Emotion Study and Massage Therapy

Certified massage therapist Christopher Neam talks about the discovery that touch can communicate some emotions with Alex Chadwick.

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Chris Neam is a licensed massage therapist in Ventura, California. Chris, this study about communicating emotions through touch, a scientific study: I wonder if this is something that masseuses might say, well, we've actually known this for quite a while, actually maybe a couple of thousand years.

Mr. CHRIS NEAM (Massage Therapist): I think so, yes, because I think all massage therapists are very, very intuitive. Touch is something that people so desperately need. And I think certainly the Tao Healing Arts Center that I was working in, a great deal of people came in just to be touched, just to have that communication with another human being.

CHADWICK: As Michelle described this experiment in her report, the subjects were trying to communicate specific emotions through touch and the sender would touch the receiver sort of in the way that a masseuse might touch someone. But I wonder if you read emotions the other way. That is, do you think that you know, sometimes anyway, what a person is feeling when you touch them?

Mr. NEAM: Yes. In Los Angeles for instance, a lot of people come into the session very stressed, trying to find parking or whatever. The initial process is to let them know that they're safe, it's a very safe environment for them to completely, totally relax and just let go of any emotion that they wish to.

CHADWICK: I was interested to see in Michelle's report that one of the emotions that you can express through touch is sympathy. Sympathy is something that you can convey, and I would imagine this is something that people indeed would come in and ask for.

Mr. NEAM: Very much so. I had a client the other day who was grieving for the loss of his father and we had the session and he just was like a different person afterwards, and he moved on, from what he said, was to a place of understanding. I felt very flattered that he had found it this through a massage session.

CHADWICK: I wonder if you've had the experience, Chris, of seeing someone transformed in some emotional way, some kind of cathartic way, in the process. Has anyone ever wept in a massage session?

Mr. NEAM: Oh, very much so. I've had people almost jumping off the table with emotion. And massage therapists have an extraordinary power in their hands. Well, everyone does. Not just massage therapists. It there was a study done in Romania, in an orphanage. Children there who are not held, not touched, were banging their heads against the walls. They just desperately needed this physical communication with someone. I've always loved when people touch me and I love to touch people, because I - it's that initial intrinsic communication that I certainly love, and I think it's vital.

CHADWICK: Chris Neam, a massage therapist in Ventura, California, following the report in the scientific journal Emotion that emotions can be communicated reliably through touch. Chris Neam, thank you.

Mr. NEAM: Thank you.

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