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Manual Magic

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  • Yesterday I had a patient call me a magician/wizard After a session of Ginger mobs resolved her aching and painful on movement shoulder..
    "There is nothing so practical as a good theory." -Kurt Lewin


    • Ah, Kongen, so someone is doing Ginger mobs - very interesting.
      He would be very pleased,.....I think. One can't tell with these Mexican bushies. (Nothing to do with GWB).

      The card-throwing image of Barrett that I have is quite Dali-esque, for some reason. Quite evocative.


      Mexican = south of the border = Victoria.
      Bushie = someone who lives outside a major town


      • Cool video Eric. I think this is what Barrett is talking about. Since this is Soma, this seems to be appropriate to post also.
        "I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing"--Bob Morris


        • This, in my opinion, is an example of something ordinary doing something extraordinary. I mean it's just touch.

          From Deric Bownds' mind blog: Brain response to threat
          Last edited by Jon Newman; 16-03-2007, 01:04 PM.
          "I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing"--Bob Morris


          • Paraphrasing Steinmeyer again:

            Most magicians depend upon the audience’s coming up short in their own explanations of their illusions. They expect that people will never reach the point of true understanding. But some, if they view magic as a great intellectual exercise, chose to present the secret to the audience and then force them to rule it out in their own minds by means of additional trickery. These delicate balances of lies and truth give some performers weak knees.

            Yesterday a frustrated student said to me in response to my seeking some meaningful information about her patients, “My patients hurt because they have pain!” I assume she was being serious, though that makes her statement no less remarkable in its ignorance. I feel for her patients.

            As it turns out, this same woman had very little sense of her own system, and the changes felt and displayed by the people around here were neither felt by her, nor seen as everyone else saw them. She literally couldn’t feel her own body move.

            I think her personal problem with sensation is telling. Without a sense of ourselves we cannot have a sense of others. It follows that no real understanding of that which cannot actually be seen, (pain, for instance) can be part of our work. I doubt she’ll ever be much of a manual magician.

            Magicians, if they are any good, must understand the tiny details of their own secrets, and, if they choose, they can play with the revelation and concealment of this information in order to perform in a certain way. As Steinmeyer says, a little revelation goes a long way, and some magicians try to hide everything, especially who they actually are.

            What should we hide from our patients; from our colleagues? When, if ever, should manual magic be kept a secret?
            Barrett L. Dorko


            • Hi all,

              I love close-up and Bernard Bilis is a very famous artist in France.

              On of his trick was to say to the "patient" to look very attentively to the cards he put on the table and every four cards, he threw it over the head of the "patient".

              This one was following the movement and his head returned to the table, counting the next three ones.
              Unfortunately he was never aware of this flying card that made a big laugh from the public.
              Last edited by bernard; 16-03-2007, 01:47 PM. Reason: verb
              Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. L VINCI
              We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. I NEWTON

              Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not a bit simpler.
              If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. Albert Einstein


              • The Magician or the Audience?

                The exposure of magic’s “secrets” isn’t a new phenomenon by any means. In 1908 the great David Devant published the details behind several of his most enigmatic effects. When asked to defend this breach of his profession’s customs, he said, “I don’t think I’ve broken any rule. I owe it to posterity to give the world my secrets before I die. (Anyway), the mechanics of a trick are not the secret of its success… that depends upon the artistry of the magician.”

                As I’ve pointed out elsewhere in this thread, magic’s secrets are often trivial and small though they might at the same time be remarkably intricate and clever. Magicians know that the audience doesn’t really want to know them in any case. The audience would rather be fooled.

                Over on the Evidence in Motion “My Connect” website there have been some recent threads about the nature of movement in response to coercion and about the neuroscience of pain. I participated for a while but left after being personally insulted one too many times. To their enormous credit, Cory Blickenstaff, Diane Jacobs and Jason Silvernail (all moderators here) have all stayed and continued to make the case for careful reasoning and well-supported theory. Those who oppose them there consider this pretty much a waste of time or worse. I’m not kidding. They are interested in outcome studies only, and you know what I think of that, uh, reasoning.

                I think there’s a correlate here to the magician and the typical member of the audience. “Just show me the trick,” one says. “Entertain me. I don’t want to think very hard about what it was I just imagined I saw or what it might mean on more than one level. I’m just here for a good time.”

                But if one magician watches another perform, he or she is watching with a great deal more care. Their appreciation for small things makes the entire experience richer and more vivid. Beyond that, they ponder for long moments what it was they didn't see. Respectfully, they seek that secret, much in same way the moderators here seek the deep model of the brain as it has been and continues to be revealed.

                If our profession is to ever progress it will need a lot more of this. Those who choose to sit in the audience, only waiting to be entertained by outcomes and not wanting to learn how the "trick" is done have simply abandoned science. This, I contend, is both foolish and lazy. And there's no way their patients won't suffer for this.

                No wonder their attitude toward practice confounds me. And no wonder the moderators here infuriate them to such a degree.
                Last edited by Barrett Dorko; 17-03-2007, 02:53 PM.
                Barrett L. Dorko


                • The Irony of Manual Magic

                  Everything that man has handled has a tendency to secrete meaning.

                  Marcel Duchamp

                  The more I write about manual magic the more convinced I become that magical performance and successful manual therapy are deeply connected through a kind of irony not normally noticed, and never discussed openly. We can do it here.

                  I wrote this a few years ago in an essay titled Searching For Our Own Secret, “It is reasonable to assume that people in pain from mechanical deformation search for the movement that might relieve them. In fact, nothing less will do if there is to be any prolonged relief. This search is the underlying fundamental issue of each visit to the therapist, and when it remains unaddressed, therapy is often no more than palliative.”

