The Importance of Understanding How Massage Can Release Painful Memories and Emotions In Sensitive People


During the course of a long term illness I learned what a vital tool massage could be to help release painful memories and emotions. In this study I look at the stages which led to this understanding.

Massage may be a physical therapy but it works on an energetic level too, and it is vital for a therapist to understand this, if s/he is going to work with clients who are debilitated by illness. These clients are often very sensitive, and If the massage therapist is not aware of what is happening when pain is addressed and/or released, then the client will be distressed and misunderstand the results.

Our bodies can be viewed in two ways, as matter and as moving energy. Everything we do affects the flow of energy. Every one of the billions of atoms in our body contains enormous energy. Just as a relatively small nuclear warhead can cause so much devastation, so can blocked emotions when they explode into awareness. We can therefore understand that massage is going to have a huge effect on the energy body and not least in emotional release.

Whenever we have not fully expressed an emotion, we hold it in our bodies. Look at a tiny baby. In the course of a day s/he will have expressed every emotion under the sun........delight, joy, happiness, sadness, anger and anxiety. But look how the baby expresses the feeling, lets go and switches back to the present moment, never holding onto the emotion at all. The baby exudes Unconditional Love and see how flexible and relaxed her body is. But soon the baby learns that certain emotions are not acceptable and so she begins to repress her feelings and forgets how to let the energy of emotion pass through her body.

So what happens to it? It becomes lodged inside her, and it stays there until some incident triggers it, and on the back of it comes out all the other times she has felt the same way. Sometimes this is extremely frightening and so we feel we should not express our emotions at all, and then the pressure in our bodies increases and a physical symptom may appear. This may be a pain in the neck or stiffness in the bottom of the spine, a hunched back, a bad knee or a pulled muscle. At this point we may seek out a therapist to “cure” the problem. Without understanding the cause, however, we may find the problem simply recurs.

My first step to seeing this link came in the middle of the night, after I had been working with the six healing breaths of Qi Gong, which links breathing to body parts and specific emotions. When I awoke suddenly, I found intense anger coming out of the backs of my legs and my elbows. That was when I first sat up and noticed that specific emotions could be held in particular places in the body and that I needed to find ways to release so much that was inside me.

My next understanding, happened after several sessions with both a masseuse and a kinesiologist, both of whom had an uncanny knack of finding spots on my body that were so painful, it brought sweat to my brow when they were deeply massaged. This always followed a pattern. First came the acute pain, which eventually turned into a chronic pain, not quite so intense as the original. This faded into a sick and nauseous feeling, where there was an awareness of lack of balance. Quite quickly after this stage came a deep sigh and the pain rapidly diminished and often went altogether. At this point I usually accused the masseuse of not pressing as hard as before, but I was constantly assured that this was not the case!

One morning, when I woke up the day following one of these sessions, I felt very off balance and sick and nauseous. I knew I had overtaxed myself and I was about to criticise myself for never learning, when it came to me that what I was experiencing was a magnified version of how I felt in the massage session. In the massage sequence just described, this feeling came immediately prior to the sigh, which let go the emotion and which took away the pain. Suddenly I thought, Suppose this awful lack of balance means I am about to let go and release? I breathed deeply into the imbalance as I lay in bed, waiting for the emotion to rise. Sure enough the sigh came and I released whatever it was I was holding.

But you can see at once that, without this understanding, the massage session could easily be blamed for the debilitation the following day and, of course, this is partly true. It is important therefore for the therapist to understand what is happening and to be able to explain to the client at his/her own level, so that whatever ensues can be understood more clearly.

I had held this point of view for some time and had used massage for the purpose of emotional release to good effect, but the one thing I had failed to resolve, was when I actually pulled a muscle or a ligament as a result of a sporting injury. My mind kept telling me, This is different, this is an injury. Then came the event which changed my understanding and then I knew that there was no difference. All pain is the result of repressed emotion and there are no exceptions.

