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Last week, I posted a question as to whether Rubenfeld Synergy Method is energy work.  Ultimately, I think it is not, though sometimes what some call “energy” enters into it.  The problem, I posited, is that what energy workers call “energy” is not something that can be proven to exist, or quantified by science.  Therefore, I find it a lot more useful to talk about RSM’s basis in the body, engagement with emotion and metaphor, and use of trance to healing purposes.

However, I do want to talk a bit about energy here, for a number of reasons.  One, I find the word “energy” and the concepts that some have agreed to attach to it useful when discussing certain phenomena for which I have no other useful vocabulary.  Two, many people who engage with this work are also conversant in energy work, and it is helpful to have a shared vocabulary when working with people.  But most importantly, I wonder if the idea of “energy” isn’t just another concept that seems too fruity for modern science, but will eventually catch up.

That is to say: is the idea of “energy” akin to, say, the idea of the subconscious back in Freud’s day?  These days, most people accept that the subconscious is a thing, though we still have no way of measuring or quantifying it.  For that matter, though we are learning more and more, we still have vast gaps in understanding about things like the mind, thoughts, imagination, dreams, and countless other phenomena that we can observe to exist.

There are people who are trying to prove – with mixed success at best – the existence of energy – chi, life force, mana, prana, whatever you call it.  And I am happy that such scientific explorations are taking place.  However, I wonder if it’s entirely useful, or necessary.

It seems to me that the true usefulness of energy, as a concept, is as a vocabulary for speaking about sensations that are difficult to qualify in other ways.  We may someday understand whether these types of sensations are caused by electrical impulses, magnetism, chemical processes, or some combination.  We may even understand why some people seem more sensitive to subtle sensations than others.  But until then, it seems clear that for some people, tapping into the vocabulary and techniques we have available for experiencing energy, suspending disbelief, and working with the metaphor is just as helpful as knowing exactly why it works.

Certain types of skeptics will scoff that medicine is not useful unless it has proven effectiveness, tested with double-blind longitudinal studies, and so on.  Many even seem frightened by the concept of studying complementary therapies in this way, which makes me wonder what exactly they would lose if such things turned out to be true.  However, it isn’t particularly useful to talk about talk therapy as if it were science, any more than it’s meaningful to try and derive statistically significant results from exposure to great literature.  At this point most people accept that people sometimes act on unconscious impulses, or from deeply ingrained behaviors that they’re not conscious of.  We accept that humans are not completely – or even mostly! – creatures of logic and reason.

During RSM sessions, clients often experience sensations and feelings they aren’t accustomed to.  A client may experience the sensation of energy moving through her body – waves, shivers, tingles, spirals, spreading warmth.  When a muscle releases, a client may feel what was a kind of “stuck energy” moving out of it.  Emotion itself is a kind of energy: our teachers called it “energy in motion.”  We are all familiar with the tightness and warmth in the chest that comes with anger and embarrassment.  Or the feeling of tears threatening to overwhelm us.  Or the joy that can seem to fill our bodies with light.  If we’re lucky, we know what it feels like to have our hearts opened by love, and the actual physical sensation of being pierced, as it were, by Cupid’s arrow.

As a practitioner, I also receive sensations in my hands at times, things that are hard to describe as simply bodily sensations.  Some clients’ feet feel bubbly or tingly to me, like there is nervousness or fear of which the client is often unaware.  Sometimes I will begin to experience an emotion the client is experiencing – anxiety, or sadness, or anger – and that will be my first clue that the client is experiencing it.  How does such a thing get communicated?  It’s poorly understood.  But talking about energy is a useful way of quantifying these sensations.

While I often experience there being life force in the world – an energy that permeates everything, vibrating at different frequencies (it should be recalled, after all, that matter and energy are one and the same) – I am aware that some other people don’t, and that science has yet to prove its existence.  But if we can talk about the energy of a room or an interaction, or say that someone has a “nervous energy” or that someone else “sucks all the energy out of the room,” then we need to be able to talk about other phenomena that share that character.  Until science catches up – and I’m not saying it will (see above about the subconscious), I’m happy to use poetry.

Even after that, I might keep using poetryIt’s the language I’m most comfortable in.  Your mileage may vary.