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The Gulf

I had an experience with a client shortly after a contentious moment in my country's political discourse (how is that for PC?) where I was actually compelled to end a session because I was not able to care for my client deeply enough to work out a better solution. So I wrote my client a letter which he has graciously allowed me to share here.

Two important things I want to say about this at the outset:

1) There is no good guy or bad guy in this story, just two people trying to figure out who they are in the midst of all the chaos going on around us.

2) I know that there will be mixed reactions to this, especially from massage therapists. However, this is about my experience and the level of care and connection that I want to provide and have with my clients as well as to the standards that I want to hold myself to.

I’m not sure you understand how much goes into our touch relationship. I happily give you almost everything I have and I usually do not ask for much in return. I try to have enormously high hopes in terms of touch and outcomes but very little expectations. This has gone well for us and the quality and level of my touch, our touch relationship, has been increasing with every visit. However, we definitely took a step backwards today, many steps backwards, many large steps backwards…

I’m not sure if it has always been there, but I feel it now. This gulf between us. This enormously deep abyss that threatens to completely disconnect me from you. I am really good at what I do and I have navigated some seemingly unnavigable situations. More than that I deeply love what I do and believe in it’s higher purpose. My touch heals, it connects. My touch allows people to completely transform themselves at least while they are on my table. Is not a technique, not something I had to learn somewhere. It is just an expression of my deepest self that I had to be brave enough to explore and to share with others.

Right now I wish it was a technique or there was some formulaic way to get my touch back on track with you, but for now it is broken. We are broken. Maybe I have been broken by months and months of almost continuous disharmony, often escalating to fits of extreme hatred and violence that has been surrounding all of us. Maybe you have been broken by that as well…and I am leaning heavily on the last thought as I try to find my passion for touching you...for touching anyone.

But then you talk again and as much as I am truly bewildered that you could believe what you are saying, it is the tone of your voice, the contempt and the utter disregard for their humanity, for my humanity (and therefore for your own humanity) that feels so oppressive to me. It is not your position; red, blue2 or black, it is the self righteousness of your position and the lack of respect or at least compassion for anyone that does not share your position. For me. For my children…

I want to rise above my biased thoughts and the negative emotions that they are causing to well up within me. I want to provide a safe, judgment free and compassion filled space for you. But you keep on talking, even after I tell you that I do not like to talk about politics or other things that are deeply divisive in my sessions. Even after I tell you that I feel like your words are sinking into your own body because it is becoming more and more tense as the session goes on. Even as I tell you that my body is getting tenser.

So I did something that I have never done before. I ended a session, your session, solely because of our different beliefs. Because this divide between us had become so wide and so deep that I did not believe we could cross it. I did not even believe that we could meet in the middle of it, because whatever kind of framework we could build to meet there, would surely collapse under the weight of our discord. I gave up on you, myself and so much more but I did not realize that in the moment. I acted in haste. Sought my better good than yours or even ours. The damage is done, the gulf is wider; and now you see it as well.

I know that some would support my decision and even cheer it on. I could look for comfort and solace there. At least for a little while. Until the hypocrisy of my actions grow so large that I can taste the bile from it trying to escape my throat (obviously I have a flair for the melodramatic). Not just a hypocrisy of words, the things that I say and teach. But a hypocrisy of my being of how I understand myself and the care that I want to provide. How I want others, you, to understand myself.

I want to apologize to you for all of that. I need to apologize to you, but I also need you to understand me at the same time. How I am deeply affected by the things that people say, by the compassion or the lack of compassion they express, by the amount of love or hate that I feel from them. I can absorb an enormous amount of sadness and even anger but I am too vulnerable to absorb hate, ridicule and contempt. Not because I feel I am too pure or virtuous, rather because when it mixes with my hate, ridicule and contempt it makes me a very ugly person and I can no longer distinguish myself from my so called “them” ( which probably begs a deeper problem).

So please accept this catharsis as an attempt at an apology and let me know if you want to come in again and see if there isn’t space for both of us somewhere in the vast expanse of both of our gulfs.

The best part about this is that we have managed to rebuild our therapist/client relationship and are both better human beings because we did not just walk away from eachother with contempt.

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