Our garden is home to something that loves to bite ankles. I’m pottering around minding my own business when suddenly there’s a big red bump and a raging itch that demands to be attended to. Scratching, however, is absolutely fatal: that moment of blissful relief is quickly replaced by an even more demanding itch which, when scratched, just spreads and asks for more.
I can make one of these bites last for absolutely days when I do this.
In one of those strange synchronistic moments, when I’m having a self-imposed email/facebook/work holiday and general laptop veto for 24 hours, I get one of these bites and grudgingly acknowledge the similarities. Oh well, I thought, I’ll veto scratching too.
Ignoring the itch was surprisingly easy. It’s a decision, that’s all. Sometimes its demands were louder, but I’d made my decision and stuck to it. Ta-daaa!
If only it were so easy with Facebook, email checking, excessive work or any of those other little ingrained habits we know full well to be counterproductive! But they seem so harmless. The spreading (the ‘oh I’d better just check my email while I’m here’ or ‘this link looks important’ moments) and the negative effects of these habits are just not as obvious as a great big red bump on the ankle.
Let’s call them mental itches. To highlight the process, I’ll relay a conversation I had with myself this morning:
I’m not going to go on Facebook ‘til I’ve finished this blog post on itches.
Oh, what’s that word? I really need that word! I know which book it was in but I don’t have it. I know; I’ll look online!
But I won’t look at Facebook because I’ve ignored that itch and now I’m superwoman.
Great, there’s the word. Oh, I’ve just typed in the Facebook URL. But I won’t check it. Oh, it’ll only take 5 minutes. I’ll just update my Coaching page, then I’ll go.
Oo, 5 updates and a message!
Etc. And in the background is the little voice that says, ‘Don’t do it! You’re wasting your time. It’s pointless. You’re just procrastinating. God, you’re so weak. You’re hopeless. You’ll never achieve anything.’ And there’s the big red bump – the hurt that scratching the mental itches produces. Once you know you’re doing it, you start to hate yourself.
People come to coaching with a desire to change something, and they do! On the way, however, they have to own up to a few habits or beliefs which are reassuringly familiar, but do them no good whatsoever. The good news is that awareness is the first step towards letting it go.
So here I offer you Meg Ward’s 5-step guide to itch-removal:
- Know it’s there. Understand the consequences of adhering to its demands.
- Realise there’s a choice. Choose.
- Hear all the reasons why you chose wrongly. Think of the consequences. Choose again.
- If you give in, don’t hate yourself. Know where you went wrong so it won’t catch you again. Choose again.
- See all the reasons why your choice is good. Keep choosing.
It’s a process. Of course, choose not to scratch it, but that doesn’t mean it will instantly disappear. One day, however, you’ll find it no longer plays on your mind and that your mind is otherwise occupied and very happy, thank you very much.
Post inspired by Bindu Wiles’ ‘The Shed Project’, which launched this week.