Massage & Bodywork

March/April 2010

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reader forum WHAT YOU ARE SAYING Discovery Through Dissection I just fi nished reading ["Discovery Through Dissection," by Thomas Myers, January/February 2010, page 34] on this sunny Sunday morning with my coffee. What a glorious, honest, and bold piece! I feel invigorated by the whole article and plan to share it with as many people as I know who can stomach it. Personally, I fi nd all the photos to be a fascinatingly beautiful piece of God's work (yes, the more I study science, the deeper my faith gets). I look forward to the day I actually participate in a dissection, as opposed to looking at images and watching [Gil Hedley's] series, knowing it will be a whole different intellectual and emotional experience. AMANDA CIZEK ROWAYTON, CONNECTICUT talk about touch with Mary Kathleen rose and Mary ann Foster OWNING YOUR ENERGY Mary Kathleen rose: When teaching massage, I am often asked, "How do you protect yourself?" And I ask, "From what?" One massage therapist told me that she had learned in massage school that people with cancer had a particular kind of dark energy, and that she had to use specific techniques to protect herself. Mary ann Foster: The protection question is loaded. It sounds like an old-fashioned fear of catching a communicable disease. What dangers actually lurk in the massage room? Perhaps an electrical short that could start a fire, a torn rug that a client could trip over, or a flimsy table that could collapse … MKr: Yes, bodyworkers do need to ensure a physically safe environment. Still, her comment on the energetic threat from cancer took me aback, because, while I have worked with many people with cancer and other chronic illnesses, my concern is for the person with the disease, not the disease itself. And I don't feel the need to protect myself from that person. When I'm asked how to avoid picking up other people's negative energy, I tell them that owning my own energy is more important than protecting myself from someone else's energy. MaF: When I starting practicing massage in the early 1980s, I sometimes left a session extremely tired. My peers suggested I wasn't shielding myself adequately. After some soul-searching, I realized that my fatigue actually stemmed from an overwhelming feeling of helplessness, of not doing enough to alleviate pain and disease. MKr: I may be vulnerable to disappointment if I perceive my clients as people I need to fix. If I buy into an expectation that I can take other people's problems away, and then come up short, I feel drained. And this is not the client's fault. MaF: I've encountered many people who believe massage can produce miraculous results in alleviating pain and illness. I had a teacher once who taught us "we could be healers if only we could channel the right energy and block the wrong energy." After a few frustrating attempts working under this assumption, I learned that trying to be a heroic healer, who needed to protect myself from invisible forces, was draining. It served neither me nor the client. MKr: So true. I've learned that as I let go of expectations of producing results, change does happen, but not because I will it so. I find it always helpful to focus on being grounded,1 as this gives me the most efficient use of my physical and mental energy. So when I'm asked how to avoid picking up other people's "negative energy," I tell them that owning my own energy is more important than protecting myself from someone else's energy. MaF: I can get sidetracked with protection rituals, and so can a client. A client once asked me if it was difficult working with him. Apparently, another therapist had told him his energy field was so scattered that the therapist had to actively "pull it in." When I told him I found him easy to work with, he breathed a sigh of relief. I also told him that even if he had been in a bad mood, that's OK with me, because that's his energy and not mine. I think it's easy to confuse energy with emotional response. MKR: Can you imagine your family doctor practicing protection rituals to ward off unsavory energy? After all, energy is energy. How can it be good or bad, right or wrong? MaF: No, I can't. There is, however, value in private rituals or practices to help prepare and focus before a session. We all encounter pain and suffering that pulls on the heartstrings. It can be a challenge to have compassion and empathy for others without losing ourselves in a sympathetic resonance. MKr: Here's a story my students find helpful in understanding the difference between sympathy and compassion. Imagine walking down the street. You hear someone crying for help. As you get closer to the sound, you see that someone is in a pit. You jump in to help. Now you are both stuck in the hole. That's sympathy. But if you really want to help, you stay at the top of the pit and offer the person a ladder. In that act of compassion, you are helpful, but maintain a safe and practical boundary. wellness education and massage in medical settings, advocating self-care for the caregiver. She is the author of Comfort Touch: Massage for the Elderly and the Ill (Lippincott Wilkins and Williams, 2009). Mary Kathleen Rose, BA, CMT, teaches movement education for massage, teaches experiential kinesiology at the Boulder College of Massage School, and is the author of Somatic Patterning: How to Improve Posture and Movement and Ease Pain (Educational Movement Systems Press, 2004). Mary Ann Foster, BA, CMT, specializes in note 1. See "Grounding: A Body-Mind Practice," Massage & Bodywork (March/April 2009). 28 massage & bodywork november/december 2009 connect with your colleagues on 29 Owning Your Energy As a massage therapist, I continually strive to educate myself to help those clients who want massage therapy to relax and for many who want to experience less pain with musculoskeletal issues. I am truly satisfi ed when my clients respond to the session feeling less pain. In your article "Owning Your Energy," featured in the Talk About Touch column in the November/December 2009 issue on page 28, both authors mentioned things I struggle with: "I perceive my clients as people I need to fi x" and "… not doing enough to alleviate the pain and disease." Mary Kathleen Rose mentioned that she has learned to let go of expectations of producing results, which resonated with me, yet how do you go about letting go of those expectations and what's wrong with expecting results? I would like to know so that my clients and I can be more realistic about the scope of the benefi ts of massage and my skills as a massage practitioner. NGUYET HOWARD SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS AUTHORS' RESPONSE It is OK to expect results. With regards to "fi x it" work, getting realistic results and getting hung up on trying to fi x something are two different things. Focusing on fi xing something is an orientation or context from which to practice massage. We refer to a massage therapist stuck in this context who feels like she needs to provide some kind of treatment but does not have the tools or training for it and fi nds herself in a confi dence crisis. To help her reorient, we remind her that therapeutic massage has general goals (although specifi c results are common). If you give massage to fi x something and it does not occur, does this measure the success of the massage? You may do as much as you can to help your client, but there are always those sessions where the client cannot relax or let go, which does not negate the therapeutic value of your massage. Pain relief from musculoskeletal issues and deep relaxation are two major goals and benefi ts of therapeutic massage. As both practitioners and clients, we expect these results and know that they keep clients coming back for more. MARY KATHLEEN ROSE AND MARY ANN FOSTER 14 massage & bodywork march/april 2010

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