I have poison ivy. During the day I’m able, sort of, to distract from the constant itch. I want to scratch but I refuse to give in to the temptation. But at night, the itch seems to quadruple in strength. It screams at me: “Scratch me NOW!” And without much thought, I scratch away. Further, itches appear in other spots and I begin to wonder if I will have breakouts elsewhere. Did I touch my eye? What if it shows up there? Oh, and there’s that itch in my groin…” Certainly my mood takes a hit.
This experience got me thinking about cognitive/emotional and relational “itches” that all of us have. They may be desires, fears, beliefs, etc. During the day work enables us to set them aside for a time. But then evening arrives and with less to distract us, they come rushing at us with a vengeance. And we begin to scratch at the itch by ruminating, fantasizing that you have a different life, predicting the worst outcome, impulsively trying to get rid of the problem, or drowning with alcohol, food, or media.
What is your “itch?” Do you have mechanisms to deal with the itch without making it worse by “scratching?” How might you identify the underlying beliefs and “conversations” you have with the itch that make it much more difficult to deal with?
Soon, my poison ivy will be long gone. But many of our emotional itches never stop. Like Nash in the movie version of “A Beautiful Mind”, the itch did not go away even though he was able to distance himself from it and remind himself that he did not need to respond to it.
This is a part of what it means to “take every thought captive.”