It all began about 20 years ago, at the time when arthrosis started to develop in the joints of my fingers and in both of my knees. For 10 years I had been doing research as a staff member of the Classical Archeology Department of the University of Groningen, and during that period I regularly visited Syria where I was co-responsible for the work at the excavation sites and where I collected material for my studies. Looking back I see that my congenital predisposition to develop arthrosis had little or no chance to manifest itself in that dry and sunny climate. But eventually I decided to make a living out of my great hobby - sailing, which meant: living on the waterfront or actually on a ship. I worked on renovating old ships, and also spent many months each year sailing with groups on the Dutch Shallows. In that kind of life one is very often wet and not always warm. Although these Shallows are a place of unsurpassed beauty this was also a place that - unlike the interior regions of the Middle East- was apt to increase the difficulties in my joints. And so it happened that my knees started sending signals of protest that took the form of debilitating shots of pain and that my hands grew less and less able to execute the movements I intended to make. Members of the regular medical profession that I tried to get help from did extensive research and concluded that I did not suffer from rheumatism and that there were few if any signs of an inflammatory process. Although the x-ray pictures were not conclusive I was sent home with the diagnosis of arthrosis, that is to say that in my midthirties I was already suffering wastage in the bone structure of my joints and would just have to live with the pain. There it was: what did this tell me and what consequences would " learning to live with the pain" have for my future.
After 20 years these questions may sound coolly analytical but, believe me, during the time - almost a year- that those medical consultations took place I got more and more angry and rebellious, repeating over and over to myself: 'They cannot be right'. Meanwhile the trouble with my joints was growing rapidly worse. You see me standing before you now -so you will not be surprised to hear that this was the beginning of a new way of looking at my life. The above-mentioned question 'what does it mean: learning to live with it' did not arise spontaneously and it took a while before it acquired a positive connotation. I was inspired to ask this by the work of my mother who was a speech therapist and had learned and further developed a method to help stuttering clients. It was important for these clients to experience deep relaxation, to come into contact with their true selves, to accept themselves as intrinsically imperfect and to develop self-respect regardless. There were workshops in which the Sensory Awareness* techniques could be experienced and those that took part learned how to use them in their own work as well as in their own lives; sensory awareness proved to be beneficial in all kinds of mental and physical stress. I started to attend workshops on relaxation, sensory awareness and ... another method that seemed to have merit, the Autogene Training that Schulz had developed in the early years of the last century.
Looking back on that period it was definitely Schulz's method that attracted me most. I trained myself using his auto-suggestive methods and autohypnosis and my movements became much less restricted. I love playing the flute, and my playing definitely improved. - I also noticed that handling the ropes on board grew to be easier. The conviction that there is more, much more to be found in the field of health care, than in the regular medical profession, steadily grew. Apparently taking responsibility for my own physical well-being did have results. Afterwards it often happened that during my cruises discussions with guests arose on this subject, which several times resulted in meetings during the winter months, with me as a kind of facilitating element, in which meetings self development and its interconnection with personal health were the main issues. It was an interesting period but looking at it now I have to admit I was extremely severe and strict, not only with myself but also with the members of these groups. Looking back it becomes only too clear that at that time I confused 'accepting one's responsibility ' with 'doing everything oneself.'
Then suddenly there was this friend who told me she had enrolled in a training where she, among other things, was taught to massage people's feet in order to promote their health. In her opinion this was right up my street too. A shining example of how things work out in life. I believe that up to that point I had considered every move carefully and from all angles before coming to a decision. Now I just had a short talk with the two main teachers of this training course and without having experienced even one single treatment -session I decided that this was what I was going to do. Obviously I 'knew' somewhere inside me that not only helping others my way, but especially accepting one's need for help their way were an important part of responsible behavior. And of course it was a challenge too. Would I be up to it with the fingers I had? No question, I just had to be up to it! And it went well. Although I am sorry to mention the fact, that this training did not teach me reflexology, it did give me a solid base for the development of my therapeutic skills. When I had concluded this course I did learn about reflexology from our well-known Dwight Byers. And that was good! But - during the seminars with Dwight Byers that I took part in I soon discovered that my hands did not have a fraction of the flexibility that his had. To separately move the last phalange of thumb or finger enabling them to 'walk' was totally impossible (picture 1 and 2). I díd the 'walking' but not by the book, it felt stiff and painful too. By the time I had to present myself for examination I was by no means sure of qualifying. Happily Dwight, reassured me by saying that technical proficiency was not as important as how the results did feel. And..apparently the results felt good, because I did qualify. But I had achieved everything with the rolling movement of the hand, which Dwight uses at the pinpoint areas and around the heel. I am grateful that even though Dwight is so sure there is but one right method, he nevertheless did stimulate me.
