Understanding Projections for Massage Therapists

My concept of the $100,000 massage practice and the ‘wealthy massage therapist’ continues to bring mixed reactions. A few have emailed me privately saying I am full of crap but they don’t bother to say why or what their feelings are on the topic.

I have learned that when you are reacting to something so strongly and especially being moved to downright rude comments that it seems to have triggered something deeply with in you and it is not usually directly related to the current situation but something from deep in your past.

Projections are basically unowned parts of ourselves that show up in our live in all relationships and aspects of our lives. They are such an important part of our work and the therapeutic relationship which is the basis of building a massage practice and being successful as a massage therapist. Projection in the massage therapy profession is called transference and counter-transference. It is important to learn to start understanding projections where ever they may occur in your life if you are serious about building a massage practice. Projections are a really deep and intense part of our consciousness and it requires a real intention to help discover and work through projections. Projections are unconscious which make them so difficult to see and understand.

Elliot Greene in his book “The Psychology of the Body” defines projection as:

an attribute, impulse, feeling or perception that actually belongs to an individual’s personality, but is not experiences as such by the individual. Instead, it is attributed to objects or persons in the environment, that is, not oneself, and is then experienced as directed toward the individual by those objects or persons.”

A.H. Alaamas, in his book “Diamond Heart: Book One. The Elements of the Real in Mans says this about projection:

Projection is one of the main defenses we use to avoid seeing the truth that lies inside us…. It is one of the first defensive mechanisms developed in infantile life…. When you are projecting you are actually acting at the pre-verbal, pre-conscious level.

Defenses are what are needed when you don’t have boundaries. Boundaries are anything that helps to differentiate you from someone else. They tell you where you begin and end. When you start to get mad at or blame others or react rather than respond somewhere your sense of self has been challenged. Your reactions are usually coming from that false self that was created in early childhood to protect yourself. The process of differentiation- of learning to be your true self – is achieved when you can learn to process these feelings from what you think and learning to hold on to those feelings and not react.

While I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, when you can say hmm… that sounds interesting but I think she is wrong and this is why and not get angry – you are feeling informed about something and not reacting – it usually isn’t a projection. If you are reacting and reacting intensely it is most likely a projection – meaning it is really a reaction about something else. This is especially the case when you feel like retreating and not even talking about it but when you prefer to just ‘leave’ or write rude comments or emails.

Studying and learning about yourself and your projections is a really big part of being a massage professional.  It helps keep you focused on the client and the therapeutic relationship.  Peer Supervision and Supervision can be helpful in this learning process.