I get massage fairly regularly. I had an interesting conversation recently with my masseuse about “hard massage”. She told me that men often come along wanting a hard massage. When she asks them about their history of massage she learns they have never had one or had one some years before. She told me you cannot leap straight into a hard massage. Your body is unfamiliar with that touch and experiencing that pain and your body will fight it. You will tense up, resist the pressure and instead of getting massaged you will just get bruised. It takes time and practice for your body to trust and relax and accept the pressure (and pain) so that the massage can actually release the tension, rather than exacerbate it.
Tough conversations can be exactly the same. I work with those who have been traumatised through sexual abuse. Some come along to the first session having mentally steeled themselves to reveal their horrific past. We don’t do that. We dial it back and start softly. If we leap into the trauma all that happens is we re-traumatise the person and they don’t come back, and feel that they are unfixable.
We start slowly, working in the clients current life to see how the trauma from years before “plays out” in their life at the moment. We look at meanings about themselves came from the trauma, and how those meanings (such as “I’m powerless”, “I’m disgusting” “I’m unsafe”) affect how they react to things in their life. We look at how various relationships are impacted by the trauma. For many living with the trauma of an assault, their “normal” is anything but. It might take a year or more before we can begin to go towards addressing the traumatic memory.
By taking things real slow, we can work our way towards undoing the damage of a traumatic experience and those people can begin to accept and love themselves, feel safer and enjoy better relationships.