Being Skeptical in the Massage profession

The definition of a skeptic is someone who thinks about and question things. Many definitions will include the word doubt…people who doubt things. People will say “I am skeptical or I am doubtful” about that. Skepticism goes beyond doubt and requires that you understand Science and understand pseudoscience and critical thinking. The scientific method is the most valuable tool we have for collecting and analyzing information.

Skeptic magazine defines skepticism as:

 “. . . . a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas — no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position. . . . .”

As I was researching the meaning of skepticism and looking for various levels of skepticism…I found this which really appeals to me:

 “I am not so much a skeptic as skepticism is what I do”. I have a skill set. I have a method of examination that I apply to things that are important to me, but I am free to be tied to an idea, a claim, or a situation by nothing but my emotions, if I so desire. ~What is Skepticism, Blog of the Houston Skeptic Society.

You can be skeptical about what the car salesman tells you, what the ads tell you about a product and what your massage school teachers say about how and why massage works. Skepticism undermines belief — the belief that you trust the car salesman or the companies in the ads or your massage school training.

There are some people in the massage profession who seem to have this rigid view of what it means to be skeptical. It often comes across as bullying, meanness and they think of changing everyone over to their way of thinking as a battle. They think they have been put in charge of straightening out those who do not yet understand Science Literacy. They seem to think that Science is the end all be all to everything. They come off as uncaring and don’t acknowledge that their methods of delivering the message creates most of the problem. When people are feeling attacked, stressed and unheard, they respond with defensiveness and are not usually thinking straight, which leads to a breakdown in communication.

A Skeptic Looks Like …

In the end, my skeptical attitude was boiled down to a simple equation, the answer to which could be both an endpoint and a new direction that meets ethical obligations to patients. This equation should really be at the beginning.

If you can’t scientifically support the claim, don’t make the claim.

What does a skeptic looks like. Monica Noy.

Levels of Learning to be Skeptical or different types of skeptics

This list is just my observations from my interactions with skeptics and readings.

Level 0 – Accept everything taught in massage school as solid information. Most thinking is based on beliefs that were ingrained in childhood. The information in massage school that is handed down based on tradition rather than evidence The scientific method is not used as a way to analyze information. They have not been taught to question things and do not have any reason to do so. This actually is one of the most common and it comes naturally.

Level 1- Starting to Understand the process of science, logical fallacies and the scientific method and are questioning what they are taught in massage school. Just understanding the process does not make you a skeptic, but gives you the tools to start questioning supposed facts. Understand that some types of massage are not scientifically backed like reflexology, energy work, cupping, polarity therapy, craniosacral therapy, but may still practice these methods using the old or new narratives. At this level, many are able to spot logical fallacies, faulty reasoning, and inadequate evidence in the arguments of our ideological opponents, but are much less able to apply the same skills to arguments made by those of their own ideological persuasion. It is mainly an unconscious process and when provided with evidence, it is often made out to be classified as for or against the held belief. We are selective in our skepticism. After all, it is nearly impossible to go through the critical thinking process with every thing that we are faced with in our daily lives.

Level 2- Skeptics — Reject most everything taught in massage school and go on to learn more about massage therapy, science literacy, research literacy. Teach new methods of inquiry and believe that science is the best way we have to question things but it is not the be all end all way of living and being. People often become more aware of their own biases on issues. At this level, skeptics are able to apply skepticism and critical analysis not only to everyone else, but also to themselves and our their own beliefs, preconceptions, and thought processes.

Level 3 – Hard core-Skeptics that reject most everything taught in massage school and believe that science is the be all, end all to everything. They often feel it is their job to correct people who are not true skeptics according to their definitions. They Focus on sh*t massage therapists say instead of teaching them what to say instead. Science is the be all end all and there is no room for error or learning.

Level 4 – Believe all massage is quackery and will not ever go to massage school or maybe have and have quit and they won’t go get massage as it is seen as a waste of money. True skeptics would not be massage therapists or getting massage of any kind.

Why be a skeptic or skeptical?

We are bombarded with information on a daily basis. Weeding through it all is nearly impossible. From deciding which massage table to buy, what phone to buy to all of the information taught in one year of massage school…its a lot of information to always be questioning everything. Don’t even start with the media and politics.

