I knew I was in there…!

Sometimes when a new client walks into my office I can feel their stress right away. Paula had come in because her mother kept pushing her to try Rolfing and felt that that it could help her cope with all the strain in her life at that time (an ongoing struggle over the terms of her divorce and child custody). She had resisted for a long time because she did not see how it would make any difference. Her resistance was palpable – her body was very tense and hurt almost anywhere I touched her. I am very careful in these situations not to tell people that this should not hurt (even though I was being very gentle).

So, as I often do, I began to explain that I absolutely believed that this hurt, but that I did not believe it was the pressure I was using on her belly that was hurting her, rather it was her reaction to it. To demonstrate I touched her on her shoulder with the same pressure and told her that this was the same pressure that made her almost want to jump off the table when I worked on her belly. She could hardly believe me – it felt like a quarter of the pressure. I assured her it was the same and told her that it was like if she was lying on a waterbed and I put a 50 lb. bag on her chest, she would feel the weight but it would be quite tolerable. If she were lying on cement and I did the same thing it might feel like 100 lbs. because there would be no give underneath her. If on top of that, she was tense and angry with life, it might feel like 200 lbs. I said that, depending on our attitude towards life at that time, a simple touch could feel threatening or invasive.

So, I asked her if I could try working on the same, painful place in her belly again with that in mind. She agreed to try. She did find that my pressure did not seem so intense and that if I was patient, she could slowly relax and let me in. Within minutes my fingers sunk in several layers deeper and her breathing slowed down. I felt her body drop into the table and she almost fell asleep. Eventually she opened her eyes and looked at me as if I had done some kind of voodoo. “How did you do that…!?” I told her that I hadn’t done anything; she had just changed her reaction to my touch. Rather than rejecting me, her body had invited me in and any resistance she had to me being there had evaporated.

From then on the session was very easy. We spent most of the time in silence, as she seemed to be thinking a lot about what was changing inside of her. When I asked her to stand up at the end of the session, she came to her feet and a look of shock and then delight came to her face. She kept walking around the room saying “Oh my God – oh my God…!” and then turned to me and exclaimed, “I knew I was in there! That person you saw come in the room an hour ago was not me. This is me!”

Many people come in for Rolfing feeling like their body just doesn’t feel right, as if they just don’t feel at home there anymore. When they stand up after a dramatic session, their body may feel quite different at first but then I see the glimmer of recognition as they recognize parts of themselves they have been missing for awhile and I can almost hear Paula say, “I knew I was in there…”

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