Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rolfing In The Rain Forest

We received an invitation for training at my hospital. Here is the bio of one of the presenters (name redacted).
(She) is an Advanced level Instructor of Somatic Experiencing® for the S.E. Trauma Institute and a founding member of the A.B.T (Brazilian Trauma Association). She has been a Rolfer since 1984 and teaches Rolfing® and Rolf Movement® for the Rolf Institute and is also a founding member of the Brazilian Rolfing Association. Lael holds a 5th degree black belt in Ki-Aikido and is a teacher of both Ki-Aikido and Shin Shin Toitsu Do—Mind and Body Coordination, certified by the Ki Society International in Tokyo Japan. (She) teaches in the US, Brazil, Japan and Europe . She is currently studying Anthroposophic Art Therapy and together with (he) operates an integrative healing center in the Brazilian rainforest.
Quite a collection of cliches there, innit? rainforest, anthroposophic art, integrative healing, Oriental martial/philosophic arts, rolfing. Welcome to the edges of my field.

Easy to mock. Fish. Barrel. But before you sneer, two things: not this specifically, but something like this, is actually a very promising area of trauma studies. This, EMDR, and a dozen less well-known therapies have their rituals and gimmicks to set them apart from each other, and they are fairly unanimous that dreaded western medicine misses the point. But this idea of treating trauma by changing how the brain stores it, and changing what associations the brain has with traumatic events through physical, mechanical processes rather than talk therapies, may actually prove out. I am no judge as to which of these ideas is the most likely path to tread. Perhaps none. But however strange it seems, it's not turning out to be crazy. How the brain stores trauma and the emotional associations that cripple may indeed be key.

Second thing: however much I kick liberals, here is where they are best. They want to help. They want to relieve suffering. They may be open to new ideas to the point of preferring them to old ones for no reason, but they will risk a great deal in order to help. They will endure ridicule gladly for that chance. There is an entire important discussion about what the possible abuses are if we discover how to manipulate minds at such a level. But even if these people are ushering in those abuses through fuzziness, or inattention, or trusting the wrong leaders to supervise the regulation of this, they mean you no harm, and should not be seen as such.

These are not the droids you are looking for.


Anonymous said...

"Relive suffering," or "relieve suffering"?

Kitten said...

Sorry for my ignorance, but wjat is "Rolfing"?

Donna B. said...

"relive". Had I made that typo, I would think it one of the Freudian Slip type! (Wondering if there is a Freudian font. That could be handy.)

Staying true my lack of maturity, I'd never be able to endure Rolfing because I'd be gagging on my giggles.

I'm not so sure that there is a liberal/conservative divide in the area of wanting to help, or even in discussions of what might medically help.

There is a tendency for liberals to accuse conservatives of not wanting to help and for conservatives to accuse liberals of causing harm where help was intended.

Sponge-headed ScienceMan said...

I'm with Kitten, what is "Rolfing?" Sounds like a European way of saying "barfing."

james said...

The book Powers of Mind was great fun--an introduction to the fads of the mind and body during the 70's. Our host is probably familiar with it. It described est, sensory deprivation, TM, rolfing and many more.

The Wikipedia article says "Rolfing has evolved over the decades into a practice far more gentle than in its early origins" which I take to mean that "Adam Smith's" description of the rolfer's bony elbow digging into his armpit isn't accurate anymore.

The idea (or excuse) was that tight muscle groups and locked fascia caused ill-health, and a trained rolfer could BFI the hard tissue back into softness.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Anon - thanks for the pickup. Fixed.

It's another one of those typos that makes its own kind of sense though, isn't it? For some do wish to relive suffering rather than relieve it.

The Wikipedia is a good enough neutral introduction to rolfing.

As for est, BTW, Werner Erhardt did say one thing I agree with:"Your children will grow up to be exactly what they want and blame you for it."

Donna B. said...

"Ralfing" is slang for barfing and the reason such therapy would have to have another name for me to submit to it, regardless its usefulness.

Words are powerful :-)


When my son was injured, he was hospitalized for 5 months. During that time, I learned that there certainly are people who thrive on another's suffering and that they often disguise it as caring.

It takes several forms, some of them quite socially acceptable.

karrde said...

Now, if it was ROFL'ing, we'd know what that is.

On a broader front, I am reminded of a novel (written in the early 1960's) which was set in a psychology ward in Britain.

One method of treatment described in the novel was to dose the patient with LSD.

According to Wikipedia, LSD was used as a treatment (in the U.S.) for certain mental disorders between the end of WWII and the year 1963, when the FDA restricted its use.

So, will Rolfing and its related Integrated Healing techniques join LSD among discarded psychologist's tools? Or will it be accepted as a new method for dealing with traumatic memories?

Dr X said...

EMDR looked like woo and hype 20 years ago, but I must admit that the research seems to be saying there is something there. A physiological connection between possible functions of REM stage sleep and eye movement in EMDR is naturally the first thing that would come to mind, but who knows? It is interesting and I wouldn't rule out other bodily activity that might provide an inroad to the brain.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Dr X, I had the same impression. I thought it was voodoo. Now, I'm not so sure.