I recently had several EFT sessions where we addressed extreme anxiety and fear around going to the dentist. My client's goal was to be able to go to an upcoming dentist appointment, get all the work done that was needed, and be able to regularly go for checkups without having severe episodes of anxiety and panic attacks.
Caroline is a 50 year old woman who also has a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. She came to me to address her extreme fear and anxiety around going to the dentist. Before reaching out to me she had cancelled this dental appointment twice. There were several procedures that would take place at the one appointment, and it would be a 3 hour visit. After cancelling her dental appointment for the second time, she decided she needed help and contacted me.
EFT Session #1:
After reviewing her goal of wanting to go to her next appointment and not cancel it again, we dove right in.
Because I sensed Caroline was nervous. I started by asking if she was experiencing any intensity around just talking about this fear. She said it felt strange to her, because not many things are uncomfortable for her to talk about, but yes, just thinking about tapping on this was giving her anxiety. I asked her to rate the intensity of just thinking about talking about going to the dentist, and she scored it at a 4 or 5.
We did 3 rounds on this and used variations of: “Even though I’m anxious just thinking about talking about going to the dentist, I love and accept myself anyway.”
After 3 rounds she said she didn’t feel anxious thinking about it, and she felt ready to talk about it.
She started by saying, “Maybe part of the anxiety is that it feels dumb. I’m a grown woman and I’m acting like a child.”
We tapped using those words.
Letting the Tapping Do the Work
Then Caroline shared a memory that came to mind. When she was 8 years old her mother took her to the dentist to have 6 teeth pulled so that she could get a retainer. She was so scared, and freaking out in the chair, that the dentist pounded on her chest with his fist to get her to calm down.
The intensity of that memory was a 10 and we tapped on that memory for quite a while until we got the intensity down to a 3. While working on this I asked if she felt that memory in her body in any particular area. She quickly responded that she felt it in her chest and back and described the sensation as a tight ball of stress.
We tapped on that tight ball of stress. She shared that it was fire colored - red, orange and yellow ball. It was like strands of cord wrapped up like the size of a golf ball, sitting in the center of her chest. She explained that this ball feels like it’s angry and fiery hot. Her first instinct was that she wanted to put out the fire.
Caroline shared that she had a memory of her mom in the waiting room. And that while she didn’t think that she had any anger toward her mom for not being in the room with her, she wished she would’ve been there with her.
We tapped saying, “Even though mom wasn’t in the room with me, and I wish she was, I got through it.”
When we checked back in with the memory of being a little girl in the chair, she said she could hear her younger self saying “it’s going to be bad, I don’t want them to hurt me.”
Caroline elaborated on the thought “it’s going to be bad” and explained that it’s the thought of getting the needle with novocaine that she’s scared is really going to hurt.
We tapped saying, “I’m scared of that needle and that’s just how it is.” After tapping on that she shared that part of her is still scared, but the other part knows that she will be fine.
We went on to tap on these two parts acknowledging that even though she “knows it’ll be okay” we held space for the part of her that is still scared, and allowed herself to really connect with that emotion.
Caroline went on to share that she’s used to protecting herself from feeling pain, because that’s what she does to manage her fibro symptoms. She gave the example of how she knows exercise is good, but thinking about going on the treadmill, she knows that she may experience some pain afterwards. This was followed by acknowledging that not all pain is bad, and there is good pain too. And that if she let this fear go, it would allow her to take care of herself better and with more ease.
When I circled back to the sensation of the fiery ball in her chest she said the urge to put it out wasn’t there, that it had moved down to her belly area, and instead of fire it was more springy and bouncy and it felt like it was more protective. The ball also became smaller in size. And Caroline excitedly said, “it’s a bouncy red ball of resilience”
To my surprise, after tapping on this bouncy protective ball, Caroline said, “I’m kind of excited to go to the dentist!” There was definitely a big shift that happened in this session.
We wrapped up the session by putting everything in a strong red metal box, and she placed it right next to her!
EFT Session #2
At the start of the second session, Caroline shared that she’d been thinking about how we ended the previous session with the bouncy red ball of resilience, and she kept getting this feeling that it should be flat like a trampoline.
She said before logging on for our session she was checking in with her “little red ball.” And that this time it was blue, and had a cold scary feeling. She also explained that when she used to think of that experience at the dentist as a child she would get a cold terror type of feeling, and the ball’s color reminded her of that. She shared that she’s done a lot of work on this, so she doesn’t have that feeling/ sensation anymore when thinking of that event, but thinking about the future and the fear that sensation was there.
“Even though I had this vision that the red ball should be a trampoline, it’s still a red ball, and I’m curious if that will change.”
“Even though the ball is blue and cold and scary, I’m acknowledging this right now.”
We continued to tap on the blue, cold, scary golf ball sized ball that’s in her gut, when she thinks about going to the dentist. She shared that part of her feels like she can go to the dentist, but part of her knows that she’ll hate it. We tapped on both of these parts.
She said the vibe changed from feeling like I know I’m going to hate it but I have to suck it up, to what if I don’t have to hate going?
We did several rounds tapping on these words:
“I wonder if I have to hate going, or maybe there’s another way?”
She said she just keeps thinking: “The shot to numb me up is going to hurt, and I don’t know how it’s not going to hurt. I’m totally at their mercy, there’s nothing I can do. It’s like, just pin me down and hurt me.”
The intensity around getting the shot was high. So we tapped for several rounds on the words she shared above. This got quite emotional for her. When checking back in, she shared that saying “pin me down and hurt me” feels like it's a violation, like a rape. And that she never really thought about it like that, but that’s really how she felt.
