Healing in a Dream

Sea of People. Photo taken at my first Michigan/Michigan State football game.

Sea of People. Photo taken at my first Michigan/Michigan State football game.

The first time I received healing treatment in a dream was two years into my myofascial treatments. Speaking with others, it seems it is not uncommon. Therapists or anyone else appear in dreams and treat you. It feels real. On waking, the benefits of the session are felt just as they would in a waking session. Here was my first treatment dream . . .

I am in a dark hallway that appears much like a school hallway – sterile floors and walls. John Barnes is there. He says “come with me” and takes me aside as if there are other people there and he is herding me to a place where we won’t be disturbed. He has me sit in a chair and has me hold up my leg. He applies pressure to the sole of my foot and my right leg starts to unwind, pushing out against his pressure, shaking and moving. “That’s it”, he gently encourages. He does this for my left leg next and again it unwinds and pushes outward. I notice that a recent strain in my calf in real life is releasing as I do this.

I feel some relief (my legs have felt weak and shaky since my last MFR session four days ago). Then John sits on the chair and directs me to sit on his lap, my back to him and proceeds to wrap his arms around me – pinning my arms to my sides in a bear hug. He applies pressure and I immediately feel uncomfortable – trapped. I start to resist and then feel a tremendous surge of energy pouring out of me and I feel John pulling it out of me too. He is whispering in my ear “come on”, but with some urgency in his voice like a combination of ‘get out of there you dang stuck energy’ – and – ‘keep doing what you’re doing and don’t stop.’ I feel the energy exiting and trailing off. Then he says “okay” and I get up. We are done and walking side by side.

Someone in front of us calls him and we are interrupted. He stops to speak with this person. I turn, put my head down, and walk the other way. I think to myself ‘why can’t you stick around to say thank you.’ I am feeling a very familiar dejected feeling – I don’t deserve any more time – it was right to be interrupted. Just then John calls to me and says, quite matter of fact: “if you don’t tell them, no one will know how you did it”. He smiles playfully almost – like a challenge. Right then I get a thought that says “of course!” Your experiences of suffering and healing can be an example for others, so they can create their own maps.


I woke up and felt stronger and more relaxed. My legs felt great and my purpose fully energized. Cemented in my mind was the feeling of the pressure of John’s arms around me and the surge of energy being freed from my body. To me that is the essence of this work: re-starting stalled self-healing by engaging the client’s barrier and gently encouraging them to let go into their own internal healing process.

NB: This dream came when I was debating whether or not to take my first series of John Barnes’ Myofascial Release seminars. I had felt alienated at my first seminar as a student and was having serious doubts about conforming to a certain way of doing things that was not my own.

What the feeling in the dream helped me realize, was that I was going to need the experience of being in a safe community of people coming up to my barrier, gently sitting at it and not swallowing me up so I would become lost. Holding gently, then setting me free. I would need to feel a sea of unique people connecting in synchrony – creating something powerful that could not be done solo. I would need to experience the sense of a community healing together.

Second, I realized that I had an unrecognized need to share my experience of healing – specifically to help encourage others to engage in their own experiences of healing. The way John says this “if you don’t tell them, no one will know how you did it” – he is matter of fact about it. In an “of course this is the next step” kind of way.

At the time of this dream I had only met John once. I have had very few dreams where I have felt like it was physically real, so when I do, I listen to them. It’s my mind’s way of telling me – listen up! This is really important!

What’s most important for me in any dream is not the analysis of the content. It is the feel that drives what I do when I wake up.

Intellect vs. The Void

There are places a patient goes, that only they can go. Like all new experiences of healing, I went into a habitual pattern at first. Then, with the guidance of the therapist, with a few nudges, was able to go into a space sense I had been unknowingly avoiding. This one is different, because it involved what I will call a reverse nudge – the therapist let up the moment I began to pull him in. It made me acutely aware of my dependence on him to go with me into a fearful place, when really my power lay in going in on my own. The level of sensitivity at the fascial barrier created a physical reminder of presence without invading and without making it a crutch. I knew I was completely safe to go into the feeling of being blind to what would happen next. It calmed my need to anticipate; to grasp.

