How can Massage Therapy be of any help to women who suffer from abuse? After a few minutes of persuasive conversation from a friend, I accepted an invitation to participate in a group chat about domestic abuse. She understood that my contribution might have no straight line to the issue at hand, but she wanted me onboard anyway. It was breathless for a moment. Each person had to express their opinion on Family violence, Domestic violence, Gender violence, Intimate relationship violence, Violence against women and girls. All having increased during the period of this crisis. I struggled. How are they different? Seems like all are intimate relationship abuse to me because we are dealing with touch which is intimate. On the other hand, considering that we are ever ready to own and sometime publicize our successes, what makes us decide that our perceived mistakes or failures are the doings of someone or something outside of us? Is it not disempowering to give someone else the authority in our minds/lives even though it is for something negative?
Some of the thoughts I shared…
Family violence is perpetuated by a member of one’s family or by anyone with whom one is ‘familiar’. As a child, my older sister was the self-appointed mother when our parents were at work. Some of the activities she decided on required my support. When such was not forthcoming, there was always a wooden clothes hanger at her hand reach that would whip my ass to into tearful, yet enthusiastic participation. Does violence by children of the same parents against children of the same parents counts as family violence? And what about that family friend who is popular with the family who ekes out time and space to molest his/her favourite child of the home on every visit without being suspected of ill behaviour? Oh, and the children who abuse their parents. I know of three children younger than 8 years old who abuse their mother and she cannot seem to bring any discipline to the situation. Meanwhile, she abuses her mother emotionally and financially. Meanwhile, her mother abuses her own mother who is elderly and passively submits to the situation. Four generations perpetuating the familiarity of the abuse they have all come to know.
Domestic violence speaks to abuse occurring at one’s place of abode regardless of who perpetuates it. There was a man known for giving his wife the soundest of beatings whenever he visited his mother then came home. Someone said the mother-in-law ‘put him so’ because she did not like his wife. After 7 or 8 children together she still struggled with this problem. One night she ran out of the house. Well, it was not the first time she did. Neighbours were used to the sight of her running up the road with him on her heels. Her physical condition at the time, like pregnancy, may slow her down. But in the end, he gets her and brings her back. This particular night she ran into Redman’s yard, and house. Hubby entered the yard calling his wife out. Redman pulled a cutlass, went to the door and threatened him. He eventually left the man’s yard. Redman made the wife comfortable. Shower, dinner, satisfying talk, and later showed her what love is. Next day she returned home and functioned as a wife. Turned out the next pregnancy produced a baby whose complexion was much much lighter than his siblings. Redman’s. More problems and beatings, but the child grew as part of the family. Redman eventually took his son because he began getting licks for more than just childish mischief. Redman swore that he might have to kill the step-Dad for ill-treating the boy. By default, whenever the mother wanted to see her red son, she had to go to by Redman where there was always a shower, dinner, satisfying talk and some more demonstrations as to what exactly love is. Is Redman abusing her in a different way?
Gender violence tends to connote abuse arising from discrimination against one’s sexual orientation. We can think of the child or adult suffering beatings, bullying, or harassment in general because they are different in ways that their community does not favour. Some of us feel we were born into the wrong family and eventually find associations more suitable. The same can felt about the body we are in. I know girls who whistled, climbed trees, and kept company with boys. They were called tomboys and were threatened and beaten at home as push factors to correcting their behavior towards something more ladylike. Young ladies were called ‘dykes’ out loud in public to impose guilt about them preferring female company…in that way. In the village boys planned to ambush, and did, those other boys who behaved effeminate. It was a favorite pastime. A way to assert and secure their masculinity? And if we are not homophobic, could we consider under this category the man who lives with two sisters? He has dated them since they left secondary school. He is married to one. They each have three children for him. The married one can go to the USA and back. No problem. The unmarried on could get a cut ass if she spends too long at the shop down the road. Violence has no gender.
