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Body Cells Carry Emotional Memory

                      By Boris Prilutsky

I found the theory that body cells carry emotional memories to be a true one. During my 38 years of clinical experience, numerous times I have witnessed the emotional reactions of my patients/clients to soft tissue mobilization. To more clearly explain this phenomenon, I would like to share one of my most interesting clinical experiences with you that support the theory of emotional memory being carried body cells.

Over 20 years ago, I treated one of the world-renowned boxers of the time from a shoulder injury. The right shoulder had a severe sprain/strain case with suspicion of possible rotator cuff tear. As with all such cases, after 24 hours of cold application procedures (cold application must be applied no more than 10-15 minutes and must be repeated every two hours) we started intensive massage therapy on the unaffected side in order to awake vasomotor reflex that will express by increasing blood supply to the injured extremities. I began to follow the treatment protocol for the above-mentioned purposes, starting to mobilize all groups of rotator cuff muscles layer by layer, as well as the anterior, posterior, and middle part of the deltoid muscles. As he was receiving the massage therapy, suddenly this big, tough, extremely strong man started crying, vocalizing sounds like that of a little boy. He was confused and expressed his embarrassment at breaking down in tears.

Being familiar with the theory that body cells carry emotional memory, I suggested to him to cry out whatever this emotional memory was. The sport clinical psychologist was informed of the incident. During his evaluation, this professional athlete, with the help of the psychologist, recovered a memory from his deep subconscious of an event that happened to him when he was eight years old.

Briefly, the story was that the boy's grandfather (his mother's father) once interrupted the constant fight between the boy's father and alcoholic mother; his grandfather attacked his father with a hammer. Afterward, the father was delivered in critical condition to the hospital and the grandfather was arrested. During this period of time, the little boy future boxing champion fell, off his bicycle and hurt his left shoulder. Crying, he came to his mom who was screaming into the phone, and asked her to comfort him because of the pain in his shoulder. His mother reacted in anger, and took his pleas as just whining for attention and she hit him with the phone a few times on this painful shoulder. All these years, on a subconscious level, this man carried difficult baggage of these memories of events related to losing the most important people in his life; his grandfather and father; and related to rejection by his mother. This kind of crying, emotional release tremendously helped this athlete to get rid of this subconscious trauma. This heavy emotional baggage was terribly disturbing and robbed him of a lot of happiness all these years, without him even knowing it existed. My experience has taught me that usually these emotional releases happen with people at the time when we perform massage (including deep tissue mobilization) in the inhibitory regime. Please be aware that emotional release may not be expressed by crying. Many clients may report to you that they have trouble sleeping and experience worry, or they may start shaking during the massage. Some of them will report unusual emotional sensitivity. Please explain to your clients that all above-mentioned reactions are very positive reactions and within the next few days of going through these reactions, they will feel a great deal better. Regarding the boxer whose case I presented to you, he later reported to me that he never thought that this subconscious baggage could destroy the quality and happiness of his life so much. He told me that thanks to this innocent massage therapy on the healthy shoulder, he was able to find peace within himself.

It's reasonable to assume that the memory of the emotional experience is stored somewhere in the brain - the system that is specialized in memory handling and remained inaccessible, as many other memories a human being experiencing during the life. But the shoulder cells hold the bookmark or a memory address of where the actual memories of the incident were stored in the brain. Thus by activating the shoulder cell you triggered the process of loading the content of that remote memory in the active memory, causing the aforementioned reaction.

As you can see from this episode, clinical psychology approach alone wouldn't be sufficient, because of the emotional memories carried by the cells of his body. Presently, I receive professional referrals from clinical psychologists.

Dear colleagues, I would like to encourage you to contact clinical psychologists in your neighborhoods and to offer them your services to incorporate massage therapy in their treatments. The Latin word "doctor" means educator. After being involved in many cases,at US it is clear to me that we should educate not only our clients about the power and importance of massage therapy, but also other health care practitioners.

www.medicalmassage-edu.com

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"But I do not feel that massage that people find helpful but can not be verified should be dispensed with. It simply means keep studying the cause and effect. I think the real issue many of us have  is we are too busy helping people recover from various problems that we are not available for the research studies and controls."

 

Is there ever a point for anything at all where we say "This is not working, and we should abandon it in favor of the things we do that do work."? Or is the purpose of massage research merely to provide reasons to justify continuing to do what we have always done?

 

Also, is there ever a point at which we abandon disproven explanations? Or are people just going to continue to talk about "cellular memory", even though it doesn't make any sense at all? Certainly, people are continuing to talk about "toxins" in the way they were taught, even though that was debunked long ago. 

 

If nothing ever changes in response to new knowledge, then trying to introduce research literacy and critical thinking is a waste of time, money, and other resources.

