Where Do We Go From Here?

In regards to the understanding of Rolfing as of fascia-manipulation and the possibility of introducing pain science and the biopsychosocial framework into Rolfing.

[Originally from a long discussion thread on Facebook, including numerous veteran Rolfers.]

I believe the research of Antonio Damasio in the 90s and Peter Levine's work on trauma, along with a wave of others this recent decade, has demonstrated that psychology as a stand alone subject is impossible. Hence the combination of biopsychosocial into one field of research. Holism, if you will. One cannot claim the body is a singular unit and then parse out pieces to be worked on individually.

I'm not saying, and neither are the leading pain scientists, that our work…doesn't work. Things like "reframing the issue," de-escalating her fear response, using common language to help bring it to a place that was palatable for her, etc, are all phenomenal examples of utilizing principles of the BPS framework to modulate someone's pain without even laying hands on them.

We are utilizing pieces of the BPS framework already. A little further study into it, like any good continuing ed class, and you'd have an even broader skill set to draw from. Hence the confusion I find myself at. We seem to "disagree" with BPS and then provide anecdotal experience that supports further incorporating BPS ideas into the Rolfing work even more.

I think the gulf that exists in Rolfing between old and new, revolves around this: we do not believe that the "issue is in the tissue." We've read too much research that has shown that pain DOES NOT originate in the tissue. It's a complex, FULL BODY (meaning mind, body, and soul) experience, and therefore we must consult all of these pieces if we wish to help alleviate pain, or tension, or unease, whatever we choose to describe "I don't feel well."

We cannot claim to be holistic practitioners and then say that the problem is the structure. What does that mean? Just the anatomy? Or is it perhaps the complex interplay between all systems in the body? Like the fascia. But also our brain, our nervous system, all the other systems. Rolled into one body that is so intricately overlapped and integrated that trying to work on just one thing is like trying to isolate a single layer of cheese in a hundred layer lasagna. That's also living. Isolating someone's Teres Minor fascia, for example, with even the most skilled fingertips still includes: touching someone's skin, interacting with their nervous system, what your other hand is doing, the topic of conversation, the tone/volume of your voice, the way your face reminds them of other people in their past, their history with body work, their history with any other work, the way the room smells, how much they already agree with you, their fears, their biases, the color of the room, the memories they associate with the sensation of the area you're touching, on and on and on.

Relegating the change we see in people to the simple act of tickling someone's fascia through layers of innervated skin and despite all the countless influences that modulate and fluxuate their experience of pain, and really, life in general, seems foolish. I don't mean that condescendingly. This was the stark reality I have found myself in since I had the realization that perhaps the idea of one singular unit of the body (fascia) being the culprit of trouble in an enormously complex human experience and that I somehow fiddle around with it and, BOOM, fix people's imbalances, was a preposterous one. I do not claim to know for certain what causes these changes. I don't relegate your years of experience as both pained person and then healed Rolfer as anecdotal nor do I see it as any less valuable as the research I've uncovered in my own journey. 

But sorry, the old narrative does not make sense. I implore you, I beg you, all of you, to continue to be a part of the discussion as we update our narrative. But that discussion needs to happen, and will happen, as we navigate the progressing world of research on pain, feelings, fascia, and the human experience. Leaving our livelihoods in the hands of 40-50 year old research, "Ida saids", and studies on fascia that conclude with, "we don't know much, let's study fascia more," seems foolish.

There is a great group of young Rolfers out there, recent graduates over the past few years, who are skeptical, hungry, and research-focused. They are both men and women. They come from all different backgrounds have the desire and the wherewithal to update our narrative. I doubt this will be the last conversation regarding BPS, pain science, or fascia in the years to come. I highly suggest you read up so you can keep up.

Levi Younger