I was dancing at an end of week party on a Healing Skills Course, when I felt a ping in the back of my calf and I could not put weight on my left leg. My first thought was that my Achilles Tendon had gone again but I could raise the foot, so I knew that it could not be broken. As someone there could see on the energetic level, I asked what had happened. I was told that it was an injury to the muscle where the tendon inserted and not the tendon itself. I asked if the injury could be resolved on the energetic level by going into the pain and releasing it, and I was told it could. I began to put weight on the leg and massage the affected part. As I hit the pain I just allowed it to come out and observed it. Then I found I could go further and further into the pain and put more and more weight upon my leg. Not only that, I was aware of a number of emotions held there, which were gradually released. The broken tendon had happened as a teenager, when I was going through a very difficult time emotionally after a series of deaths among family and friends. It was not surprising that there was a lot of anger there, as well as fear and distress.

I arranged for some massage from a masseur who understands the energetic basis of injury. By bringing me over and over again to the threshold of pain and releasing it, the muscle relaxed its tensions, discharged its emotions and returned to normal. Even better, the Achilles tendon was not as tight as before. In three days I was playing golf again. That was amazing.

The final understanding came after an e-mail from a client, who had received Absent Healing and felt better, but had then relapsed severely and wondered what on earth was happening. After reading and thinking about what she had told me, this was what I wrote to her.

When Light or Love is beamed into the body, negativities come to light. They cannot exist because basically they are illusions and they begin to come out of the body. What do they come out as? Original memories. If you have experienced feeling dreadful in the past and that has been suppressed and not fully experienced, out it will come when it is brought into the light through some form of Healing. You then have a choice - only if you don't appreciate what is happening you don't know this. The choice is to buy into the old experience, feel fearful and see the memory as a relapse. The other way is to see it as a memory and experience it fully and let it go. It may last for seconds, minutes, hours or days but be quite clear it is a memory and needs to be experienced and observed without fear. There may be dozens of memories, one overlaying the other - all of the same thing, but gradually they will all be experienced faster and faster until the original suppressed emotion comes out and then it won't happen again. Exactly the same thing can happen if you move a lot of energy while overdoing things - it will push the emotions out and you can experience it as a relapse or just a memory.

Massage is a wonderful healing medium, but if it is too vigorous, the memories it releases will be too overwhelming for the recipient to deal with. Then s/he will be so consumed by pain that understanding what has occurred on the energetic level will be impossible. So it is vital for a masseur to be aware of what is happening, particularly when dealing with clients who are sensitive through long term illnesses and adrenal exhaustion. Otherwise they will misunderstand the results.

This happened to me when I was still quite ill with M. E. and I had some Shiatsu on my head and neck. Afterwards I experienced such pain, which took several days to disperse. Now I realise that I was releasing rage, which had collected there. Had I understood and just let it come out, I know now that I would have released it so much more quickly and with less distress.

A client, whom I work with from time to time, told me that a session of Shiatsu, where the practitioner had worked on her for two and a half hours, had put her back into bed for several weeks. The practitioner had told her that there were lots of blocked emotions in the neck area and had proceeded with hands and elbows to massage them out. This was too much for a sensitive client, who was just beginning to recover her energy and who didn’t understand at that point how memories could get stuck inside the physical structure.

So there are limitations. The client has to understand what is happening and the masseur has to be very sensitive towards working with debilitated clients and know how to release the emotional memories in manageable doses.

Some clients may need to simply experience relaxation at first, and if this is the case, then the massage must be very gentle. Relaxation is very important because when the body relaxes, it has a better chance of healing itself. When I was very ill I could only manage a very mild aromatherapy massage which was nurturing and kind. Even the slightest pressure hurt me and left bruises. It was a long time before I made the link between emotions and pain and the role massage had to play in release. Readiness is a key factor.

Massage is also only one of the many steps needed for the journey to wellness. Everything the client does will either move and release or, conversely, block energy. Therefore the client has to be aware of diet, movement, breathing, attitude, environment, and especially self love and compassion, if progress is to be made. Massage works best in the context of a wider program of self help in which the therapist and the client fully understand the energetics of what is happening. Then it is a very valuable tool for self healing and one I use on a regular basis.

Jan Brumfitt January 2002


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