To Laugh or Not to Laugh? That is the Question.
Within recent weeks, a long term client was receiving a therapeutic massage on their left arm and suddenly felt the need to laugh. After a few chuckles, this client commented that they were sorry for wanting to laugh during the session and proceeded to cover up what they were feeling for the sake of believing that laughter was not appropriate during a massage treatment.
Shortly thereafter, I shared with this client that it is completely appropriate to laugh during a treatment if that is what is coming up and encouraged them to continue. Once the client felt safe and comfortable enough to continue laughing, their laughter subsided naturally and as a result their left arm fully released and their breathing pattern deepened.
The above story is an example of what is called an emotional release. An emotional release is when tension or holding patterns in the body are released through the feeling and expression of emotions such as anger, sadness or laughter.
An example of an emotion that needs to be released to benefit the body is, tension that is held in the back and arms as a result of unexpressed anger that was built up over time rather than being used to strike out. Or shallow breathing could be a result of unexpressed grief where the muscles used in crying were instead used to hold back such emotion thus stiffening the diaphragm and chest muscles.
Massage therapy’s main goal is to release muscular tension. So if stored tension is linked to suppressed emotion, the client may experience the surfacing of that emotion. It can be expressed by the tearing of the eyes, crying, laughing or shaking, to name a few. If a release such as these start to surface during a session, it is best to return to the awareness of your breath and allow the emotion to surface while letting it release through the exhale. When this is done, clients usually report the emotion subsiding naturally while noticing the release of chronic muscular tension and a sense of overall well-being.
In the future, if any emotion arises during session; feel it, allow yourself to breath with it and then release it. This could be the start of letting go of the old (chronic tension) to create space for the new (relaxed muscles and well-being).
Note: If you wish to further investigate the nature behind an emotion that was felt during a massage session, it is advised to speak directly to a practitioner that specializes in psychology or psychotherapy.