Intimate relationship violence speaks for itself, but I’d like to consider also those in same-sex relationships. A male homosexual couple who fought long and hard for recognition later fought each other after they had ‘put a ring on it’ and moved in together. The dominant party might have had some boxing experience, so the other truly suffered. Would he get the same redress as a woman if he reports his situation to the Police? He opted for suffering in silence while presenting his smiling face to members of the public. And there is the Preacher who beats his wife, declares their marriage a mistake, but stays in the relationship celebrating anniversaries. Whenever the family appeared in Church they were the picture of unity. Who is to believe complaints from his wife? Folk ‘know’ he is not that kind of man. It would be mischievous of her to air her laundry in public when she could pray and learn to love her husband better. Oh, and what about those who use lovemaking as a tool to get information? They want to know the ‘truth’ about where you were, or what you did, or something they consider important, and your climax is dangling until the answer meets their satisfaction. They stop gyrating just when you’re about to have a climax. Now answer the question. Question answered. Wining resumes. You get comfortable. Oops! Next question.
Violence against women and girls can fall anywhere on the spectrum. I spoke with a woman who has an aversion to Police Officers. She experienced sexual abuse in her home as a child all the way to early adulthood. On one occasion the Police was called in during her teens. The responding Officer came to the home and found her to be so beautiful and vulnerable and damn sexually appealing that he could not help himself and raped her too. In another scenario a girl approached me selling pimentos. She was barefooted and wore a little spandex pants and a vest. She did not say she was abused and needed me to rescue her. She was politely asking for a sale. I had no need of pimentos so I declined. Herself and two sisters are pimped out by their brother. It is known in the village. I had seen her from the distance before, but this was the first time close up. She stirs my maternal instincts. The next time I saw her close I was walking along the beach when I heard sounds. There she was attending to a young man, her original pimp whom she apparently perpetually owes. He is shameless, and so are her parents, and the broad daylight visitors who get their blowjobs on the gallery. What do we mean by say something if you see something? Who better to ‘say’ than herself, her parents, and her clients?
Before we get twisted over who’s to blame, we can consider violence against anyone from a psychological/meta-physical perspective. There is the presumption that a person cannot be made to do anything which is contrary to their real nature. If we do not know ourselves, how do we then know that what we have done against our will is not also part of our nature? When the power of suggestion is considered, we realize that there are folk in our lives making suggestions all the time in attempts to position us on one side of the spectrum of good/evil or the other. The physical violence in the life of a person has roots in the conversations/suggestions planted by parents, spouses, friends, etc. They have spent years elevating that pure woman to sainthood or reducing her to prostitute. The thing is that neither can happen if their suggestions do not find congenial soil within her. Suggestions can fall into the categories of auto, conscious, or hypnotic, but they all aim at a mark in the conscious mind and do not become operative until it is reached. Hence we can consider all forms of violence as first being a psychic attack. The mind operates outside of time and space as we understand them. When we think of a person, in the mind we are with that person. The clearer we can picture them, the closer they are to us, so that being in the mental vicinity of a person is literally visiting with that person. When the Police Officers and the Courts would have separated victim and abuser, they later find a separation was never made because they continue to hold each other in their minds and emotionally/physically respond to those memories.
Suggestion does not make its appeal to consciousness, but to the springs of action in the sub-consciousness from which it can then manipulate the consciousness. The subconscious mind belongs the phase of our evolution prior to the development of speech. To address it in words is like speaking to a man in a language he does not understand; sign-language is the effective tool. What pictures are we seeing in our leaders and the media that continue to feed our sub-conscious mind in a way that provokes it to violent behavior? We are wasting time with the phrases we see posted in public spaces about stopping violence against women. They do not have the desired effect on the part of the consciousness of the person who is perpetuating it. Advertisers need more than good intentions and would be better advised by their local Psychiatrists and Psychologists. Auto-suggestion implies that the individual, both abuser and abused, has a mental picture of the situation which they sub-consciously hold onto and it is eventually acted upon. Harsh, but true. It originates in our own consciousness. Conscious suggestion on the other hand, originates in the mind of another and is conveyed to our mind by the spoken or written word. If the other person knows us well, they can couch those words so that our censors do not block them out.
