Biting Down - Relieving Bruxism (Clenching and Grinding of Teeth)
Core Transformation – an Actual Session
Paul is an executive with a large publishing firm. In his job he deals with the details as well as the larger scope of multiple projects: promotions, scheduling, budgets, and the people: accountants, editors, copywriters, and of course the authors themselves – brilliant individuals, many of them, but with their own egos, quirks, and insecurities.
He came to me because of bruxism: Paul grinds his teeth. His dentist prescribed a mouth guard, which Paul wears now at night to help prevent further damage to his grinding surfaces and to three crowns the dentist had to painstakingly re-do. But that doesn’t help during the day: Paul frequently catches himself grinding unawares, and now and then even chewing on his tongue.
In our first two sessions I taught Paul to take himself into “The Zone”, a self-hypnotic, meditative state and asked him to get into the practice of doing this multiple times during the day, for two-minute “mini vacations”. We did hypnosis sessions to help him become more aware of the grinding, so that he can stop it earlier or avoid it altogether. And I introduced exercises (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SX0JIMRdV7s&feature=related) to stretch the jaw muscles and condition him to keep his teeth apart, and reinforced his motivation to do them regularly.
By the third session we were seeing some progress. I wanted to deepen the level of our work together, to address the internal, perhaps unconscious aspects that might be connected with Paul’s grinding. I decided to use the Core Transformation process, developed by Connirae Andreas, Ph.D. and described in the book, Core Transformation, Reaching the Wellspring Within, by Connirae and Tamara Andreas (Real People Press, 1994). There were other possibilities, such as hypnotic regression to find and resolve the cause (which I seldom use these days) and other NLP procedures such as Six-Step Reframe and Visual Squash. But I chose Core Transformation because it is gentle yet works on both conscious and subconscious levels and because it can bring about profound changes in behavior, thinking, and feelings.
I first explained to Paul what we were going to do; that while he did not consciously want to grind his teeth, it was as if a part, or aspect of himself was prompting him to do that, on an unconscious level. We would address that “part” and ask what its intent was, what it wanted. Then we would ask for the “intent behind the intent” and continue in that way, up a chain of higher and higher level intentions, until we reached a “core state”, which would be an intention, an outcome on the level of “being” or perhaps “oneness” or something else of that nature (existential or spiritual) – and could go no further.
Paul was curious and intrigued and eager to start. He saw the grinding, he said, as part of the way he takes on time. “Part of my identity,” he explained, “is that I can get six things done in the time it takes someone else to do one. The flip side is that I rarely have any down-time.”
I asked Paul to close his eyes, relax, and turn inside, then to gently and respectfully invite the part of him that was associated with “being highly productive and getting things done” to come into his awareness. He would notice some change or signal, I told him – such as a picture, a feeling somewhere in his body, or a sound that would signify the part’s presence – and when he did, to let me know by nodding.
Paul sat there with his eyes closed and a moment later began to smile, then he nodded gently.
“What do you notice?” I asked him.
“It’s a to-do list!” he said, as amused himself as I certainly was. (Not everyone gets such a graphic symbol, by the way – someone else might feel a warmth in their chest or a bright spot in their visual field.)
“Ok, great. Welcome the part; thank the part for being there,” I told him, “because you know it has some deeply positive purpose for you.” Core Transformation is a “part-friendly” process and it is important to thank and appreciate the part, even parts associated with behavior or feelings we may not like. We are not trying to eradicate or suppress these parts, but rather to find and let them experience their core states, and in doing so transcend and transform themselves and their often narrow initial intents.
“Now ask this part, this aspect of you, ‘What do you want?’ and note any image, feeling, or voice or sound that comes up – then let me know.”
“It wants to check it off and get on to the next thing on the list,” Paul answered, after short pause.
“Ok. Thank the part for letting you know that. Then ask it, “If you have this – checking off an item and getting on to the next thing on the list – fully and completely, then what is it you want, through having that, that’s even more important?”
“It wants a recognition of my competency,” said Paul, smiling.
