David's Journal

A Case of Wholistic Healing

[Editor’s note: This was originally published to a Yahoo Groups site for registered massage therapists as “Part II” of “Wholistic Healing.” I could not find “Part I.” The particular Yahoo Groups site no longer exists. (In fact, all of Yahoo Groups itself will be shutting down in mid-December 2020.) Since it so clearly illustrates some of David’s views on truly holistic – or wholistic – medicine and the human psyche, I am including it in this collection.]

In our Western culture, I do not believe that a true “mind/body” perception has yet arisen. Certainly it hasn’t in our healthcare model, where we seem to think that mind/body health means having a multi-clinic with practitioners who, in turn and separately, treat a patient’s mind, body, spirit, etc. Hence: psyhologist, RMT, “energy practitioner”, for instance. The clinic itself may be “wholistic” in the sense of serially inclusive—one discipline for each “aspect”. But what is clear is that not any one of these disciplines actually, all by itself, embraces the whole person. An individual practitioner may, but not the discipline he or she practices.

Wholism is truly outside our scope of practice because it is outside our Western scientific model. “Evidence-based practice” is certainly not conducive to a mind/body or truly wholistic vision. It is just more of the same reductionist/ analytic/ medical model. It is not driven by a true perception of wholistic health, or driven by a seeking spirit. Rather, it is driven by political and financial concerns.

What can we as RMTs do to somehow approach our patients with an attempt at wholistic vision? Is it as simple as taking a thorough case history with a full systems review? Well, that helps. I have been practicing over 20 years. In my impression, what is between the lines in the case history—how the patient answers—or even what the patient leaves out saying—is often more important than what he or she explicitly discloses. And a lot of that patient’s health and illness depends on something American massage therapists are not afraid to talk about and are actually examined on: “energy”. Life energy. I will give a case in point that illustrates approaching wholistic vision:

A female patient in her early thirties presented with sacroiliac pain of long standing. She said she had tried “everything” and had gone to several RMTs but nothing helped. She actually dared me to get her better: “I don’t believe you can help me,” she declared. I am the sort of person who rises to such a challenge, but I also know that this is a setup for failure and that some patients knowingly, or unconsciously, challenge the practitioner and try to make him/her fail. Few patients come right out and say so, like this patient of mine.

Nothing in her history justified the longstanding nature of her complaint. I was very curious to know what could be the source of her backpain.

I treated her in the usual way I do, with LTMT and massage, home exercise, and encouragement. My initial results were what I would expect from a chronic lowback/SI patient who did not challenge me. She got a little better and her pelvis leveled out in the first couple of treatments. She was still in pain, but from my perspective, her progress was average. However, this patient said, “I think it is just the treadmill running I am doing.” She was challenging me by asserting that, grudgingly, she might be improving but that it was something she was doing and not my hard work. She was turning her therapy into a personal competition.

It began to dawn on me that she had an issue. At some level, emotionally, she needed to resist getting better and to prove that she could defeat me, even if it meant staying in pain. Competing with me was her issue. This was more of a sensed thing than anything she said about herself, so at first I was not certain.

About this time she ran out of money. Just as she was making headway but telling me she doubted that the results would last. I decided to challenge her and see if money was truly the issue. I told her that I would continue treating her for free but that she had to come as often as I required and always on time. That if she missed, she would be billed and I would not treat her again. I recall the stunned silence. I had taken her obstacle to her recovery away and she was hesitating! Whatever her real reason for resisting treatment was, it was tugging at her. Then she said Yes. Treatment continued, but she had a new spirit. She said, smiling and not looking me straight in the eye, “I think this is working, but—it will never last!” I joked with her that I bet it will last. By now I had discovered that she was a lot like me, actually, and I was seeing my own reflection in her. My own doubts, challenging attitude, need to prevail against my own unconscious resistance to healing. I think realizing this about her, and accepting it at a deep level because I accept these things in myself, helped her healing process.

Up to now I had pitted myself against her resistance. Her new presentation showed me that, beneath her external resistance, there was a genuine urge to get better. I now wanted to engage her urge to health.

I decided on a different approach. I decided to let my hands “listen” to her now. Up to now they had been doing all the “talking”. I had used very direct hands-on and analytic/structural approach. I now used very light touch with my hands along her back. A finger pointing here, a palm there, just following what felt like the pull of her energy on my hands. I realized this was not “evidence-based practice” but at least it could not harm her. Her body rippled just under the skin. Goose bumps appeared. Here and there a quiver and then release. Her skin flushed pink and she sighed deeply and went into a deep sleep. Her energy shimmered with peacefulness. When she awoke, she did not recall any of this. However, her spine and pelvis were perfectly balanced. They never went “out” again, and none of her pain returned.

She emailed me from time to time and sent me beautiful photos she had taken of nature. She said she had gone ahead with her plan to become a personal trainer. I believe something shifted on an emotional and spiritual level that finally healed her body. I did not do it. I hardly touched her at all when healing happened. She did it, although she did not recall any of the experience. Her spirit did most of the work, unknown to her. I genuinely believe we had a “conversation” on the energetic level and that she—her spirit, her energy—drew my hands to where she needed me to go and that, feeling my complete acceptance of her troubled past represented there in her tissues- whatever that past may be I never knew—she healed herself. At the level of her ego, she needed to resist (“massage never works!”) and then enter a sort of partnership with me (“getting better but it won’t last”) in which I listened to her finally and she “spoke” to me (“put your energy here”), and she found her own answer (“the pain is gone, it hasn’t come back”), and the finale was showing her appreciation in the form of beautiful pictures and telling me about her success. Personally, this is what I live for as a registered massage therapist. I consider this a true partnership in healing. And it was truly wholistic, although I can never fully explain what took place~I just feel it. I might add that it never would have happened if I had let money remain her issue. Sometimes when we give away our time free we are rewarded beyond what we would ever imagine. This is why I love this profession.