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Body Therapy, Ethics and Quantum Mechanics

by Allan Rudolf(more info)

listed in bodywork, originally published in issue 18 - March 1997

A few months ago, I was having tea near St. James Park in London with friends who were far more knowledgeable about the politics of body therapy and alternative medicine. I'm certainly not naive about such matters but I was surprised at the extent of infighting, backbiting and name calling. Some examples will more than suffice: chiropractors badmouthing osteopaths; osteopaths besmirching chiropractors; straight chiropractors putting down McTimoney chiropractors and vice versa; one group of Reiki practitioners placing adverts stating that another group is not authentic; one school of aromatherapy attacking another school and, even, some practitioners of a particular therapy claiming all other therapies are either harmful or ineffective! I found some of the stories told to be both funny and sad at the same time. I was also dismayed and the meeting brought back some semi-painful memories.

About twenty two years ago when I first started my Rolfing practice, I truly believed Rolfing was superior to any other type of body therapy and, when questioned about other therapies by potential clients and others, I would take the opportunity to belittle the other therapies. I often did it in amusing ways. For example, when asked "what is the Alexander technique and how does it compare to Rolfing?", I answered with a strong New York accent: "well if you want to look like you had a broomstick shoved up your ass and up your spine then do the Alexander technique". That always got a good laugh at the expense of the Alexander technique. (Nowadays I am a great believer in the Alexander technique and receive lessons regularly). Why did I put down other therapies? At one level I did believe Rolfing was in some sense the best therapy and I also wanted potential clients to come to me and not other therapists. I could justify to myself the attacks on competitive therapies. However, in retrospect, something else was going on. Deep down there was a sense of insecurity, a gnawing feeling, a fear that maybe Rolfing wasn't the best therapy. Maybe I really did not know what the hell I was doing. Maybe I was only slightly more knowledgeable about helping people than a parrot is about the English language. Thus I would attack other therapies as a way of reinforcing in my own mind that I was doing something effective. I was burying my lack of confidence and lack of knowledge by putting down others.

As the years went by and my knowledge and confidence grew I found less and less of a need to put down others and could speak of my work in its own right. However, there were a few events that were major catalysts in allowing my viewpoint to shift. I will relate two of them.

In 1971, I was living in Israel and suffered from a chronic backache. I tried many therapies to no avail. A friend of mine suggested I travel to Tel Aviv and get treatments from a Moshe Feldenkrais (who was relatively unknown at that time). I had many private sessions with him and appreciated them but my back was only marginally better. I told him so. He said: "If I can't help you nobody can". And that was that. I thought it was an interesting experience but nothing really special. Almost a decade later at the urging of another friend I reluctantly decided to study with Feldenkrais to learn his method. After studying with him I changed my viewpoint 180 degrees as I realised what an extraordinary method he had developed.

In the early 1980s I had a practice in New York and became friends with Alan Siegal, who later wrote one of the most widely used texts on Polarity Therapy. We started bartering Rolfing sessions for Polarity sessions. I was so impressed with his Polarity work that I bartered more Rolfing sessions in return for instruction in how to do Polarity Therapy. He was an excellent and thorough teacher and I thought I was a good student. However, even after mastering the outward mechanics of Polarity Therapy I realised I could not even begin to create the magic he performed with his hands. So I gave up on Polarity Therapy – for me. I had learned from the Feldenkrais experience that it may be foolish to judge the efficacy of a therapy based on experience even if it is my own experience. And from my experience with Alan Siegal I learned that certain therapies for whatever reason can be effective only in conjunction with specific practitioners. In short, you can't judge the efficacy of a therapy in a vacuum, it can only be evaluated in conjunction with the client and practitioner.

A metaphor from Quantum Mechanics might prove useful. In classical physics it is assumed elementary particles have certain objective properties. When physicists measured something they were measuring a pre-existing objective state, an invariable reality. Quantum Mechanics says there is no objective world of elementary phenomenon, i.e., it makes no sense to talk of an objective reality.

Measurement itself gives rise to quantities that were previously indefinite. I believe this is a useful way to think of various body therapies. It makes no sense to ask whether or not a particular therapy is effective. There is no objective reality to this question. Thus, it makes no sense to attack one school of body therapy. Effectiveness resides in the matrix of practitioner, client and therapy, one cannot separate the three. It is far better for body workers to use their energy in developing their own skills than to waste their time and energy in attacking others. The more skilful the practitioner becomes, the less desire and need will exist to put down other therapies.

For a different slant on the issue of denigrating "rival" therapies, see the column by Leon Chaitow in issue 16 (December/January 1997) of Positive Health.


  1. Ewa Renstrom in Sweden said..

    I am an old friend of Allan Rudolf and we have lost contact. if snybody knoes an email please let me know. please and thanks.

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About Allan Rudolf

Allan is a Rolfer and Feldenkrais practitioner and trained with both Dr Rolf and Dr Feldenkrais. He now lives in China and is not contactable.


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