After I wrote a blog post that dabbled into my experiences with trichotillomania (trich), the compulsive pulling out of hair, a friend reached out to me to remind me that there is a biological underpinning behind trich as well.
For those with trich, the act of pulling out a hair produces a physical sensation of palpable release and excitement and soothing all at once. So it’s actually quite natural that I would deal with stress by pulling out my hair rather than by doing other things that don’t feel as good – pulling out my hair seems more efficient in the moment than slogging through other stress management techniques that don’t work as well.
In meditation, the idea came to me that if I could release that pesky neurological groove in my brain that equates hair pulling with relief, I could learn to handle stress in other ways that don’t leave me with little bald alien eyelids.
I could find healing. I could wave my trich goodbye. I could send it to the wind with the floating dandelion feathers and wild stardust.
As I considered how to release this physical urge, a fearful voice inside me quickly responded in a clutch of panic:
This inner voice felt small and scared, like a cowering little girl who had kept her voice quiet for too long. Now I was trying to strip away something she wanted, and she was breaking her silence.
“Why not?” I asked her. I have been trying to heal my trichotillomania for over 15 years – I hardly thought that a part of me would resist letting it go for good.
And she responded so clearly: “Because I want to feel good.”
Wanting to feel good. Isn’t that what we all want? Doesn’t that explain our serial quests for happiness, our addictive behaviors, our clamoring for a relationship that we think will finally fill the void?
The little girl saying NO, my ego that believes in separation, will cling to my trich as long as she can because she wants me to feel good in the moment. She thrives on cavewoman logic:
Pulling out hair feels good.
I want to feel good.
If I stopped pulling out my hair, I would stop feeling good.
So I don’t want to stop pulling out my hair.
We cling to familiar things, people, friendships, jobs, and behaviors even when we know that they don’t serve us. Painful habits are the childhood blankies that we revert to in times of change and unknowingness. If you have ever tried to pry a blanket from a child who uses it as a comfort, you know how dreadful the backlash can be.
Our egos believe in scarcity, that there is only so much to go around. We convince ourselves that nothing in the world will feel quite as good as our drinking habit, our codependency, our self-criticism – even if we admit that these things aren’t working for us either.
It hurts to hold on, but we fear it will hurt even more to let go, and our comfort zones are an enticing place to play. Some people even stay there their entire lives, too afraid to dip their toes in the waters of What Could Be.
Our egos have us convinced that if we let go of our destructive behavior, all of our fun will go away. The idea of life without our vices can feel noble-yet-boring, like an endless expanse of days where we slowly learn to acclimate to a life less passionate. Sometimes I find myself believing that for the rest of my life, I am doomed to feel a flash of anxiety when I see someone else’s crooked eyelashes.
We don’t allow ourselves to consider that the grass could be greener on the other side. We convince ourselves that bleak futures are inevitable, and we focus on the loss, the unknowingness, the struggle, but we can dare to tell ourselves a different story.
We must open ourselves up to the possibility that our lives could be even more fun, passionate, fulfilling, and vibrant once we let go of the things that bog us down. The grass could be greener, or maybe it wouldn’t even be grass anymore – it could be a field of lavender, a sparking garden, a rolling plain of color and sound and light. We don’t know.
Today is the day to consider a new ending to your story. An ending free of self-destruction, where life is brimming with delight and peace and opportunities. A life where one day, I could see a crooked eyelash and embrace its unconventional beauty – its winding uniqueness that makes it stand out from the rest.
Big, transformational, earth-shattering change can take time. Step by step, story by story, daydream by daydream, let’s give ourselves permission to feel good in bigger, wilder ways than we ever thought were possible.
Tell me a story of why you need your anxiety, and then tell me a different story about how letting it go might free you. Tell me about a time when you forged ahead through the fires of your own fear. Tell me about your ego – what it looks like and how it speaks to you.
Love and Possibilities and Tender Inner Cavewomen,