 


Daniel Cohen said:

Thank you for the link. I found Randomized Controlled Trials of Pediatric Massage: A Review by
Shay Beider1 and Christopher A. Moyer very interesting reading and very thorough. I think much research needs to be done to determine the best modalities in certain situations. But I do not feel that massage that people find helpful but can not be verified should be dispensed with. It simply means keep studying the cause and effect. I think the real issue many of us have  is we are too busy helping people recover from various problems that we are not available for the research studies and controls.

I am content that so many people come to me to recover and so many students seek me to learn the methods. I am all for researchers continuing to study cause and effect with scientific tools. I would like to see more studies of the modalities I use and hopefully that will come. I do not use Swedish for pediatric massage. More attention should be paid, I believe, to Asian Bodywork with a much longer history of reputed results in all fields. Let's not forget that even if it is a placebo effect, if the pain vanishes, it is good.

As for me I will see my clients tomorrow and assist their bodies to heal themselves. For me healing is still an art, not a science. Keep on researching as this also makes some people feel better.

 

Kim Goral said:

Well shucks, and here I thought I had dedicated 2 years of my life to learning from and working with one of the best researchers in the field.  Maybe I should have gone to Miami instead of Wisconsin...

 

;)

 

But in all seriousness, Boris, while you may not appreciate Chris asking questions, he has done more for the massage therapy research field than many other people, including publishing two of the most (if not just *the most*) rigorous quantitative reviews in existance (in MT).  You really think he's not pro massage? Check Google Scholar.  You might learn something from the many outstanding articles he's written.

 

(Just in case you need the link http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=christopher+moyer+and...)

 

Hi Ravensara

how do you explain the mechanism by which these emotional releases take place ?

I am asking for your personal exerience, please feel free to answere without the need to reference scientific articles.

 

thanks steve

 

 

 

There is a huge gap between proving something "is not working" and not being able to verify how it does. I am not one of those who continues to give disproven explanations to clients or students, any more than I would pass on misinformation about massage laws. "Also, is there ever a point at which we abandon disproven explanations?" Research is important, no matter what an MT says about massage, research helps the public decide what solutions to seek. There are still people who believe the moon walk was a hoax. Don't expect to change all of the people all of the time. It is enough to change some of the people some of the time. This I believe does justify the expense and time. Enabling people to make a knowledgeable choice is a worthy goal.

 

Boris,

Not that Christopher needs me to come to his defense, but I will say this: he is a scientist, and he could be studying the sex life of tadpoles, but he has chosen instead to study massage therapy. He does not have to be a massage therapist in order to conduct scientific research on massage therapy any more than he would have to be a tadpole to study the sex life of a tadpole.

 

The unwillingness to hear another person's point of view, and to respond to valid questions in a civil manner is never going to advance anyone's cause....it's the white coats vs. the crystal carriers and never the twain shall meet. I personally like to hear different points of view from both sides. If I was wearing a white coat, I might be carrying a crystal in the pocket ;)

 

As a massage therapist, I have in fact experienced people having emotional meltdowns on the table, and in fact experienced one myself the very first time I got a massage. I had only been married for a few months and my husband contracted a dread illness, I thought he was going to die, and the compassionate touch of the massage therapist brought forth a burst of tears and emotion. Did it happen? Yes. My meltdown was total reality. Can I say it happened because of emotion on a cellular level? No, because I am not a scientist. If emotion was in a cell, would there be some kind of marker like there is for cancer? I don't know. I will have to leave that to the scientists among us.

 

I appreciate the fact that there are the Christophers and Ravensaras of the world who know more than I do--and more importantly--know how to find things out. I don't have to agree with them. I can agree to disagree with them--or with you. When people disagree on here to the point that one slings personal insults and is trying to throw others out of the discussion, this deteriorates from a forum into an episode of the Jerry Springer Show, and that is a shame.

There are also others how know more than we do who are not as closed minded as Christopher (I cannot speak of Ravensara because she has not posted here for as long as Christopher has).  As a matter of fact I can think of another PhD in Psychology, Dean Radin, who even went to the same school as Christopher although Dean's background is far more rooted in hard sciences with his background being in Electrical Engineering, who should be involved in massage research.  Dean's first book, Conscious Universe, was written more than 15 years ago, and in part it explains the problem with research bias. Many of the topics debated here from time to time have been researched and there is evidence to suggest that claims such as muscle memory or energy work, or whatever are not so far-fetched.  

 

Research is something that is much needed to help us understand the world around us (and massage), but when the researchers have already made up their mind as to what works and doesn't, I would not spend a dime of my money supporting them...  Yep, I wouldn't, and I don't. 

 

 

Laura Allen said:

 

I appreciate the fact that there are the Christophers and Ravensaras of the world who know more than I do--an

Molecules of Emotion comes to my mind, Emmanuel, and Candace Pert is quite credentialed, though a lot of scientists think she has gone off the deep end. Regardless, when anyone makes up their mind either way--science or woo-woo-- it's like pulling hen's teeth to change their point of view even if the evidence hits them over the head. I just find Boris' reasoning that Christopher isn't a massage therapist, and therefore unqualified to discuss this, to be faulty.

