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No Man Is An Island

“No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” John Donne

Human beings do not thrive when isolated from each other, so shouldn’t the same be true for massage therapists? Massage is often times a pretty lonely profession. This is not something that will come up in your training, nor will it really be discussed in the class room. This is true because around 70% of ‘learning’ happens through experience (Charles Jennings, Founder 70:20:10 forum), on the job, in the massage room. It will dawn upon you once you are out of school and in the massage world, behind closed doors treating your clients, assessing their conditions, listening to their problems and stories, feeling pain some where in your own body and wondering what to do next?

This is one of the massage truths that school does not and cannot prepare you for.

No one really talks about it, the nerves that you feel when you are assessing your client and having applied all the ‘special tests’ that you can, written the most comprehensive notes that you ever have and still not knowing which way to go with your treatment.

Nothing really prepares you for the boundaries that will often be crossed by clients, who are not only allowing you to work on their bodies, but wanting to offload all their concerns and issues onto you in the hope that you will be able to relieve the aches of not only their physical selves but of their hearts and minds as well. 

And then there are the days when you know that you have a full day of massage ahead of you and you wake up with pain in your thumbs, shoulders, neck or lower back. The feeling of panic that you try to squash, the pain that you try to ignore and work through, the terror that creeps into your mind, knowing that unless you work no one is going to be paying you sick leave or any other sort of remuneration, until you are fit to work again. I know about all of these because I have been there, in each one of them and at those times I have felt alone. I feel qualified to share my experiences with you because they are just that, experiences I have had. And the odds are that for most of you reading this, you have had at least one of them as well.

And so the big question is, where do you go from here? How do you deal with these realities? Who do you talk to? Who do you share with? Who do you listen to? Three words my friends, another massage therapist!

Another massage therapist will not only listen, but really hear you. They will relate to your feelings. This will give you the feeling of validation that so often comes from sharing something that has been on your mind. The relief that comes when you have finally gotten it off your chest. First there will be that enormous weight lifted. And then will come their own stories, their wisdom, their advice.

From sharing you are likely to gain confidence, new skills and ideas, strategies and advice about how to manage these professional tests. You will feel less alone, less like that lonely island and more like part of the archipelago of the massage profession. This sharing between therapists is when ‘didactic moments can occur and allow seeds to fall on fertile ground’. This will in turn make you a far better therapist than you ever dreamed of being while studying. And the added bonus is that the experiences of the profession will inform not only your working but your personal lives as well. Many times I have commented that I wish  I could be as calm, assured and relaxed in the rest of my life as I am when treating clients in my massage room. 

The experiences of my work and the stories of others including my friends who are massage therapists, my teachers and mentors, my peers and my students are helping to make both my professional world and my personal world so much better.

And so to you MT’s reading this, reach out to each other. Share you stories, open your hearts and minds to allowing someone else to listen, guide or advise you. Most of the time you will not be disappointed. By virtue of the fact that we are massage therapists we are for the most part caring people. What a wonderful idea it would be if we could care just as much for ourselves and each other as we do for our clients?

Michelle Vassallo

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