Don’t Scratch the Itch

Silly as it seems, it comes up all the time. A great number of people develop an itch on their nose as soon as the needles begin to go in. Many more worry about getting an itch sometime during the treatment. “What do I do?” is the question I get asked.

The answer is simple – nothing. There must be 10,000 books written on the topic of “not scatching the itch”. In Eastern teachings, the itch is a common metaphor for that which compels us to act habitually. It represents thoughts, emotions, and sensations that grab us and take hold, compelling us to act impulsively. Everyone knows that scratching an itch only makes it worse, and the same is true for unconscious reaction to everything we think and feel.

The phenomenon that occurs in the treatment room is no coincidence. When we are forced to be still, or even when we think we will have to be still, some thought or sensation develops which urges us to move. This is a golden opportunity to be still and do nothing. The sensation won’t kill you. It can be a very worthwhile experience to just have the itch, examine it with your mind, and leave it alone. This act of paying attention, of not acting, of not needing to solve, fix, or satisfy, opens up the door to greater perception and insight. During acupuncture, it can lead to paying greater attention to the body and to the experience of acupuncture itself. People always want to know how acupuncture works. All you have to do is allow yourself the experience, free of thoughts and preconceptions, to find out. This is how acupuncture came about in the first place – direct perception. It is the method by which all great scientific discoveries are made. And it is possible only when you are not busy scratching.