Hi Laura.

You need to defense people when somebody attacking them. I didn't. Just couldn't understand what Christopher wants from me this all.I worked very hard(typing with one finger) to share information in my article, and in my opinion discussion was about clinical fact of negative memory storage and scientifically proven facts about stress negative influences.

This one sentence“According to many experts in clinical psychology, sexual pathology and many other adjacent fields the main obstacle to couples’ inability to reach top sexual satisfaction, to discover the maximum of what sexual act can offer is stress and emotional memory that body cells carry.. “ carry absolutely  correct information on scientifically proven fact about stress

and clinically proven fact about emotional memory storages. I was the one under attack because was hopping that my fellow colleagues will be able to discuss and to learn from my article but constantly this discussion was distracted. As you could see I used words “get lost”and apologized later. In regards of research. My background also included researchers in massage therapy. Back in Europe MDs Phds who used to be involved in research all  used to be massage practitioners too. And as you like different points of view please accept my too in regards  of believe and opinions if researcher in massage therapy have to be massage therapist. Of course excluding medical statistics experts. Really don't want go back but I would more appreciate if Christopher and Raven would discuss and comment on content and practical outcome of my article instead of every time distracting me and maybe others  by pulling focus on” emotional memory that body cells carry.. is not scientifically proven fact”. It is fact from treatment room, and I am and was really happy to share with others my experiences on this subject. Now allow me to ask you direct question: if there is any clinically proven phenomena that cannot be explained during research, does it make any different for you in regards of clinical application? I believe I have  acquired enough body of theoretical and clinical knowledge  and experience to share with other, and when will do so will try to protect from destruction, and unfairness. Unfairness, because in scientific world you usually arguing and attacking nonsense and dangerous information, I know that my article  not only not containing dangerous information  but practical one. The only thing that come out in the end that both Christopher and Raven disagree with me is that in one sentence I have included  and not intentionally that negative memory storage is scientifically proven fact, which is partially true, and I even offered some reference. If you will read my article again in the part where I describing storage of negative memories, I was absolutely clear  that I am not talking on scientifically proven fact but on  theory proven clinically. You stated that you like to hear different points of view, I also do. Please show me that on the subject that I presented in my article, Christopher and Raven did offer some different point of view but on the subject . There wasn't other point of view presented.

Best wishes.

Boris

 



Laura Allen said:

Boris,

Not that Christopher needs me to come to his defense, but I will say this: he is a scientist, and he could be studying the sex life of tadpoles, but he has chosen instead to study massage therapy. He does not have to be a massage therapist in order to conduct scientific research on massage therapy any more than he would have to be a tadpole to study the sex life of a tadpole.

 

The unwillingness to hear another person's point of view, and to respond to valid questions in a civil manner is never going to advance anyone's cause....it's the white coats vs. the crystal carriers and never the twain shall meet. I personally like to hear different points of view from both sides. If I was wearing a white coat, I might be carrying a crystal in the pocket ;)

 

As a massage therapist, I have in fact experienced people having emotional meltdowns on the table, and in fact experienced one myself the very first time I got a massage. I had only been married for a few months and my husband contracted a dread illness, I thought he was going to die, and the compassionate touch of the massage therapist brought forth a burst of tears and emotion. Did it happen? Yes. My meltdown was total reality. Can I say it happened because of emotion on a cellular level? No, because I am not a scientist. If emotion was in a cell, would there be some kind of marker like there is for cancer? I don't know. I will have to leave that to the scientists among us.

 

I appreciate the fact that there are the Christophers and Ravensaras of the world who know more than I do--and more importantly--know how to find things out. I don't have to agree with them. I can agree to disagree with them--or with you. When people disagree on here to the point that one slings personal insults and is trying to throw others out of the discussion, this deteriorates from a forum into an episode of the Jerry Springer Show, and that is a shame.

Boris,

 

I have seen and experienced plenty of things in my time, in and out of the massage room, that I do not have a scientific explanation for. I don't have to have a scientific explanation for everything, personally. I do appreciate it when someone says "research shows" that they can back that up. It does distress me when massage therapists make unproven claims. I was taught so many things in massage school that I now know to be totally untrue that it's ridiculous.

 

Humans are emotional creatures. When we get emotional about something--positively or negatively--our bodies react to that. We exhibit physiological responses to fear, disgust, anger, grief, joy, excitement (sexual and non-sexual). Working backward from the organism that we are, down to the cellular and even chemical level, it's all involved, isn't it? To me, it's always acceptable to say "my own experience has been..." When you present something as a personal experience, instead of as a scientific fact, it doesn't give those who are all about scientific facts any ammunition to shoot it down with. And in reading back over Boris' original post that started this hoopla, he does refer to his personal experiences from 38 years as a massage therapist to support what he believes to be true.

 

I try to respect everyone's right to have their point of view and I don't even know why it matters to me if people rip each other to shreds on here. I'm going to have to deprogram my cellular memory on that issue. Peace on Earth to one and all.

