Talking Through It: Conversation Do’s and Don’t for Massage

Talking Through It

Your massage is your own, so of course you have some latitude in customizing your experience. Massage therapy is one of those self-care treatments comparable to getting your hair done: you’re working with someone one-on-one in a vulnerable position. Not only are you in close physical proximity to your massage therapist, you’re undressed in a private room getting touched by them–it doesn’t get more vulnerable than that!

Naturally, a relationship of trust will develop between you and your therapist. Not only do we expect this, it’s encouraged! As your therapist gets to know your body’s unique needs and quirks, they can provide better massage with regular treatments. That personal trust and connection can play a vital role in the healing process.

Having said this, it’s important to understand that there are boundaries and limitations to that relationship, and that the conversation shared in a massage setting isn’t exempt from these.

What can I say?
Nothing, if you choose! As a rule, your practitioner will probably read your social cues. If you seem game to talk, they may engage you and start a chat while they work on you. If you don’t initiate a conversation, they’ll leave you to enjoy the massage in a peaceful, quiet setting.

You can also feel free to give your massage therapist feedback. Phrases like “That’s too deep!” or “Can you ease up on the pressure there?” or “That stroke is kind of chafing right there.” are all appropriate ways to help guide your practitioner and make your massage experience as good as it can be.

If you want to talk, that’s fine, but keep it light. Try to avoid heavy or potentially offensive topics. Would you discuss what you’re about to say with a stranger on the bus? If not, maybe reconsider your choice of topic.

If you’d like to talk and get to know your therapist over several sessions, that’s great. Just keep a few things in mind:

Massage therapist, not “Therapist”
It’s common for people come in for massage who are under serious stress. But the scope of massage therapy is only to address the physical component of healing and stress relief. The mental and psychological components should be handled by trained mental health professionals. You may develop a strong rapport with your massage therapist, but that doesn’t mean they have the training or skill to talk you through your stresses and emotional difficulties.

You wouldn’t expect a licensed family therapist or psychologist to give you a massage, would you? Of course not. The difference there is that those professionals don’t touch you, except to maybe shake your hand. A massage, however, can include a great deal of talking, and even emotional release. Clients under a great deal of stress have even been known to sob through their massage as painful emotions are released along with the muscle tension. But that doesn’t mean your massage therapist can or should become your therapist. Bring your mental health problems to a mental health professional.

Don’t ask for a date, for heaven’s sake
There’s nothing wrong with finding your massage therapist attractive, and the relatively intimate setting of touch therapy might unintentionally inspire romantic or sexual thoughts. But please: keep those thoughts and feelings to yourself during the massage.

Your massage therapist is there to help, and it’s completely inappropriate to flirt, touch them back, hold their hand, ask for dates, or try to initiate a romantic relationship with them. By the same token, your massage therapist has no business making romantic or sexual advances of any kind. In fact, such behavior at The Good Life Massage is grounds for termination.

Even if the advance would be innocent or welcome under different circumstances, it’s completely inappropriate during a massage. Besides, it makes the session far more uncomfortable and awkward. If you find that you’re developing romantic feelings for your massage therapist, consider getting your massage from someone else from now on. After all, we have several practitioners to choose from.

We won’t “take sides”
As people start talking, it can be natural to progressively get more personal. You might even feel comfortable enough to talk about personal relationships or conflicts. This is totally understandable. We all need to vent sometimes. But don’t expect your massage therapist to “take your side” or commiserate with you like a personal friend might. They might say “It sounds like you and your partner have some things to work out. I hope that works out okay,” or something equally neutral. We’ll help you release the physical tension from your whatever personal drama is impacting your life, but it’s not our place to join you in dwelling on it.

So, yes, go ahead and chat! Or don’t! But understand that your massage is a professional exchange. Yes, it’s a intimate, even a little personal, but within certain limits that are worth keeping in mind.

Book your next massage now.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and the blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to assist you with content marketing, social media, and logo/brand development by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

 

 

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Don’t Sabotage Your Massage! – A Pre-Massage Checklist

Don't Sabotage Your Massage

Have you ever been disappointed by a massage? It’s bound to happen eventually if you get regular massage, but there are a lot of factors that go into what kind of experience you’re going to have. Not everything is in your control, and we certainly try to hold up our end of making your experience soothing and therapeutic, there are some simple things you can do as well.