Testing assumptions over human authority led to greater understanding, innovation, and creativity. We also do not really know much about massage therapy and how or why it works and this uncertainty often leaves us feeling unsettled. It is often more difficult to say we don’t really know and easier to just go along with the explanations.

You probably have a nice career in massage either working for yourself or being an employee and find that what you do is working. You see it all the time on your massage table, when they leave, when they come back and report and you get plenty of massage too yourself, so you just know it works—right?

When we start thinking more and asking questions, skepticism can lead to better problem-solving, innovation, and creativity! It also helps develop our abilities to think critically about the world around us. (Just imagine if everyone did this —would the country be as divided as it is? Would the massage profession be as divided as it is?)

Start asking yourself:

  • What makes you think this way?
  • What assumptions have you based your claim upon?
  • What facts or research support your ideas?
  • Are there facts or studies that dispute your claim?
  • What’s the other side of this story?
  • Is this one person’s story or does it apply to thousands of people?
  • Is there an underlying belief or assumption being made that reflects this reporter’s ideology?
  • Excuse me- Exactly how does that work? Laura Allen

There is also the question —what is in it for me? How will it help my business, career or massage practice? That information is not coming through in the massage profession. (I have been asking this since about 2010 after attending my first research conference. See the post — to the massage researchers.)

What is missing in Skeptical Massage Therapists groups/posts.

If you are on Facebook, I am sure you have seen it— skeptical massage therapists who are mean and attack your claims. They say they are not being bulies and it is just that people hold on to their claims so tightly and they are part of belief systems so it can seem painful to have them challenged. Yet when people feel it is personal, they shut down to further discussion. If you read this whole series of articles, going back to the part about rhetoric in the Science Literacy article:

If you offend your audience, your audience members won’t listen to what you have to say. . ~ Argument and audience at Excelsior Writing Lab

 Rhetoric aims to study the capacities of writers or speakers needed to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations

If you are trying to convince someone of your scientific evidence or persuade someone that their claim is wrong, you need to have 3 things :

Ethos – people have to trust you. You create trust by telling stories and being compassionate.

Pathos- your persuasive argument must appeal to their emotions. Why does this bother you so much? What examples have you seen on how false claims have hurt the profession and public? How did you once believe and even say some of the same stuff now labeled as sh*T massage therapists say?

Logos- Logic. It needs to make sense from the LISTENERS point of view. You know they are going to be triggered, so why not ask questions first like: why do you believe that? What have you seen in your practice? Could there be other explanations for what happened or your theory?

The book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Amazon affiliate link) outlines 6 steps:

Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion :

  • Reciprocation- Be the first to give and to ensure that what you give is personalized and unexpected. People will be nice if you’re nice to them.
  • Commitment and Consistency -People like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done. If you ask people to state their priorities and goals and then align your proposals with that in mind, you make it harder for people to say no.
  • Social Proof – Rather than relying on our own ability to persuade others, point to what many others are already doing, especially many similar others. People will more likely say yes when they see other people doing it too. This is amplified in situations of uncertainty, where we look to others for cues on what we should do.
  • Liking – People prefer to say yes to those that they like. We like people who are similar to us, we like people who pay us compliments, and we like people who cooperate with us towards mutual goals. You prefer to comply with requests from people you like more than from people you don’t like.
  • Authority – it’s important to signal to others what makes you a credible, knowledgeable authority before you make your influence attempt
  • Scarcity – It’s not enough simply to tell people about the benefits they’ll gain if they choose your products and services. You’ll also need to point out what is unique about your proposition and what they stand to lose if they fail to consider your proposal.
  • Unity

Backed by Dr. Cialdini’s 35 years of evidence-based, peer-reviewed scientific research—including a three-year field study on what leads people to change—Influence is a comprehensive guide to using these principles to move others in your direction.

  1. Science Literacy
  2. Metaphysics, Magical Thinking
  3. Traditional Medicine
  4. Science vs Pseudoscience
  5. Critical Thinking
  6. What gets in the way of critical thinking?
  7. Logical Fallacies
  8. Scientific Method
  9. The Art of Massage
  10. Being Skeptical in the Massage Profession