One of the things I struggle the hardest with is saying NO in regards to "bodywork" pressure, touch and areas of my body where I'm having difficulties. Bodywork being massage, light touch modalities, and derivatives there of. I've experienced it in all forms of bodywork even the ones that are meant to be light and supportive safe touch. It even occurs in those modalities that are "energetic touches".
Especially in regular massage, whether it is on the table or in a seated chair, many massage therapists think that "more pressure and deeper pressure" is better. I don't know how many times I've asked for light pressure only to receive anything but light pressure. Most massage therapists do not know how to do this no matter how much they claim they do. The lightest of touches can be more healing for me than the deepest of touches.
So why am I making all the fuss about this? Here's the reason and if you are a body worker, pay close attention because I know I'm not the only client that would ever come across your path with this situation. There are many more like me.
You see, when the deep pressure is applied to my body, it generates a connection to the past I have experienced. This results in deep anger that springs up from me. Now, I may not show the anger to you in a normal way on the table and in fact, it may represent itself as me being very quiet, giving comments possibly that it feels good and it could also be represented by my body appearing to relax. While all of those things might be desired results in bodywork and they may sound positive, it is my body's way of "disappearing" and "disassociating" with what is really going on. That means, even though it may appear that I'm present, I have done left the building.
Another thing I experience is when I ask people doing bodywork to not touch certain areas or do certain things and yet, they still do that. Even my cat has figured out at times to not rub up against certain areas without me even communicating that to her in a verbal way. One could say, well, you need to remind them. However, here is what happens within me. My body feels it and senses that someone may be touching in that area where I said was off limits. However, by the time that message from the area getting touched, gets to my brain and goes through the filters of all my past trauma, it comes out as silence. Believe me, I struggle to say what is going on. I struggle to physically speak the words. Even in one case, where the heat of the person's hand might be perceived as non-touch, my body picked it up as touch. It was the same as if the person was physically touching me. So as a result, I then "blank out" about what happened until some time after the bodywork session is done. When the "blank out" feeling wears off, that is when things become very difficult for me. For the anger comes up full force in me as it wants to be angry at the person who didn't respect my wishes and it is also anger that is directed at me because I didn't stop this. What a direct repeat back to some trauma filled days that I experienced in my life.
I actually saw this with evidence in a recent bodywork session that I received. I was able to check my pulse with a pulse meter I have and it was in the 90's before we started and when we got done, it was around 115. That's not the desired effect of bodywork that one is attempting to achieve. Yet, (get this), my body felt relaxed to me and I had actually enjoyed the work that had been done on the table. The only thing is, because of these situations that were done, it kicked the connections to the past trauma up and there was no way to dissipate it. In addition, I did not fully connect the dots until several hours later. I'm now left with a feeling of anger, frustration and overall just a weak, despair type of feeling. It isn't a fun place to be.
So what can a bodyworker do? First of all, they have to be very present in their own body because without that, my body isn't going to trust them very far. They need to be grounded and with their actions coming from their heart because my body will pick that up quicker than they will. The next thing is that a bodyworker truly needs to listen when someone on the table says, please honor this area or whatever it is. If you don't, the trust of the person on the table to your touch may be lost and not regained without a lot of work. While that may sound alarming, for me and my body, it is true.
In addition, if you still feel you must go in deep or touch in areas that maybe are off limits, you need to be prepared to take that person through what will come up within them. You need to be able to see it and understand it even if it is almost hidden from view because for that person lying on the table, a part of them will most likely be connecting to something that is not pleasant. In some manner, you will need to engage the person constantly to make sure they have not checked out or gone down that road that seems so familiar to them. They will have a difficult time doing this because most of these things that are going on are not conscious in their mind. You need to find a way to empower them and help them to understand that they are in control, not being manipulated or forced to undergo the actions being performed upon them.
I know this sounds like almost an impossible order to do with someone on the table but there have been so many times that I've struggled with this. It isn't fun for me, to have to deal with the anger and all of the other stuff that comes up in situations like this. It doesn't go away quickly or easily. My body in turn says, I don't really want to trust another person to touch me now and that is another issue that I have to then face and deal with. Granted, not everyone out there is an extreme case like my body is but everyone out there that has been through trauma of one form or another, experiences these same things to some degree.
You might have great intentions and you might be a compassionate, safe and supportive person, but without recognizing these things taking place before your eyes and hands, the person ends up with an experience of "hell" on the table instead of healing. They most likely will not even be able to acknowledge it in that moment or the next but their body will feel many of these things. They will be left to deal with stuff that is not only unpleasant but full of terror, pain, and connections to a not so nice time in their life.
On the positive side, if you can respect their requests and touch in a way that keeps them connected to the process while making sure you are able to not get frightened by all of these things, than you most likely could help that person in a big way. You would be able to help them walk along this frightening and scary journey in ways that many people can't. It isn't easy dealing with someone that has been very traumatized in their life but the right person, with the right touch and being connected to all that is going on, is a true and gifted healer.