MORE THOUGHTS ON SIMPLE CONTACT

Barrett L. Dorko, P.T.


"He learned that juggling could be less about
control than about the struggle to accept the
fear and turmoil surrounding uncontrollable
events."

From "The Juggler" An interview with Michael Mochen
by Mark Levine                  New Yorker Dec. 7, 1998

          I've spent a great deal of time finding analogies for the nature of my work. These have included forays into the cinema, poetry, and both obscure and classic literature. Here's yet another.

          Simple Contact is best described as a method of communication, both verbal and manual, that enhances another's sense and expression of already ongoing processes and movement. My intention when I employ Simple Contact is to reveal and enhance unconsciously motivated movement, and by that I mean specifically the ideomotor- movement we know is designed to reduce adverse mechanical deformation in various tissues (see "The Forgotten Movement"). Since this movement is commonly subtle, counter cultural and seemingly foreign to normal functioning, Simple Contact of a manual sort is initially needed to elicit its full expression. There is, as well, the issue of painful and/or fearful movement to be considered. The therapist's job in this instance is to understand how corrective movement appears and feels (see "The Characteristics of Correction").

          I'm convinced that technique should be the culmination of our understanding of the materials. My understanding of the body includes a vision of its functioning as unconsciously self- corrective, potentially "fluid" in a physiologic sense (read parasympathetic dominant) and incapable of changing its shape via the direct influence of typical therapeutic manual care. I came to these conclusions though both practicing and reading the literature. For me, Simple Contact made more sense than any other manual technique. I have no idea whether or not it is actually more effective for reducing pain.

          There is a fascinating passage in the Michael Mochen interview referred to at the beginning of this essay. It concerns Mochen's invention of "ball-rolling," a technique of juggling performance that allows the balls to remain in contact with the body. They seem to float about, "followed" by the juggler. This, of course, is the illusion the performer wishes to create.

          "I made a rule," he says, "that I would never close my hand around the ball, that I would always keep my hand open. It's virtually impossible to have real control over an object if you're doing that. It was the most difficult choice I could make because it's the opposite of what a juggler is supposed to do. It offers only vulnerability."

          I immediately related to what Mochen says here, and would simply substitute the words "coerce the body" where "close my hand around the ball" appears. And, of course, "juggler" becomes "therapist."

          Simple Contact does indeed imply the acceptance of chaotic and often uncontrollable events. It allows the therapist and the patient alike to sense how at least some of this activity is essential for recovery. Choosing which of these events are in fact helpful and should be perpetrated is, I suppose, the essence of the technique.

          Years ago I made non-coercive force a rule in my own practice, and I would certainly agree that it ran counter to virtually all that I had previously learned and taught about manual care. As Mochen says, vulnerability was the result, and, I would now say, the reward.