Massage Therapy Self Care – Energy Management 101

lightning hands Energy management is one of a massage therapist’s most vital skills, and one of the most undiscussed. I know it raised my eyebrows when my instructor first mentioned it. Wasn’t I at the best, most medically-oriented massage college in North America to learn the hard science behind massage therapy?

“Learn to stop your patient’s energy before it reaches your elbows,” the instructor said, pointing to a spot about mid-forearm. “That’s also a good place to stop your energy before it reaches them.”

Yeah, right. It made no sense to me at the time, new to the profession and with hardly any massages under my belt. We had all just come from classes in arteries and nerves and ligaments, and now we were talking about energy? But it didn’t take long before I saw the truth of what she said, and the bedrock wisdom behind it.

Doing It Right

People aren’t just arteries and bones and muscles. We are thoughts and feelings and attitudes, too, and in the close environment of a massage therapy session, those feelings and attitudes can be contagious. I first found that out by direct experience. Partway through a session one afternoon my thoughts started to wander. I began thinking about people who had done me wrong, and negative situations I’d been in, and I started getting angry. Visions of vengeance and righteous aggression began taking over the inside of my head, distracting me from my work. The feelings and imaginings got more and more intense.

They got so intense, in fact, that I couldn’t own them. I just wasn’t that angry, about anybody or anything. ‘Oh!’ I said to myself. ‘These feelings aren’t mine!’ Only then did I remember that I was working on a particularly angry young man. I was literally picking up my patient’s feelings as if they were my own. It was just like my instructor had warned us.

Now came the hard part – how to prevent this transference of emotion from happening. The skill took awhile to build, but it really was as simple as telling the energy to stop. I paid attention to my patient’s feelings. I trained myself to feel for the signs of my patient’s energy coming up my hands – it feels like a warmth, sometimes a tingle. Once it reached halfway up my forearms, I simply told it to stop.

I wasn’t always successful. Some massages left me feeling worse than I started – drained, angry, sad, lonely, a dozen other emotions that had no relation whatever to anything in my own life. But this happened less and less as I gained experience.

Wash It Awaysquirrel_sith_lightning

I developed a habit, after every massage, of washing my hands in cold water. Soap always took care of the oil removal and cleanliness required of the job, and the clean, cold  chill washed away any residual energy. I was left fresh and ready for the next massage.

So my instructor was right. I needed to learn energy management, or suffer the consequences. It was a skill I gained over time, like most skills in this business. But once I knew what needed to be done I rarely picked up – or passed on – an energetic charge after my first year.

Now you know, too.