Because I kept having trouble with the Ingham technique, I was happy to meet Tony Porter and to learn about his ART techniques. Those gliding movements were much easier for me to perform and not painful either. I have used those for a while but did not feel satisfied in the end. This was because I could not work accurately enough as the upper layer shifts with respect to the lower layer and the periost. Moreover I became more and more convinced that the chart, the somatotopy, that we are wont to go by, did not give accurate information; that the zones to be found in the upper layer differed from those in deeper layers of tissue. What became especially clear to me was that for instance the spine is not reflected on the 'traditional' location in the more superficial layers on the transition between planta and medial side of the foot, but on the periost of the bones in the foot (picture 3).Fronenberg gave the first impulse to this rethinking and we can see that the shift I describe for myself also applies to other authors.
Hanne Marquardt is a representative example. Anyway, because of these insights I sought for more precision and began experimenting again with a pressure technique, which makes 'walking' indispensable.
Around this time I also discovered the boundaries of what autogene training could do for me. I realized that the 'power' of positive thinking, which concretely meant for me to keep telling myself 'I cán move my fingers', also kept presenting a negation of the fact that I was, that I am a person with arthrosis. What did it really mean: 'learning to live with it'? It was, again, a relevant question.
At that time I already knew about a medical doctor who had published several articles and books on the merits of breathing and relaxation therapy Jan van Dixhoorn who had also started to organize training courses. I had participated in several weekend workshops on relaxation techniques - of course relaxation is the professed goal of autogene training too - but apparently I was now ready for this other approach, in a training-course that comprised 3 years. And - how wonderful life can be! - I there found exactly what I was hoping for. We will probably all regard 'relaxation' as the base of good health, but now I had come to understand the true meaning of this concept. I discovered that to relax by using willpower - which is what the auto suggestive method of autogene training boils down to -is at core a contradiction. In other words - although one does achieve impressive results one remains a prisoner of the ego-identity, which generates this willpower. We cannot change ourselves. But we can become responsible for ourselves and learn to know about ourselves. As soon as we wánt to change some aspect of who we are, we become unable to accurately look at that aspect and how can things change that one cannot clearly define, not mentally, neither emotionally, which is more serious. So indeed 'one cannot live with it' and yet, however hard we try it is not possible to force essential changes.
If we want to change the best way is just to be attentive to our own bodies. When we are ill or in pain it goes without saying that we notice the messages our body sends us, everybody in this audience will agree to this statement. But we can go further: to become and remain really healthy we should take ALL messages our body sends out seriously. For everything that has happened, happens, will happen to us, big events or small ones, all leave traces of unsolved stress and create a personal pattern of tension in our muscles. If we muster the courage to really feel the tensions - work with them - something changes, The more we accept the tension as given, the less judgmental we are about it, the more we feel it slip away. Relaxation happens of its own accord. Change comes as a present. Life is great in spite of all its sorrow and despair. Whether we want to or not, we are all, at our own pace, being more or less propelled into developing our "wholeness".
Summarily stated: What has become crystal clear to me is that one's ability to relax is proportional to one's willingness to be nonjudgmental while experiencing physical and/or mental tension.
In this way the walking becomes independent of the momentary amount of pressure that is necessary for treatment. That is a very good thing in DROP, because for now it is possible to simultaneously use the most effective position for either phase, the working one, when the pressure is given, and the walking one .The precision of our work is increased, and so is the use of the sensitivity of the thumb-top.
The above is the description of a grip in which the thumb works and is positioned under the fingers. It may be clear that when one of the fingers has to work, or if the thumb has to work in a position above the fingers, the movement of arm and wrist may be the opposite of what I have just described, but that makes no difference.
