NOTE: This article was written specifically for dentists of the Humboldt Del Norte Dental Society and appears in their September 2011 newsletter (see page 5 of .pdf). I will be the guest speaker at their quarterly dinner event on February 16, 2012.
Dentists frequently see patients experiencing fear or anxiety about dental work. Teeth grinding is another common challenge. Imagine how much easier your practice would be if all your patients could be more relaxed and in control of both their emotional state and unconscious behaviors. As a Certified Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), I help people connect with the ability to manage such issues.
NLP is a versatile modality that can benefit people whose feelings or actions do not match their conscious intention or desire. This usually occurs due to the influence or control exerted by the subconscious part of the mind. NLP is a model of communicating with the subconscious via the senses to reorganize a person’s “mental filing system,” or how information is stored and accessed by the brain. In other words, NLP is a means of updating neurology (Neuro) using the language (Linguistic) that drives how we manage our minds, moods, and models of reality (our Programming).
Developed in the 1970’s, NLP is said to be the language structure of hypnosis, in part thanks to modeling the techniques of renowned hypnotherapist Milton Erickson. NLP was initially recognized for rapid relief of phobias, which can usually be eliminated in just one session and sometimes in only a few minutes. To understand how NLP works so quickly to restore conscious control of feelings and behaviors, picture the brain as a filing cabinet. The files are thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, memories, and emotions. The storage system is created and perpetuated via the senses – what we see, hear, feel, smell and taste. When attributes of sensory perceptions are adjusted, the filing system is reorganized and the brain’s neurology is rewired.
We call these attributes “submodalities,” and examples can be found in each of our sensory systems. For example, consider the ways you can modulate your speaking voice: volume, tone, pitch, tempo, inflection, accent, etc. In conversation, the same words said differently will prompt a different response. Likewise, our internal self-talk will affect our physical and emotional state, based on both what we tell ourselves, and how we say it. That makes NLP especially useful for building confidence and self-esteem, managing energetic states, and responding to difficult situations.
In the visual realm, the mind makes images that might be still or moving, color or black and white, bright or dim, near or far, big or small, flat or 3D, in focus or unclear, framed or panoramic, and viewed from within the situation or as if an observer. Someone with a phobia typically visualizes a feared experience as oversized and too close for comfort. When the picture is made smaller, black and white, run backwards and from a detached perspective, the conditioned response is interrupted and a more resourceful behavior can take its place.
Fears and anxieties about dentistry can similarly be addressed through this and other NLP techniques selected based on the client’s personal mental map, the unique sensory representation of reality that defines how the individual’s mental filing system is organized. NLP is also used to address bruxism and other compulsive behaviors by discovering and updating the unconscious “strategies” governing such actions. By identifying and interrupting undesired patterns of thought or behavior, people can learn to relax and trust their dentist.
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Dave Berman is a Life Coach and Certified Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He offers private and confidential sessions on a sliding scale in his Arcata, CA office and remotely via Skype. Referrals and inquiries are welcome. Learn more at www.ManifestPositivity.com or call (707) 845-3749 for a free consultation. Subscribe to future articles from Manifest Positivity:
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