Phase #3: Fine-tuning the Attention
Facing the personal.
The useful explanations in Goleman‘s Emotional Intelligence added to my evolving confidence in Burnham’s Rejuv method. Goleman’s description of the prefrontal cortex’s role in emotional memory suggested an explanation for the dense and painful area of Mrs. M’s left brow and orbit. Goleman writes that the key “off-switch for distressing emotion seems to be the left prefrontal lobe. Neuropsychologists…have determined that one of the tasks of the left frontal lobe is to act as a neural thermostat, regulating unpleasant emotions. These prefrontal-limbic connections…are essential for navigating us through the decisions that matter most in life.”11 This explained the furrowed, dense and painful left brow. My fingertips were working right over a link to the sympathetic loop through the amygdala.12 It seemed that the brow musculature was working to augment that intracranial area. To bring a calming influence to the locus of emotional memory deserves our serious attention as bodyworkers. Could this partly explain Mrs. M’s rapid improvements after the use of Rejuv as a regular intervention method?
Again we were working with balance. Now Mrs. M became aware of the subtle balancing of how mental energy is expended. She began choosing whether to invest in an effort, or to simply let go. Her brow became less furrowed, even when she recalled her past pain. Through letting go, she had achieved the ultimate flexibility: her attention moved smoothly through her story, past and present. She learned to balance her projects according to the availability of her natural energy. Mrs. M faced her persona “The Strong Survivor,” who had been driving her into exhaustion.
Phase #4: Accountability
Autonomic conditioning takes a backseat.
“It is a very suicidal act to go on repressing your original face…You are not living, on the contrary you are simply acting… To be dishonest, to be insincere to yourself, is the worst punishment you can give to yourself.”13 So said Amiyo Rhunke in Body Wisdom.
The habit-level had been inaccessible to Mrs. M without manual intervention to awaken her self-perception. The habit-level problem was complicated by longstanding, conditioned autonomic behaviors. She had perceived her lifestyle-in-overdrive as having a protective function. Perhaps even these notoriously resistant problems are accessible when timing and intervention strategy are selected to enhance emotional learning. Weekly Rejuv sessions brought about a softening in her viewpoints. Laughs came more easily.
The completion of this phase was in the awakening of insight. Mrs. M now sees externally without the anxiety-driven defenses. She sees internally, using insight to bring together a picture including both heart and mind. Her old barriers have transformed into healthy boundaries. Her family notices her honest, open gaze. The “worry wrinkle” between the brows is a less predominant feature of her expression.
Phase #5: Terminal Goal
Awareness of balance as expressed in poise
I conceptualized the final step in this story with the wisdom of Robert Lewis, M.D. Using a Bioenergetic model, he emphasized the necessity of healing the mind/body split in this way: “As long as the respiratory wave does not move the protoplasm of our heads, our thinking will indeed be a superficial head consciousness (the mind as False Self), because it is not infused with the breath of life.”14
First, Mrs. M learned to let her skeletal muscles experience expansion. Next, Mrs. M found her way to visceral openings. Finally, she learned to open up her head, neck and throat, using the Rejuv method. Poise and vitality became sustainable when she opened head and body to the breath rhythm. This means she doesn’t choke off threatening feelings or impulses at the level of the throat. Her open face, clear sinuses and easy yawn demonstrate that her expansion potential can support her psyche. Following Jung’s beautiful words, her rationality is no longer “won at the expense of [her] vitality.”15
Through our three-year journey, Mrs. M’s blood pressure records did not show the expected drop in autonomic arousal we had expected. Today, however, she has relaxed enough to become a non-smoker. With that change, blood pressure measures normalized. Her blood pressure no longer peaks with volatile bursts.
A full bouquet of healthy change is evident in Mrs. M. She had an opportunity to return to her dentist for dentures. Before our treatment episode, the professional had struggled to get the apparatus into her mouth. Recently the same procedure was repeated. The dentist was impressed with the ease of access and normalized sensitivity of the oral cavity. Mrs. M’s lifestyle has softened too. She no longer exercises to exhaustion in order to find sleep.
Watching her in movement, she no longer moves intensely, nor at her old, breathless pace. Her soft core can open comfortably for breath, no longer strangled by the armored, striated surface layer. The frozen and breath-grabbing habits so clearly explained by Donna Farhi have been resolved.16 She now responds to softer, more visceral work, letting the breath draw her toward interior awareness.