These descriptions will seem rather dry an analytical, not very interesting to read and even with the added illustrations not easy really understandable. For most people the essential meaning will only become clear by attending a workshop and experiencing the effects - both as client and as therapist. Why experience teaches us more than explanation can be easily explained: it is because we are not, or hardly, able to execute two different actions in exact accordance with each other by 'thinking' about how to do it. Usually we concentrate on what we want to achieve and the combination of muscle activities necessary to that effect originates in another part of the brain, the cerebellum, to which the cerebrum, or cognitive brain has no access. So the less we think about our movements the more effective they will be. So consciously following the analytical instructions for the DROP technique will seldom lead to properly executing them. Too often have I witnessed that just picking up a foot in order to begin working and walking will arouse a much larger amount of muscle tension in the therapist than is needed. Picture 21 shows how that lookes like, with the centre of the tension most often in the flexor and adductor policis (picture 22). Reversely one will do it as shown in picture 23 when picking up a glass of gin. We do that automatically and for that reason with minimal tension. The relatively frequent injuries, inflammation of tendons in hand and shoulder, seen in reflexologists is a direct result of this badly - because too cognitively directed -coordination of activities. When working with DROP the rate of these injuries will, yes ..drop. And now I have come back to my original theme, i.e. the importance of one's own relaxed sitting position. It is much more important than the exact execution of the technique I have described. With a small amount of instruction and exercise a relaxed technique will be the result of that relaxed sitting position and will hardly be arrived at otherwise.
It follows from what I have already said, that it is difficult to acquire a relaxed sitting position by merely following analytical instructions. In addition: what feels most relaxed differs for each individual person, so the ideal position of my analytical description might not be the one and only 'right', the one and only truly relaxed position for you. A great deal depends on who you are at a given moment. The example I gave of the tower of building blocks: the ideal position when each part is exactly aligned on top of the one below it, is not something we can 'do' for ourselves. When you force yourself you may end up sitting straight as a ramrod, a conscious act that may make you feel in control ... but not comfortable! One can only increase relaxation by enlarging and refining one's own body concept and there is no way to do this cognitively. So it takes time, which does not make it an attractive proposition in our present society. But I count myself lucky for having experienced in person what kind of development derives from taking that time and for having seen clients in my practice and in my seminars develop and profit in the same way. I cannot but hope you will too . The more and the longer one engages in this road the more inalienable knowledge one acquires about oneself. There are of course many ways by which the body concept can be developed. I myself am happy to work with the relaxation- and breathing therapy taught by Jan van Dixhoorn whom I have already mentioned. His method provides 'exercises' that are extremely helpful in this respect. Of course individual clients may have inhibitions that prevent development of their body concept, but when they succeed in enlarging it to some extent, relaxation and breathing will become gradually easier and feel more spontaneous Relaxation is not passivity, not just freedom from action, but also freedom for action, which is more important. It means that actions, movements, take place with no more than the minimally necessary exertion and so are more efficient as well as more effective.
And that is the goal. Our building blocks, the vertebrae are kept in line by the intervertebral discs and the muscles responsible for posture. We are not a static structure as the tower of the building blocks. We aim at a dynamic structure, our 'tower' is not perpendicular .The structure of the human spine shows curves and this enables us to find a dynamic balance and allows for minimal exertion in the movements we execute. When we feel tired - and allow ourselves to acknowledge this - we can still sit well balanced with minimal tension, although the spine would be more curved than when we would be feeling rested and vigorous (pictures 24). But we do have to take care that the general centre of gravity remains right above the area on which we sit. If we do not we will continually need extra muscle tension to enable us to keep sitting at all. This tensing of posture muscles will make all our movements less flexible. The many exercises of the van Dixhoorn method are all very simple and can be performed by nearly everyone. Time and again I hear my clients or students exclaim: 'What I do seems nothing at all, I just move a bit- but whát effects it has! To give an example: in one of the exercises the principle is just that one rocks slightly back and forth over the sitting bones, several times, ends up by sitting in one's middle position (right on top of them), then compares the different sensations of sitting. Is this the same middle sitting position of before the exercise, does it feel different and if so in what way, how is your breathing now? Probably just 10 minutes is enough to register effect. Another aspect is to remain sitting for a short period with your weight in front of the sitting bones and then with your weight behind them and to experience what the greater ease or the greater discomfort of each position feels like. It may seem amazing, but just the conscious experience may make it feel different afterwards. A more sophisticated exercise is to sit with hands lying alternatively open or closed on you upper legs and experience the possible effect on your breathing space. The strong point of each exercise is that the movements involved give you the optimal possibility to experience differences. This does not mean to say that you will always sit in a different and more relaxed way after such an exercise, but what it does nearly always mean is: that you will know more about your own way of sitting. And that is the main goal. Only that which one is conscious of can change!
And as long as you do not try to change yourself, but are willing to just let it happen, this will practically always make for more relaxation.
The title of this lecture is The DROP finger and thumb technique, but what I especially hope to have made clear is the extent to which the relaxed attitude of the therapist is related to the ease and flexibility with which he works and to the effect this has on the client.