How is the Arneson Method different from other relaxation methods?
The Arneson Method deliberately guides the client to a distinct state of relaxation that permits normal healing functions to operate properly. The sudden jump in activity is analogous to opening the gate for a racehorse. That peculiar state is attained through the strategic guidance of subtle behavior functions—a radical departure from average relaxation methods.
Firstly, clients lie flat to relax, but keep their eyes open, usually for the entire session. Having the eyes open keeps the client wide awake and clearly present to subjective experiences of sensation and emotion. The combination of being fully awake and deeply relaxed is exceptionally energizing, restorative, and prompts a strong bodily urge to heal.
However, being fully awake and aware, the client is confronted with various emotional needs—e.g. for safety, boundaries, detachment, emotional connection, etc.—that are actually behavior impulses to take action. With most relaxation methods, which encourage closed eyes and loss of consciousness, the client goes unconscious to exactly those needs. Thus, the client’s body misses the opportunity to effectively express those behavior impulses and experience total comfort. For many clients, the effect is a mild state of shock, a numb disconnection of feeling from perception. This messy mix of stress and relaxation may still be therapeutic, giving us the relaxation industry, but the benefit potential is diminished. The client may rise from the table feeling relaxed, but also somewhat de-energized and washed out. Post-treatment discomfort indicates an unproductive attempt to relax the stress response; instead of relaxing properly, the client “abandoned ship” and left the body behind in shock. The only option was to de-energize and sink—to stop feeling in order to escape discomfort. Dynamic self-regulation, such as auto-adjustment of the spine, is precluded by that de-energized state. The degree of post-treatment discomfort depends on many factors, and may never be an issue for certain clients. For others, the experience of feeling washed out is so discouraging that they will never receive that treatment again.
In contrast, with the Arneson Method, the client remains keenly aware of stress and discomfort, which indicate impeded attempts at behavior self-regulation. It’s the practitioner’s job to support those attempts. For example, an extra blanket can support the client’s need for safety or boundaries. The moment that the blanket is received, the client’s body uses that procedure to effectively express its impulse to acquire safety or boundaries. Consciously, since specific needs are usually unknown, the client notices only comfort when nervousness and stress are relieved. Step by step, the client proceeds to total comfort as each need is met in turn. Hence, relaxation is clearly the result of effective behavior. Then, deep rest and re-energizing permit real-time healing events.
Importantly, effective behavior also leads automatically to self-esteem and a sense of empowerment, even when that effective behavior occurred in a relaxation treatment. The client leaves the Arneson Method session relaxed, rested, energized, and also with a feeling of accomplishment, which is accurate perception. That being said, it’s a potent medical method that cannot be used for recreation or ongoing stress reduction.