Saturday, September 5, 2015

Massage Anxiety

I can't tell you how many times I've had clients say to me, “I've been telling everyone all about you.” Or “I've told so and so he needs to come and see you but he just won't do it”.

Like anything else when we become excited about something that really works for us, its hard not to tell the world about it and expect everyone else to be as excited about that “thing” as we are. For many of us massage junkies, it's difficult to understand how someone would NOT like to get a massage.

So I have compiled a few ideas to think about the next time you are trying to “convert” your friends and colleagues to the wonderful world of massage therapy

The first thing to consider is that not everyone likes to be touched. Period. We live in a society where many people often grow up with really bad boundaries. People who been survivors of domestic violence, battery or sexual abuse, have a very difficult time with tactile stimulation because they've learned touch is not safe. If those individuals have never experienced a massage before, they have added anxiety about the idea of removing their clothes because they do not know what to expect from a massage session. Complicate that even more, with the stigma of “massage parlors”, that is massage services that covertly adverstise adult entertainment, prostitution services or “happy endings” or worse yet, human trafficking, and some people have a recipe for some very severe anxiety at the prospect of getting a massage at all, especially if they have been exposed to any bad publicity. If you open up a phone book in Southern California and look up massage you are immediately accosted by listing after listing of “XXX massage” ads.

One thing to keep in mind when referring your friends or associates, is that you don't always know what someone has been through. Consider for a moment, statistically one out of every three women in a room has been the victim of sexual abuse or rape. Take a look around your office or the coffee shop you are sitting in and do the math. That's a lot of women. And most of them have never said a word to anyone and you'd never know it to look at them. I imagine the statistics have probably gone up in the last decade. That quiet woman in your office building, that you think needs a relaxing day at the spa, may have more in her closet then you could possibly know about. There may be a good reason you are not getting the response that you would have hoped when you make your recommendation to her.

The second thing to consider is regarding men. Men seem to have a more difficult time in many cases trying a massage session for the first time because men are usually a lot more aware of the “parlor” industry then women are for starters. Either they have already tried those sexual services, OR, they may believe that massage is ONLY about parlor services because of the bad publicity they have been exposed to or may have been told about by other men. Additionally not knowing what to expect can feed the anxiety. Men also have the added concern of getting erections during a session especially if they don't get touched a lot at home. This can lead to many emotionally charged complications for a man on the table. He may feel ashamed that he can't control his response, he may be concerned the therapist will think badly of him or think he is a pervert, or he may feel like he is betraying his wife. Men who are relaxed and trusting in their massage sessions hardly ever have this problem, but men who have not had any previous experience of massage therapy may have to go through a learning curve about how they will physically respond to it at first especially if they have anxiety going into it.

You'd be surprised how many men there are that really don't want any other woman touching them but their wife. These are the kind of men that might need some additional reassurance from their wives that it is OK for them to seek massage treatment without being worried about offending their significant others. They may like the idea of getting a massage, but a sense of marital taboo, or anxiety about what to expect prevents them from making that call. It's important to be sensitive to these issues, because you can't force anyone to make the call no matter how badly their back is hurting. If these deeper taboo issues are fixed in the subconscious mind, they will have to be addressed in a way that can put the potential client at ease before they are willing to make the leap for a treatment session.

I recall a male client of mine who politely asked me to remove his name from my mailing list because he didn't want his wife knowing he was coming to see me. I was treating him for legitimate back pain, obviously I did not provide “illicit” services. He wasn't the one with the hang up about massage, his wife was. He felt that his wife's jealousy would cause more problems at home then he wanted to deal with if she found out, so he simply didn't tell her and he didn't want my newsletters in the mail. She didn't want any other woman “putting her hands on him”.

For those men who might be afraid of the wrath of their wives, my suggestion would be to buy your wife a gift certificate for a massage before you get a massage yourself. Have her come and see me (or whoever) first, before you make your appointment, that way she knows exactly what to expect from the therapist in the treatment room both for herself and more importantly for her husband. Then after her massage, consider taking her out for date night and buying her some flowers. It might go a long way toward re-framing her own idea of what getting a massage is all about, in a professional and clinically boundaried environment. If she feels she can be a participant in the pleasure of it with you, you might dissolve any potential jealousy issues or other insecurities that might come up around the issue. You have the potential to encourage trust because you are not hiding something, and you are also including her as a vital part of your pleasure experience. Your letting her know you are a team and that in her own personal experience the massage therapist is not the “other woman” and it is needless to feel the therapist is a threat. The added bonus is that with just a few considerations of this nature you might improve your relationship significantly and also make an investment in enhancing your intimacy and sex life. “Couples Massage” is a very trending thing now in many day spas. Couples can sign up to get a massage together in the same room at the same time with two therapists in the room working on each of you simultaneously.

Marital problems aside, at a subconscious level for “alpha” males, it can be disconcerting to find themselves in a physically “submissive” position, horizonal, and unclothed on a table. These are the kind of guys that I will usually never see on my table until they are “dead or dying”, meaning they have injured themselves so badly they are willing to try anything at that point regardless of their hang ups. Sometimes after that crisis experience they become believers and decide to keep coming back. Then they look back and regret waiting so long, now that they have come to understand the benefits of what I do. Sometimes, I don't see them again until they are dead or dying once again a year or two later after that tree falls on them or they ran their motorcycle off the side of the mountain.

For those of you who do not know what to expect, don't be afraid to ask questions or even ask if you can come and see the treatment room before you decide if you want an appointment or not. If you have doubts or concerns about what the protocols of treatment are, then discuss them with your therapist or spa manager before you make your appointment.

Many professional massage therapists are well versed in dealing with traumatic injuries, and also dealing with and facilitating emotional experiences for their clients during their massage treatments.

In the ten years I've been doing this for a living, I've seen a number of different scenarios and heard more stories then you can possibly imagine. So for those of us who have been doing this for a while, we are pretty good at navigating around any concerns you may have as a potential client where it regards your own physical and emotional experience of the massage session.

I have worked on sexual abuse survivors, victims of violent crimes, women who have been beaten and choked by their ex husbands, and others who have had negative experiences in institutional settings such as having their arms and legs tied or strapped to a bed and put in restraints. I have worked on clients who have experienced long term religious indoctrination about being body shamed, or abused. I have also worked on war veterans with PTSD. I have treated patients who were still in shock a few days after traumatic car accidents and who were experiencing severe pain. These are the kind of clients who have a very difficult time being touched for a number of different reasons, and who need to re-learn at a somatic level, the experience of safety and boundaries with touch therapy.

Massage should be a safe and pleasurable experience for everyone concerned. We can all do our part by making sure it stays that way and by simply showing a little sensitivity and curiosity as to what the resistance to the experience might be exactly. If you have some idea of what the resistance might be when you make a recommendation to a friend, you can be armed with a few strategic commentaries. Speaking for myself, you can tell them that it is perfectly acceptable for them to discuss their concerns with the therapist you are referring them to. They should know they are in control at all times, and they may stop the session at any time of their own discretion. For those with modesty issues, proper “draping” with the sheets even though you are unclothed, will be observed at all times during the session, the client will never be inappropriately exposed. For those who are really uncomfortable with the idea of undressing for the session, the removal of clothing is always optional, though it is easier without it. You can also refer your friend or co-worker to this blog article to hear it straight from me. Sometimes it takes one, two or three sessions to really educate a client to be comfortable and trusting, and once they do “get it”, they usually don't ever look back.

Visit the interior parts of the earth, by rectification thou shalt find the hidden stone

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