I received a call the other day from a client hoping to schedule with me. After the pleasantries, we got to the essence of her call.
“I just haven’t found what I am looking for,” she said. “I used to get massages regularly for years, but my therapist is no longer in town. I’ve tried multiple therapists since then, but just haven’t been satisfied.”
“Tell me what you are looking for?” I replied.
“I don’t know, just that something special that I know will help.”
“Well, do you think maybe you could describe the ways in which the other sessions fell short and were unsatisfactory?” I asked.
There was a silence on the phone. “Umm, well, I just know it when I feel it. Would you please consider seeing me?”
After that statement, I was a bit lost. If she had no direction for the therapists she had seen, no wonder they did not meet her expectations. They had no idea what those expectations or criteria were.
As soon as I hung up the phone, the image in my head was this:
In a rehearsal, the conductor stops the orchestra.
“I’m just not hearing what I want from the viola section. Let’s do it again.”
Another try, another stoppage.
“That’s not it. Let’s do it again.” Once again, the same scenario.
Can you imagine the frustration in the viola section? They have to be thinking- Just tell us what you want and we’ll deliver. We can’t guess at it and be successful. You cannot hit a target if you don’t know what it is.
I did agree to see this person, in large part just for my curiosity. My thought was that maybe I could help her articulate her needs, which will help her greatly with therapists in the future.
As happens so many times when I go into the treatment room with an agenda, it is completely off the mark. Within just a few minutes in our initial consultation, she conveyed to me the passing of her husband two years ago. They were constant companions for 55 years and were the center of each other’s life. Even though this was two years ago, she was still devastated.
I won’t go into more detail, but I am sure of one thing. What she really wanted, far more than any technical or mechanical change from the therapist, was the full acknowledgement of her emotional pain and sense of loss. When I listened intently and responded in ways that conveyed my sincere desire to be with her in that moment, the relationship was established.
The work I did on the table was secondary. I listened to her desires and addressed the areas she mentioned, but the work was far more general than what I normally do. I adjusted the speed and the focus to have maximum quieting effect on the nervous system.
Yes, I am a massage therapist, but first I am a human being. What she needed was another person fully listening to her and acknowledging her pain. These aren’t technical skills; these are human skills.
And the world could use a little more humanity.