The English language is full of words that have multiple connotations. Occasionally, I will ask someone if they have received any bodywork lately and their reply will be: “No, my car is running fine.”
It is a bit funny if you think about it, the analogy of working with a 1991 Honda Civic and a 1968 Human Being. The comparisons are vast. However, there is obviously a world of difference.
I often overhear therapists talking about working on this client or working on that client, with descriptions that sound a lot like a mechanic working on an automobile. This paradigm often involves locating the problem and then “fixing” it.
It is my belief that there is a fundamental difference between “working on” a client and “working with” the same client. We can work on an inanimate object with the intention to replace a part or repair damage. However, the human body requires interaction that is far more complex. If our technique becomes mechanical and our approach becomes procedural, we lose the ability to see each client for whom they are and recognize the unique way in which they receive massage. Albert Einstein once said, “All means prove but a blunt instrument if they have not behind them a living spirit.”
I have no doubt that there are automobile mechanics in the world that work with the “soul” of the cars that they service. In the end, despite all the metaphors, a car is not a living organism. In his book, The Anatomy of Change, author Richard Heckler describes three ways to work with the body: working on the body, working with the body, and working through the body. Take a moment to reflect on these different approaches. Which one would best describe your approach to massage and bodywork?
Here is my invitation. Try replacing the phrase “I worked on a client today…” with “I worked with a client today…” and notice the difference, if any, for you as a therapist.
Words are powerful. Choose them wisely.