This is being written in mid January of 2002. The stimulus was the book that described the work of David Haines, referred to in the preceding link. - Joe Lee Griffin
The first several years I used The Trager Approach, the only individuls who had been abused that I knew of in my practice were all women who were well into a healing process. Those who told me did so after a few sessions, not on intake. It seemed that I was a test or a stage in healing. I was a large male, but had soft hands and did a lot of outreach presentations, so I was chosen as a first male toucher. Another factor may be that I believe the comfort of clients is so important that I rarely have clients undress much, if at all. At demos, presentations, and samplings, those receiving usually remove shoes. For those who do not know, no Trager clients undress completely, as is usual for massage.
I once worked with a man who had been physically abused as a boy. He had a tight chest, pains in his knees and other joints, and a guarded and held way of being and moving. I did a number of sessions with him and was pleased with his response to Trager work. After some time, he took a Beginning Training and finally became a Trager practitioner.
In a Trager review day, led by Martin Anderson, a tutor and workshop leader from Massachusets, I was paired in an exercise with this former client. Knowing my partner's history of knee problems, I asked Martin, "Can you show me a good move for knees?"
Martin said, "I can show you a good non-move for knees." He had me frame the knee, one hand in contact on each side, and listen without doing any movement. I did that for about eight minutes on one knee, about seven on the other, for a total of fifteen minutes and then we went on to other parts of the workshop.
About twenty minutes later, my former client came up to me and said, "Joe, that was the best session you ever did for me."
What is there
to learn from this comment?
Within a week, I did, for a client with fibromyalgia, a full session that consisted of only contact and listening. It felt peculiarly effective.
Many people who have been abused do not immediately reveal that. I once worked with a number of clients with fibromyalgia, who were referred by a physician. Because of the way the pain-fear-tension cycle works, I suspect that the percentage of those who have been abused is somewhat higher for individuals with chronic pain than it is in the general population. Reflex resistance to the pain of abuse creates or enhances pain-fear-tension cycles.
I once tried to work with a patient referred from this physician. He told her I could help with her pain and that I was very good. She had severe pain and loss of sleep and it was difficult to get her to the table for a session, but she kept coming to me because her doctor said she should. For three weeks it seemed that she was worse on each visit. Then I made a trip and had a substitute, a small woman practitioner. Most of the problems of losing sleep and severe pain interfering with sessions melted away.
Clearly, she should not have been trying to work with me. Whatever the reason, that was clear. It is possible that her history included an abuser I reminded her of. I do not know and she may not.
By hindsight, the signals were there, but I was so into trying to be useful and helpful (And prove that the doc was right that I was good) that I did not pause and listen for my inner guidance. A most useful learning experience.
My work with people
who were abused has often seemed either incidental or accidental, even
though I am sure Trager helped them be more comfortable in their bodies.
Because niether I nor my client can know their history in full, the principles
taught by Milton Trager apply to all clients.
Milton Trager was so experienced and so graceful that those of us who studied with him or studied his videos sometimes concentrated on the move, on what he did. More important than what he did was how he did it. Each graceful move was just his way of listening to one body, this body in front of him, and feeling for what needed to happen next. His pauses had the same focus as his moves. The listening, the respect, the honoring of what is, lightly dancing with resistance - these are what he taught that seems to me of deepest value in interacting with any client.