A client recently asked me a question that no one has ever asked before…
Inside (and outside) the clinic I am asked about a wide variety of things. Questions like, “Do your hands ever get tired?” “How do I get rid of this knot?” “How can I stretch that?” “How do you foam roll your calves?” And my all time favorite, “WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?!?!” Many of these questions I have been asked so many times that I have a pretty set stock answer. This one took me by surprise, and I had to think about how to respond. I chuckled and asked her what she meant.
She clarified, “people who are rude, or who don’t seem to appreciate the work you do?”
Pain is Painful
When you work with a demographic that is in pain, it brings out the best and worst in people. It is certainly hard to be your best self when you cannot find a comfortable position to be in, or you have a raging headache, or you cannot take full, deep breaths without having your ribs shoot electric, painful stabs down your back and up your sternum. (Anyone else remember that high school reading about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?)
Some of my most memorable sessions contain what I call the “mini-transformation” (and many minis make a major!) It’s all in the face. People walk in sometimes with a grimace, a frazzled look, tightly-drawn mouth, or a furrowed brow. They might be limping. They might be unable to move their neck. But they all have this facial tension that shows their pain. Sometimes they are curt. Sullen. Non-communicative.
Upon session’s end, when they open the door, and I am waiting in the hall with water, the face is now soft. Relaxed. Churned. Melted.
Not all pain is purely physical
But there is another category of people to whom this question might be referring. They are not so much suffering from physical pain, as they are mental/ emotional tightness, which manifests in the body. They are over-booked, over-worked, over-scheduled, busy, busy, busy bees! I’ll bet you know some folks like this. You might even be one yourself! These clients cannot be separated from their smart phones. They want to keep them in their hands for the duration of the session…they might need to answer some texts and emails…and on rare occasion jump on a conference call.
These are the clients who need to end the session early because they have not fed the meter enough money, and besides they have to drive across town to make a meeting before picking up their kids from school AND pick up a suit at the cleaner while checking their stocks… You get the idea.
I will freely admit that I did NOT handle this type of behavior with much grace in my first year or two of practice. I took it personally. I felt completely devalued. I felt very little respect as a practitioner…or heck, even as person. Sometimes sad, sometimes mad, I wasted a lot of time and energy thinking about it.
But the more it came up (and I hate to say it, we as a culture are all becoming some shade of busy bee…), the more I was able to observe, get curious, and gain insight. These people were not devaluing ME. They were DEVALUING THEMSELVES. As if to say,”my happiness & health is not as important as [my boss, my kids, clients, coworkers, etc].
It was time to shift my mindset: this was a real opportunity to coach and motivate people to make their own health a priority. I mean, how much help are you really going to be to your family, or to that work project, or to anyone who depends on you, if you have a headache so bad that you can’t see clearly? If you don’t make it a priority to work on releasing your tension and correcting the cause of your pain, that’s exactly what is going to happen. I don’t want that for you, and I don’t think you want that for yourself.
So, back to the question: “Do I ever get snobs?”
I get folks who are in pain. All sorts, shades, and sizes of pain. And it is my job to give everyone a safe place to work on healing, relaxing, and becoming whole— to make room for and acknowledge their pain. Massage therapists & bodyworkers are so lucky: we get to help sow a few seeds of kindness and gentleness in a world that is amped up on busyness that is moving faster and faster.
And to my busy bees, I now say:
It’s great that you are here!
I’m actually going to set your phone on the counter during the massage so you can take advantage of the time and space inside the treatment room. Your emails will be there when we are finished; I promise you.
Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you!