Before your massage …

Drink water
We’ve covered the risks of dehydration in this space before, but a lot of it bears repeating. When your muscles are tight, waste can build up in there. Massage releases that waste, so it helps to come in hydrated to give your body the best chance of flushing it out.

And don’t forget to grab a cup of water aftewards.

Wellness Check-In 1: Am I sick?
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and check in with your body before you come in. There are two questions you want answered, and the first of these is “Am I sick?”

Pay attention. Are you feeling much more tired and achy than usual? Is there a tell-tale tickle in the back of your throat warning you of an on-coming cold or flu bug?

In these situations, it’s best to cancel. We’ve had clients come in feeling a little under-the-weather who got their massage, then had to pulled over to vomit on the way home. Massage is great for your wellness over-all, but it can aggravate an oncoming or present illness. Please don’t hesitate to cancel in this situation! If you’re sick, a massage does more harm than good.

Wellness Check-In 2: What do I need?

The second health check-in you need to do is related to your massage and what you need most. Again, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Bring your attention to your back, your legs, your neck, your shoulders in-turn. Where are you feeling the most tension or pain? Make a mental note of it (or an actual note of it on the intake). That way, when your therapist asks what you need worked on for your massage, you’ll be ready to tell them exactly where you need the most attention.

Get your work-out in
If you’re planning to exercise that day, make sure you plan to get it in before your massage, not after. Some athletes may get a massage before a training session, but certainly not before an event or a game. For the rest of us, massage can relax and warm up your soft tissues to the point that you’ll be at a higher risk of sprain or strain if you jump right into vigorous activity.

Getting your massage after your workout, however, can be a great way to maximize the benefit of the massage. The simple reason for this is that you’re coming in with muscles already warmed and ready to work on! It saves the therapist time relaxing your muscles and soft tissues, and allows them to do deeper work, faster, and with less discomfort on your end.

Like many of the things on this list, this isn’t absolutely essential, but you may find it helps you get the most from your session.

Take a shower
This kind of dovetails in with the last one, but whether you work out beforehand or not, you may feel less self-conscious about any possible odors. Plus, the warm water will have helped you relax, and you’ll be even more prepared for a relaxing and productive session.

Show up early
This is a great idea, even if you don’t need to fill out our intake paperwork for your visit. The worst thing you can do to sabotage your massage is to come in completely frazzled, or worse yet, late, and not even get your full session time.

On the other hand, giving yourself time to arrive early will help you physically and mentally prepare for your session. Our waiting area was created with your comfort and serenity in mind, and we really don’t mind letting you wait for your session time. Take a minute to take some deep breaths. Listen to the sound of our signature waterfall. This is a great time to do that wellness check-in mentioned above.

We pride ourselves on giving clients their full as-advertised time on the massage table: sixty minutes means sixty full minutes of massage, not fifty or forty-five when the transition time is factored in.

If you must eat, eat light
You don’t want to be distracted by intense hunger during your massage, but if you must eat anything beforehand, go easy on the portions. Most people feel queasy when getting a massage after a big meal. They may even feel like they overate, even if they didn’t. Save your meal for after your massage. Eating afterward can be a great way to shake the fuzzy “massage brain” feeling many experience after a session.

Doing these few simple things will help you get the most from your massage experience, and reflect a lifestyle that’s slower-paced, more delibarate, and happier.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to assist you with content marketing, social media, or brand development by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com.

Is Your Phone Slowly Killing You?

Is Your Phone Slowly Killing You

Is your phone silently and insidiously abusing you?

Neil DeGrasse Tyson: No. It’s a phone, it doesn’t have free will.

Okay, how about this:

Are you silently and insidiously using your phone to undermine and sabotage yourself?

There’s a concept in psychology that’s found some traction in our modern discourse, especially among people having political slap fights on the Internet: cognitive dissonance.

The dictionary definition is the psychological discomfort you feel when you hold two or more contradictory/conflicting behaviors or values at the same time. An example of this can be found regularly on Rotten Tomatoes. This aggregator tool polls movie audiences to rate movies, and pairs that with an aggregate of professional critics. There’s often a sharp difference between the audience ratings and the critic’s aggregate score. Almost without exception, audiences rate movies higher than critics do. Why? There are several reasons, but one of these is cognitive dissonance.

Beliefs about ourselves that we find to be contradicted by our behavior give us the most discomfort. In this example, the audience members rating the movies believe they have good taste, and don’t spend money seeing bad movies (I mean, really, what kind of idiot would do that?). There’s a sense of embarrassment in our culture that tends to follow making a bad purchase of any kind, and movies are no exception.