Dear Laura.

For 39 years I am practicing medical and sports massage that was developed by scientists for massage therapists.

 mostly  at my article on "role of massage in stress management and   sexual life improvement" I proposed

scientifically based information .it just happens that Christopher somehow extent arguments from"role of massage in stress management and   sexual life improvement"  to my second post

"Body cells carry emotions"yes in this article I'm discussing  my personal experiences in regard of the emotions storage but at "role of massage in stress management and   sexual life improvement"  mainly I'm proposing not my observation only but very solid science on the subject stress debilitation.

you said". I'm going to have to deprogram my cellular memory on that issue. Peace on Earth to one and all."

LOL.please accidentally do not deprogram me from your memory.

Peace on Earth to one and all.

Yours.

Boris


Emmanuel wrote:
"There are also others how know more than we do who are not as closed minded as Christopher"

 

If we could stick to discussing the issues, the facts, and the evidence, rather than resorting to personal insults against people whom you obviously don't like, that would be a very positive and helpful development, Emmanuel. Thx.

 

Hi, Steve--

"how do you explain the mechanism by which these emotional releases take place ?I am asking for your personal exerience, please feel free to answere without the need to reference scientific articles. thanks steve"

 

My pleasure. I warn you in advance that it is going to be a long response; real explanations of the kind you asked for do take time.

 

I don't think there is only one mechanism by which emotional releases take place. As a systems thinker, I am well aware that a small perturbation in one part of the system can cause big changes elsewhere in the system--in this case, the event that did or did not happen, the person's memory of that event, the meaning they attach to the event, what their culture or faith or sex or other influences tell them are appropriate responses, personal factors such as high or low pain threshold, co-existing conditions, and others. Any of these can influence how emotional release takes place, and I would never say "the mechanism", as though there is only one.

 

So what I see in the session could have a number of explanations; claiming that I know enough to definitively tie it to one mechanism and one event would be too simplistic. Saying that you touch a single cell and release a memory--even if cells *had* nervous systems to contain memories--is a model too much like a vending machine, and I consider it a disservice to the client.

 

You have to take humans and their complexity into account in every therapeutic encounter. Even if I had enough knowledge about the person's biography to make a guess that Event A caused trauma to particular tissue Z number of thousands of generations ago (after which the tissue was, of course, replaced many thousands of times), I don't have any information about what else has happened or not happened to that tissue.

 

To try to develop a vending-machine model where you touch a tissue in a certain way, and it "dispenses" an emotion, is an approach that is doomed to failure--we're just too complex to oversimplify in that way. But you come across that kind of explanation every day: for example, someone was just telling me that they were taught in massage school that if the iliotibial band is tight, it means the person has probably experienced sexual abuse.

 

My response to that is you've got to have some really big brass ones, not only to make unwarranted (and possibly insulting*) assumptions like that about someone whose life story you don't know, but to ignore all the other possible causes of a tight iliotibial band, and then to multiply that misinformation through all the students you come into contact with, and by extension, to the clients they touch. 

 

[*of course, it is not insulting (at least technically, in this culture) to be the victim of a sexual attack: by definition, they are the victim, not to blame. But if someone has *not* been attacked, and you assert that you know they were, then you are insulting the people around the client, implying that at least one of them is a sexual predator. If you know that for a fact, it is right and good to act on it, which includes not covering it up. But if you don't know it, then it is wrong to spread misinformation like that. And, there are cultures and jurisdictions that thrive on victim-blaming. So this misinformation *can* be insulting to the victim in their culture as well, whether or not it actually should be as a principle of justice.]

 

Taking a mechanistic, vending-machine approach like that, where one symptom or technique always "dispenses" a particular result, is not going to provide knowledge. It's just rote learning. The correct response to any assertion is "how do you know what you claim to know? How would you tell if you were mistaken?".

 

Of course, I think you need to take a systems-based, evidence-informed approach.

 

Since I am stating that assertion, it is now my job to connect the dots and explain what I mean, rather than just pointing you to random Internet links. Besides, you asked for my experience, and I am always happy to talk about that.

 

As you know, the three "legs" of evidence-based practice are 1) the scientific evidence, 2) the practitioner's experience, and 3) the client's treatment preferences.

 

When I work with people who have experienced trauma, I draw on all three elements to approach treatment.

 

Scientific evidence:

 

From the evidence, I know that: 1) memories and sensations are processed in the brain, and can projected back to a certain place where we perceive them (like "phantom-limb syndrome); 2) human memory is unreliable anyway, just because of the structure and function of the brain, and PTSD can cause specific alterations to brain tissues that can have an effect on that tendency.

 

[I'll take a break from the list here, because I fully expect the name-calling to start up at this point (See Exhibit A: Emmanuel's description of Chris) above, and I'd like to keep us focused on the issues, rather than the personal attacks.]

 

What I am saying, and what I am not saying:

 

1) as humans embodied in tissue, we are all subject to that unreliability of memory to some effect, so we cannot know exactly what happened historically, especially when it's someone else.

