Articles and Audio Interviews on Rosen Method Bodywork

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Audio Interview:

Touching the Body, Reaching the Soul, February 9, 2012, BlogTalkRadio -- Kerstin Zettmar interview by host Pamela Marie Edmunds

Articles:

How Love Heals -- Kerstin Zettmar, Rosen Method Journal, 2011

Marion Rosen's Gift -- Kerstin Zettmar, 2012

How Love Heals 2 -- Kerstin Zettmar, Spirit of Change, 2012

Releasing Pain through Touch -- Barbara Ganim

Intimacy with Number One -- Kerstin Zettmar

Meeting with Marjory: A Rosen Method Memory -- Kerstin Zettmar

"Releasing Pain Through Touch" by Barbara Ganim

Excerpted From:
"Body Mind Spirit" magazine - V16#1

One touch therapist whose work is firmly rooted in the practice of emotional release to achieve optimal health and well-being is Kerstin (pronounced Sheshtin) Zettmar, so came to the US from Sweden 15 years ago in search of her calling.  Although she was trained as an artist and journalist, she felt something was missing and returned to massage therapy and eventually the Rosen Method.

The Rosen Method is a unique form of hands-on body work focusing on the body-mind connection.  It was developed over 35 years ago by Marion Rosen, who escaped as a young woman from Nazi Germany and fled to the US.  Prior to her arrival in San Francisco, she lived in Munich where she studied and worked with innovative massage therapists who were just beginning to combine massage, breath work, and relaxation techniques with Jungian psychoanalysis.  Further refining these techniques, Rosen developed her own approach in which unexpressed emotions were seen as "barriers" within the body, blocking the flow of energy and preventing the individual from expressing his or her true nature.

When Kerstin began studying the Rosen Method, she was already a licensed massage therapist with a demanding practice in Newport, Rhode Island.  While acknowledging the benefits of traditional massage, she began to see that it was only skin deep.  "As a friend once put it," she says smiling. "massage therapy is relaxation from the outside in.  The Rosen method is healing relaxation from the inside out."

Kerstin found the Rosen Method a fascinating combination of working with touch, awareness of breath, and the emotions to reach the inside of people - their feelings, their inner life.  Many clients have noted that the quality of the touch is gentle yet powerful.  The unconditional presence that they feel through the touch reminds them of what they have been yearning for since infancy.  For some it is the first time they have encountered another person where simply being who they are is experienced not only as enough but as something precious.

"The intention in the Rosen Method," Kerstin emphasizes, "is partnership - a relationship between client and therapist.  And that relationship is a reflection of how you relate to yourself and to the rest of the world.  The body doesn't lie.  We play all sorts of mind games, but truth shows up in the body as the pain that separates us from connecting to ourselves and then to others.  This work is about learning how to be intimate with yourself and the rest of the world in a safe way.  So, unlike massage where I make the body relax, with Rosen I work with the client to meet that part of the body that cannot relax.   We work together to explore the nature of that tension, and together we find that the underlying emotional cause.  When that is acknowledged, the tension will melt.   It's a very different process."

Many people consider the mind-body connection to be the holistic approach to healing.  But an additional component is necessary to form the base of holism"  spirit.  While often mistaken as meaning religion, the idea of spirit means sensing and honoring our integral connection to all living beings - past, present, and future - and the responsibility and power that comes with it.  Some people extend that connection to a higher power.  Most practitioners of therapeutic touch believe in the holistic triad of body, mind, and spirit, and that all three are interdependent and inseparable when working with an individual.

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"Intimacy with Number One"
by Kerstin Zettmar
reprinted by permission of Spirit of Change magazine, 1996

Ah, relationship!  They are such wonderful catalysts to bring to the surface anything uncooked that may lurk in one's soul.  For many years I worked very hard at becoming enlightened.  Eventually, I got quite skilled at the thinking positive, being all-accepting, ever-loving, and seeing a spiritual purpose in everything.  This was true as long as I stayed out of intimate relationships.  For some bizarre reason the men I crossed paths with always seemed to be taken, live on another continent, or have deep-seated fear of intimacy.

The men I did end up dancing a few rounds with would suddenly have the power to press all kinds of funny buttons in me.  Pow!  Out would come anger, fear, distrust, and a battery of other "unholy" emotions.  How uncomfortable.  I'd decided that they clearly didn't love me or they wouldn't do that to me, and out the door I'd go.  I developed an appreciation for people who chose a monastic lifestyle.

Since I wasn't quite ready to take that leap, though, I chose various therapies instead.  That helped to reassure me that I was a wonderful, open woman with all the tools for intimate relationship.  Maybe I just hadn't met the right guy yet.

As life would have it, a number of years later I found myself at a workshop for something called the Rosen Method.  It was advertised as a form of body work addressing emotional root causes of chronic muscular tension.  Since I was now working as a loving, caring massage therapist, I thought I might learn something that would prove beneficial for my clients.  Little did I know how entering this workshop would change my own life.

