Several months ago, my dentist asked me at my regular checkup whether I ground my teeth at night. I said: "No. Absolutely not."
She tilted her head and screened my teeth again, saying that there was a sign of grinding or biting hard. She added: "Let's wait and see until the next visit, but why don't we make a mold for a retainer just in case you do?”
I agreed to it but thought that she was overly cautious, as I knew that I didn't grind my teeth at night.
Me? No way! Only someone like my brother does that, who snores like bombs dropping into the Pacific Ocean, making creative percussive music with his mouth while he sleeps. Dare to fall asleep with him next to you! (I never did. I needed at least one room or two walls of separation.)
Then, one night, I woke up from a nightmare in the middle of the night. With a sigh of relief that it was just a dream, I opened my eyes. That was it. The moment I noticed something.
I was clenching my jaw. Very hard. It was as if I had to hold onto a piece of paper with my teeth from dropping it.
I was lying in bed in shock. Not because I was clenching my jaw but for the fact that I could be that wrong about my judgment about myself. I was sure that I was not a person who clenched or ground her teeth.
When did it start? How could I not know about it for this long?
On the next visit to the dentist, I confessed that I indeed clenched my jaw at night and thanked her for pointing me in the right direction. I said that I wasn't sure when it started or how long I had been doing it, but now I knew that I did. She interestingly commented that more than 80% of her patients who need a retainer at night go through the same denial. In fact, lots of people still refuse to wear anything to protect their teeth as they don't believe that they clench or grind their teeth, even with clear evidence! Oh wow! Maybe it might take another year or decades for them to get to realize the truth.
This very experience reminded me of other occasions when I had a similar epiphany in my life - the moment when I woke up from a belief to a hard reality. That moment, everything seemed upside down, or when I finally faced the truth that I couldn't even imagine that could be true.
One of the lessons that I've learned from those similar experiences is that now I often say to myself, ‘I could be wrong…' That sentence helps my thinking to be flexible and open to being taken down by other ideas. And it also helps me to be ready to rebuild the idea from zero. As long as my way of thinking stays open, I can accept the counterargument to learn and grow.
"I could be wrong, but I believe..."
"I could be wrong, but I think..."
To me, this sentence is not a sign of weakness but an attitude of a learner. A humble yet peaceful conversation with myself.
After being broken down by the many layers of hard shells around me, I finally started to learn the value of the vulnerability of the human mind.
When it challenges your intelligence, lean in more. When it makes you feel stupid, lean in more. Leaning out will leave you behind. Don't block people that you don't agree with, follow more of them. Don't run from ideas that make you uncomfortable, run towards them. - Steven Bartlett
"I could be wrong..."
Have you ever experienced anything similar in your life? What was it? Please reply and share it with me!
p.s. Yes, I have worn a retainer every night ever since. It takes weeks to get used to, but I am glad that I am protected from the unconscious Jeeyoon.