always feared the dentist, and that she was feeling tense and fearful as she thought of the anesthesia injection which was soon to come. When I picked up the syringe, holding it behind her and out of her line of vision, she turned to look at it with terror in her eyes. She gripped the arms of the dental chair. Her knuckles turned white.
I offered to help her resolve the fear so that her experience of dentistry would be more pleasant. Neither of us could know that she was about to be born right there in the dental chair within a very few minutes! I replaced the syringe back on the tray and placed my hand on her shoulder to reassure her. I pressed the control button to recline the chair a bit farther.
Recalling my study of age regression therapy, the techniques of affect bridge and somatic bridge popped into mind. I asked her, \"How are you feeling, physically, in your body, right now?\"
She replied, without hesitation, \"My heart is pounding, my chest is tight.\"
\"If those feelings could speak, what would they be saying\"?
\"I can't get my breath. I just want to get out of here,\" she grunted between clenched teeth. Her face began to contort, her forehead creased, her eyes narrowed to slits.
Of course there was no lack of air to breathe in my air conditioned office, so I knew from my studies that this must be coming from another time and place. Keeping my voice calm, I continued, \"Say that again.\"
\"I can't get my breath. I just want to get out of here.\" Her voice was tense, her face grossly wrinkled. Her eyes, aimed toward the ceiling, darted back and forth. She gripped the arms of the chair.
Still feigning calm, I allowed some emotion into my voice to keep pace with her. \"Say it again,\" I repeated.
\"I can't get my breath. I just want to get out of here.\" She was obviously in torment. I wondered where this was going. Do not panic, I told myself, though I felt we had both lost control.
Her voice hissed with emotion. \"I can't get my breath. I just want to get out of here.\" Her eyes closed. She continued to grip the arm-rests. Her body jerked from side to side in the chair.
Attempting to mask my uncertainty, I added compassionate excitement to my voice. \"Where are you as you are feeling this? Let a scene come into your mind. Where are you? Let a memory come.\" I hoped it would, but I wasn't sure. This was the way experts described regression theory in the books I had read.
\"I'm in the doctor's office. He wants to give me a shot. He's trying to grab me. I'm trying to get away from him. I feel like I can't get my breath. I just want to get out of here,\" she responded.
Her words about wanting to get out of the there now made sense. Who wants to get a shot, no matter which part of the body is the target zone?
There is plenty of breathable air in the doctor's office too. But her complaint \"I can't get my breath . . .\" still didn't fit.
\"How old are you?\" I needed more information.
\"I'm six,\" she said, in a little girl voice. Her body still rocked sideways in the chair.
\"Ok, let the scene fade, and repeat the words again, ? can't get my breath . . .\"
\"I can't get my breath. I just want to get out of here.\" There was deadly terror in her voice now.
\"Say it again.\" My voice filled with genuine excitement this time. Uncharted territory does that for me.
\"I can't get my breath. I just want to get out of here.\"
She gripped the arms of the chair. She held her breath, her body still. Suddenly, her back arched, lifting her torso off the chair, her face stiffly contorted, and she cried out, \"I'M BEING BORN! I'M BEING BORN!\" A short pause. \"I'M BEING BORN, I CAN'T GET MY BREATH AND I JUST WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE.\"
\"SAY IT AGAIN!\" I heard myself shout. I quickly sat back down in my chair. I had stood bolt upright when she arched up out of the dental chair.
She repeated the words, yet much of the emotion had ebbed. Now all her words made complete sense. She lowered herself into the reclining dental chair. She seemed calmer, more composed. I looked around to see if any of my staff had heard us. For some reason, no one came into the treatment room.
Comfortable after a few minutes, breathing easily, she opened her eyes and looked at me. \"What was that?\" she asked, surprised.
\"What did it seem like to you?\" I replied, hiding behind my professional face and voice, not knowing what to tell her.
\"It seemed like I went through my birth,\" she said, not quite believing.
It seemed like that to me too, though I had never witnessed a live birth. I wasn't ready to agree out loud. \"How do you feel right now? How does your body feel, right now?\" Simple question; safe ground.
\"My heart isn't pounding, I don't want to get out of here. I can breathe just fine.\"
I can't begin to express just how relieved I was to hear her say that.
The course of her dental treatment required a number of appointments scheduled over several months, and, happily for us both, the fear was gone. The burden of fear she brought with her from the event of her birth experience many years earlier, had simply dissolved!
A few weeks after that first appointment, she was delighted to report that she no longer had any fear of receiving medical treatment from her physician. She also had lost her fear of driving on the freeway. There were other areas of her life which no longer caused, or rather reactivated, fear for her.
After this successful \"birth,\" I used the technique with other dental patients, often with similar results. So much of the fear of pain in the dental situation is connected to the memory of past pain, and the anticipation of future pain. Some people recalled emotionally painful events in childhood without retrieving birth memories, and still released the dental fears.
This is an example of the successful application of this innovative work in a very real and ever present human experience, the dental appointment!
William J. Baldwin, D.D.S., Ph.D.
William J. Baldwin, D.D.S., Dr. Min., Ph.D., left the practice of dentistry in September, 1982. He received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Western University Graduate College of Theology in August, 1982. He began a doctoral program in clinical psychology in 1983 and graduated in 1988 from American Commonwealth University. Dr. Baldwin lives in Florida with his wife, Judith, a gifted painter. They work together, offering private sessions, lectures, workshops and training seminars on the subjects of regression therapy and spirit releasement therapy.