To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Turn Trauma Around: Bodywork Provides Enduring, Positive Change,” by Carole Osborne, in the April 2014 issue. Article summary: Childhood trauma is pervasive: In the U.S. in 2012, the last year for which statistics were available, 678,810 children were maltreated. Other research shows almost 60 percent of adult Americans report having experienced at least one adverse childhood experience. Rather than feeling discouraged or deterred by such pervasive and potentially negative consequences, I celebrate the equally enduring, positive changes made possible through bodywork
“I often think of the somatic work I did as allowing me to come home to my body,” massage client “Lori” says. “Several years of monthly work gave me a much, much deeper, richer and coherent experience of my body as being part of who I am. Over time, that has gradually become incorporated into my body is who I am.
“At first, I was a long way from knowing that. At the time, and for a good part of the time I received massage therapy, I was also doing psychotherapy to resolve effects of a traumatic childhood. The bodywork and therapy complemented each other in very powerful ways. It was like opening a drawer that was really, really stuck. First you work one side, then the other, then back to the first, then back to the other, and so on until it finally starts to loosen. Bodywork and talk therapy were those sides of the drawer, for me.
“After quite a bit of bodywork, I was startled, but actually not surprised, when I uncovered that I’d been sexually abused. For a long time, I’d had a deep, very hazy sense that something had happened. For a while, that became the dominant issue for me. Deep, melting compressions and gentle rocking movements to my pelvis, hips and legs slowly, patiently, and safely uncovered my best understanding of my past. Again, I worked with this in talk therapy as well, and, at one point, also did hypnotherapy. All of these therapies worked together to help me come to terms with what happened.
“It was not just the emergence of trauma and expression of long-held emotion in the body sessions that helped healing; in fact, I think that, if that is all there is, then, after a point, it becomes a reworking and even deepening of the pain. [Feeling] emotion for emotion’s sake wasn’t the end point, but a stage, a place to travel through, toward reclaiming my power, my body and my self. Then, the emotional and physical entrapment of the trauma was altered. Slowly over time, the trauma diminished. It has become almost a nonissue 99 percent of the time.
“At first, my awareness of myself was all in my head. Then, I began to know there was a body below my head. And then that my head and body were connected. Then I became aware of my whole body, but only around the edges, the shell of my body. Next, my tissues, and then, finally, my bony skeleton. As I have continued my work, the layers of paint encasing me have slowly been sanded off. I now feel I am definitely living in my body, and I experience my life from my body, most of the time.”
*Client name has been changed.
Carole Osborne is a continuing education provider (www.bodytherapyeducation.com) and 2008 American Massage Therapy Association National Teacher of the Year. Her practice focuses on facilitating somato-emotional integration, particularly related to childbearing, trauma and nurturing. She wrote Pre- and Perinatal Massage Therapy, Second Edition, and Deep Tissue Sculpting, Second Edition.