Letting the body talk
It was a simple thing, though potentially devastating. A child had fallen and hurt her eye. Doctors were talking of possible blindness, the mother was destroying herself with worry and guilt. A psychologist would ask the woman to talk about it. Carlton Tropper asks the woman's body to talk about it.
Kinesiology is the science - or the art, or a bit of both - of consulting the body, through muscle response testing, about what it feels and what it wants.
The theory is that the mind is always busy with its theories or hangups, but the body generally knows what is happening even though it often doesn't let on.
Through movements of the woman's arm - a strong response for a 'yes', a weak one for a 'no' - Tropper establishes that the guilt originated a long time before, during a relationship in which the woman felt she had been untruthful.
The child's accident horrifies the 'mother' bit of the mind, but immensely satisfies the 'guilty' bit, which likes to feel that it is right, so any confirmation of its irresponsibility is welcome - he tells her.
For me it seems invasive to be watching, but the woman - a confident, attractive professional who had never done such therapy before - smiles afterwards, and says she feels more peaceful. The child, she reports a few weeks later, will see again.
It is all par for the course in a seminar titled 'Self Connection' run by Tropper - a seminar that brings one participant back to a moment in her childhood where she learned to resent her mother and her own good looks, makes another walk out and another cry.
All three say they feel better for it, and the person who walks out returns for a private consultation later, where her inner demons will not be so publicly banished.
The process is straightforward. You stand with left hand outstretched; someone else checks normal resistance, and then asks a question. If the answer is positive, the arm is strong, if negative, then it is curiously weak.
It is hard, again in theory, to believe it can be true: but in practice, and for whatever reason, that arm usually collapses on cue. Say 'my name is Humbug' and unless you are really determined, your body usually goes weak at the lie.
This is the basis of kinesiology, a widely accepted form of alternative diagnosis that can be interestingly precise about things like allergies.
Tropper takes it further: instead of saying 'this body needs broccoli' he says - for example - 'this body is not loveable' - a common enough feeling, which he says begins usually in childhood, and sometimes damages adulthood. By 'yes' and 'no' responses in a therapy version of 20 Questions, Tropper appears to work out how old they were when a problem started, whom it was connected with, and what it was about.
'Little kids are sensitive - it can just be a little thing. What I try to do is help people go back into the time they got this block, and take another look.' Sceptical? Tropper is too. 'I don't know how it works, I don't even know that it works. But I do know that it makes people get well, sort out some of their issues, and that's enough.' Tropper is a slim, fit man in his 40s. His eyes are piercingly blue ('that's from getting rid of my issues' he says, and iridologists might agree) and it is easy to see why people find him charismatic.
He frequently talks about emotions or thoughts in terms of 'going there' and 'not going there'. I kept imagining wandering through an empty house full of locked doors and not knowing where the man with the key had disappeared to.
Usually Tropper - based in Santa Barbara, but travelling to Hong Kong twice a year - talks about other people's issues. I was curious to find out about him.
It is a story, he says, that takes 'a lot of work' to come to terms with.
Like a fairy story, he remembers being happy until he was seven. Then his mother fell sick. 'The day my mother died was the day my father decided to drink himself to death. He never really learned to love himself, so when she died, he did too and we had to stand there and watch.' Tropper had two sisters. The older one 'looked after the two of us who ran wild, hauled my father out of the bars and all the time she was going to school, believing she wasn't good enough.' He was fostered out, except for the summers during which he would watch his father deteriorate 'until one day when I was 18 he vomited his liver out on to the kitchen floor, and died of cirrhosis two days later'.
His problems also came from the sequence of foster parents.
'When you go through a childhood like this you're a chameleon,' he says, and described his own lurching, lost experience as if it could have been anyone's.
'One year a family gets tired of you - it could have been for sickness because she was a diabetic - but no one tells you, so you think it's your fault.
'And if you step into a religious family then you become very good at being religious. Who you are is about where you are.' Later he found a healing professional called Valerie Seeman-Moreton teaching what she calls the 'Kalos Technique'. Made out of 'the best' of the many alternative healing methods she had come across, it is a sophisticated question and answer system that claims to check a person's emotional, environmental, cleansing and other needs. Whether it is 'real' or not, it certainly has cathartic results.
First he used it to do muscle testing to work out just how much physical and mental punishment his body could take. Later, when he discovered it worked, he started to try healing - and found it gave him a purpose and that he was good at it.
'How do you explain it? I don't even try. I don't believe there's magic, I just believe there's a lot of stuff happening around us that we don't understand.' Carlton Tropper will give two seminars in Hong Kong on May 6-7 (Emotions) and May 13-14 (Relationships). $2,100 for two days. Call Anisa Abdoolcarim on 2573 7786 Kinesiology is the mysterious art of releasing our buried trauma through muscle response. The results can be surprising