Massage Psychology


On Monday I was out with a student doing massages for residents of a Home when I heard a jingle on the radio that Shadow, the Calypsonian, lent his voice to.  It was amusing.  After the amusement I asked why would anyone call themselves a shadow.  The word conjures dark shifting shapes in the mind.  To carry such a name for years must be quite a burden.  Days after, something else brought back the shadow concept and I decided to take a peep at Psychology for a better perspective on it.  I hesitated on the decision as I recalled years ago, in a Massage class, the tutor had the bright idea to give us an assignment on Charles Darwin.  My mind was anything but opened, so I never submitted the assignment.  The little I read made me feel conflicted on the inside and I had no desire to give up my concretized views just to write a few hundred words in defense of his theories.  Thankfully, the non-submission was not sufficient to disqualify me from receiving a pass grade.

So, I spent some time with Uncle Carl – the Jung fellow.  Some pronounce the J as J, others pronounce it as Y.  Either way, he was of the view that the Shadow is the part of us that takes full responsibility for our lives.  Okay, that immediately allows me to appreciate the Calypsonian taking on such a name.  The shadow is considered everything in us that is unconscious, repressed, undeveloped, and/or denied – the dark rejected aspects of our being.  But this is not necessarily bad, as it holds positive undeveloped potential when we consider that there can be no shadow without light.  Hence we cannot know ourselves without having faced our shadow.  So the first step is to take 100% responsibility for our lives.  Difficult, eh?  It is easier to continue to play the blame game.  Without having spoken to the Calypsonian I will let myself believe that in his efforts to answer the charge of “Know Thyself” he devised a way to help him to remain conscious of the need to take responsibility for his life by accepting the name Shadow.  Reasonable.

Well, I couldn’t just stop there.  I sort of tripped through a hoop so I decided to look around and found that if we denied our shadow, we end up attracting our mirror images into our lives which shows up in our relationships.  Hmmm.  All this talk about the guy not being right for her, or the girl not being right for him is debatable as the ‘not right’ partner is the same person in another body with projected aspects of themselves that they personally do not care to display.  Hence the solution to lousy spouses is to face our shadow and our lousy partner will shrivel up and disappear out of our lives.  Ta-da!  I love this.  Better than my trip with Darwin.  Better still, this is not limited to spousal relationships, so our crazy jobs and business deals and twisted friendships…the whole lot of it is merely screaming that we need to touch base with our shadow side.  Does this mean that my sometimes wonderfully different clients are my projections because I have not been giving my shadow enough attention?  Think I need to find another theory.

Anyway, this mirror image has a tendency to be associated with our sexuality because ‘opposite’ has been ‘genderized’ which makes it stand out in spousal relationships as these epitomize opposites – the anima/animus.  What’s the difference between that and the Yin/Yang principle?  The Yin/Yang symbol has no genital, though it looks like two sperms doing a 69 position.  Maybe that position is more universal…and therefore better than slapping genitals onto them.  And maybe the differences in their colours symbolize how closely related our light and shadow selves are, which makes denial senseless.  So I got to thinking of my last diplomatic encounter.  He is a figure of authority in everyday life who is active and intellectual and maybe has some heroic experiences under his belt, but in the ambience of his hotel room he was displaying a weakened version of himself, helplessness if you will, so helpless that he implored me for help.  Instead facing his shadow, he wanted me to take responsibility for his life in the moment and give him what he felt he needed when in reality he knows and could give such to himself.  Maybe it was his anima relating to me, but I had no deal with his anima.  I went there based on a telephone call from him requesting a massage.  There was no conversation of meeting or entertaining his anima.  But, if massage is holistic, then why not treat the whole of the client…shadow, anima, and all?  I did not study Massage Psychology.  Anyone knows of any such programme?  Right, so I have a valid excuse for my ignorance on any such matter.  Amen.

He was wearing a wedding band, so I will let myself think that he is married…to a woman.  It could be that initially, he was her perfect hero because she displayed the ‘weaknesses’ that are considered feminine.  Over time, as he climbed the social ladder, so too did she and she may have ‘found’ herself and projected more self-esteem and intellectualism, so that she was no longer his ‘opposite’ which may have caused him adapt to manage the frustration of having two animus(es?) under the same roof, to the point where his anima has started acting out through him, but only in private.  Now we can understand why men beat their wives.  They are simply trying to keep their wives in subjection of the perfect anima role.  If they don’t stay there then the men would have to change into a femininish thing.  Gosh!  Why weren’t we told this all along?  It would have simplified much.  For starters, the Police would never get involved in domestic disputes, neither would the religious bodies, or in-laws, or friends…  Couples would just be left to fight it out and balance off their anima/amimus.