I nodded. “Once again, thank the part, and ask it, “If you have that, recognition of competency – step into how it feels – if you have that fully, completely, totally, then what do you want, through having that, that is even more important?”
We kept on in this way, building an outcome chain for Paul’s part. The outcome chain, up to the next to the last outcome, was:
1. check it off and get on to the next thing on the list
2. recognition of competency
3. to be loved by everyone
4. loving myself
5. immune to other people’s judgments
6. to not think so much
Asking the question once more, “If you have that, to not think so much, fully and completely, then what is it that you want, through having that, that is even more important?”, Paul’s answer was “I just want to be.” This I recognized as a core state:
· it is a state of beingness, rather than of doing or having or knowing or relating;
· it is not something dependent on others;
· it is not something he does or feels about himself; and
· it is not a specific emotion.
“just to be” is the part’s deepest (or highest) level intention, what it really wants when it checks an item off the list or when it prompts Paul to grind his teeth.
Having elicited the part’s outcome chain and found its core state, I now went in a different direction. “Parts often feel that in order to experience their core states, they have to do things, to go through the whole outcome chain, just to get there,” I told Paul. “But really, going about it that way is not necessary and it doesn’t even work very well. A part can actually go directly into its core state. So now,” I continued, “invite this part of you to step right into this state of just being and experience it fully.”
Paul lay back in his chair and closed his eyes and his breathing slowed down and became deeper and more regular. After about a minute I continued. “Notice how having this core state of just being as a beginning, as your way of being in the world makes everything different, how it changes everything. You don’t have to, but if you like, you can tell me about it if you like.
It looked like he wasn’t going to say anything and I was about to go on, when Paul half-opened his eyes and spoke. “Wow, it’s a whole different perspective,” he said. “I’m very calm, relaxed, but my mind feels clear and sharp. I don’t have to worry about anything!”
“Thank you,” I said. “Now, how does already having that state of just being, as a way of being in the world, transform, change, or enrich ‘not thinking so much’?”
“It’s not so much ‘not thinking’,” Paul answered, “but more ‘not worrying’ – I don’t need to ‘over-steer’ everything, all the time.” He smiled.
I continued going through the Outcome Chain, in the reverse order. “And how does starting from this state of just being transform, enhance, modify ‘being immune to other people’s judgments’?”
“It doesn’t affect me so much. I can listen to them, hear them. But I don’t feel judged the way I did before – it’s just information.”
“And loving yourself?”
“That’s more of a given now. I can just be – there’s nothing in the way anymore, of loving myself.”
“And how does having just being as a core state, as a way of being in the world, change, transform, modify ‘being loved by everyone’?”
Paul kind of half closed his eyes, nodding gently as if to himself. “That’s nice, but it doesn’t seem so important.”
“And what if someone doesn’t love you?”
“Well, then they don’t.” He gave a little shrug. “I’m fine – I don’t need that the way I did, you know?”
“And ‘recognition of competency’?”
“Not a question. I am competent. It’s not about recognition.”
“And how does already having this core state of just being as the starting point, as your way of being in the world, transform or modify ‘wanting to check off this item and move on to the next thing in the list’?”
“Well, I’m still going to be organized, and productive. But it feels like the urgency, the compulsive part of it, is gone, or a lot less. The anxiety, the worry, is just not there.”
This is the basic Core Transformation exercise, the first part of the Core Transformation Process. This session was very straightforward; not all Core Transformation sessions are this way. Sometimes, for example, another part will object and we will need to detour and do the Basic Exercise with that part before we can continue with the first part.
It is too soon to tell how this session would affect Paul’s bruxism. He grinds more when feeling anxious and stressed, and little or not at all when comfortable and at ease. So alleviating the compulsivity and worry that was previously intertwined with how Paul managed being productive should reduce the grinding.
Followup about a year later: Paul’s clenching and grinding is almost to zero. He looks different, acts different – much more relaxed – and he smiles a lot more. He and I credit CT as a major factor in his improvement.