CAUSES: HOLISTIC CAUSES
Out Out Damn Spot
This face picking has severely limited my ability to have physical relationships. I am embarrassed and shamed over my skin… I do not consider myself a ‘cutter’ (self mutilation by razors, pins, etc.) even though I break the skin to blood with my nails and metal instruments.
At one point in my recovery, I actually had a pimple that had showed up on my ear lobe. It sat there for a week, unseen by the naked eye, but I could feel its angry and painful presence. I started to scratch at the area to encourage it to surface and really with the intention to puncture the skin and squeeze it out, but something stopped me. Me.
I decided to do an experiment. If I just did nothing to it, then I could see what would happen. If it just sat there and did not progress, it would give me justification for the picking and poking that I do. I had tried to leave pimples alone before, but they seemed to lingered so long that I always lost patience. I would eventually go back to picking at them.
This time my attitude was – I didn’t have any expectations that it would go away faster, but that I had hope that it would. By this point I had already done my research on how the skin operated. Through understanding the skin’s mechanisms I had a little more sympathy for the processes that were going on. I would check back in on “the site” to see how it was doing a couple of times a day, which probably didn’t help it much, but after a few days the angry painful lump was changing and becoming a softer less angry lump. A few days later it had shrunk. And another day and it had shrunk more. Until… half a week later or so it was like the tip of a thick needle. I found hope.
But to tell you the truth, I still was not happy about it being there – even if it was just a small little bump… I wanted it out completely.
Another example of this obsession of “completion” was an ingrown hair on my inside hip just outside the bikini line. I justified myself that it wasn’t on my face, so it was OK to pick at it. Some justification, huh?
Of course it started out with my body knowing it was there before I had seen the evidence. When you are a habitual picker, you develop some kind of hypersensitivity to your skin. I would know in an instant when a pimple was forming, long before it was visible. My hand reached down to the exact spot and felt it. I got in some light and checked it out. And sure enough, there it was a red bump with a dark hair all wrapped up inside of it. I squeezed and out it popped with the usual blood. Then I squeezed some more just to make sure there wasn’t anything more left inside.
Sometimes picking at something that seems to want to be picked at – such as a full blown whitehead – doesn’t seem so unreasonable. But as an obsessive picker, you usually go beyond reason. You go overboard to make sure there was nothing left. I think it’s a common feeling most pickers have, that need to dig out everything. Perhaps it is because we are so desperate not to have to go through the picking again, that we become extreme and thorough in our measures. We want it to be the last time each time. And we want ‘everything’ out. We want it to be final. But that ‘everything’ is more than a pimple or hangnail, it symbolizes all of our pain, fear and frustration with life.
That’s a lot to put on a pimple.
Old Habits Die Hard
You have probably been picking at your skin for some time now… How long has it been anyway? Months? Years? Or in my case, Decades?
Basically, besides all the other aspects of this disease, you have basically picked up a bad and addictive habit – no different than smoking or any other compulsive behavior. So it may be a little rough at first breaking the habit. You have to be firm and forgiving with yourself through the process.
There is an old adage about developing good habits and it goes something like this. If you can do it once an hour for a day you can learn to do it every day. If you can do it once a day for a week, you can learn to do it every week and if you can learn to do it once a week for a month, you can learn to do it every month. There is a lot to be said of repeating good behaviors to offset bad habits, but more will be discussed about these methods later in this book.
In many ways, the habit of skin picking may just be a conditioned reflex. Think of Pavlov’s dog. A Russian physiologist trained his dog to salivate whenever he heard a bell, because he ate dinner after the bell. If you felt any kind of relief after successfully popping a zit once, you have set in motion a behavior your body learns to associate with relief and stress reduction. Your body will remember the feelings and will associate the chain of events that leads up to the picking and drive you towards action again in the future.
In many cases, you may have ‘picked’ up the habit from another person in your family. It is fairly common for pickers to have a history of family picking. One of your parents or an older brother or sister may have picked and that’s where you first learned the pattern.
After I became hyperaware and started to try to heal my picking, I started to notice that my father picked at his face when he was driving in the car – especially if he was nervous about something or in traffic. My mother used to be a habitual cuticle picker when I was growing up. She has since conquered this habit for the most part and is very proud to show off her pretty hands. But I know for a fact that when she gets worried about something, she backslides and it shows up in her cuticles. I also remembered my brother dealing with eczema that he scratched at when he was a teen. I never really put two and two together until years after this had cleared up for him. However he still picks at and bites his nails.
So look back and try to identify where a family member may have modeled picking behavior to you. The more aware you are of the behaviors that went on around you – the easier it will be to identify and treat your own.
Cry, Baby, Cry
When I was 12 my brother was killed in Vietnam. And when I was a sophomore one of my sisters got involved with an abusive man, got pregnant, lost the baby and then she got hepatitis from a blood transfusion.
On top of the grieving the loss of their only son, my parents had to take in a daughter who was pregnant with an illegitimate child. And then it was around that time my other sister started getting into drugs and getting involved with this other man (the drug dealer) and then she almost died. And when I was 16 my brother in-law died suddenly. A lot of heavy stuff was going on.
I had the most trauma in my family and it all happened in those few years. So I don’t know how of it was related to that or if I would have picked my face anyway? I don’t know. But I remember picking my face in high school when I was maybe like 14-15.
We all have heard the buzz words “Healing your Inner Child.” They have become a kind a source of jokes. But isn’t it interesting that the most humorous humor usually comes about from profound truth…
I have written at length about the potential toxins locked inside your system looking for a way out and how they eventually may find their way through your skin. Well, there are other things inside you that need to find their way out and holding them back will just make them come out in another way. I’m talking about tears.
New York Times Best Selling Healer, Louise Hay states that since skin is a protective organ, diseases of the skin may be triggered by anxiety, fear, or a feeling of not being safe.
It’s easy to try to be adult and be tough on the outside while inside our inner child is in great pain. Shedding tears is a natural by product of being human and yet so many of us hold back the tears or fight back the tears. For whatever reason your skin eruptions may be related to unexpressed grief or tears.
When were you injured as a child? Go back to your earliest recollections and don’t hold back feeling sorry for yourself. Do some exploration and do some writing on the subject.