Results like these may never be validated by numbers of clients. I never expect to have another client just like Mrs. M. Norman Cousins pointed to the value of the difference in viewpoint between scientists and artists. The scientist may need large patient “samples” for statistical validity. The artist, however, is free to celebrate the unique occurrence.17 Perhaps an accumulation of anecdotes will be recognized for themes that bring people toward wellness. The power of single case study is especially significant in those clients who have not found solutions through routine, though expert, medical attention.
Today the real hero in the healing journey can be recognized not as the all-knowing physician, but as the individual living his heroic journey. To paraphrase the words of Joseph Campbell: The hero learns to draw attention away from the distracting secondary effects and move to the causal zones in the psyche, where difficulties truly abide. The hero then clarifies and eradicates the problem in his own case. By meeting this challenge, the hero (in this case, Mrs. M) gains the precious attribute of discrimination.18
Perhaps at this time, Mrs. M became the steward of her own health.
This case shows the effectiveness of moving from a myofascial treatment frame of reference into an energy-based approach, using the Burnham System of Facial Rejuvenation (BSFR). The timing of the transformation was serendipitous. I learned about the protocol and needed a volunteer client for practice. By then, with the myofascial work we had been doing, Mrs. M had learned how to relax her voluntary muscular system. BSFR offered much-needed comfort along with efficacy. Mrs. M then made healthy changes beyond what we had anticipated. The movement into the less accessible, autonomic realm of visceral and attitudinal movement proved to be profound.
Mrs. M progressed from a life dominated by body pain awareness into opening to her humanity. Mrs. M has grown beyond the mind/body dichotomy. Our profession may be healthy enough to do likewise.
Mrs. M continues Rejuv sessions along with exercise and close medical observation. She no longer reverts to the old pain pattern when her appointments are interrupted or delayed by other events. Today she enjoys frequent playful visits with her toddler grandchildren. She appreciates the role of Rejuv in bringing her to a new quality of life. Her mind no longer carries the misery of her earlier years, and her face projects optimism and contentment.
By Valerie Whiting, M.S, OTR/L, LMT, who teaches at Roane State Community College and maintains a private practice in Knoxville, TN.
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, April/May 2001.
Copyright 2003. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.
1 Goleman, D. Emotional Intelligence. (N.Y.: Bantaam, 1995) p.165.
2 Vishio, J. “Fibromyalgia: The Search for Relief,” Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. (Nov. 15, 1999):8, 20.
3 Webb, W. The Great Frontier. (Univ. of Texas Press, Austin: 1979).
4 Burton, T. “High Hopes: Surgery on the Skull for Chronic Fatigue? Doctors Are Trying It.” The Wall Street Journal. (Nov. 11, 1999): A1, A8.
5 Sarno, J. Healing Back Pain:The Mind Body Connection. (N.Y: Warner Books: 1991)
6 Pelletier, K. Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer (NY: Dell: 1977).
7 Luecken, L. “Past Leaves Indelible Imprint on Health”. OT Week (Dec. 3, 1998): vi.
8 Upledger, J. Craniosacral Therapy II: Beyond the Dura. (Seattle: Eastland: 1987).
9 Dychtwald, K. Bodymind. (N.Y.: G.P. Putnam’s Sons): 187-240.
10 Ibid. p 187.
11 Goleman, D. op. cit.: 27.
12 Ibid.: 26, 208.
13 Rhunke, A., Wurzburger, A. BodyWisdom. (Rutland, VT: Charles Tuttle Co: 1995): 100.
14 Lewis, R., “Getting the Head to Really Sit on One’s Shoulders-A First Step In Grounding the False Self.” (1985, unpublished manuscript):8.
15 Jung, C.G., Memories, Dreams, Reflections. (Vintage Books Ed., 1989): 245.
16 Farhi, Donna. The Breathing Book: Good Health and Vitality Through Essential Breath (Canada: Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd.): 89.
17 Cousins, Norman. “Mind Over Illness”. (Nightingale-Conant Audio publ. #09191).
18 Campbell, Joseph. Hero with a Thousand Faces (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press:1973): 190-193, 388-389.
- An Eclectic Recipe to Fight Fibromyalgia – Documenting A Journey Past Pain, Part I (hofholistichealingcenters.wordpress.com)
- Developing Emotional Competency (intentionalworkplace.com)
- Coping With a Fibromyalgia Flare (everydayhealth.com)