Massage and The Nervous System: Part Two

Part two of Massage and the Nervous System. (See part one.)

As massage therapists we know how to get our hands on muscles and connective tissues. But now we see somehow we have to get our hands on the nervous system because otherwise it’s a bit like flipping light switches with no electricity – some action but no deeper change.

So how do we get our hands on the nervous system?


This area in the center of the brain is the seat of emotion, memory, and our “drives”. It is, in spite of the vanity of the cerebral cortex’s verbal narrations, largely what moves us in our lives. The diencephalon lives deeper than words – housing hunger, thirst, anger, sexual desire, sleep-wake cycle, anxiety, all our memories, our deepest convictions, desires, our pleasure, our pain, and our dreams.

The diencephalon is the residence of the “unconscious” of which the great psychotherapist Milton Erickson provocatively said, “The conscious mind is brilliant but the unconscious mind is a hell of a lot smarter.”

The first sense to develop in the embryo is the sense of touch. Touch forms our earliest sensory experiences of the world – these in turn shape the unconscious world of the diencephalon. So, the art and science of touch therapy, at its best, is an ideal medium for communicating with the diencephalon.

Moishe Feldenkrais said a person can’t change without new experience. Expert massage and bodywork is new experience. Our world, initially formed by the ways we are touched, undergoes new, awakening experiences through bodywork which go immediately deeper than the conscious mind and influence our deepest beliefs, motivations, and dreams.


The cerebrum gives rise to language, self-reflection, conscious thoughts, plans, decisions, and the synthesizing of imagination and logic. With the cerebrum we find the words for what we are feeling. We find support for bringing the tool of language to bear in our problem-solving. Often changes initiated by bodywork at the level of the diencephalon bubble up into cerebral, conscious rememberings, re-examined beliefs, changes of plans, and new insights about one’s body, emotion, mind and spirit.

Subscribe to the Enlightened Body for the next installments of this article by submitting your email address on the form on this page. (We promise never to share your email.) To receive monthly Anatomy Reviews for LMTs, we encourage you subscribe to the TLC Times, our school newsletter newsletter.