                  When magicians are good at their jobs it is because they anticipate the way an audience thinks. – Jim Steinmeyer

                  Surrounded by sensations they cannot fully understand or control, the patient in pain seeks the advice and manual handling therapists are said to provide. If the therapist is a manual magician they will happily provide a narrative regarding dysfunction and pain that the patient can understand but then they stop just short of providing any coercive touch or choreographed exercise. The manual magician knows that beyond appropriate education the movement we all seek must come from a “secret” place – the patient’s unconscious processes, what Guy Claxton likes to call “the undermind.”

                  Knowing how humans think, the manual magician simply allows those thoughts to form the movement the patient is paying for. It’s called ideomotion and has been discussed elsewhere.

                  Now the irony: People often attend a magic show fully expecting to be fooled and fascinated by a magician who understands how to do so. When this doesn’t happen, when they can easily see the method behind the effect they feel cheated, despite the fact that it was their own careful examination of the effect that led to their disappointment. Deep down they know the performer isn’t a superhero with special powers but they want it to appear so. Similarly, when in pain, they attend therapy expecting things to happen they don’t fully understand but will “go along” with if the payoff is relief. In this instance however a manual magician in their fullness (as opposed to their shadow form, and therapy has plenty of that) will explain everything. There are no secrets in therapy, or, at least, there shouldn’t be. But often I found that when I revealed the “secret” of pain relief; the patient’s own self-correction, their understanding was mixed with a distinct disenchantment. They would have preferred to see a superhero, not just a magician.

                  This is something I’ve also seen countless times among my students. They come to class fully expecting to have their own amazing powers revealed and honed to a fine edge, but when I show them that it is the patient’s power that resolves the pain they are often disillusioned. They wanted to become the superhero they’d always hoped to be – not just a magician bound by natural law.

                  Ironic, huh?
                  Barrett L. Dorko


                  • More on irony and paradox

                    The wonderful effects created on stage are often the result of a secret so absurd that the magician would be embarrassed to admit that that was how it was done.

                    There, in a nutshell, is the paradox of the stage magician. The fact that a trick is “spoiled” if its secret is revealed is widely understood, not only by magicians but by the audience they entertain. Most people enjoy the sense of mystery created by the performance, and do not want to ruin it.

                    From The Prestige

                    When I introduce therapists to manual magic I put them into a bind. Having sensed the highly reasonable nature of the theory and watched their classmates (and themselves) change dramatically; they are now faced with returning to the clinic with an understanding that undermines traditional approaches to movement therapy for pain. Their boss wanted them to learn something new, but not something so profound that it will call into question anything already being done. They wanted only addition, not subtraction. After all, if manual magic is more rapidly effective something’s not going to be billed for. The manager says, “Who wants that?” This is both ironic and paradoxical.

                    I looked them up:


                    1) A technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated.

                    2) (esp. in contemporary writing) A manner of organizing a work so as to give full expression to contradictory or complementary impulses, attitudes, etc., esp. as a means of indicating detachment from a subject, theme, or emotion.

                    3) An outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.


                    1) A statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.

                    2) A self-contradictory and false proposition.

                    3) Any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature.

                    4) An opinion or statement contrary to commonly accepted opinion.

                    Clearly, all of this suddenly poured into the previously stable environment of any clinic will be upsetting, no matter how reasonable it might actually be.

                    No wonder manual magic is rarely practiced once it is learned.
                    Barrett L. Dorko


                    • It occurred to me last night that the problem with Simple Contact is that it appears too much like magic. The irony is this: For manual care of the abnormal neurodynamic to be both sensible and successful it has to appear this way. Oh well.

                      This thread seems to be winding down but with over 5000 views at this point the subject shouldn't be abandoned.

                      I’m thinking that I’d like to produce a booklet and make it available to my classes. It would contain much of what’s been written here and some additional commentary. The front cover would read “Manual Magic – A Proposal”

                      Chapter Titles:

                      1) Magician or Superhero?

                      2) The Quality of the Hand

                      3) The Performance of Close-Up Therapy

                      4) Manual Care and Memetics

                      5) The Nature of Craftsmanship

                      6) Magical Effects in Three Parts

                      7) Revealing the Secret

                      8) Paradox and Irony

                      What do you think?

                      Did I miss anything? Is the title okay?
                      Barrett L. Dorko


                      • Barrett,

                        about the booklet => Just give the text and you'll have it in pdf version few minutes after.
                        Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. L VINCI
                        We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. I NEWTON

                        Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not a bit simpler.
                        If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. Albert Einstein


                        • Bernard,

                          You'll have it. Thanks.
                          Barrett L. Dorko


                          • What do you think?

                            Did I miss anything? Is the title okay?
                            The concept has grown on me. I like it.
                            "I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing"--Bob Morris


                            • :thumbs_up
                              Cory Blickenstaff, PT, OCS

                              Pain Science and Sensibility Podcast
                              Leaps and Bounds Blog
                              My youtube channel


                              • Sounds like to me like chapters for a new book.
                                HumanAntiGravitySuit blog
                                Neurotonics PT Teamblog
                                Canadian Physiotherapy Pain Science Division (Archived newsletters, paincasts)
                                Canadian Physiotherapy Association Pain Science Division Facebook page
                                WCPT PhysiotherapyPainNetwork on Facebook
                                Neuroscience and Pain Science for Manual PTs Facebook page

                                SomaSimple on Facebook

                                "Rene Descartes was very very smart, but as it turned out, he was wrong." ~Lorimer Moseley

                                “Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.” ~Charles Prestwich Scott, nephew of founder and editor (1872-1929) of The Guardian , in a 1921 Centenary editorial

                                “If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you, but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." ~Don Marquis

                                "In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists" ~Roland Barth

                                "Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."~Voltaire