 

I am *not* saying that people who have experienced trauma are specifically unreliable as a class; I am saying that people as a class have specific neuroanatomical and neurophysiological limitations that we can study in an evidence-based way, and take steps to work around those limitations.

 

More than anything, as a scientist, I use the scientific method to keep myself honest, because I too am subject to the same cognitive and logical traps as anyone. So I am not "blaming the victim" here in any way, and if anyone even starts with that kind of talk, I will not respond to insults.

 

2) I am not saying that we should ignore someone's report of what has happened to them, *only on the basis that human memory is unreliable*. If someone reports abuse, it should be investigated, bearing in mind that abusers often pick victims who are especially vulnerable because they cannot prove independently what happened. If someone starts with talk about how I am "enabling abusers" simply by recognizing that we all, as humans, have unreliable memories, again, I will not respond to insults.]

 

So the evidence tells me that I will never have enough knowledge about that person's biography to know exactly what happened to them when. It is, then, impossible, to touch one area of the body, get a reaction, and say, "oh, I know exactly what caused this". Fortunately, it doesn't matter--we are present in the here and now, and the focus of the therapeutic encounter is the patient.

 

If I can provide them what they need in the here and now, then I have done my job. They do not need a lecture about neurophysiology nor a detailed interrogation about their biography from me; they need my presence and attention. In the session, I don't need to know exactly what has happened to them, and it's good that I don't, because that's an impossible task. My job is to assess where they are today, however they may have arrived at that point, and meet them on their terms.

 

They also need the security of trusting that I know enough about what is going on that I can be trusted to do the right thing in case of an emotional outburst, or even a break with reality. My study of anatomy, psychology, and other evidence, and my confidence in being able to explain that evidence clearly and in a user-friendly way what I know, provides them that assurance.

 

Here is an example of unreliable memory in a client, and how it made not one iota of difference in how I treated her. I was working on a woman's head one day, and she broke down, traumatized. Through the interpreter, she described the violent car accident she had witnessed the day before. She related how she saw decapitated heads rolling through a major intersection in our city.

 

I was intrigued why our lurid local news media hadn't been all over that one, and checked first the news sites, and then the police reports. No such accident had taken place.

 

The next time I saw her, I did not say, "hey, I checked the facts, and you're wrong." That's not my job. I asked her how she was doing, and what she wanted me to work on today. She was much calmer that session than she had been the previous session.


My guess--and of course, I am just speculating; I do not claim to know this--is that, as a Cambodian of a certain age living in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, she probably has had plenty of experience seeing decapitated heads rolling around--just not in a car accident at a major Seattle intersection. Her process, whatever that means for her, is making her integrate what she witnessed in her old life with detail her new surroundings in Seattle. I don't have the training to help her in that process, nor to interpret it for her, and what I do have to offer does not depend on whether or not her memory is reliable.

 

However, as she was not the one being decapitated, she could not possibly have been storing "cellular memory" in her head. Clearly, massaging her head reminded her of versions of memories she carried (in her brain) of decapitated heads, and she felt safe enough to share those versions of memories with me. I would not confront her about her own personal process, but neither would I teach her process to students as a universal--just as one example of many possibilities for how people process trauma.

 

Another one of my clients was both a veteran and a refugee. He had been on the losing side of a civil war to keep his country together, but the rebels had prevailed and successfully broken away. A very calm man, he never once showed any sign of emotion. He just stated that half his body was missing, and no amount of evidence (photographs of him, x-rays, massaging the supposedly missing half and verifying that he felt my touch) could shake that conviction.

 

It wasn't so much an emotional breakdown as it was a break with reality. Along with the entire team, I did my best, but we were not able to help him reintegrate the "missing" part of his body. Of course, this is me speculating again, but I think he perceived losing the war as a personal failure that he was guilty of, and the missing part of his country as part of his body. We would never convince him that those parts were there, because as long as the country was divided, he could never get those body parts back. Again, this is all speculation, I am not trained in psychology, and I would *never* teach it as fact.

 

Practitioner (my) experience and judgment:

 

I have worked with people who have lost their entire families, or had their face blown off, and I have worked with wealthy hospital administrators who could bloody well afford to pay for their own damn massages, but choose, instead, to take slots intended for refugee patients and then spend the whole session complaining about how high heels hurt their feet. So I've seen very many different kinds of life experiences, and I can confidently say that the way that people express emotions does not necessarily correlate with the depth of loss that their life stories would indicate--a correlation that would be expected to underlie any purely mechanistic explanation.

 

I have had a client who lost his entire face to an explosion, and we did some mighty intense work preparing him for reconstructive surgery. That explosion cost him his life plans, his fiancée, and medical school, yet he never once complained nor had an emotional release. I do not, however, take that lack of obvious emotional release to mean that he didn't have deeply held emotions. All I take it to mean is that his process did not involve sharing it with me.


