When you learn about self care in massage school or read current articles on self care for massage professionals they teach proper body mechanics, proper posture, eat right, exercise, meditate or do some type of movement and of course getting regular massage to help stay grounded. While these things can help, they are really just the tip of the iceberg – the external components of self care. But knowing what things to do for self care and doing them are usually two different things. What leads you to take action or not take action is the underlying unconscious beliefs about whether you are worthy or need self care.
Self care is everything you do to take care of yourself in every way.
- Physical strength, flexibility
- Diet and Nutrition for energy and health
- Mental clearness free from drama and critical mindsets
- Emotional security and self confidence
- Financial self care making more than you spend, saving and having enough money for self care and running your business
- Spiritual or connections with others
Being financially responsible is one such method of self care which usually is not mentioned in self care classes/articles. Having the money that you need to live and run your business is the highest form of self care possible. The other way to take care of yourself is taking care of your personal needs for appreciation, love and nurturing. When you combine the two things you won’t have to worry about body mechanics or how hard you work on clients or working more than the agreed upon time.
Helping has a way of bringing up our unmet needs. It shows up in counter-transference. The reasons why massage therapists want to help others is usually filled with unconscious unmet needs and old feelings. Counter-transference influences the client interactions and the healing process sometimes hindering it. When you are in a state of counter-transference , projecting your old issues and feelings onto a client it can cause you to lose the objectivity you need to see the client clearly and hear the client clearly. See also: Why do you help?
The best thing you can do to take care of yourself is to become more conscious of your unmet needs and repressed/suppressed feelings so that you can be more present in your massage sessions for your clients. That is what they pay you for really. Your unmet needs and old emotions are what get projected onto others and onto clients in the form of counter-transference. I have written about counter-transference before here.
Your unmet needs and old emotions are projected into your practice, your money issues and your personal relationships. Self care that addresses these issues and helps you to become more aware of these issues can often reduce the physical stress of doing massage. The more you take care of yourself in that way, the more confident you become in asking for what you need and creating boundaries to take care of yourself in the client/massage therapist relationship.
In simple terms, projection happens when you are not aware of your feelings or needs so you ‘project’ them onto someone else. Projections can cause reactions such as always giving advice to a client. To become more present means to be able to feel the feeling that is causing the projection (are you following this? It is hard to understand since it is unconscious.)
Remember – this is an unconscious process. Everyone is unconscious most of the time. Since it is unconscious you are not aware of what you are really doing. Becoming more conscious is a very complex process. We live our lives with many blind spots. Some people won’t even believe they are doing something unconsciously because it seems so real. It is real.
The way to track your thoughts and beliefs is through your feelings and becoming more aware of them.
Supervision and peer supervision can help you to become more self aware. Supervision is not someone telling you what to do in the regular definition of supervision in the workplace. Supervision is the process of working with a more experienced massage therapist in order to understand your practice issues more and help you become more aware of yourself.
Working with a skilled psychologist can also take you deeper into your old patterns of behaving onto can do wonders for your massage practice and personal life. Since all relationships start in transference and the therapeutic relationship has a way of intensifying that transference it is important to find out more about your unmet needs. For the most part all we can do is grieve the loss of never having had them met as it is too late to get them met. Then it is a matter of taking personal responsibility for yourself and actions. The more you take care of yourself, your unmet needs and deal with the emotions, the more present you are able to be in your sessions and be there for clients. The more you take care of your internal self the easier it is to do those external self care things like setting boundaries around your time and financial needs.