When people ask me what I do—from hundreds and hundreds of times having been asked this question—there’s a couple of ways this can go:
Most people will have heard of Physiotherapy before (not all people though) and it will end there. The whole topic is just too far off their radar. They will file me under “job unknown” or “not a therapist and not a doctor”, and then change subject or stop talking to me altogether.
Some people have an active lifestyle, had some injuries and therapy themselves already, or have seen an advertisement about ergonomic mattresses or office chairs.
That’s the person that is likely to ask, “Hey, I’ve seen this chair, the one that looks like that and can do this *gestures wildly*… is that any good?” or “I get it, you teach people how to sit correctly… btw, what is the right way to sit?”
Usually they will ask with genuine interest, because they’ve been thinking about this question for quite a while already and couldn’t figure out if $2000 for an ergonomic chair instead of $50 for STEFAN from IKEA is really worth it.
The last time I’ve answered this question I’ve said, “Think of the correct sitting posture not as a single, perfectly aligned, locked-in position, but instead as a range of possibilities that go from here to there.” Maybe not the best answer, but satisfying enough and keeps the conversation afloat for a few minutes.
Here’s a most recent story from the third category, the 3rd way this question can go:
Yesterday I was in a very cute and very small bookstore, here in the Old Quarter in Hanoi, Vietnam. The whole store was about the size of 12 Square meter (129 Square foot) and had less than a hundred books.
Upon entering I noticed the big glass door, which was new, clean and neatly fitted—something I came to appreciate here in Vietnam. I said to the girl at the front-desk, “Oh- what a nice door you have!” But she didn’t seem to understand. I repeated and she said, “Sorry my English not so good.”
I looked at the table next to the door and there was a children’s book. I picked it up. Nice typeset, appealing pictures, plain English, about 150 pages. I said, “Hey, that’s a cute book, you could learn English with it.” The girl giggled. “You don’t think so?“ She shyly straightened herself up and replied, “I think my problem with English is mostly in listening and speaking. I can read well. See here, I enjoy this book.”
I turned around to the front desk and lo and behold the book she was reading was The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russel, one of the beautiful, old hardcover editions. Slightly brittle pages, most lovely typeset. Imagine my surprise, my shock almost. The young, Vietnamese woman behind the counter, 22 years old, liked the chapter about Aristotle the best. She was a believer in self-education and was looking for an answer to the question why people think the way they do, and was hoping to find some clues with the ancient folks in the West.
We probably talked for more than an hour, and came to discover that Bertrand Russel had a whole lot of chapters in his book, but none by Ludwig Wittgenstein. We talked about teachers and their students, about Sigmund Freud und Wilhelm Reich, about young people, suicide, mental health and self-education, and eventually I came to mention what I do, and how this fits into the bigger picture. We connected on Insta and she followed me on Youtube.
By the time I said “Good Bye” we’ve both learned a lot. It was a marvellous encounter that I’ll remember fondly for all my life. On top of all that I finally found a few items I could bring back to Saigon and give as gifts to my friends at the New Year’s gathering I’m invited to tomorrow.
This is my last blog post of 2022. A Happy New Year 2023 to all of you, may good fortune be ahead!