Some people, in my experience, more often wounded vets than refugees, want to brag about their injuries. I'll be massaging someone's back, and the client will start to lovingly describe exactly how every scar was gotten in battle or an IED explosion. I don't take this to mean that they do not have trauma; just that their process is working out the way they need it to. Sometimes the emotional response to trauma is to dial up the macho to 11.

 

And I have also seen, many times, the classic reaction described above of breaking into tears and shivering. People are diverse, and they react in very many different ways. Sometimes, it's the most unexpected people who break down--a bearded Hell's Angels biker vet in a leather jacket announcing "I'm the man your mother warned you about" suddenly beginning to sob like a newborn baby, for example. You just never can tell with certainty.

 

I have also worked with people from countries which do not have a tradition of talking freely about emotions. That, of course, does not mean the emotion goes away, but in a culture where "I'm sad" is an unacceptably self-centered expression of one's feelings, "my back hurts", or "my head hurts", or "my stomach hurts", is an acceptable way of expressing emotion. If they've spent their whole lives repressing emotions, they're not necessarily going to feel safe to take an opportunity to express them.

 

I don't agree with people who consider "somatization" to be a dirty word--people with strong emotional pain present with physical symptoms every day. It's just not the case, though, that where the physical symptom is located corresponds to the particular trauma. If a woman has constant blinding headaches here because she lost all her children in the old country, I don't think the forehead carries a mechanical version of the emotion to release. I think for this woman at this time with this emotional pain, somehow, a headache is the particular outlet for her grief in ways that I don't begin to understand.

 

A systems approach means that I don't have to directly link reactions of no emotion, strong emotion, or anywhere in between with particular events in the tissue that I don't have enough information about anyway. Whatever degree of trauma they are processing in whatever way they need to, and showing me whatever level of emotional release they feel safe doing for them (which can be influenced by sex, cultural origins, religion, personal response to stimuli, and other factors), and I don't need to know any more about it than that to do a good job in the therapeutic encounter.

 

Client preferences

 

I had another client, from a country where physicians are real authoritarian figures who tell their patients what to do, and expect them to obey unquestioningly. She lay curled up in a fetal position on my table. I asked her what she wanted, and she said "tell me what to do.". As I was only seeing her for a couple of short sessions, I did not feel it was my job to teach her to be more egalitarian, against the experiences of a lifetime in the short time we had together. My job, rather, was to try to meet her where she was, and find a way to work on her that both she and I could ethically participate in.

 

I did mention it to her psychologist afterward. I said that, as I had not known her previously, I could not tell whether her total passivity toward me was only her cultural training expressing itself, or whether in addition to that, she might be depressed as well. I got a colleague involved, in order to work for the safety and best interests of my client, since all by itself, it was unclear to me what the patient preference meant.

 

Another client, whose back I was working on without a translator present, as I spoke her language, began moaning in her language, "I want to die...I want to die...". Clearly an emotional release, but I did not know how serious it truly was--after all, in her language, people say things like "I'm so tired I want to die" on a routine basis. So up until she said that, there were four possibilities:


1. False negative: 1) she did want to die, and 2) she didn't say she wanted to. Risk: we miss the signs, and we only learn about it when she tries to kill herself.

 

2. True negative: 1) she did not want to die, and 2) she didn't say she wanted to. Risk: none out of the ordinary.

 

3. False positive: 1) she did not want to die, and 2) she did say she wanted to. Risk (worst-case): She gets committed for observation on a mental ward when she doesn't need it, with all of the medical and legal consequences that shake out of that.

 

4. True positive: 1) she did want to die, and she did say she wanted to. Risk: none. Benefit: potentially intervening before a suicide attempt.

 

She took 1 and 2 off the table the minute she said she wanted to die, so I had to evaluate whether the situation was 3 or 4. I don't speak her language enough to judge whether she was serious or not. I had to decide whether to alert the medical staff about it, or to take it as conversation.

 

I decided that I absolutely didn't know enough to tell what the situation was, and that I had to bring it to the attention of the medical staff. The worst-case risk was I would get someone committed who didn't need it. But if I just took it as an expression, and she really meant it, then I might have to live with her suicide on my conscience forever.


I told the staff, and I made sure to double-underline-emphasize-stress-reinforce-oh-and-did-I-mention that my command of the language was not expert, I was not from her culture, and I could very easily be totally wrong on this. They evaluated her, decided she was a real suicide risk, and committed her for observation. That has consequences. I hope the benefit from intervening outweighed any damage her record of commitment to a mental institution may have caused her.

 

Since I don't work at that clinic anymore, I don't know what eventually happened to her. I hope it all turned out well for her, but I have to be able to tolerate ambiguity about things I never will know.

 

Hope that helped, Steve. I'm glad to share my experiences with you and others. Anytime you want, I have tons more. :)

 

cheers,

 

Raven

There have been lots of interesting posts since I last looked here, including many I'd like to respond to.  I'm going to try to make a variety of points, in no particular order.

