I didn’t have it, at first. When my sweetheart’s co-worker’s wife called me up for a gift certificate, I cringed a little. This guy usually goes to another practitioner in town: an excellent MT, highly trained with decades of experience, who with great devotion peels people apart.
Not my style, although I admire therapists who do it well.
Anyway I was nervous, in a way that I’m not usually nervous, knowing I was going to see this client. Both Nate (said sweetheart) and this guy’s wife had told me: he expects deep work, he expects deep work.
“He wants to be ripped apart,” Nate said to me.
“Geez, I do deep work but not that kind,” I replied. “Holy cow. Should I tell his wife to get a gift certificate with someone else?”
Nope, it was clear that she thought it was a good idea for him to try a different practitioner: me. And apparently he was happy when he got the gift certificate to come see me, so my fate was sealed. She had his whole birthday planned around this session: I was the pivot point.
I was up for working on him: I’ve always loved a challenge. But I was filled with the what-ifs. “What if I don’t lock in? What if I don’t connect? What if my strength isn’t enough, my technique isn’t enough.”
It was also his birthday. No pressure or anything. And, Nate’s co-worker. No telling what they’d talk about if the session wasn’t up to snuff.
To me, confidence is grounded in reality. You acknowledge your strengths, but you are also very aware of your weaknesses. You hope you do well, but you’ve been around for the many times you haven’t.
Confidence is closer to determination than power. Its root is “confide.” It is, at its essence, belief, not proof.
All of us know what it’s like to go walking into a situation where we feel less than enthusiastic about our prospects for success. The gift of confidence is that it acknowledges this, yet we press on, usually due to the little conversation we have with ourselves beforehand. There’s relationship in confidence, even when you’re whistling in the dark to yourself.
A perfect example of this self-talk is Julie Andrews singing “I Have Confidence” in 1965 movie “The Sound of Music.” It’s excitement, dread, plowing ahead, hesitating on the brink. This IS confidence, even (and especially) when, after great expounding on all she will accomplish, she says merely: “Oh help.”
I know how she feels.
When my client arrived for his session, I began the intake, and starting looking, right away, for how I could connect, for if we could find that from the get-go I knew I would find my way in the session. It was my only (and best) hope. I couldn’t compete with whatever he’d experienced before, I knew that.
Massage therapy is mutual: it sure looks like the massage therapist is “doing” and the client is “getting.” But what I love most about massage, and what keeps me interested year after year, is the dialogue of it.
I’m not a talker, so I don’t mean conversation, necessarily. It’s inquiry: my hands & my client’s body, where they meet.* That meeting place has its own language and I trust that completely. Very often the more I think, the more trouble I get myself into when I’m working (and why I was lacking hope for my work: I was thinking too much about the session beforehand).
Most artists understand this, and above all else, massage therapy is an art. It is a learnable skill, but it’s an art, and the discipline of it is deep listening. Which can only be done through the medium in question: mine happens to be touch.
We were wrapping up his intake. “So I’ve heard you like deep tissue work,” I said to him. He nodded.
“Well,” I said, interested at whatever was going to come out of my mouth next, “I suspect that you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what kind of work I will do. I promise to ‘get in there.’ Just maybe not in the way you’ve come to expect.”
“That was…fantastic,” he said, 90 minutes later.
If you’re a long-term client, I know that what you need changes over time, so I ask you please: refresh me. Let’s begin again, if there’s elements of your session that could be different or better for you.
If you’re a first-time client, I hope we will have many sessions to come, but there’s a good chance we’ll make quite a bit of progress in addressing, ameliorating and answering what you first bring to the table: literally and otherwise.
I provide the time and space for the best version of what could happen in session. We’ll find it, but find it together. In that togetherness, I have every confidence.