In my last blog, I talked about transference and how feelings, emotions, pain, and even energy can be transferred from one person to another. Some of these transferences may appear to be positive, while others will have a negative impact on us. So how do you protect yourself from transference? One great way is to learn how to become grounded.
Grounding is a form of connecting to the earth and becoming more centered, focused, and present in the moment. It is being aware physically, mentally, emotionally, and even energetically of yourself, others around you, and of your surroundings and being able to come back to a focused, centered state of being. We often get caught up in the hectic and chaotic everyday pace of work, family, and life in general. Our mind wanders off, we are thinking about the five different things we still need to accomplish, we are judging and comparing things and people. We are everywhere but where we need to be, which is in the present. When we are in this state, our emotions become imbalanced as well, leading us to feel anxious, frustrated, sad, angry, anything but calm and relaxed. Or energy is lacking, too, and feeling tired or fatigue often follows. When we find ourselves in a state of not being grounded, is when we are most susceptible to transference.
How do you ground yourself? There are several ways to practice grounding. A few of my favorites are:
This is a good time of year to learn how to ground. Holiday shopping can bring out the worst in people, cause high stress, chaos, and some unpleasant transference. Before you head to the stores, place your shoe-less feet flatly on the ground, close your eyes, take a couple of deep breathes, and think about what you are about to go do, what it entails, and what your intended goal for this outing is about. Know that the parking lots will be full and that your patience in finding a spot will be needed. Know that the stores will be crowded and you will be surrounded by a lot of hustle and bustle of other people who will most likely not be grounded and act unfriendly or rude. Also, keep in mind that the check-out lines will most likely be longer too. Remember to stay grounded, focused, and calm during these times and not take on the negativity of those around you. When you get caught up in the chaos and whirlwind of negativity, you will feel disheveled and worn out. If you need to, take a moment to take some deep breathes and regain your focus and re-centered yourself to help tackle the task at hand. As with learning any new technique, practicing is the key to developing the skills. Do your best to keep your energy and health up with these grounding techniques and to help keep you calm this holiday season, after all, ‘Tis the season to be jolly!
Not too long ago, I had a client ask me what transference was. She had heard of it and wondered if I have experienced it ever and how it works. Questions like these make me smile. I would say that the average person has not heard of this term, or has ever really thought about it. We all experience transference, we just might not be aware of it.
The term was originally a psychoanalysis terminology to describe feelings or emotions that get redirected to a substitute, usually a therapist, that were originally felt in childhood. Whether that means liking or disliking someone because they remind you of someone from your past, or viewing an authoritative figure as your mother or father, or even displacing feelings of love and comfort with a caregiver, healer, or another nurturing professional. Transferring these feeling and emotions onto a therapist of any kind is not uncommon. The patient or client and therapist relationship is intimate. You may be baring your soul and mind to a psychologist, or you may be baring your skin and body to a massage therapist. Both place the client in a vulnerable position and may more readily express forms of transference that may be projected upon the therapist due to past experiences and feelings.
Another form of transference that I have heard a lot about is that of pain. In the massage industry, I feel that this form of transference is more noticeable. I have heard of other massage therapists say that after working on several clients who came in complaining of neck pain and headaches, will end up with a neck pain and a headache by the end of the day. Or maybe they had several clients who had low back pain and then when the therapist gets home they realize that their low back feels achy. Usually those clients will leave at the end of the session feeling relief, but then the therapist is now feeling that pain. It is as if the therapist took the pain away from their client and then took on that pain, a form of displacing the pain and transferring it.
The form of transference that I have dealt with the most, and I would say that most people have been exposed to, is that of energy transference. Have you ever been in a really good mood and then you get to work and everyone around you is upset or in a bad mood, then before you know it, you are in a bad mood? Or maybe you were tired and you meet up with some friends who are all happy and full of energy and you started to perk up? Well, that is a form of energy transference. We pick up other people’s energies and vibes and they can be transferred back and forth. As a massage therapist, we tend to describe clients energy as either good energy or negative energy. I always like when my last client of the day of is “good energy”, because I leave feeling uplifted or possibly energized, even after a long day. This is similar to a post workout high you might get after a good gym session. “Negative energy” usually pertains to a client who comes in feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, frantic, or maybe they are just high strung. Their energy disrupts the calming demeanor that the therapist has set up, sometimes ruffling the therapists feathers a little, and by the time the client leaves, the therapist may feel drained, while the client floats away in a much calmer state. Now, please keep in mind that most clients are not at the extremes. Energy can be subtle and not have a strong influence on others that they come into contact.
Transference is a common occurrence that happens to everyone, although it is usually an unconscious act that happens. Most are not aware of the displacing feelings, emotions, pain, or even energy unto others. The same may be true for those who are on the receiving end of the transference. Learning how to protect yourself and to practice grounding techniques will help in not taking on the negative transference, but I will talk more about that in my next blog. Stay tuned!!
Not only am I a full time Licensed Massage Therapist, running my own private practice, but I also work part time as a Clinic Manager at a Massage School, here in Portland. With working at the school, I get the opportunity to attend the Graduation Ceremonies that are held twice a year. This past month was one of those ceremonies. It was fun to see the excitement on all the soon-to-be LMTs faces and the happy energy they have radiating off of them. It reminds me of my own graduation from the very same college. There’s the feeling of accomplishment, the acknowledgement of achieving your goals, and the success of all the hard work and long hours of studying and practicing on others finally coming to an apex. I am thrilled for them to be joining such a wonderful and healing community, and to see them take the next steps in their life dreams and goals.
To some, becoming a Massage Therapist may be just a skill set for a specific job, but to others, like me, it is much more than just a job. Being a Massage Therapist is combining compassion, knowledge, and healing. It is a way of life. You strive to bring forth health, happiness, and well-being. You find ways to offer the mind, body, and soul a healing environment for yourself and for your clients. You are always learning and improving upon the wealth of knowledge, information, and touch you learned while in school. You learn that your focus and intentions come through, loud and clear, while working with clients, and you learn to become more mindful, grounded, and aware of your client’s goals and needs, even if they do not tell you verbally.
We are therapists. We create an environment that is safe and inviting. A place you can trust and can find help in healing yourself, whether that is simply to calm down and relax, relieve pain, recover from an injury, or increase your overall health and well-being. Some may not view Massage Therapists as health care practitioners, as we are not allowed to diagnose or prescribe any health issue or treatments, but we are a strong part of the healing community, with proven success rates in helping people heal. We have the innate power to heal through the power of touch, which no prescription drug can do. We nurture and give power back to the clients’ body, mind, and soul. It is a wonderful and magical thing to be a part of and I look forward to seeing all the good these future Massage Therapists are going to be offering our community. It fills me with gratitude and joy to see so many people want to help others and to improve our community’s health and wellness.
It only seems appropriate that this comes at a time where we celebrate thanks and gratitude. I am thankful for all my clients who trust in me to give them the care they need, and I am grateful for being a part of such a great healing community to promote overall health and well-being. Cheers to another wonderful year, and to all the new LMTs who are joining us to provide the best care to everyone who seeks it.
Courtney Truax, LMT is a graduate of East West College of the Healing Arts in Portland, Oregon. She is licensed through the Oregon Board of Massage Therapy and a member of the American Massage Therapy Association. She has her own studio massage practice in the heart of downtown Lake Oswego, Oregon.