 

Confusion/misunderstanding of Boris' points - Yes, it is possible and maybe even likely that Boris and I misunderstood each other at some points; however, I would point out once more that in every instance I tried to make my question clear and to the point and based on an exact quote.  Some of what you have recently posted, Boris, looks to me like backpedaling.  That's just my opinion and I don't wish to belabor it, but I did want to point it out.  I believe it *is* important to get our theories and mechanisms right, especially when they form the basis for what follows.  I can agree that there are occasions where employing a theory that is known to be wrong can still be useful clinically, but I don't think that is an optimal situation, and I think it is incumbent to be very clear when we are working in this way.  In other words, it may be clinically useful to note that clients can behave *as if* memory of trauma is stored in a specific anatomical location, even though we know - and yes, we do know - that this is not where memories are stored.

 

My motives - Anyone is entitled to their opinion, but I'd like to counter the assertion that my motives are to disrupt or distract discussions such as these.  I'm a scientist and a scholar who is interested in discussion and debate, including lively debate.  I think progress results from the vigorous competition of ideas.  I even disagree with Boris in his assertion that we have wasted time or not gotten anywhere - we may not have gotten there smoothly or efficiently, but I think the discussion of how memory works, and related topics, has generated some useful discussion and information.

 

Does a massage researcher need to be a massage therapist? - I'm not a massage therapist.  In some ways and at some times, it might be helpful to my research if I was one, and I haven't ruled out getting some training someday to assist me in my research efforts and to provide me with that unique perspective, but that takes considerable time and effort that I cannot afford at the present time.  I have received a lot of massage therapy, which has informed my research.  I also take care to always work closely with good massage therapists at all stages of a research project.  Finally, it is worth pointing out that the majority of massage therapy research that has been done has not been led by massage therapists, and it has still been useful - none of the researchers at TRI, for example, are massage therapists so far as I know.

 

Being closed-minded - Again, everyone is entitled to an opinion.  It's for you to decide if I am closed-minded.  What I would say in response to that is (1) yes, it is true that there are certain ideas that I am comfortable ruling out based on the available evidence, and (2) it might be worth considering that in certain ways I am open-minded.  For example, my area of research is not always well-received by other scientists, some of whom view massage as something lightweight and not worthy of study; I think I had to be open-minded to make this my area of research, and had to recognize going into it that I would meet some resistance.  I could give other examples, but I think that makes my point.

 

Pseudoscience - Sadly, some of the persons whose work massage therapists are most often guided to is work that does not stand up to scientific scrutiny.  Candace Pert is one excellent example, but there are many others.  Note that it is not important what I or Raven or whomever specifically think about Candace Pert.  What is important is that her recent ideas have not been subject to the scientific method of testing and of peer review.  At one time she was a cell biologist doing top-level work; that work had to be based in evidence, and the evidence had to be reviewed by other scientists to check for any errors.  But today she just speculates on how chemistry and emotions might be linked, and her speculations are not grounded in evidence, nor are they contributing to the science of neurochemistry any longer.  She's not doing science anymore, though she and her supporters seem happy to benefit from her reputation as a scientist.  That is classic pseudoscience.

 

Emotional release in massage therapy - This topic was put to Raven specifically, but I would also like to comment on it.  Yes, I have heard and worked with many massage therapists who have experienced this.  I don't doubt this phenomenon at all - I happen to think it is really interesting!  And, I have no doubt there are scientific explanations for it.  I am very confident that it is not due to cellular memory, because that idea is entirely inconsistent with all accumulated scientific knowledge on anatomy, cellular biology, physiology, neuroscience, and psychology.  It is not even close to being accurate.  Further, there are lots of other possibilities which are consistent with our understanding of those fields - very briefly:

 

-The psychological context and/or environment are causing unconscious priming;

-Massage therapy is producing psychophysiological changes that are contributing to a strongly experienced emotion consistent with embodied emotional processing;

-The positioning and manipulation of the body are contributing to state-dependent memory recall.

 

There are quite a few other possibilities!  But whatever theories we wish to entertain should be consistent with other well-established findings - e.g., that memory is the result of coordinated activity in the central nervous system, for one.

 

-CM

Hi Christopher.

 I'm not backpedaling. For men in my age including my personality is much easier straightforward to admit mistake then backpedaling. Didn't made any mistakes but one and apologized. This mistake wasn't related  to the subject of my articles therefore didn't  backpedaled just did apologize.

this is what you previously wrote in one of your statement I mean conducted question:

“You stated, unequivocally, that "many clinical psychologists" view emotions as stored in cells” name few of them. “

I never stated it. Christopher ,your statement  is absolutely out of content .And only in the end of our destructive from subject  arguments I understood where was your point.

