It Starts with an Itch

It starts with an itch.

Sometimes on the back of my knee, sometimes near my left ear. Perhaps inside a wrist, or near my belly button. A tiny itch, just below the surface of my skin, begging to be scratched.

Only it’s not actually an itch. At least, not a physical itch. Not caused by contact dermatitis or brushing against nettles or allergies. No, it isn’t that kind of itch.

It’s a nagging. A wiggling, writhing emotion or belief, resting just below the surface, ready to be released into the wilds and let go -- ready to be cleared out.

The first sign that I am growing and expanding, moving through and shedding my skin, is this itch. When I feel it in my dreams, when I wake up needing to scratch, when I can’t shake the feeling that I have something extra (read: unwanted) weighing me down, I know it’s time to do some housekeeping (of the internal kind).

Lately, I have been noticing this itch. I finally decided, enough is enough, and spent an hour looking at, and taking inventory of, my internal landscape. Here is what I found: I’ve done a lot of growing and maturing in the past few months. I’ve outgrown a lot of old habits and beliefs in this time. I haven’t actually cleared those habits and beliefs, even though I have outgrown them.

Once I realized that I hadn’t released this collection of cloth, bits of string, and dead flowers holding together a childhood of stories, that it was still sitting in a cigar box at the center of my heart, I knew where the itch was leading me. To a box of old tapes that I never listen to; the ones that told me I could never succeed, that I had no goals worth achieving, that I would never amount to anything.

Once I recognized the box, admitted it’s existence and scratched that part of the itch, I had to get down to business: time to get rid of the itch by letting go of the beliefs and habits. I think the process is different for each of us, but I’ll outline a bit of the journey I took. I’m happy to share the things that scratch my itch.

FIRST: I did some self-exploration, making a list of the things that were in the box (and therefore causing the itch). This list included the beliefs (listed above) that had held me back for years but that I broke through the day I submitted my law school application (the biggest hurdle I have ever jumped). It also included some opinions on love, self-worth, beauty, wildness, and being alone. Each of the items on this personal inventory is ready to go away, ready to leave my heart and head to make space for new growth.

SECOND: I took the physical list I wrote and journalled about each thing -- What purpose had it served for me? Was I really ready to let it go? Was there something I wanted to fill the space once occupied by the thing being let go? How would I know it was actually released, and not just hiding?

THIRD: Once I had a clear idea of all the things I wanted to clear out, and the purpose they had served (which helped me learn what to put in it’s place), I began gathering items (leaves, flowers, sticks, slips of paper) that represented each of the items I was releasing. I wanted organic matter, things that could be tossed into moving water (see next step) without being harmful or pollutants.

FOUR: Taking all of my representative objects, I went to the river near my house. I tossed each item into the water, talking about the belief or opinion it represents (the thing being released), why I am ready to let it go, and clearly indicating that it is GONE, not just hidden. GONE. When each object had been tossed into the water, I sat in the waning sunlight and cried (totally true). Letting go of old beliefs and unhealthy patterns isn’t easy work.

FIVE: After I had done the hard work of releasing, and shifted myself into a place of strength (even in the uncertainty), I drank some tea. (You could substitute wine or beer or any comforting, meaningful food/drink here.) I took care of myself, being extra gentle and loving. I wanted to make sure that I reinforced the habit of positive love, not just pushing against and angering myself.

A week later, I don’t itch anymore.

I feel strong, I am making positive choices, and I have a level of confidence I didn’t know was possible. Letting go, clearing out old beliefs through the physical act of releasing truly made a change in my emotional and psychological space, freeing me to move forward into Spring and new beginnings with grace and excitement!

How does the physical act of releasing shift your experience of the emotional work you’re doing?