Vulnerability alert!!! As I walked the dog on Sunday morning, I had some real moments of clarity about the work I do and what I offer. I recorded them on my phone so that I didn’t lose them on the way home! Here are my thoughts on massage and what I offer as a sports massage therapist:
I’ve been thinking about what my massage work is to me and the thing that sticks in my mind is something I’ve heard said to me many times – that we should never trust a massage therapist who doesn’t go for massage themselves. Up until now, I’ve always just believed it and felt a bit pathetic because I don’t go for many massages, but a few things came up for me around this today.
I don’t really feel pain:
Firstly, I don’t really feel pain. I really, really don’t recognise pain in my body. But whatever I do feel, I think I can manage it so my thinking is why would I go for a massage if I’m not in pain? To me massage is very much about having help in managing whatever is happening in your body. In the logical part of my brain, I’m reasoning that I don’t really feel pain so I don’t feel the need to go for a massage. [Of course I know that massage is about more than pain management, but these were just my thoughts as I walked]
Massage is an exchange of trust:
Secondly, and this is the big one for me, massage is a real exchange of trust and I haven’t always felt like my body has been heard or respected when I’ve been on a massage couch. Often that’s because I’m in a learning setting and the person working on me is primarily there to learn something and not there to help me, but these experiences have unsettled me and I have pretty high anxiety when I give myself up on a massage table.
I think lots of it comes from way back in my childhood. I’ve been self-sufficient all my life, for as long as I remember and so it’s really unnatural for me to put my trust in someone else. And, whenever I have done, in lots of different situations, I haven’t always felt that I had a good outcome. I’ve learned to trust myself and support myself and it’s really hard for me to undo that.
Recently on a sports massage course, on the first week, someone asked the question ‘do you ever have someone come to you that doesn’t like massage?’ and I put my hand up and said ‘oh that’s me; I really don’t like having a massage’. I probably didn’t say it right because that isn’t true – it’s not that I don’t like having a massage, it just is a very uncomfortable situation for me.
Anyway, in the room there was one guy and when we had to work together later that day he just looked at me and said ‘oh that’s right, you don’t like to be touched, do you’. He made me feel like nothing. He made me feel that he hadn’t heard me, that he hadn’t bothered to listen or tried to understand. I felt he just dismissed me as some freaky person who doesn’t like to be touched (I accept this is how I felt and probably not what he intended at all, but the end result was the same either way). He straight away made me feel on edge – he hadn’t heard me and I didn’t feel that I could trust him – and that never changed over the whole course. As a result of that early comment, there was nothing within him that I wanted to connect with, and maybe that was my bad, but that’s how he made me feel with those words.
What I offer you:
I think the idea of not putting your trust in someone who doesn’t go for regular massage isn’t really as simple as that. There are a lot of times in my life (nothing to do with massage) when my trust has been betrayed or not reciprocated. I’ve learned to live around that, and some of that means that I don’t always feel safe to make myself vulnerable, but none of that takes away from my skills as a soft tissue therapist.
I just want to let you know that although I don’t go for regular massage, I do go for massage when I need it and I have some amazing local therapists that I trust implicitly. But I also want you to know that if you come to me for a sports massage, the thing I hope that I always offer is that you can trust me.
I want you to feel safe. I don’t want you to feel vulnerable like I have done. If you are anxious, I hope that I can help you to feel heard, and listened to, and supported, and I hope that you feel that you are definitely in my care while you’re here.
That’s what I offer.
Yes, I can get ‘knots’ out of muscles which are sore; yes I can help you move better; I can help you feel better in your body. But really, truthfully, what I want to offer you is a feeling of being safe and secure, and being listened to and heard.
Massage is about facilitating change in the soft tissues and within the nervous system, and change doesn’t happen when we don’t feel safe.
Please let me know if you would like to discuss how sports massage can help you to move & feel better in your body.
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