Itching is the lowest form of pain

Years ago I was working as a receptionist in a physical therapy office and one of the PTs I worked with told me that itching is the lowest form of pain. I found that so fascinating and have always thought about that in my years of dealing with chronic pain. In fact, often times my area around my surgical scar on my low back will start itching and usually my back ends up going out a few days later. Like the check engine light in our vehicles, my body’s way of trying to let me know something is wrong or that something is about to happen.

Recently, I started sharing my success of mindfulness practice with some of my fellow team members from This Naked Mind. The topic for one of the practices was on addiction and the narrator of the course shared a quote from Pema Chodron: “when we scratch the wound and give into our addictions, we do not allow the wound to heal”.

I was immediately reminded of what the PT said to me. Going through my journey of becoming alcohol free, uncovering the reasons why I drank or why we all drink invariably reveals pain (physical, emotional). Pain that we used alcohol to numb and help us through. As that quote implies, we scratch that itch wanting to help ease the pain, only to deepen the addiction without allowing us to discover what is really going on.

The key is to identify that itch before the real pain grabs ahold. In practicing mindfulness I have found it so much easier identifying the ugly emotions that bubble up sooner. I am also able to better identify my physical pain by listening to my body. Even the smallest of sensations can be a warning sign that something is going to happen and not letting the pain get ahold of me is a lot easier. Scratching that itch now is not reaching for a drink, but going to my happy place instead. Writing. Walking my dogs. Exercising. Talking with my loved ones. These are the nails that scratch my itch!!❤️


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