Rolfing cures more than back pain, knee pain, headaches and bad posture: the liberating emotional effects of the New Gentle Rolfing.
As discussed in another article, Rolfing, which is deeper than massage, cured my lower back pain of twenty years in just two sessions. Surprising as this was, it was not the final reason that motivated me to change my twenty-five year career as a psychologist and become a Rolfer. Certainly my stiff aging physical body of fifty years recovered an earlier freedom of movement that I had once enjoyed in my 30’s and 40’s after just a few Rolfing sessions. But it was the freedom I felt in my emotional body that caused me to change careers.
Unexpectedly, inexplicably in the fifth Rolfing session, as deep layers of chronic tension were being released from my legs, I felt an impulse to cry. Having heard that emotional catharsis sometimes happens, I decided to trust my feelings and express the tears that wanted to flood my eyes. I knew my Rolfer could be trusted with strong feeling and that he would not only allow but would encourage emotional release. Thus, I found myself weeping some of the most deeply satisfying tears I have known,and strangely I had no idea whatsoever what the source of my expressed sorrow was. It did not matter. I trusted a deep instinct to release what I had unknowingly carried for many years. As I wept I asked myself, “What is this about?” I received no answer, had no memories, but I did have the impression that this was an “ancient grief,”(I heard the words spoken silently inside me)carried for longer than I could imagine, so old perhaps that I had lost memories of what had caused tensions to lodge in my legs, which were now being lovingly released.
The same thing occurred again in my seventh Rolfing sessions. More tears spontaneously erupted. Of course I had a choice as to let go into them or not, and I said yes ,because I knew how satisfying the grief felt, finally expressed,no longer withheld,but not only that—I felt remarkably freer and attuned to my emotions in the days that followed, as if I could discern the subtle flow of emotion and know myself quicker and more accurately than ever before.
Some years later I was again receiving a Rolfing session on my legs and I felt a return of the grief. I knew that was an opportune moment to allow the emotional body to speak to me. Again, tears flowed, only this time there were memories of a spiteful physical punishment I had endured from my father when I was eight years old. He had pulled me by the legs from my hiding place under my bed, angered that I had thrown a rock and bloodied a neighborhood girl’s head while we played war one evening outside. It was a cruel punishment, especially considering that I never intended to do harm, not realizing that my play hand grenade, a small rock, would not be seen by the girl.
The memory that came flashing back, flooding my eyes with tears, was not new. I had spoken of this early trauma many times before, but I had never cried; I had never found my genuine grief. As the Rolfer gently, respectful held my leg, the one that my father had yanked on so strongly to pull me out from hiding , the tears expressed were like healing waters,bathing me with empathy for myself, bringing solace to a deep wound that I had carried, having suffered harsh reproof from an innocent mistake.
I became a Rolfer because I know first-hand how liberating it can be to finally have longstanding physical tensions, and grief, released. The effects can be nothing short of exhilarating.
On a few occasions I have seen my Rolfing clients experience similar emotional release, though I find strong emotional catharsis to be rather unusual in my Rolfing work. What is far more customary is the quiet, gradual release of deep tension that may be fueling a nasty headache, tense jaws, constricted breathing or chronic back pain. It happens naturally,organically, while someone lays in stillness on the table, their underlying contractions finally and quietly softening, yielding a new physical and emotional body to be enjoyed.
Len Worley, PhD
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About Gentle Rolfing: Rolfing still has a reputation of being extremely painful, even if extremely helpful. In some ways the reputation is deserved since many practitioners of the early form of Rolfing went far deeper and quicker into contracted tissue than what nature intended, thus not allowing the body to open organically. Most Rolfing practitioners today have graduated to a more respectful approach, still applying effectively deep pressure but doing so gradually and progressively in a way that allows the body to open naturally. The rule of thumb for me is that Rolfing body work should always be satisfying and never dreadful.