It is important for the reader to know, this understanding is in retrospect. My perception at the time was to blame the therapist because he wasn’t staying at the barrier. There was a two year gap between the blaming and the understanding. MFR therapists are centered and know the blame has nothing to do with them. They remain centered – ready for the first feel of a shift in the client. A shift that they follow so the client knows “this is a healing path”. A healing path was completely foreign to me but familiar to my therapists. The consistency of being continually, yet gently, nudged towards the path despite the extraneous complaints from my intellect, was essential to me “feeling the path” at progressively deeper levels. My desire to get better and a deep knowing that this was working, was what kept me at it and kept my criticisms mostly to myself (not that it would have mattered to my centered therapists).

In the following email entry, notice the ego judging and the shift into actual healing.

It went down this way . . .

I’m sitting in John’s room in Sedona for the first time. Actually I’m pacing and then 4 SES’s (Skill Enhancement Seminar therapists) come in and I have to sit on the table. After what seems like an excruciatingly long time John comes in. I feel that he is making himself very small for me. This is all I feel ’cause I’m not in my body – only noticing everything outside of me – always alert to danger. After assessment and a few fruitless attempts in various positions he has me on my stomach with his hands directly pressing on my diaphragm. I hear him instructing the other therapists to put their hands on his and push down. Intense fear – more than I feel I have ever experienced surges in me and then is gone. I lay motionless. Then I hear John give this whooping sound like he’s cheering at a ball game and then the door opens and closes. I hear one of the therapists say “in all my years I’ve never seen John leave the room”, then lots of murmurs. He comes back in a few minutes later and starts working with me again. Not long after he asks everyone to leave. I am not afraid but I’m sure my body speaks this because just as I feel I am getting somewhere he stops. Just when I am about to deep dive into the very nasty places I desperately want to go, but not by myself . . . then the feeling washes over me that I am hurting him. That he does not want to go with me to this place. A voice in my head says “you’re on your own kid” and a dark vacuous void surrounds me. I’m the only one who can go here. No one can go with me. No one can help me. It is only me. But I am not strong enough and so I feel only a drowning void – the very same feeling I felt when I could no longer memorize the number and direction of turns the car that was taking me away was making. No one knows where I am. I don’t know where I am and I have no reason to believe I will be alive this time tomorrow.
This was my first taste of the drowning void, but it was enough to set off a series of progressively deeper dives into the feeling over the next several years. In 2007, being at the edge of the void again, I went into it, despite my intellectual defenses retaliating. They didn’t seem to be as strong as they were after being recently challenged (Mind Games). Even so, I attribute my new, easier dive into the void to the superior competence of my therapist and the idea that he is “making” me feel the void.

“I tell you all this because, even in a phone call, you are able to bring me into that void. Where I need to be. But you are also able to stay with me and follow where I need to go. This is unique in my MFR experience and I feel it is very healing. Thank you for making me feel the void. Thank you for going with me to these dark places. When I am able feel this I also feel the intensity of living and it is beautiful!”

A centered MFR therapist is a centered MFR therapist, yet my mind continues to insist on comparing them hierarchically.

The following week I feel safe enough to go in without Dave . . . with no one for my ego to latch onto, I feel my own power.

“I went into the void again at my “favourite” time of the day 2:00 a.m. For the very first time I felt the power of it. Almost instantly my belief that alone = powerlessness fell away and I realized, with some shock, the enormity of what I had done to survive. There was no luck involved. I survived because I was fully capable of surviving. I am living right now because I have lead myself here.

I will listen now, with deep respect, to that voice, that feeling that knows how to conquer what seem like insurmountable obstacles. I will not doubt it.