Following the Trail to Past Events
Tapping on these words brought up other traumatic medical memories from childhood. In particular, Caroline shared this memory of being taken to get her blood taken and running down the hall screaming trying to escape. Thinking about it now she laughs because it seems so silly, but it was really scary then, and she thinks it’s related to feeling scared now.
We tapped on these memories, and she understands why she’s scared. But, she wants to feel positive, calm, and able to take care of herself.
She shared that her mind went to thinking about a separate medical procedure that she had done earlier this year which was more serious, and she needed to be put out, but it wasn’t nearly as scary for her, and she wondered why that wasn’t as scary.
“Even though the leep procedure wasn’t as scary as going to the dentist, and I don’t know why, that’s how it is.”
This led her to say that she never had the leep procedure before, so she didn’t have anything to compare it to. But, she has lots of bad memories of going to the dentist. So maybe that’s why it’s more scary. There are so many bad memories.
We tapped on “bad memories” and how that was then this is now.
Then we circled back to the blue ball, and it was no longer blue, but back to the red ball of resilience. It felt lighter than before. Almost like it thawed out. And then she said, “This ball is helping to take care of me.”
Then when checking back in on the anxiety around going to the dentist, she shared that she’s ready to have a positive experience, and maybe she can work with that little red ball to make that happen.
I asked if she felt like she was ready to let go of some of the fear she’s been holding on to, and she said, “Yes!”
So we tapped saying “I’m ready to let go of some of this fear. It’s time to let this fear go. It’s safe to let this fear go.”
She said, “This place is the right place to give me the positive experience I’m hoping for.” This led to tapping on the possibility of having a positive experience. Her anxiety about going to the dentist went from a 5 down to a 2.
I asked Caroline if she would like me to create a recording for her to use between now and her next session, as the next session was scheduled the day before her dental appointment. She was excited about the idea, so I went ahead and recorded it based on several of the items that really stood out from today’s session.
EFT Session #3
Caroline was excited to share that she used the tapping recording several times since our last session and that it really helped calm her.
She still felt nervous about the appointment, but much calmer than she did before we started working together. She really felt like it could be a positive experience.
“Even though I’m still nervous, I believe this can be a positive experience”
“Even though I’m still nervous, I’m acknowledging my feelings.
We did several rounds on feeling nervous, which led her to talking about things she could proactively do, like taking Advil and Xanax.
Tapping on Physical Sensations and Looking Ahead
She described the nervousness as feeling tight and fluttery in her chest, so we tapped on the physical sensations of the nervousness. She described the sensation as fluttery grey moth wings in her chest. After a few rounds she shared that even though the nervousness is there, there's also a sense of calm, and knowing that she can do this, she can go to the appointment. She also acknowledged that she had a pain on the left side of her neck, and wasn’t sure if that was related or not.
We decided to tap on the neck pain to see if we could get that down for her. She described the pain as super tight, and pulling her shoulders up, and shared that she had been feeling this way for two weeks (the same amount of time since we first started working together).
We focused on the tight pulling sensation in the left side of her neck. After just one round she noticed it was loosening up. She recognized this was a physical manifestation of the stress she’d been carrying, and I asked her if it felt safe to let some of it go. She quickly responded, “Yes!” So we did a round on how it was safe to let go of the stress she was carrying. The pain was completely gone after another round!
I then circled back to her stress level when thinking about going to the dentist the next day, and she was at a 2-3. She felt really proud of that and said, “I feel like I can be an adult about this!” She went on to explain how having this fear made her feel like such a child, and now she feels so much better about it.
We then went through an exercise of visualizing the next day, getting up and ready, walking out to the car, driving, getting to the parking lot, walking into the office, checking in, sitting in the waiting room, and walking back to the room, sitting in the dentist’s chair.
Whenever she felt the anxiety heighten, we did a few rounds of tapping, and proceeded to the next part of the visualization. We eventually got to:
“I see myself sitting in the chair, I’m a little nervous, but this can be a positive experience.”
Tapping on this led her to talking about how dentistry isn’t the same as it was when she was a young girl, and that she knows it’s not going to be the same.
This led to a conversation about energy, and I shared how I like to send my former self love, knowing that my future self is doing the same thing. And I asked her if there was anything she’d like to say to the younger version of herself and she shared:
“Its okay, this isn’t the same.
If it hurts, it’ll just be for a little while.
Dentistry is not the same.
We can do this.”
After doing a few rounds, she shared that she felt a shift saying “We can do this.” It was this feeling that she wasn't alone. Adult Caroline is running the show now, and little Caroline will be just fine. There was a feeling of strength that I felt as she said that.
She had a look of disbelief on her face, and we had a good laugh about it. She shared that she knows this (EFT) works, which is why she reached out, but she’s just so blown away by how different she feels.
We closed the session out by tapping into this new feeling of calm, and her desire to trust this team of professionals to take care of her. After we finished tapping we did a short meditation to further embody feeling calm and at ease.
EFT Practitioner Self-Assessment
Caroline was the best kind of client - very open in sharing how she felt, and it made everything flow easily.
After reviewing my notes, I found myself wondering if I should have tried to explore more of the other past traumatic memories that she mentioned. She only went into detail on one, but mentioned more than once that there were several medical traumatic memories from her childhood.
And perhaps if she wants to do more work in the future, this would come up. But overall I am very pleased with how these sessions went, and ultimately her positive result. Below is a screenshot of the post she made after her appointment.
Three months later I received another message from Caroline: