The Psychology of the Body is one of my most favorite massage related books. It is by Elliot Greene was a past president of AMTA at the time the NCBTMB was created. He wrote this book for massage therapists to help them understand how touch affects the emotions through the body and to teach massage therapists how to deal with the emotions when they come up in a session. Without proper knowledge and training a massage therapist may often be pulled into crossing the boundaries between massage and psychotherapy. Knowing what your scope of practice is and how to work with in it is touched on in the book but knowing the theories of how the body and the emotions work together can help you in keeping your boundaries clear. One of the ways to stay out of the psychological process is to remain focused on the body. Also having a network of psychotherapists to refer to and who also refer to you can help you to develop a safe practice.
Psychological defenses show up in the body in the way of armoring. Feelings take place in the body. The body is expresses the emotions or it can also suppress or repress the emotions. Tension in the body can reflect physical and emotional tension.
Massage requires a form of surrender, a yielding of focused control that opens the person to a greater depth of feeling and in turn a more profound sense of satisfaction in the present moment.
His book is a great information source for coming to understand how emotions come to be stored in the body and in muscle tissue. He explains the many theories of how our beliefs create our lives, how they are created in our personal histories, how defenses and armoring are created and many other concepts critical to understanding emotional release on the massage table.
Repression is the unconscious prevention of a feeling or thought from becoming conscious. Therefore we are not aware of repression within ourselves. The primary functions of these mechanisms are to minimize anxiety, protect the ego(sense of self) and maintain repression. Suppression is the conscious prevention of a feeling or thought from becoming conscious.
When emotions are suppressed or repressed they often become projections. It can be seen in many different aspects of the client/therapist relationship. Learning to recognize how projections come into our work with clients can help therapists to create the boundaries that they need so that they do not get caught up in the projections. Clients will often ask things like “what does that feel like to you” wanting confirmation of what they are feeling. Instead of answering what you feel, it is better to ask them what they feel in the muscle tissue or area.
Working with the body encompasses working with the whole person which is a combination of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. While working with the body can bring up any one or all of these parts, the main focus of the massage is still always the body.
Many other very important aspects of being a massage therapist are also discussed in this book:
- dual relationships
- sexual issues
- financial boundaries – charging for your work
- creating a therapeutic framework
- the bodymind connection
- why emotional release happens
- dealing with emotional release
- Armoring and how it shows up in the physical patterns and posture of the body as well as the size and shape of the body
- dealing with specific issues such as addictions, abuse, body image disorders
This book should really be required in massage school. If your school did not include it you can now take an online class in it to help you get the most out of it and apply it to your massage practice.