My concern is mounting for I am getting the impression that I somehow embody the anima of too many of my clients, so that they see me and recognize me as the mirror image of themselves and expect me to function as such.  Quite a lofty position to hold, but from the many reports I’ve had it seems that too many men are seeing their anima in too many different women.  And lest I seem to be picking on the men, vice versa applies with women, which means that the anima/animus concept definitely goes way beyond gender and would be more appropriately classified as energy so that the Yin/Yang concept is a better version, which also means that I can’t take my clients’ behaviour personal because it is the energy that flows through me that causes the attraction and not me in my physical self.  So I have to now spend time discussing with clients the need to get acquainted with their shadow as it is very possible that the continued repression of it is what often leads them to the seek of a massage treatment, and because massage is good at releasing bottled up energy they may express that release in a manner not to my liking and the session could end on a sour note.  But why should I go through all of that?  I was trained to manipulate muscles not psychoanalyse or treat momentary neurotic disorders.

And if we go with the theory that the resultant aggressive behaviour from the release of the repression is a cry to be comforted, then the clients who desperately engage in assault/battery should be embraced and spoken to in soothing tones until they stop daydreaming and come around to accepting the boundaries of my role.  And when exactly is that, within the same hour?  If this takes place after the treatment, who pays for the extra time that the psycho-drama would have lasted?  Is our position as Therapists really this precarious?  This then means I should not have left the diplomat in the state that – clutching at his straw – but rather I should have taken him back to bed and cuddle him until he felt better, or better yet, comforted him in the way he preferred, as the customer is always right, then quietly tiptoe out the door as he slept.  I think I am enjoying Psychology.  But seriously, in cases of aggression it is advised not to be confrontational, and while we me argue that we are not, our attempts to negotiate a way out of the situation takes place with the client’s conscious mind, which is naturally analytical, and could be perceived as verbal confrontation so he/she will keep rebutting our excuses for not doing what they want us to do.  So we have to bypass that and appeal to their unconscious mind.  A mellow tone can be comforting and allow access to the unconscious mind to which we can then express our willingness to understand the root cause of the client’s behaviour, maybe not today, but in the next session when we are more prepared.  (And once we’re out the door, run like hell and never take a call from them again.)  The client might not agree to look at the root cause on another occasion, but might decide on right here and now, expressing how it was the way the Therapist touched them, or the appealing appearance of the Therapist that triggered their behaviour.  Hence it is the Therapist’s responsibility in the moment to resolve the matter, finish it, as I was told.  Failing to do so, aggression, or more of it is displayed.  I’m saying aggression, but as said before, it’s merely the client’s attempt at an anima/animus connection and at that level aggression is not necessarily perceived, though physically displayed.   Gentle recommendation could be made for the client to talk to someone they trust, as directly suggesting a Psychologist could be seen as an insult.

So we have the shadow and the anima/amimus parts of us, and we also have the persona – our public relations officer, our mask that is socially acceptable.  Going back to the diplomat, it might be his persona that called my number and requested a massage, which explains why I went over as he had spoken in appropriate terms.  We don’t like to admit it, but asking for a massage is a ‘socially acceptable’ way of requesting sex, and though we say “innocent until proven guilty,” it’s really the reverse, so that a Massage Therapist is presumed to offer sexual services unless proven otherwise.  So I showed up at his door and his persona greeted me with socially acceptable behaviour, but after a few moments when he felt he had me all summed up, and all the parts of his ‘self’ felt comfortable with me, his anima sneaked out and sought to bond with my animus.  In future I would have to go to work with less of myself as I would have to leave my animus at home.  It’s like you’re taking your dog for morning strolls and having to deal with other dogs trying to bond with your dog.  Eventually you’ll stroll by yourself and leave the dog tied in the yard.  We now have to wonder if those Therapists who mechanically carry out their routines left their dogs at home, and though their hollowness is sensed, the persona covers for that with a pleasant personality.

