Throughout my bodywork career, I have tried to be vigilant over my thoughts and emotions while doing any type of hands-on work with my clients. Life happens, and ups and downs happen, and I have always felt strongly that if I were to touch someone while angry, sad, or resentful that I would be out of integrity with the work, and probably do some damage. I have been speaking to my students about doing bodywork with any kind of resentment as long as I’ve been an educator, and I’m eager to share these ideas with any body-workers who have not been introduced to these important concepts. I don’t believe this type of thinking is as common in our industry as it should be.
Performing Massage Therapy, Bodywork, or any type of hands on work with resentment in your heart, negative thoughts in your mind, or any kind of bad intent is wrong, Wrong, WRONG! It’s bad for the giver and it’s bad for the receiver. Someone is probably going to get hurt. This unprofessional behavior is blatantly unethical as far as I’m concerned.
Now, I can’t scientifically prove this or point to any type of study to prove this as I’m pretty busy and I don’t really care to prove it. If anyone wants to prove it that’s great! Scientists and Researchers get on down! Any conscious and considerate body-worker who has had some type of reasonable education can imagine the consequences. Based on the energetic relationship inherent in providing therapeutic touch and the mechanical effects of our work, we simply can’t fathom the impact we have on another being when we touch them. You can try, and you may claim to know, but you don’t know, and we can’t fully grasp or define the impact. Understanding and explaining the power of touch and the impact of our intentional touch would be like trying to explain every color that exists in the universe. So, for the sake of the point I’m trying to make, let’s just say that the power of our touch is great, undefinable, and potentially powerful enough to encourage and discourage well-being.
It is my strong opinion that when we touch another person with the intent to provide bodywork of some type-form-style, and our heads and/or hearts are not in the right place, someone can get hurt. This damage can manifest emotionally, mentally, physically, or energetically.
Let’s explore what leads to resentment, anger, or sadness in our bodywork Here are the usual suspects:
Personal Event– Your mother has been diagnosed with Cancer. Your dog has been hit by a car. You are going through a divorce. There certainly are times when you can pull it together and work, and there are times when you simply should not. At my school the Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy, we teach about the “basket”. The imaginary basket sits outside the door of your working space and that is where you intentionally dump all of your “stuff” before you go in to serve your client. So what goes in the basket? Your thoughts about your personal life. Your problems. Your Worries. Your troubles. If you can’t leave it in the basket, you should probably cancel your session. Additionally, we practice a very clear CENTERING, GROUNDING AND FOCUS moment before we touch to insure we are aligned with positive intent for the client and the work.
Burn Out – You have been doing so much massage that you get to the point that you don’t like it, and may even hate your work. Take a vacation….please. Also, you may think about taking some continuing education to spice things up if you are in a funk and feel stuck in your routine.
Unfair Compensation – Not feeling rewarded for your work? Time to move on. If you are doing an exchange that is not fair, you will feel resentful. If you are not being compensated appropriately for your time, energy, and art, you will be resentful. This comes up a lot with people who feel obligated to massage their partners, spouses, family members or friends. If a close person in your life wants some of your bodywork and you wish to provide for them, be absolutely sure that there is some fair exchange going on. Your spouse may need to cook you dinner 3 nights a week or fix your car or do the shopping or wash your linens. There MUST be an exchange. If you are working for or with a middle man and you are not feeling compensated appropriately it’s time to move on. This is why I am an opponent of these McMassage chains. Rarely is anyone compensated fairly at these places and this puts the public at risk. If you are working for one of these places and you are providing more than 25 hours of bodywork and still not making ends meet because of the preposterous wages, you are going to burn out and you are going to resent your work and possibly hurt your clients. You deserve better. You really do!
Working with people who are disrespectful – You must know what your boundaries are, and you must write them down and have your clients sign off on your policies before you begin the therapeutic relationship. Make sure your policies are created in such a way to cover the items that are important to you such as: cleanliness, punctuality, appropriate behavior, and payment expectations. You must also learn to say NO and respect yourself by ending relationships with clients who it simply does not feel good with. These can be clients who try to tell you how to do your work, or have projection issues with you. You may not even know why you have a bad feeling for a client. If you do, first look at yourself as there may be a great learning opportunity for you here. Always as a first measure, reach for compassion and look for the inner child in your client. This will help.If you still can’t figure out why you have resentment towards a client, speak with a mentor about it. Ultimately, if you can’t resolve the feeling you have, it’s best for you to professionally end the therapeutic relationship.
You got into this work because it’s beautiful, helpful and creative. We should all do our best to practice our art with the highest and best intention possible for ourselves and the people we have the awe inspiring privilege to serve.