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This winter I published the story of the strange ending to my massage therapy career. Basically, I left the profession to avoid an aggressive attempt to censor my writing. That post received a great deal of attention, including many extremely supportive and flattering responses. I was amazed by how many friends and allies had never heard the story. I was startled and delighted by how many people credited me with inspiring their trip across the chasm, from credulous to critical thinking.
One notable example came from a former member of the board of the College of Massage Therapists of BC, someone who not only was on the board in the period immediately after my crisis, but “hated” me at the time… and then, over the next couple years, he came around and became an ally and a friend. “I wonder if the current CMT is more supportive of Mr. Ingraham?” he asked.
Very unlikely, I think: another colleague with fresher inside knowledge reported that not much has really changed, and he is personally wary of being harassed in the same way today. Depressing!
And then there was the critical reaction, whereby “critical” I actually mean “hateful.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised by the harshness and sprawling extent of the negative reaction, but I was. You’d think I’d know better by now, but my network of unusually smart, progressive colleagues tends to give me too sunny a perspective.
I also don’t get nearly as much hate mail as I used to, because I’m all about taking the high road these days, despite my reputation for snark. Without the bags of hate mail I used to get, I don’t have my finger on the diseased pulse of the profession so much anymore. Hearing lots of people loudly declaring that I “had it coming” has convinced me that massage therapy in particular is an even uglier and more disappointing state than I ever thought before. It’s truly nasty.
Uncannily accurate depiction of the reaction of most of the massage profession to my article. Animation by Jim Benton (JimBenton.com).
The angry reactions all boiled down to a huge, childish “oh yeah?!” reaction to an insiders’ accusations that manual therapy is polluted with bullshit. The betrayal of an apostate is a special sauce that really gets people worked up. These people expect to be held in contempt by doctors and scientists, and they casually return that contempt all the time, but when the contempt is coming from their rationalist colleagues it provokes a much fiercer reaction, like an autoimmune disease, the massage profession attacking its own tissue, one faction trying to purge another. This is why there’s such a strong theme in the negative reactions of rejecting my membership in the profession — “he was obviously in the wrong career” — and why so many of them also actually believe that trying to purge a heretic from the profession was a good thing.
Weirdly, not all the hate came from people who disagreed with me: one of the kookier and spookier reactions was disdain for my choice to leave the profession rather than stay and fight. Some folks tried to get him to soften this position a little, but he was impervious to the idea that I had bigger fish to fry at the time (like my wife’s life-altering accident, say). He just doubled down on his sociopathic righteousness; his presumption and hostility were breathtaking, and that was from an “ally.”
I’m never going to stop loving massage itself, but this episode has convinced me for another decade that the profession is a dumpster fire, dominated by amateurish flakes and cranks who have more in common with psychics, anti-vaccine nuts, and scientologists than true health care professionals.