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Are aura atheists uncaring robots?

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Massage therapists and others who do “energy work” tend to be contemptuous of those who don’t. (This is a sign of their spiritual sophistication, I assume.) Laura Allen, massage therapist, author of Excuse Me, Exactly How Does That Work?:

There are some strange ideas floating around out there about massage therapists who stick to the practice of massage without throwing in energy work. I laugh with my clients. I grieve with my clients. I empathize or sympathize with whatever emotional time they might be going through and at times comfort them. Leaving energy work out of my practice does not mean I am some kind of uncaring robot just going through the physical motions. But that seems to be the general characterization a lot of people make about us.

I have often encountered this attitude towards energy atheism, as though my inability to see human interactions through a spiritual lens is stunted and pitiable. I think it’s actually the other way around. It’s far more rewarding to try to understand why life actually feels the way it does, rather than chalking it all up to unknown and unknowable forces.

There is infinite room in psychology and biology for profound, meaningful shared experiences. It isn’t necessary or helpful to attribute strange and interesting sensations to poorly defined “energy.” Actually, it’s a cop-out, a failure of imagination and knowledge, a grossly oversimplified reckoning of the amazing richness of human nature.

These thoughts originally came up in a Facebook discussion. I refined them and baked them into my article about Use the Force! The myth of healing energy in massage and bodywork.

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