Massage & Bodywork

JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2020

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30 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k j a n u a r y / f e b r u a r y 2 0 2 0 CLASSROOM TO CLIENT education Holding the Line How to Overcome the Fear of Communicating Boundaries By Cindy Williams BOUNDARIES DEFINED The Ethics of Touch, by Ben Benjamin and Cherie Sohnen-Moe, is an excellent resource on ethics and the therapeutic relationship. It defines boundaries as follows: [Boundaries] are elusive, yet personally discernible, lines that distinguish you from everything and everyone around you. They define your personal space—the area you occupy which you appropriately feel is under your control. 1 Why does communicating a boundary feel scary? There are some people who skillfully and effortlessly hold their ground, but for many, it can be quite stressful. In a recent class I taught to entry-level massage students, simply discussing the topic caused them anxiety, to lose eye contact, and to retreat. We hadn't even gotten to the part where they practice using their words to communicate where the line is drawn. Holding a boundary line doesn't mean we are at war with anyone. Yet, the mere idea of doing so creates a thought of potential threat—otherwise the physiological response of fight- or-flight wouldn't kick in. Let's explore why it's so important to define boundaries, how to communicate them, why we might fear speaking up, and how to muster the courage to move forward rather than retreat. A few notable reasons why boundaries can be a tricky and uncomfortable subject is seen in the definition alone. Boundaries are elusive, meaning they are "difficult to define or comprehend," 2 they vary from person to person (as well as profession to profession), and they are controlled on an individual basis. The challenge in setting boundaries starts with defining and communicating your own personal boundaries. The challenge then continues with reading, hearing, and responding to your clients' boundaries, and carries on

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