Shiatsu and Hallucinations March 12, 2017Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite , trackback
An autobiographical post. For the last months I have been invited by a friend to help with her shiatsu training. Shiatsu, for readers who might not know, is a form of Japanese massage where the body is pressed in certain key locations. It is frequently described, in fact, as acupuncture without the needles: the shiatsu masseur touches the body’s meridians. I was asked to lend my body so that my friend could practice shiatsu upon me as she is completing her shiatsu apprenticeship. I thought that it would be a stimulating and enjoyable but I did not expect the hallucinations…
Before I get to the hallucinations a few disclaimers and a little background. I should say, first, that I have no warmth for oriental philosophies and I do not understand meridians nor, to be honest, do I want to. I am not in perfect health and I am not convinced that the shiatsu has helped my health (though see the endnote).* The reason that I decided to take up my friend’s offer was that I had previously had one powerful shiatsu experience where I had practically passed out after the treatment and I was interested to see what would happen: I’m fascinated by body extremes. Perhaps also fundamentally I like being touched: this has nothing to do with intimacy and everything to do with feeling my body, part of my illness involves difficulties in sensation. Finally, my friend may be a beginner, but she is clearly very good at what she does and I knew that she would be before I even lay down on the first visit.
Now back to the hallucinations. In the course of my life I have had a handful (perhaps three) aural hallucinations where, in moments of extreme stress I have heard voices; and I have had one experience of a visual hallucination in an emotional moment. In this I’m probably not too far outside the mean. In all cases I felt these ‘things’ were hallucinations the moment I heard/saw them: I did not interpret them as something external from my brain. I think about these experiences a great deal because I have studied and written in the last years on people seeing and hearing impossible things.
Since starting a cycle of twelve shiatsu meetings I have had two sessions where I have had what I would describe as ‘hallucinations’. Often in these twelve shiatsu meetings I fall asleep and this is surely the key to the experience: namely that I am passing between sleep and waking. On the first occasion the masseur’s hands began to send messages to my brain in an unexpected way. The experience was synesthetic, her touch became images that had a feel to them: a map of France for example, showed borders growing and contracting (honestly, historians…) as the fingers moved. There then came a Delphic voice in my head: ‘the weary waters of the world’, since you ask.
The second experience was yesterday. I saw the masseuse walk in front of me as she was massaging my head, something that is, of course, fantastical. It was not frightening, and it was more a shadow than an image, but it still shook me. The person walking was not very clear. Perhaps it was not even my friend: the figure had something in her posture that reminded me of our family babysitter, who I often watch walk across the room from the kitchen settee. In the first experience I felt that I was in a dream connected to things in the world; in the second I was in the world connected to a dream. In fact, the second ‘vision’ seemed much less significant, just a neurological accident, perhaps a shadow of something seen before. In the right circumstances and with a lot of charisma I could, though, have started a religion with that map of France.
I’ve looked through Google and found surprisingly few references to these kinds of effects. I wonder if others have had or can explain these experiences: drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com. As noted above I’m ‘ill’, but, at least theoretically, my illness does not cause cognitive issues.
*It is of course very difficult to judge the effect of treatments like this on an illness and I tend to be skeptical. I do not know if the treatment helps, though I have found, no surprise here, that talking about my health with my friend is useful. However, shiatsu manages one thing. My illness involves periods of inflammation. The probing fingers of the masseuse hurt in the points where the inflammation is: as the inflammation is in the central nervous system I didn’t expect this. I felt the pain reduce as the weeks passed and as other signs (admittedly impressions) suggested that the inflammation was going down. If I have not misinterpreted things then shiatsu helps me to measure the activity of my illness?