Hypnotic suggestion is where I think the Massage Therapist has some latitude because we facilitate some degree of relaxation, and this form of suggestion works well during such, and better still, during sleep. If we understand this we will make good effort to keep our speech positive and uplifting throughout the massage session. Especially when clients choose to use this time to recount all the distress and injustice they have experienced for the week, or over their lifetime. Our positivity keeps the balance. Positive touch in a non-judgmental space with a non-judgmental attitude, as against the negative touch and environment of abuse. To put on our headphones and listen privately to music could be facilitating the client drowning in their negative auto-suggestions. But I would understand if we don’t think that is our problem. When the person is relaxed or asleep, suggestions are able to bypass the usual censors and enter the subconscious mind. I saw a movie in which a couple was making love and the woman kept asking the man to talk ‘dirty’ to her. It’s stimulating. She was making suggestions to him that would eventually play themselves out outside of their lovemaking. And would she act surprised when the pit bull decides it no longer desires the cage of lovemaking for expression? He wants to curse and slap her anywhere because it gives him a rush. Her hypnotic suggestions entered his subconscious mind directly, without impinging upon consciousness at all, because of the moment in which it occurred. This man may then enter another relationship and seek to play out the embedded suggestions. His new partner can abandon ship, play God and try to save him from himself, or get couple’s therapy to explore the implantation and how to move forward harmoniously.
Another point I made in the group discussion is that we need to understand our aura as a defense mechanism. There is no entrance to our soul, or psyche if you may, until the aura is pierced. As we see, if suggestions are used as weapons and we are aware, we can remain closed to the attack. But when they are worded so we agree in a playful moment or question ourselves, they penetrate and make mischief. However, the aura if often pierced from within. We open to the offender through fear, which we can call our self-preservation instinct, or through desire which is our sexual instinct. If complaining on the abuser will negatively impact our livelihood, social status, etc., our self-preservation instinct will kick in and prevent us. If we find the abuser desirable, he/she is the go-to person for great lovemaking and the other romantic things we desire, then our sexual instinct will prevent us. Meanwhile the Counsellors, Social Workers, etc., have difficulty helping to break the ties between the two people because they are often bound together on an invisible level. It is easy to say they bound by the trauma/pain, and maybe genuine affection for each other, yes, but it will always be more than that. So while there is gratitude for the policies and procedures in place to curb domestic and the other forms of violence, to me time needs to be spent with the ‘victims’ in a non-judgmental space/way helping to build their self-awareness which is an effective tool for inhibiting their instinctive emotional reactions and keeping their aura impenetrable.
Honesty about the dysfunction/abuse in our ancestry, in our family during childhood, and in the lives we have carved out for ourselves can help us to see the lessons we needed to learn and bring them forward while leaving the baggage of the pain behind. No need to forget. We remember in order to hold the wisdom near. As we heal from within through better choice of foods and other holistic practices we heal those parts of our DNA that keep perpetuating the dysfunction and we learn to stop self-sabotaging. We make deliberate effort to experience growing like the lotus out of our muddy situations. We gradually reduce the need to deflect every time we feel triggered. Abuse victims hold guilt and shame rather than speak out and actively get the help needed to change their situations. They enter new relationships, eat poorly, seek out religion to hide rather than reveal. I know no one who is untouched by some form of abuse. Yet we talk like it is something out there. Let us acknowledge the truth of our position and be gentle with ourselves as we release the anxiety of inevitable change rather than let that anxiety catapults us into panic which then loops us right back to the arms of the thing we know most, abuse. We must learn to sit with ourselves. Write down the lies we’ve been telling ourselves. Create appropriate boundaries. Deliberately redefine love, beginning with love of self and maybe we won’t put so much effort into bending over backwards for approval from voices outside ourselves. It can take years.