I've been trying out this thing which I haven't been telling you about.
It's very easy to burn out doing counselling work and last time I was at supervision it was clear I was getting there. Listening to other people's problems, it's easy to start to carry them. You can join people in feeling lost, over-burdened, discouraged and over-whelmed, and that doesn't do either of you any good. It's an old chestnut of counselling that you have to look after yourself. It's easy to say but it's not always so easy to know what you need. What can you do to keep your joie de vivre and sense of hope and fun?
I've always liked exploring things and one of the frustrating things I felt, growing up in Orkney, was that everything was always happening somewhere else. One of the things that delighted me in moving 'down South' was that there are so many things going on, so many things that can potentially be done. When I was younger the opportunities I availed myself of were chiefly staying up all night drinking, going to Fire Island High Energy sessions and dancing all night and then rolling out into the dawn a bit deaf....
Later I tried other things. I did Tai Chi for a while and liked it. I've done some night classes - a couple with Peter. We went to a creative writing class for a while in Leith. As fate would have it we met a guy there who we were later to meet in a climbing context. He wrote a memorable short story about a worky laying flooring, getting high on the solvents in the chemicals he had to use and the thoughts that were running through his head. I wonder if that story is still in existence.
So anyway, Clare, my supervisor, asked me what I could do for myself that would be good.
An idea popped into my head.
"I'd like to do some body work" I told her.
"What kind of body work?" she asked.
"Well I saw that there's this guy that does Rolfing in Edinburgh... ...but it's expensive."
I'm quite interested in whether there's a physical correlate for our psychological defences.
There were two things that touched on this theme that I'd read about w-a-y back in the past. One was bioenergetics and one was rolfing. I was once given the phone number of someone who does bioenergetics, but that was back in the 90s. I didn't follow up on it at the time. There aren't a whole lot of people who do bioenergetics in the UK and there aren't a lot of rolfers either. But a couple of years ago, surfing aimlessly on the WWW, I'd come across the blog of someone who was doing rolfing in Edinburgh. At the time there was no way I could afford it. I thought about writing to the guy and asking if he'd do a student discount, but lost my nerve and forgot about it.
I know what you're thinking. "Stop saying 'Rolfing' like that's a thing, and explain yourself." Okay. I'll try, I think Rolfing sets out to work with your posture by manipulating the fascia on your body. I had read that this not only benefits you physically but also mentally, because your physical stance affects how you feel and vice-versa. That's probably a massive over-simplification.
There's an explanation of it here.
Wikipedia is rather dismissive of the whole thing saying that
"There is insufficient evidence to claim that Rolfing is effective for the treatment of any health condition"
But I'm a bit tired of all the bumbling on about evidence and evidence-bases. The closer you get to the subject the less substantial and convincing it all gets. There is insufficient evidence for a lot of things, but that shouldn't stop you trying things out for yourself.
Fast-forward. I have booked a session with James the Rolfer and there I am, stripping down to shorts and a t-shirt.
|This picture conveys my worst fears. Pony-tails, tummy control pants and serious faces. Courtesy of the European Rolfing Association Website.|
In the first session he deftly finds all the sorest parts of my body and pokes them, sending some muscle between my back and my buttocks into a wild, twitching spasm. He says this is therapeutic gold....I can't actually remember everything about the earlier sessions - I should have been keeping a journal. The process is of having different areas of your body worked over, right in, really deep. The second session was my feet. There was so much damn pain in my feet! James says it should not really be painful, so I have stopped saying it hurts and started describing the sensation as "intense". Either I am sore all over or he magically finds the most tender spots. I concentrate on trying to relax and use what I know about pain management to tolerate what I am feeling. I try to concentrate on the sensation, allow it and not tense up and fight. Occasionally something relaxes and it's all easier. I don't mean to sound so mystical but I'm trying to talk about sensations in a layer of my body that I don't really know and have no words for. It is very absorbing in a way and the time passes quickly. Then he gets me to stand up and see how I am. I'm always a bit spaced out and floating, and gloriously pain-free.
What is really noticeable is that I am much less stiff.
Several sessions on it's becoming clear that he understands, and is helping me to understand, the different factors that add up to my distinctive 'Knees up Mother Brown' running style. At first I couldn't quite connect up what he was telling me, but I'm getting a more coherent sense of it as I focus on the areas he points out to me week by week. Whether my running style will change, I'm not sure. Forcing things is never a good idea. But I had a great run at the cross country on Sunday. I felt relaxed and comfortable in my body and I really enjoyed it.
I have an 'I'm not worthy' feeling about it all. Is it not a huge indulgence getting somebody to work on me so closely? Who do I think I am? But it's absolutely great. And the guy needs to work. He had to go to Colorado to train in Rolfing.
That is all I have to say about that!
For now anyway.