“According to many experts in clinical psychology, sexual pathology and many other adjacent fields the main obstacle to couples’ inability to reach top sexual satisfaction, to discover the maximum of what sexual act can offer is stress and emotional memory that body cells carry.. “

as I already explained  in this sentence last words” emotional memory that body cells carry” you are objecting. I agreed for you to disregard this words. But to be fair and balance not what it is a  matter but  I provide you with reference on the subject  of emotional memories and you promised to look into it. Does that mean  that if material of this reference to your satisfaction you will settle with this last words from my sentence? .As you can see, from your question it was very difficult to understand what  do you want from me. And I am glad that in the end  all got clarified . Therefore let's conclude that non of us  is backpedaling. In such a case we will allow members to focus on subject of my articles. After we have clarified misunderstanding lets stop this nonsense argument. I really will appreciate it.

Best wishes.

Boris

www.medicalmassage-edu.com

 



Christopher A. Moyer said:

There have been lots of interesting posts since I last looked here, including many I'd like to respond to.  I'm going to try to make a variety of points, in no particular order.

 

Confusion/misunderstanding of Boris' points - Yes, it is possible and maybe even likely that Boris and I misunderstood each other at some points; however, I would point out once more that in every instance I tried to make my question clear and to the point and based on an exact quote.  Some of what you have recently posted, Boris, looks to me like backpedaling.  That's just my opinion and I don't wish to belabor it, but I did want to point it out.  I believe it *is* important to get our theories and mechanisms right, especially when they form the basis for what follows.  I can agree that there are occasions where employing a theory that is known to be wrong can still be useful clinically, but I don't think that is an optimal situation, and I think it is incumbent to be very clear when we are working in this way.  In other words, it may be clinically useful to note that clients can behave *as if* memory of trauma is stored in a specific anatomical location, even though we know - and yes, we do know - that this is not where memories are stored.

 

My motives - Anyone is entitled to their opinion, but I'd like to counter the assertion that my motives are to disrupt or distract discussions such as these.  I'm a scientist and a scholar who is interested in discussion and debate, including lively debate.  I think progress results from the vigorous competition of ideas.  I even disagree with Boris in his assertion that we have wasted time or not gotten anywhere - we may not have gotten there smoothly or efficiently, but I think the discussion of how memory works, and related topics, has generated some useful discussion and information.

 

Does a massage researcher need to be a massage therapist? - I'm not a massage therapist.  In some ways and at some times, it might be helpful to my research if I was one, and I haven't ruled out getting some training someday to assist me in my research efforts and to provide me with that unique perspective, but that takes considerable time and effort that I cannot afford at the present time.  I have received a lot of massage therapy, which has informed my research.  I also take care to always work closely with good massage therapists at all stages of a research project.  Finally, it is worth pointing out that the majority of massage therapy research that has been done has not been led by massage therapists, and it has still been useful - none of the researchers at TRI, for example, are massage therapists so far as I know.

 

Being closed-minded - Again, everyone is entitled to an opinion.  It's for you to decide if I am closed-minded.  What I would say in response to that is (1) yes, it is true that there are certain ideas that I am comfortable ruling out based on the available evidence, and (2) it might be worth considering that in certain ways I am open-minded.  For example, my area of research is not always well-received by other scientists, some of whom view massage as something lightweight and not worthy of study; I think I had to be open-minded to make this my area of research, and had to recognize going into it that I would meet some resistance.  I could give other examples, but I think that makes my point.

 

Pseudoscience - Sadly, some of the persons whose work massage therapists are most often guided to is work that does not stand up to scientific scrutiny.  Candace Pert is one excellent example, but there are many others.  Note that it is not important what I or Raven or whomever specifically think about Candace Pert.  What is important is that her recent ideas have not been subject to the scientific method of testing and of peer review.  At one time she was a cell biologist doing top-level work; that work had to be based in evidence, and the evidence had to be reviewed by other scientists to check for any errors.  But today she just speculates on how chemistry and emotions might be linked, and her speculations are not grounded in evidence, nor are they contributing to the science of neurochemistry any longer.  She's not doing science anymore, though she and her supporters seem happy to benefit from her reputation as a scientist.  That is classic pseudoscience.

 

Emotional release in massage therapy - This topic was put to Raven specifically, but I would also like to comment on it.  Yes, I have heard and worked with many massage therapists who have experienced this.  I don't doubt this phenomenon at all - I happen to think it is really interesting!  And, I have no doubt there are scientific explanations for it.  I am very confident that it is not due to cellular memory, because that idea is entirely inconsistent with all accumulated scientific knowledge on anatomy, cellular biology, physiology, neuroscience, and psychology.  It is not even close to being accurate.  Further, there are lots of other possibilities which are consistent with our understanding of those fields - very briefly:

 

-The psychological context and/or environment are causing unconscious priming;

-Massage therapy is producing psychophysiological changes that are contributing to a strongly experienced emotion consistent with embodied emotional processing;

-The positioning and manipulation of the body are contributing to state-dependent memory recall.

 

There are quite a few other possibilities!  But whatever theories we wish to entertain should be consistent with other well-established findings - e.g., that memory is the result of coordinated activity in the central nervous system, for one.

 

-CM

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