ROADS TO RECOVERY: DO SOMETHING… ANYTHING…
You are the Physician and
You CAN Heal Thyself!
One highly recommended method of stopping bad habits is the self-dialog. This written exercise will allow you to explore a lot of the negative thought patterns that compel you to continue picking. First of all decide whether you are more comfortable writing long hand or typing. I personally find I can type a lot faster than handwrite so it helps me stay more in the present thought to type. Plus, it’s a lot more eligible than my handwriting! However I can also appreciate the directness and immediacy that holding a pen has on the subconscious flow of emotion. We all held pencils in our hands long before we learned how to use a word processor, so make your own personal decision.
The self-dialog is a stream of conscious conversation with yourself. You begin by writing about your temptation to pick stated as a simple sentence. Then on the next line write your response to this statement, only from the position of your higher loving self. Continue on with a rebuttal to this response as the example below shows. They key is to end up with your higher self winning the discussion. Don’t let the picking half of you get the last word in unless it agrees to stop.
It is a great way to get to the bottom of why you do what you do, once you begin to understand, then you can do something about it.
Self Dialog – My first Self-Dialog:
I want to squeeze a pimple on my jaw.
You know you shouldn’t do it
but it wants to be done. I am driven. The pus must come out.
If you give it time – it will work its way out.
I don’t have the time.
You may find that your higher self may not win. In fact if your higher self does win the debate quickly, I suggest you try again, because in order to unravel all of you own issues that brought you to this place, you may need to dig deeper than you ever thought possible. Repeat this exercise several times and at different times of the day. For me, my self dialog always came back to an issue of time until I ultimately had a conversation that got me back to my childhood. This is where you want to end up. Although you may not have started picking until your teens or twenties, your life experience in your early formative years is what set you up to develop these habits later in life.
leave it alone.
I have to touch it.
Leave it alone.
I’ve touched it and I feel there is something there which needs to be fixed.
Leave it alone.
But there’s a lump there.
There’s a lump there. There’s a problem.
And you think you can do something about it.
Yes, I can squeeze it and pop it out.
You know that doesn’t work.
Oh yes it does sometimes.
OK you’re right, but what about most of the other times.
But it might fix it.
What about the other times.
I’m willing to risk it, because it might fix it.
You’re willing to risk an ugly scab and scarring?
At least the scab feels better than a lump.
I won’t scar.
You already have scars, but you don’t look close enough to see those.
I don’t know what to say?
Do you want more scars?
Then stop picking.
Ok…. But wait, I can feel this one is going to come out smoothly.
So let it do it on its own.
But it would be sooo satisfying to just pop it out.
That’s a hard argument to debate, and you may be right, but it doesn’t help you conquer the habit when it’s not a good idea to squeeze.
But I won’t squeeze when it’s not a good idea.
Now we both know that’s a lie.
God, I just can’t bear it having this lump under my skin.
Ok now we’re getting someplace… Why?
Because I’m afraid it will never go away. I want it to happen now.
Sometimes, things take time.
I can’t wait.
That’s just the way I am. I’ve always been impatient – boy that was hard to admit.
Why do you suppose you are so impatient?
Good question I’ll have to think about that.
Sometimes your self dialog will stop you in your tracks. If it stops you from picking – that is a good thing! I found that I needed the satisfaction of accomplishing something that had instant gratification.
I’m a doer – I like to take action.
Is there something else you could take action over?
Yes there are a million projects I’m working on…
Maybe that’s the problem, you take too much on and then fret over everything.
Possible. I love being a doer.
That’s a great trait of your – do you have to ‘do’ to your face?
No I wish I didn’t really.
Ok so back to impatience. Why are you so impatient.
Because there are so many things I wish would happen. Things I can see happening, but they aren’t happening yet.
So you are dissatisfied with your life?
Yes and No… I seem to be exploding with possibilities, but haven’t accomplished anything.
So you need completion?
Yah! That’s it.
OK, so let’s work on completing a project in conjunction with working on not picking your face.
This I can deal with.
So this is how my recovery came to pass… Picking at my face seemed directly aligned with my sense of lack of control over my life and inability to finish projects. In retrospect I realized one of the places I picked most often was in my car – especially when driving long distances. It goes to show that my mind would be racing from subject to subject, but because I was driving or being driven – there was no place for me to go, no way for me to do something about what I wanted or needed to do.
Self Dialog – Tammy’s Self Dialog
You told me earlier that picking my cuticles does no harm. That it’s not going to kill me. I sense that you are the rebellious teenager in me. Why DO you feel it’s okay to pick?
It’s something I can control.
Why did you pick the same habit as Mom?
Because it works.
What makes you think you can’t control other parts of your life?
I have no money.
What can money buy that you don’t have now?
Haven’t your spiritual guardians always taken care of you? Didn’t money always come when you really needed it?
It doesn’t come fast enough.
Does picking make it come faster?
What does it accomplish?
A FEELING of being in control.
Even if you really aren’t.
Who will control you if you stop picking?
The same people and systems that control me now.
People with power and money.
If we can find a healthier way to FEEL like you’re in control, would you consider doing that instead of picking?
If it works, yeah.
If we decide instead to visualize a happy future–but you can’t pick there–will you feel like you control your future?
As long as I can hold onto the image, yeah.
What might weaken your ability to hold the image?
Reality is what you perceive it to be, how you react to it. You can choose not to give it power over you. Your perception of it being powerful gives it its power.
But you’re not losing anything.
But you’ve gained awareness.
Do you think it’s fair and comfortable to visualize a happy future where picking is not allowed?
Yes, I can agree to that.
Are you ready to go there?
I’m long overdue.
Sometimes you pick when there’s no apparent emotional reason, such as when I’m reading. Why?
I don’t know. I guess ’cause I’m bored.
Do you feel that my hands always have to be moving?
Something has to move. If not your hands, then your feet.
Where is that energy coming from?
From whatever you’re reading.
Would note-taking while I’m reading be a satisfactory way to release that energy?
Sure. Even just doodling will work. Just do something.
Do you ever pick for the purpose of self-punishment?
No, not really, because I don’t see it as that damaging. Besides, I don’t hate you.
I don’t hate you either. I just didn’t understand you until now. If I started taking herbs and vitamins that are known to calm the nerves, would you be okay with that?
Sure, I could use a rest.
Were you trying to get my attention all these years?
I wasn’t trying, but now that I have it, it’s kind of nice.
Are there any other parts of me that could benefit from attention?
I have found the self dialog to be tremendously helpful, but only time will tell if it works for you. At the very least it should help you to discover some motivations which may surprise you. For Tammy, she had speculated that her picking had something to do with control, patience, money worries and nervous energy. But the part that surprised her was that self-punishment was not a motive. She learned her self-esteem was not the main issue. Her main issue was fear, specifically fear of being controlled by other people.
When you do your self dialog, let your mind wander, write THE FIRST THING that comes into your head. DO NOT EDIT YOUR THOUGHTS. I cannot stress this enough. You may come back with what seems like the silliest or most trivial response and you won’t want to write it down. Do it anyway. It is often what we self judge as unimportant, inconsequential, or plain stupid thoughts that hold the secret clues to our innermost motivations and will eventually help you get to the bottom of what you are trying to discover or uncover about yourself.
As they said in the seventies – Let it all hang out, baby!