Rosen work is about finding out and accepting who you really are at the core of your being.  It aims at creating a safe space for you to become intimate with your innermost self, the person you are when you stop pretending, performing, or pleasing.  Marion Rosen, its founder says, "This work is about transformation from the person we think we are to the person we really are.  In the end we can't be anybody else."  The key factor in this method is touch - a gentle, intimate kind of touch that clients at times claim they've been missing since infancy.  In contacting the body in this way, the unconscious / forgotten feelings, memories, and dreams that have been held in by tight muscles and restricted breathing are evoked.  Often what we have tried to conceal the most, even from ourselves, shows up the clearest in the body.  The body doesn't lie.

I can still hear my teacher's voice as she with warm hands gently probed the tight muscles of my upper back in a class demonstration:  "The first few layers of Kerstin are quite relaxed.  When I stay on the surface with my hand like this, I get the impression of someone very open, trusting, and receptive.  I don't see a lot of breath in her back, though, so that makes me want to explore deeper... and when I do, I find some muscles working very hard, holding very tight.  Right here, over her heart, there is a big boulder that doesn't want to budge.  Something is being very well protected here."

And she was right.  As she contacted the big rock over my heart and just stayed there with her hands, very patient, with unconditional presence, it slowly started to melt.  The melting was coming from inside of me, just like the tears that began to stream down my cheeks.  Eventually memories emerged, shedding some light on why I at one time, had felt the need to install this protective boulder - why it was so much safer to fall in love with people that I couldn't get very close to.

I feared that if anyone looked closer than the first few layers of me they'd find this very human being.  Since childhood I had tried to be "Christ in drag," and with that goal in mind, a lot of my humanity seemed unacceptable.  I had swept a lot of it under a rug of muscular tension; no wonder my back and shoulders felt so lumpy now.

That Rosen Method workshop was the beginning of a journey for me and on the winding road I have run into many bumps.  It can be messy at times being a real human being, yet it's much less lonely than being a phony saint.

For a long time I was under the impression that so-called negative emotions were causing tension in the body.  It came as real news to me that it actually is the trying to suppress unwanted emotions that causes the muscle to work over-time.  I do believe there is something true about the notion that holding onto anger, grief, fear, and hatred can contribute to making a person sick.  Yet when we give ourselves permission to fully feel our emotions through the whole cycle of beginning, middle, and end, they usually don't last very long.  It's our trying to stop mid- stream that keeps us stuck and unhappy in our unfinished business.  For some people learning to trust the cycles of emotions is a large part of this work.

These days I've given up on the idea of becoming a perfectly enlightened being.   In my dance of intimacy I still lose my balance from time to time.  The difference now is that I take those moments as a wake-up call to examine what it is inside of me that might be calling out to be healed.  I'm really much more interested in becoming whole than holy.

Being fully alive doesn't mean you are in neutral or that you always are up.   In my experience it means that you have all your emotions available to you but that you are not enslaved by any particular one of them.

As a painter I sometimes think of it as having a full palette to choose from with all the colors of the rainbow.  As a weaver I know the importance of the dark or the cool strands of yarn to set off the light or fiery ones.  We are all artists in co-creating our lives.  Creativity is our natural inheritance.  I've been fortunate to watch many people wake up to their creative potential as they have had courage to be honest with themselves and go through the barriers down to their core.   And if we go deep enough we come to the place where we are all one.  What could be more intimate than that?

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Meeting with Marjory
A Rosen Method Memory

