This is an article I created, while still undergoing training in Structural Energetic Therapy, as a handout for clients to understand the emotions that they may be (re)experiencing as they undergo bodywork. More about emotional energy can be read on my Emotional-Physical Body Connection and Myofascial Unwinding pages.
Structural Energetic Therapy®
& Releasing Emotional Energy
by SET founder, Don McCann, MA, LMHC, LMT
edited by Pál Kokity, BS, LMT
Massage therapists do not perform psychotherapy. However, deeply rooted emotions and emotional energy have major physiological and anatomical components. It is with these components that massage can have a significant and profound effect. As massage therapists, we do not work with the verbal processing of clients’ problems. Instead we work with the specific soft tissue restrictions (symptoms) within the client’s body that may have been caused by, or influence the trapping of the emotional energy.
What do these symptoms look like?
There are several components that are involved in the structural collapse which have been described in detail by Alexander Lowen and other bioenergetic therapists/authors. The first is muscles, that are used for breathing, will become chronically tightened and limit the ability to breathe and energize (the structure of) the body. Consequently, most depressed people are short of physical energy and have a difficult time energizing their bodies to move forward out of depression. These chronically tightened muscles (for breathing) also restrict expression of emotion. A consequence of this is that unexpressed emotions in the body are trapped energy and it requires even more energy to continue to suppress and trap them and this further depletes a person’s energy. When this happens, it is nearly impossible for clients to shift out of this depression unless this tightened tissue is effectively released through bodywork (aka massage).
How does (properly applied) massage therapy help with emotional issues?
If massage therapy is applied to release the structural collapse that is associated with the emotions, it will bring the client from a posture of collapsed hopelessness and helplessness, to one that is supported and erect. The sense of increased structural support will give the client a feeling of increased balance, being stronger, and being more capable of dealing with the emotional issues at hand. The key areas of focus are the abdomen and diaphragm, restricted tissue of the chest, the internal rotation of the shoulders and arms, the neck, and the alignment of the legs. All of this will result in a significant structural change in a client that allows for greater, and more balanced, flow of emotional energy. In addition to releasing the collapsed structure, we also release the breath process and we allow clients to energize their system and have more energy for daily activities. The additional energy allows a person to take part in their lives and move toward the balance that they are looking for. There will also be an increase in positive endorphins and a lessening of pain.
As you can see, the educated massage therapist can have a significant positive effect on depressed clients by addressing their physical symptoms. As clients released dysfunctional structural holding patterns, they also released trapped emotional energy blocked by chronically tightened soft tissue. Many of these emotions and blockages have been there since early childhood, and have an impact on our behaviors, psychological development, and are also part of the reason for many of the adult diseases that clients experience. It may be necessary for clients to seek help from mental health professionals to complete the healing process.