This is where stuff gets really weird. For some of you this is obvious. Please bear with me. I grew up the son of a scientist. An archetypal scientist, white lab coat, wire rim glasses, pocket protector, even the tables of curvy glass bowls and tubes suspended over bunsen burners lurked in our home. Below is a photograph of my father in a lab. Yes, the one with the bowtie.
Growing up, part of me really embraced the idea that if a thing could not be measured, objectively, peer reviewed and repeated, it did not exist. Messy feelings make thought processes subjective instead of objective and clear and clean and defensible. Even in my massage school with it’s century of heritage and inertia and federal accreditation, the teachers wore white lab coats. Every ailment had it’s probable mechanical or chemical causes you could access in a text book.
It was not until I was off working on my own for several years that I started to suspect that sometimes there was something else going on. Everyone knows anger and rage can lead to high blood pressure, and that stress can lead to tight shoulders and jaw. There are medical explanations for these things, stress hormones and an over taxed sympathetic nervous system. I was taught to address the mechanics of the problems and ignore the correlations between emotions and physical manifestations.
I have a sister who is a dancer. She is a tenured professor at a major state university with a strong dance program. I’m proud. A while back she hurt her ankle. She had tremendous resources available to help her. Doctors, physical therapists, massage therapists, decades and decades of experience in dealing with her very problem. And she was disciplined in her adherence to the expert regimen. Direct ice massage several times a day, rest, compression, elevation, stretching, anti inflammatories, everything. And yet for eight months there was no improvement. And then she divorced her husband and her ankle healed and she could dance on it as if it were never injured.
Many of my clients come to me with chronic injuries. I ask what was going on (x) years ago when this happened, was there an accident, were you moving, heavy snow storm, slip on the ice, started going to the gym… and some times there was nothing to point to. It happens all the time, we injure ourselves and don’t notice until later, or the symptoms develop slowly. And then I started to have clients walk in and tell me how their back has been in agony for three years ever since their father died, or they broke up with the love of their life, or got a new boss. There was no apparent physical trauma. And this is how I came to talk about feelings in my work. Emotions do not have a hand in every problem. The majority of my work is still as a biomechanic. Sometimes there is a clear cause of an injury but emotions come into play relating to it not healing as it should.
This whole long page is an invitation to the cynical and skeptical, among you. If while we are working you have feelings come up, don’t be shy to let them out. Sometimes that is all it takes. Cry, sob, curse, swear, or more dangerously, let yourself feel safe, free, or happy. All of you is welcome, not just the mechanical aspect of you. If the idea of this resonates for you let me know, there are many ways to support this radical union of the body mind and soul.