by Kerstin Zettmar

reprinted by permission from Spirit of Change, Vol.13, No.57

I looked into a pair of frightened blue eyes after opening the door to the waiting area.
"Hi, Im Marjory. Am I too early?"
"No, you are right on time. Come on in!"
A forced smile flashed across her round almost girlish face and well manicured fingers stroked back a strand of gray hair as she stepped into my treatment room carefully examining the massage table, the pink curtains, the lit candles.
"As I said on the phone, my doctor suggested Id come see you. She is such a great chiropractor, but she had a feeling that there may be something else going on with my back besides a misalignment."
" For how long have you had the pain? " I wondered.
" Oh , it comes and goes, but lately it has been really bad," Marjory grimaced and touched her lower back.
"Any idea of what may have started it?"
"Not really. I have always had back problems. At least since I was a teenager, which wasnt exactly yesterday. I'm 52 now, " she offered.
I took note of her slightly slumped posture, her rounded shoulders and sturdy build. It was a quick glance, but Marjory saw me look at her body.
"I dont have to take my clothes off , do I ?" There was a slight panic in her voice.
"Well, it depends," I said. Usually for a massage I have the client disrobe to their underwear and I use draping with sheets or towels for modesty, but if you are very uncomfortable with that we could try something else."
"Like what?"
"The Rosen Method. It is a form of bodywork I'm certified in, but it is not a massage. It can be done with the client fully clothed, if necessary, since it doesn't involve use of oils or lotions. The intent is quite a bit different too, however."
"What do you mean?"
"Rather than using massage techniques to try to make tense muscles relax, I use a form of contacting, listening touch and together we look for what may be the underlying root causes for the muscle tension. It could be different emotions and memories being held back there or a certain stance in life that once served a purpose, but now causes pain."
" I'm not sure I understand, but I guess we could give it a try if you think it may help my back. Not that I think I'm holding anything back. I am a very honest person," Marjory said.
" That is great," I smiled at her. "Honesty is the key here and usually we are not really aware of what it is that we are holding tight so in that sense we are working with the subconscious," I explained.
Before starting I asked Marjory the routine questions I have for a new potential Rosen client: Was there any abuse or trauma in her history? How did she cope with stress or pain? Was she on any medication? Did she have a therapist or would she be willing to see one if anything showed up that might require that? How was her support system? Had she been free of or in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction for at least one year? Had she ever been suicidal or tried to commit suicide? Anything else she wanted me to know about her that may be important to our work.
Marjory gave brief and precise answers to my questions. She remembered a happy and stable childhood. She had never married but had a few good friends. She had a good life, a good job as a nurse, a lot to be grateful about, and she had never had a drop of alcohol in her life.
A moment later Marjory was laying face down on my padded massage table, her hands gripping the top like she was holding on to a life raft and her legs pressed tightly together. Through her white T-shirt my hands gently probed her back muscles. Her lower back was arched and the muscles along her spine felt hard as steel..
"Are you in pain right now, Marjory," I asked?
"Yes, it really hurts where your hands are."
"Can you describe the pain?"
" It aches. And then sometimes there is this sharp, stabbing pain."
"Did you ever get back stabbed?" I tried.
" Oh, no. Im very careful in whom I put my trust. I don't associate with people would do that sort of thing. I never have."
With that comment her back tightened up even more and her face scrunched up for
a moment as the pain moved through her body. I waited for it to pass and then I asked:
"So what are your friends like?"
" Oh, they are really good people. I only have a few, two really, but they are both
willing to break their backs for me anytime I need them."
"They break their backs for you?" I could feel my eyebrows fly up towards my hairline.
" Yes," Marjory said. "They are very good friends."
"So, a good friend is someone willing to break their back for you," I repeated.
"Of course!" There was more than a hint of impatience in Marjory's voice.
"Why else would I have them for friends? I break my back for people ALL THE TIME!!!!"
Another jab of pain surged through Marjory's back and I was wondering to myself if she
heard herself and was able to make any connections to her physical symptoms.
"So what is it like for you , Marjory, to break your back for people all the time? It
sounds rather painful to me."
" No, its OK. I like it."
"I see. What do you like about it?"
"I like feeling that Im a good and generous person."
I sat with that statement for a while. Something in me trusted that Marjory had
the best intentions of being good and giving. I also heard the resentment in her voice
about giving so much and her back seemed to have a thing or two to say about it as well.
Her girlish face, now turned to one side, looked even younger than before. There was a
slight tremble in her lower lip. I felt as if I was sitting with a very sad little girl.
"You know, Marjory," I said. "I trust that the goodness would come out of you
even if you stopped breaking your back, even if you relaxed a bit more. You don't have to try so hard to be good. You already are. Just in being you."
Her back muscles began to soften under my hands, I could feel her breath deepen
and a tear traced the bridge of her nose. We sat like that in silence for a while. Then
Marjory sighed.
"Thank you," she said.
"For what?"
"For seeing the goodness in me." She held her breath a moment before adding, "My mother never did in spite of how hard I tried."
Half a century of grief welled up and as the tears washed over Marjory's face the
steel in her lower back melted.

As a Rosen Method practitioner I am constantly in awe. As in the session with Marjory Im deeply touched when Im invited to share a client's uncovered truth. It is such a privilege to be in that space with another human being. Most often however it takes time to build a safe container. A client learns to trust me gradually, session after session, as there are small shifts and changes in body and awareness. We are not looking for drama in this work, but for authenticity. I know for myself that I need to feel safe in order to fully be authentic and to express all of me including the parts that once were rejected or judged. Even after nine years of working with the Rosen Method I am still amazed at the relationship between self-awareness, self-acceptance and relaxation and ease in the body.
People seek out the Rosen Method for a variety of reasons besides physical pain or discomfort. There may be a feeling of disconnection, isolation or problems in relation-ships that precipitate the first phone call to make an appointment. At times there is a simple curiosity about who the client would be if he or she stopped pretending, performing or working so hard at pleasing others. After a certain passage at mid-life there may be a question about identity and a hunger to know the real self.
Men and women of all walks of life-- businessmen, former nuns, students, military officers, artists, housewives, office clerks, former drug addicts-- all walk through my door with one wish in common.. They yearn to know themselves better and find a way to self-acceptance. My job as a Rosen Practitioner is to create a safe space for my clients to be themselves and to help them uncover what is there at the core. I have faith that if we go deep enough what we will find is love.

(note: client's name and identifying details altered)

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