Vulnerability: Adventures in Massage and Trust
I have been getting more massages lately.
I was on the table this week, and was struck by how brave a person has to be to get a massage.
Yes, I'm serious. Brave.
To have a full body massage is a very personal, deep, sometimes emotional experience, taking place while another person (whom frankly you don't know THAT well) is sitting behind you with their hands on your head.
It's being naked and not 100% sure what they're doing with your limbs, or why.
It's opening yourself up and receiving another person's energy, be it good and clear or...not.
Letting another human being refill my energy well feels very much like doing trust falls at camp: it's uncomfortable, nerve wracking, and seems like it should be easy but it is NOT.
One of the greatest ironies of this industry is that we, as massage therapists, recommend our clients receive massage an average of once a month (more often if injured), but most of us go HUGE stretches of time between receiving bodywork ourselves.
I once went 10 months between massages for myself. This was a time when I was going to work alongside a staff of LMTs everyday. My contacts list was jam-packed with bodyworkers with whom I could trade, all just a text message away. Yet, I did not "find" the time.
Vulnerability was the culprit. Or rather, fear of vulnerability.
The act of getting a massage is, in so many ways, an act of trust. Getting on a massage table says:
"I trust you to take care of me, and respect my body."
"I trust your judgement, skills, and expertise to give me the help I need."
"I trust you not to transfer anything onto me, simply because I'm here."
Sadly I have experienced many massages that fell short of those expectations, as basic as they are.
Like the time someone did not respect my boundaries, and worked WAY too close to a region they should not have been anywhere near.
Like the time I was ignored when I spoke up about things being uncomfortably painful, lectured on why it's necessary and told I just needed to go with it, and they ended up injuring me.
Like the time a therapist began to talk about her daughter's passing during my massage and her ensuing new responsibilities as caregiver for her grieving grandchildren, putting me in the position of awkwardly scrambling for consoling words from inside the stuffing of the face cradle cushion.
Side Note: As an empath, forced emotional labor is actually more draining and threatening to me than those other experiences. I actively have to put up walls just to walk through a grocery store without getting overwhelmed. Lying on the table is an act of opening up. To have a person take advantage of that opportunity to unload their rage, grief, ego, or sadness onto me...not okay.
That 10 month gap between massages was entirely due to my lack of trust with anyone I knew at that time to really, truly, take care of me.
The good news is I've found some incredible therapists with skill, integrity, and happy good loving vibes that take fantastic care of me during our sessions. HURRAY!
Hence, I have been receiving more massage lately.
Lying on the table this week, feeling vulnerable, it occurred to me what I consider normal on the day to day (take off your clothes climb into this elevated hot pocket, smoosh your face in this pillow with a hole in it, wait silently) is in fact SUPER WEIRD in any other context, and takes some gumption to just go along with it.
As I was receiving some amazing neck massage, feeling all those amazing, glowing, a-little-bit-scary emotional feels during my session, practicing relaxing, surrender, trust, and enjoying the benefits of that work…I was inspired.
I'm taking this moment to thank anyone and everyone who has ever spent time on my table.
I am humbled by your trust in me.
I honor your bravery.
I deeply admire your commitment to allow help into your life.
Getting a massage is not an easy thing to do.
It takes time, it takes money, and it requires a self-love strong enough to overcome the fear of vulnerability.
I love you all for stepping up, and taking that gamble with me.
From the bottom of my heart, Thank You.