Massage & Bodywork

JULY | AUGUST 2021

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L i s te n to T h e A B M P Po d c a s t a t a b m p.co m /p o d c a s t s o r w h e reve r yo u a cce s s yo u r favo r i te p o d c a s t s 69 RESOLVE STRESSORS Much of our contemporary stress handling devolves into displacement behavior. My older brother rags on me. He's too big and powerful for me to confront directly, so I rag on my younger sister to disperse the feelings and chemistry within me. Continued unresolved stress induces displacement on the way to becoming endemic distress. Displacement is often accompanied by the words "So I . . ." as in, "Work is crazy, so I ease it off with a drink as soon as I get home," or "School is stressful, so I smoke a bowl to make it bearable." Of all the possible avenues to relieve mental pressure—like drugging, overeating, playing for power— physical exercise and truly consensual sex are the least harmful to the body. Better to smash a squash ball than to yell or strike at your employees, as exercise dissipates most of that chemistry as well. On this planet, at least, no one gets all their wishes fulfilled. So we all have to deal with at least some frustration of our id. The only response that is not some form of displacement is to resolve the stressor itself. Eventually I grew enough that my older brother could not dominate me, and I stopped having to dominate my sister. Of course, not all stressors are so easily resolved, and not all stressors are resolvable. When my dad died, I watched my mom like a hawk for the year after. They had been together 60 years, and there is no resolving the stress of a lost mate. She weathered it and lived a full life for another 20 years. If you get to a place with the client where they have built their inner sensing muscle, you can start moving them toward the resolution of the actual stressor. This is not easy, and sometimes requires outside psychological expertise, since the obvious stressor is not always the actual one. You know this: The problem with the boss may be built on a much deeper original problem with the father figure, for example. The hunger for a mate is built on a hunger for attachment that was thwarted starting on day one. No one is asking you to be a psychologist, but all these knots have body components, and your bodywork can help expose them for resolution. In fact, I would say absent a change in the body, psychological insights and victories tend to fall flat. Without being a psychotherapist, you can point your client in the direction of the real stressor, the real disparity between how they construct their inner world and how the outer world appears to them. When the two coincide, you live happily. To the extent that they diverge—boy howdy, haven't our expectations and reality parted company this past year—there will be stress, the gears will whine, and eventually something will break. Some stress is resolvable; some is not. My mother could not bring her husband back. We cannot wish COVID away. What we can do—for ourselves and our clients—is expose the (minimum) two conflicting urges inside the stress. One of those urges is to move against the stressor, and that movement is highly specific to each client. Another inner urge inhibits movement because the original move was too risky. For most, once the two urges are exposed and cleared emotionally, the outer stress, whatever it is, can be borne more easily. Ultimately it comes down to the old prayer, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." MAKE MEANING If we resolve all our stressors, will life make total sense? No, it will not. We humans are sense-makers, meaning-makers. It's our job as humans. And it's never done. Achieving a fully upright posture, or a strong core, or a perfect wheel (backbend), or a four-minute ice bath, or a fully open breath are not ends in themselves. They are signposts on the way to a body cleared of the "noise" that accompanies burnout. Finding meaning is a complicated and subtle assessment that requires the lack of noise to even get close to. For many of us, faith in God or a credo provides the matrix of meaning. For some, the matrix has been transferred onto another spiritual path. For most people, though, there is a middle layer of personal meaning to their lives, which is there to be discovered and then hopefully lived through. In my own case, finding Ida Rolf and structural bodywork has given meaning to my life, a meaning that was at first only sensed dimly (though firmly) but couldn't be articulated. At this far end of my career, with my dedication to a new program of somatic education, that meaning (which was present all along) is now coming to fruition. Maybe it will turn out well, maybe badly, but the meaning to me is clear: Sensing + Doing = Meaning. Meaning is both the sensory side (getting accurate signals from the body) and the doing side (being able to translate the sensory data to effective movement) that translates into deep and emotionally satisfying meaning. Understanding "meaning" in itself does not spell success or failure in the outer world. It is possible to understand your inner meaning and still fail in an attempt to love, or to act on creativity or ambition. To return to our beginning, though, is in the act of facing that inner wounding where we find the deepest resolution to our human dilemma—win or lose. There is no great satisfaction to winning at the wrong thing—you just feel like you fooled 'em again. But it is surprisingly satisfying when we lose if we are barking up the right tree. Building the muscle to face our wounds is something we can build into our homework. It is a call to the self-care we so desperately need right now. Thomas Myers is the author of Anatomy Trains (Elsevier, 4th ed: 2020) and Fascial Release for Structural Balance (North Atlantic, 2nd ed: 2017). Myers studied with Ida Rolf and has practiced integrative bodywork for more than 40 years. He directs Anatomy Trains, which offers hundreds of continuing education seminars worldwide and online. For more information, visit anatomytrains.com.

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