I spoke last week, in this article, about one of the first time my sensations didn’t match what I was told to feel by my teachers and seniors. Years later, I believe it is still useful to remind people that patients are not muppets.
You see, even though we experience thousands of unspeakle things every seconds, our brain tends to seize those experiences to make them rational. And the way most therapists think doesn’t differ from that idea. We use models to explain life. But those models cannot be enough to match with the complexity of life.
Obviously, if you feel something and try to share that with any other person, you will need words (even though you could use art, but we are talking about osteopathy). If you are blessed enough to have the soul of a poet, the way you will talk about that event, that perception, will be extremely peculiar. But it takes other poets to understand or experience what you are talking about. You need people to be able to see beyond words and lets face it, very few people can do that.
By the time you are taught that poetry in an osteopathic school, someone who’s not a poet will have learnt it as a model and made it a rule. His brain, and most likely the brain of his teacher before him, will have seized the experience. And will have made it a rational model to try to explain life.
In the osteopathic field (but in yoga too, even in meditation), those models will lead to joints moving in a very mecanichal way, to muscles pulling on bones. And later, to students not being allowed to trust their own sensations. The model that was first here to support the sensation becomes a cage that limits the sensation.
I believe that one of the best exemple is cranial osteopathy. The model used is mostly outdated, very unscientific and leads to some osteopaths trying to move people’s bones of the skull. Yes, really.
I could get a headache just by thinking about the pressure applied on my skull by my then teacher. He was so into that model, that for him, my skull was jus a machine that he could adjust.
The way you think shapes the way you practice. If you want to live/work/feel in a different way, don’t learn techniques, change the way you think.
Man as a robot
I recently saw a rather good documentary about osteopathy. Overall, the documentary helped to reach many people and educated them about what osteopathy can do.
Still, in this documentary, I heard something that reminded me of my school years. During one of the sequence, you can see a lady who is a physiotherapist and a soon-to-be osteopath. She is assessing a patient and explains what she believes is happening to that patient. Supposedly, the fascia of the stomach creates a tension pulling on the left shoulder, and therefore, the patient has a shoulder pain. And that’s the very classic way of seeing the patient as a robot, or a muppet. Not that it has no interest, but the more I read, the less I believe this is actually osteopathy.
More about the mechanical model
Another exemple would be to explain that a patient has a lower back pain because of an old twisted ankle forcing the muscles to pull, creating an unbalanced pelvis. Bones, muscles pulling on bones and here we are. No life. A dead body that needs to be adjusted. No nervous system, only ropes and joints.
We’ll talk about that later but it seems to me, based on my readings of AT Still, the discoverer of osteopathy, that the main idea was not to understand which muscle pulls on which vertebra and unbalances the pelvis or the lower back, but to understand what an area needs to express Health and what prevents it from doing so.
The main idea is not to understand which muscle of the shoulder is tensed and prevents you from lifting up your arm, but to understand why the nerves, arteries, veins and lymphatics do not succeed in delivering the work they naturally should be delivering.
Still, the founder of osteopathy, was already telling us that patients are not muppets
Patients are not muppets
When I started to work as an osteopath, I did exactly the same as anybody else. I treated patients based on those models. I mean, studying something for 5 years is more than enough for you to start to believe in it.
The problem is that I never felt it was matching what I was feeling. Nor that it was what I wanted to do to help people. And from that point, my work has been to unlearn things that other people told me about what to feel. Same thing about how to think. Finally, I had to start thinking by myself.
Since a few years now, I don’t think there’s any single treatment where I do not tell people or make them understand that they are not robots or muppets. Always trying to get them to experience their body as a living process. And I don’t believe that’s going to stop anytime soon. Patients are not robots, patients are not muppets. Nor are you. Should you like to explore life as an ongoing process, meditation is a great way to dive into the experience. And I can teach you how to meditate through one on one sessions.
About Jules RampalMeditation teacher and osteopath
I am an online meditation teacher and an osteopath currently working in Gordes, France. My courses are for people who want to learn meditation with guided sessions, and for therapists who want to delve into the way they feel and the knowledge they can gather for their clients.
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