Evolutionary Psychology Goes to the Dentist

I had a couple thoughts stuck up in my jaw during my root canal the other month; Rana’s just dislodged one. Ahem: Going to the doctor/dentist requires that we place an immense amount of trust in someone who is, in most circumstances and for most purposes, a total stranger. Over the bulk of human history, this is an unusual situation, to say the least – yet we’re expected to deal with it without qualm.

Rana describes learning to “dial in and out of apathy” and I think this is an apt description; it certainly resonates with my own approach to dentistry and gynecology (I’m an okay patient too). But I also find it eerily reminiscent of the feelings of disconnection described by varied victims of varied tragedies, from losing a close loved one to being raped. Which isn’t to say that rape and dentistry are particularly similar, but the human brain has an interestingly limited set of coping strategies.

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