As you might know, I am currently working in Saigon, Vietnam, as an osteopath. By the way, every time I say that to a European person, they ask me if I am coming to Vietnam to learn a new technique. Because you know, the Orient, its philosophy, etc is very well marketed in the Western world. Well, we have tons of beliefs about Asia and we all think their massage techniques and traditional medicines are all about being super soft and subtle. It’s not. Plus, let me tell you something my dear European unknown readers: You do not realise what osteopathy is and how lucky you are to be able to book an appointment in any single city in France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, England, etc. (It’s still in Europe in my heart). So no, I am not here to learn a new technique, I am here to spread osteopathy and help more people.
I could add that if you are so much into oriental philosophy, maybe it is because you know nothing about the spiritual and philosophical schools of your own continent. There are so many mystics and philosophers from Europe that we barely hear about but whose books are definitely worth reading.
Anyway, this being said, have you ever noticed, my dear unknown reader (I call you that because of one of those books btw) how you behave in a foreign country? Yes, I know you’ve stopped traveling because of your carbon footprint since you’ve read an article about it on your brand new iPhone while drinking an organic coffee, but just think of a situation where you could see how your culture/habits made you react in a specific way even though it wasn’t adapted to the situation at all.
Let me give you an example: I come from Marseille, in the south of France. Marseille, which is basically like Paris but without Parisians, with the sun, the sea, cheaper, with a real football club, but as dirty as Paris, is not really a dangerous city. But it is a place where you have to be slightly careful. If you lived there, you’d avoid leaving your phone on the table if you are having a drink outside, you’d just check a bit behind you if walking alone at night, and you would leave nothing in your car. Small things like that. Not much, but it’s just normal to do it there, you don’t even think about it. It’s kinda subconscious. I’m sure people who move there learn it either from locals or by getting their window broken.
So, as I was saying, I am the happy owner of this beautiful French brain that is used to behaving in a certain way.
Now, I remember when I moved to Malaysia, I was walking at night and I was checking over my shoulder just to be sure nothing was happening. After a few times, I started to see that this behavior wasn’t needed in Kuala Lumpur. Or at least not as much as it could be in France.
A few years later, I arrived in Ireland. It was 15 days before the best period ever: confinement. Chilling, playing counterstrike with friends like I am a teenager again, tea, reading…This was so great I am hoping for a new pandemic. But because of that, I wasn’t able to start working but I had just started to rent an apartment. My landlord decided to reduce the rent by 25%. And here is what my Marseille brain thought: “This is dubious, where is the trap?”. Yeah, now that I am writing all that I realise I might just have trust issues or trauma, or a misaligned chakra. Maybe it has nothing to do with being from Marseille? Ok, we will just pretend I am not the problem here because I am fecking perfect.
Today, I was walking in Ho Chi Minh City, I realised people do this weird thing: they smile. But before doing so, they do something that they should definitely not do in France: they look at you. Like they really look at you. I know my face is whiter than my scrubs and my mustache makes me look like I have finally reached puberty at the age of 37 (hence playing counterstrike during confinement), and also I can’t stop looking at myself in the mirror so I can’t really blame people for doing the same, but technically, for my brain from the south of France, what they do means “Fancy a fight, my good sir?”. Though, they always end up smiling at me and leave my nervous system feeling totally stupid when it realises that it just can’t use French codes to understand the situation here.
My stupid brain is clever
I could give you tons of other examples like that, but the point is that after a few times facing the same situation and realising it’s useless, something eventually leaves you. The behaviour, even though it’s not fully forgotten, just becomes less and less present. And it feels like a noise that just stops. Suddenly, something calms down. Bim, gone.
This kind of stupid behaviour is normal. Normal because that’s just how we function. We are constantly anticipating things. Our brains are calculating the highest probability for something to happen. The issue is that in order to evaluate a situation, we need to use data from the past. So depending on your culture, depending on where you are from, depending on what happened to you, what you were told, the story of your tribe, what happened to your close ones, etc., your brain’s predictions will be different.
The exact same thing happens every time you bend forward. Your stupid brain decides whether the situation is dangerous or not based on all the past data that it has accumulated. Not only based on the current situation. Hence you might react in a way that is not necessarily appropriate to the situation and end up having back pain for no obvious reason.
But the good thing is that, just like in my case when people are outrageously smiling at me, you can, little by little, readjust the data your brain has which leads to a different outcome. But in order to do that, you need to let people stare and then smile at you. Again and again and again. You need to face situations that your brain believes it knows. You need to bend forward, or move your shoulders, etc. But you need to do it in a safe environment.
And guess who can help you create a safe environment? A therapist. An osteopath, a physio, a psychologist, etc.
That’s where, maybe, my dear unknown colleagues, we could help the patient to do that. Maybe creating space for the patient doesn’t have to be a sentence you say only because you just came back from a yoga retreat. Maybe it could be a real, tangible thing that you do.
Maybe with your hands, you could stare very gently at people, and end up smiling at them so they see they don’t need to protect themselves every time someone stares at them. Then you can do it again for a bit longer. Again, and again, and again, until something happens deep down. Until a muscle relaxes, not because you pulled on it, but because the tension isn’t needed anymore. Until the noise finally stops. Until the energy that why used to hear the noise finally becomes available to listen to life a bit deeper.
Great job, you can now hear the noise that was covered by the previous noise. Rinse, repeat. Do it slowly at first using soft techniques. Then do it faster using more demonstrative techniques. But you need to hear the noise that the patient can’t hear. and for that, one to be good at listening/feeling/perceiving.
Perceive your own patterns
Perceive the patient’s patterns as yours
Realize there’s no you/the patient
Realize there are just patterns. Like a kid who is about to cross the street and be run over by a car, no time to wonder if that’s your kid. In this situation all the kids are yours. Kids are kids, patterns are patterns. Just take care of the kid, the rest is good only for people who want to sell books about energy or osteopathy.