Bette J. Freedson, LCSW, CGP
“Ahhhgh!” Lance moaned as he slouched stiffly on the couch on an airy summer day.
He stretched his legs past the edge of the table, rubbed his right thigh. Lance groaned. “I’m a mess. The two little ones were crawling all over me this morning, bumping every inch of me that’s bruised. I had to get up and get all of them breakfast, but my body hurt so bad I wasn’t sure I could even move.”
A married father of three and a martial artist in his mid-thirties, Lance is tall, tan and robust looking, an appearance that belies his current physical discomfort.
“What’s happened to make you so sore, Lance?”
“My physical therapist says its bursitis in my muscles. It’s because of my damn job.” Lance, advertises his frustration with a loud, drawn out ‘jawwwb.’ “They have me blasting in a tube again! No PT is going to help me when I’m getting bashed all the time!”
Lance’s well-paying job is rather unusual. Working for a company whose contracted venues mandate sandblasting and painting in spaces where he barely fits, Lance must use Superman strength, Ironman agility and Spiderman courage to keep from being crushed against the walls and wounded by the heavy equipment he carries. Although Lance credits martial arts training for giving him the flexibility to perform this work, invariably he ends up moving around in awkward and uncomfortable positions and coming out hurt.
“Clearly, I can see that you’re hurting, Lance. And it seems this has been happening a lot lately. How might you lighten the load, or would it be advisable to take workman’s comp’ time to heal?”
Slouching further in his chair he repositioned his hat to cover his eyes, which have closed a little. Lance pronounces that nothing, including PT is going to help. He then lists a litany of reasons for continuing to do what he’s doing: he’s primary provider; the job pays “really good;” he’ll “go crazy” on light duty; and anyway his bosses say he’s the only person who can properly do this job. At this point, Lance is on a roll of resistance, and I am dissociating.
Listening to Lance, who is starting to convince me of the hopelessness of his situation, a part of my mind floated to my recent online class with Jeffrey Zieg, PhD, Director of the Milton Erickson Foundation.
Jeff advises that in certain cases it is wise to “jump into action” to get outside the conflict, bypass the struggle and find a small component of the solution. It occurs to me that the problem of Lance’s resistance to self-care presents an interesting opportunity. Perhaps I can utilize somatic sensing with Lance’s Houdini-like courage and determined willingness to contort his aching body into a size that he can fit into the virtual tank.
“Lance, you’re in a tight spot; and I’m almost convinced that there is nothing you can do—almost. The reality is that you are bruised and battered and you are agile and flexible otherwise you’d never perform the miraculous body transformations that allow you to successfully accomplish your job.
Opening his eyes a little under his hat, Lance lifts the brim a bit, looks at me, more alert, interest piqued. “Yah?”
“You see, I was just thinking about a couple movies I saw a number of years ago. One was something about shrinking the kids and the other one was Fantastic Voyage, a kind of educational film in which people also got small so they could go inside and the human body.
“Oh yeah, I remember them.”
“You’re pretty good at moving around in small spaces; I wonder if you would be willing to imagine shrinking yourself and taking a fantastically healing voyage inside your own body; this should be pretty easy for you.”
“I like the idea. I’m up for it.” Lance agreed, his eyes brightening.
“We know that healing is more effective from inside out.” I explained. “The idea is to quiet your mind with a gentle, easy breath and imagine moving around inside your body with special healing equipment, working on places that hurt. Let’s call this a somatic healing voyage; at the very least the gentle trance you will be in can help you to relax.”
Adjusting the pillows behind his head and pushing back his hat, Lance was already showing alterations in breathing, attention and posture that indicate a light trance. He proved to be an adept subject.
After shrinking himself to “just the right size,” Lance created a somatic “sandblaster” that knew just the right force and temperature to gently blast away whatever was causing his pain. Lance was smiling and sinking more comfortably into the couch, color flushing his face, indicating the energy flow as he imagined travelling through his inner anatomy, “cleaning things up.”
He spent a little extra time in the area of his muscular bursitis, rubbed his hip and thigh again but this time he replaced the groan with a sigh.
“What’s happening Lance?”
“I feel a sensation of warmth everywhere. Like a tingling feeling in my hip. It feels good, but maybe it will hurt when I’m big again and outside of myself.”
“In a way, we’re always inside of ourselves; sometimes we’re more conscious of discomforts than the healing potentials within. Now, you might like to take a breath and memorize the feelings of warmth and tingling. You can decide to remember these feelings any time you wish. If you want to make the memories more vivid, you might even see if you can find one or both of the movies to make your healing imagination even more vivid. Could be fun.”
“This was kinda fun.” Lance sat up less stiffly and looked at me with laughter in his eyes.
“I just figured out how come they call you guys shrinks!”
“Good point.” I replid, laughing. “I’ll have to tell Dr. Zeig.”
Bette J. Freedson, LCSW is a clinical social worker, certified group psychotherapist, and the author of Soul Mothers’ Wisdom: Seven Insights for the Single Mother. Bette’s specialties include stress management, parenting issues, recovery from trauma and the development of intuitive insight. She maintains a private practice in Southern Maine with her husband, Ray Amidon, LMFT.