The audience tends to rate the movie higher because they’ve paid to see it. Every consumer is wise in their own mind, so instead of admitting that they wasted their money, they’re more inclined to pretend to others and even themselves that they’ve made a great decision.

This is how we lie to ourselves. It may soothe our cognitive dissonance in the short term, but this kind of compromise can nickel and dime our morale and sense of integrity over time. It can slowly erode our identity and leave us feeling empty and depressed.

So here’s a more pernicious example: suppose you see yourself as a loving, attentive member of your family (spouse, mate, parent, sibling, friend, etc) and a hard worker. With those beliefs about yourself in mind, how is that reflected in your day-to-day life?

Let’s look at what you do with your time. You go to work. Okay! Not bad so far. You spend time with your loved ones on the weekends. Looking good, right? From a distance, this looks fine. But is it?

On closer inspection, we see this hypothetical you sleepwalking through the grind of your day, wasting more time on the Internet than you care to admit, doing everything you can to amuse yourself through the day. And the weekends? Seems it’s hard to leave that alone, too. Answer this honestly for yourself: when you spend time with your loved ones, is there actually a screen between you? Are you ever with them when there isn’t a screen within a few feet of you?

When you stop and look with intention at your own life, this kind of thing is impossible to un-see. And that’s good.

Why is this happening?
First, if this is you, know that you’re not a bad person. Psychology pioneer B.F. Skinner is known for illuminating how we pursue behaviors for specific rewards in his experiments with rats in cages. Skinner found that when you reward the rate with a treat after pushing a lever just once or twice reliably, you can get them to keep pushing the lever, even if a treat drops at random. We pursue a behavior even more avidly when the possible reward drops with some degree or unpredictability–like on a slot machine or when you get out your phone to check your notifications. When you get even a modest reward from those behaviors, your brain lights up with dopamine–a “feel good” neurotransmitter that shows up when you experience anything pleasurable.

Another interesting thing about dopamine, it doesn’t always show up when you’re grinding away at the job or listening to an exhuberant child’s meandering story about their stuffed animals. Do good workers grind away at the job? Yes. Do good people give children the attention they need and deserve? Of course.

And yet, in the name of the quick, seemingly inconsequential dopamine hit, these things are being neglected, or at least undermined for many of us. And yet, you’re a good person! A hard worker! You know there’s something amiss, though, and can’t put your finger on it (cognitive dissonance). So what do you do?

Some of us try to shrug it off. Some of us pursue even stonger hits of dopamine (in other words, more intense and hard-to-shake addictions and compulsions!). These are both just a race to rock-bottom, just at different speeds.

And then there are others, those who decide to live with intention.

Living with intention
You don’t have to throw your phone away. This isn’t a Lifetime original movie: your phone isn’t an abusive spouse you need to flee from, never looking back, or a stash of drugs you need to flush down the toilet. That thing you’re holding is a tool. Use it as such. Use it for what it’s good for. Use it with intention.

Are you a rat, tapping away at a lever hoping a treat will appear? Or are you a conscious, life-savoring human being putting a useful tool to its purpose? (And yes, that purpose can be enjoying cat videos. But are you doing it intentionally?)

Instead of going through the exhausting mental gymnastics of soothing your cognitive dissonance while your identity erodes like a cake left out in the rain, try bringing that cake inside and enjoying a slice.

STOP
There’s an acronym in the world of preparedness and safety-STOP, which stands for Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan. The idea is that your brain can sabotage you and cause accidents–like the rock climber who’s brain was tricked into thinking her safety line was tied because she tied her shoes. STOP is intended to prevent that.

But next time you get out your phone or click over to whatever non-productive Internet tab is your favorite, STOP.

Stop
Put your brain on pause just for a moment. Just observe yourself in the moment.

Think
Ask questions of yourself. What am I doing right now? Notice yourself noticing.

Observe
How are you feeling right now? Are you hungry, stressed, emotional, or tired? What are you about to do, and why are you about to do it?

Plan
Having observed yourself living in the real world and not in your own head, are you really on track with what you intend for your life right now?

This takes deliberate practice to develop before this becomes automatic, but it’s worth trying. Mindfulness meditation is a great way to get yourself used to thinking in this way. Be patient and kind with yourself.

It’s worth being more content, more productive, more loving, more awake.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor the marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to assist with social media marketing, content marketing, or logo design by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com