Just the tip of the Iceberg ~ 1/30/2019
For most people, therapeutic massage is all about relieving pain or stress. An hour on the table leaves them feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
However, massage sometimes stirs up surprising emotions. You might find yourself laughing (even if you’re not ticklish!) or flooded with a child-like happiness. That’s because emotions aren’t just about the mind: Our bodies retain memories, too. For example, when a therapist touches our feet we might remember a beloved grandparent teaching us to tie our shoes. Thus we laugh with delight at the recollection.
However, not all memories are good ones. Massage therapy can dislodge painful emotions caused by past trauma, such as the death of a loved one, serious illness or abuse.We’re apt to bury those bad emotions. Who would want to keep re-experiencing them? So we tell others – and ourselves – that we’re “fine.” Time to move on. It’s all in the past! But our bodies remember everything.
According to the founders of a type of bodywork called Somato Emotional Release (SER), these powerful and painful memories become concentrated into something called “energy cysts.” Over time these cysts cause painful physical and emotional symptoms. A practitioner of SER works gently to find and release the trauma trapped within body tissues.
Although I do not practice SER, I have experienced it on the table as a client and also had SER happen to clients as I was working on them. For example, someone who had escaped an abusive relationship might suddenly start crying. Even though this person would have sworn they were “over it,” the pain was still there – and massage creates a mind-body connection that lets our rational brains (which want to believe that everything is fine) get in touch with the hurts our bodies have been carrying.
Massage therapists are trained to create utterly safe spaces. Within this secure, protected place there are no “wrong” emotions. A client can feel free to express feelings and work with the massage therapist to find ways to deal with the newfound emotions.
For example, the client could ask the therapist to change the intensity of the massage or move to a different part of the body. It’s also possible to end the massage early if the stirred-up feelings are too overwhelming.
Some find it helpful to name their emotions: “I thought that once I got away from my abuser I could just forget about the past. But now I feel like I never gave myself permission to grieve.” Since massage therapists are bound by strict confidentiality laws, clients can feel safe to say what’s in their hearts. What you say in a massage space will stay in a massage space.
Emotional releases are completely normal. Here at Marvelous Massage, we encourage clients to feel free to communicate their needs to us. Together we can create the best possible experience, and treatment that leaves clients feeling healthy, happy and supported.