Thank you for guiding me, gently, to listen.

This is so cool!!”

Dave’s response is characteristic of a centered therapist.

“As I have said in the past, you do the work, I just kind of hang out.

Your words touch me deeply and help with my healing.”

Mind Games

The Thinker, photo taken at Musee Rodin, Paris

The Thinker, photo taken at Musee Rodin, Paris

There is a dance of trust that happens, between patient and therapist. The therapist’s job is to remain centered, no matter what the patient is sending their way. This helps the patient tremendously as it demonstrates the therapist’s commitment to healing. It also creates a clear and constant mirror for the patient, so they can bring their own avoidance patterns to light. With hands on therapy, this dance goes beyond the trauma of the mind. It directly reveals touch-based trauma like no other form of therapy. It is unavoidable. And it is absolutely essential to healing and forming healthy, intimate relationships.

The following exchange that occurred after treatment, is an example of how the mind can create a barrier to healing. At this point, I have developed a substantial level of trust with my therapist. I have been seeing him monthly for over a year. Even so, my thoughts are determined to create a persona of Dave that makes him incompetent in my mind and therefore, not able to help me further. This judgment goes very deep for me, but I have had a lot of healing happen with Dave, so instead of playing along, I question my thoughts. They don’t coincide with my gut and I know it, despite my initial accusations to Dave. There is a critical time after treatment, where the physical space allows my guard to come down further than in treatment. I give myself enough room to sit with the feelings behind the thoughts and realize I am afraid and attempting to run away.
Here’s the exchange. . .

Hi again,
I had to reread your last response. I don’t feel you are shutting me down – directly. I feel I am sensing you shutting down and that makes me feel like backing off. Does that make sense? Is this real or am I misreading? What do I do with this – real or not?

And I definitely don’t want to see anyone else right now. Unless you kick me out of course. I’m tired of running away. I’ll take terrified over isolated any day 🙂

Hi Dave,

Also, I’m getting this feeling that I’m going to hurt you (not physically) if I let all this stuff out. Am I using this as an excuse or is my gut instinct correct or all out of whack. I don’t know what feelings to trust. I’m acutely aware of everything about you as I’m in treatment so my gut is telling me there’s a level of shutdowness I’m feeling from you. What do I do with that if that’s the case?


You can’t hurt me, I am big enough to take what ever you have to give. You have permission to do or say what ever it is you need to do or say. When you are ready.

You should always honor your gut, but sometimes when we have been shoving stuff down for a long time it is hard to distinguish our true gut feelings from our fear. What is the worst thing that would happen if you just let go?

It is possible that your concern about me is an avoidance tool. I make no judgment. If you truly feel that somehow I am shutting you down, maybe I am not the right therapist for you right now. I don’t think that is the case, but if it is, there is always {gives the name of a female therapist} as an alternative, I’ll be happy to give you her contact info.

I only want what is best for you. Sometimes we take a couple steps back before we go forward.

See you next Wednesday?


I hear what you are saying.

I confess I am super paranoid about hurting other people. It took me 16 years to make 1 friend I could trust outside of John to say anything to and then I was emailed a “we need to take a break” letter while I was away in Sedona. That was a year and a half ago. I have not recovered yet. Life has only taught me that getting close to people means having your heart ripped out. I believe what I have learned is not right, nor is it constructive. My hope is that you can show me different.


Perhaps you are mistaking my being with you or me trying to stay out of your way as me shutting down.

MFR is about gentle nudging, maybe I was too gentle.

If you ever think I am shutting down, let me know. You have permission to say or do what ever you want.

I am glad you are not running away.

See you Wednesday!

Remember, more steps forward than back.


After this exchange, I break through an old pattern. In my next treatment, I leave the accusatory thoughts outside the treatment room. Now there is space where my thoughts were and I can sense when I am leaving my body. I come back in on my own and am in there deeper than I have been before. Without the false mistrust, a whole new level of healing begins.