As we would imagine, the persona carries the personality as well as our thoughts and beliefs, and that combination is all we need to impress others, no need to pay attention to the rest of ourselves, it lets us pretend for years, even with those with whom we share intimate relationships, and it could take forever for the ‘real’ us to shows itself.  Given the effectiveness of massage in quieting the mind, the unconscious mind, which does not perceive time as we consciously do (which is why we could take a nap and feel like we had a long sleep) can create the perception of having known the Therapist for a long time though it might be the first meeting, and a level of comfort in created from within the client’s mind that allows him/her to expose aspects of themselves that they would not usually do.  We really hold a privileged position to be allowed to see a client express vulnerability, but our limited training does not allow for dealing with that, so maybe, instead of burdening us with the tiny detail of Anatomy and Physiology, Massage courses should have a strong Psychology bias so that Therapists could spend more of the consultation time ‘classifying’ the personality of the client and be better prepared for the drama that might ensue as they experience the various stages of release during the massage.

Well, what had me floored is when I stepped back a bit earlier in time to peep at Jung’s former Teacher…Freud, with his theories of the personalities being classified as oral, anal, and genital.   Of all the connotations he picked those.  Let’s look at this together.  Oral personalities derive pleasure from putting thing in their mouths – nail biting, smoking, eating, a fondness for oral sex, etc.  In the case of the latter, being not exactly socially acceptable, the person who does such is taking responsibility for what he/she desires, while the person who hides behind a telephone call requesting a blowjob is seeking to project their oral desire onto someone else because they don’t have the guts to perform such without feelings of guilt.  Hence we should pay attention to where and how our spouses touch us as they are really sending us messages of what they want us to do to them.  And by the same token, clients are presumed to pay attention to the way that they are touched by the Therapist and often desire to return the favour.  Anyway, oral personalities are said to be optimistic and generous if their early oral experiences were abundant and pleasurable.  If they were left to cry without food, or weaned to early, they grow up to be pessimistic and aggressive.  Tell me more…  Anal personalities are fairly straightforward; they are divided into the anal-expulsive personalities who are expected to be compulsively untidy and pliant, and the anal-retentive personalities who are orderly, but obstinate and miserly.

Then we have the Genital personalities, which extend into the anima/animus concept, who may have adulthood relationship troubles stemming from a fixation on the parent of the same sex.  The idea is that a girl might love her father, but hate her mother, as she is her direct competition.  Vice versa is applicable to boys.  While it is a parent/child relationship, Freud argues that sexuality is intricately entwined in the relationship because it is so entwined in the personality.  Now we can appreciate children’s difficulty with step-parents, and if we take the moral high ground, we can also appreciate why the participation of both parents is considered necessary for the balanced upbringing of a child.  As if I hadn’t read enough of this I was in a taxi going to work when the driver and a passenger began speaking of change, and how the population wants change from the government, but no one wants to change themselves.  The driver said people are just plain evil.  “Not like you and me, eh, but people reaal evil.  Look, this week I read on de papers how a man rape he mother.  Gaad, boy!  I could neva do dat.  Don care how good my mother look, I can’t do dat.  Nah, boy!  He been mining dat long.”  Hmmm.  Is the driver in denial?  And with all the Psychologists in the penal system, would they invite the rapist for sessions geared at rehabilitation, or would he be tucked away in a jail cell?  It’s a pity Freud isn’t alive today to defend those among us who are victims of their own personality, and who society dares to call criminals.

And while we would wish to choose the least of the three evils – oral, anal, genital – the personality is technical, very technical, so we are deemed to have traits from all of them embedded in us; no wonder we try to escape our shadow.  It might help to keep standing in the light, and ensuring that the light is directly above, so that the shadow is kept small.  But no matter how small our shadow is, buried in it are the traits that we don’t care to be classified by.  And if we realize that our clients called us up to help them unwind their deep dark knots, it might be okay (if we watch our tone) to advise them to consider having a relationship with someone who possesses more than just visual appeal.  They could try for ‘trustworthiness’ and ‘open-mindedness’ as the main traits, as they would want that person to be tolerant of their unmasking and facilitate the exploration their fantasies.   And if the homework is done at home, then Therapists would not be made to feel violated by suggestive utterances and behaviours from clients who are ‘testing’ to see if they can be their true selves during the session.  Believe me, most of us don’t care to know our clients that well.  Keep yourself to yourself.