Over the years, Glei and I have worked directly with hundreds of trichotillomania clients from around the world. We’ve talked to many hundreds more. One of the most common questions we’re asked is, “Does this mean there’s something wrong with me?”
On the one hand, we can understand where a question like this could come from. After all, no one likes what’s happening to them when they feel their trich-related behavior is so out of control.
The good news is, the fact that you’re pulling probably has nothing at all to do with something being wrong with you. To the contrary, it very probably means your brain works just fine.
Crazy idea? Let me explain.
Why We Do What We Do
It turns out there’s always a reason why we do what we do. This is true no matter what the behavior; it could be something we like, or something we don’t like. It’s true regardless of whether or not we think we’re in control of the behavior. No matter what we do, we’re doing it for a very good reason.
Admittedly, for most people this reason is usually totally unconscious. After all, how many of us find ourselves repeatedly practicing age-old, habitual behavior – even behaviors that we know hurt us – and only later ask ourselves why we ever did (or said!) that – again?
The fact is, the great majority of our choices and our behaviors are driven by totally subconscious processes.
The good news, however, is that these unconscious reasons are invariably positive in nature. Invariably, our brains want something good for us, even when it compels us to do something that seems (or maybe really is) bad.
A Case in Point
Think of the times and places you’re most likely to pull. If you’re like the vast majority of our clients, you probably pull only in response to an urge to do so – in fact, an urge that’s become so strong, you find yourself hardly able to resist it any longer.
For most, these trichotillomania-related urges happen in just one of two different contexts (or both) – either when you’re feeling stressed, pressured or overwhelmed, or on the other hand, when you’re feeling bored, tired, or mired in tedium.
But why would you feel the urge to pull then? What is it about those two contexts that make pulling more likely at times like that?
In the case of stress and pressure, pulling provides an effective diversion from the tension, does it not? It’s almost as though the urges force or compel us to redirect our attention and focus from what was so stressful to something relatively mindless. In doing so, we experience momentary relief from the intense pressure, do we not?
Isn’t that a pretty positive intent? It turns out that what your brain wanted for you by creating the urge to pull was relief.
Nothing Wrong With What’s Right… Right?
Now, from where I sit, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you; to the contrary, I take this to mean there’s something RIGHT with you. Your brain wants to help you avoid pain – the pain of stress and pressure. Not bad to have a part of you so dedicated to your health and well-being, it would do anything in its power to try to create that for you.
Why does it attempt to provide relief by creating the urge to pull? Well, chances are, you’ve spent so long practicing responding to those urges by pulling your hair, your brain has simply gotten used to doing it in this “tried and true” way.
Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s the ONLY way you could create meaningful relief. It doesn’t even mean it’s the most effective way. It simply means this is the best way your brain knows how to try (keyword: TRY) to get this relief for you.
How about those times when you’re bored, or watching TV or reading a book? No stress there, right? Why would anyone feel the urge to pull then?
There you are, merely passing the time by watching TV, looking through your email, etc. And frankly, you’re bored.
Well, guess what pulling does for you then?
It’s stimulating. Fact is, even pulling your hair is more exciting than doing nothing.
Trying to create some excitement – or at least some stimulation – where there was none before could ALSO be considered a positive intent, could it not?
Generally speaking, human beings crave engagement and stimulation. When you’re sitting there in class bored out of your mind, you can understand how some might feel that pulling their hair is a whole lot better than going stir crazy with nothing at all else to do but SIT.
Once again, a positive intent on the part of your subconscious mind. Not that we necessarily like how your subconscious mind is trying to go about this for you. But for many, it’s the only thing your brain can think of to try to relieve your boredom. Why? Because you’ve practiced doing it this way for so long.
Once again, my point is that your brain’s best attempt to try to create SOME kind of stimulation in a context otherwise devoid of it probably means there’s something right with you, not wrong.
What We Do Vs. Who We Are
Finally consider that we are not our behaviors. Too many people tend to mistake the things they do (individual behaviors) for who they are as a person (one’s identity).
They are much, much different.
Who we are as people are much, much more than the things we DO. As I’ve noted in earlier articles, we are human beings, not human doings.
Just because you may at times do things you don’t like doesn’t mean there’s something globally wrong with you as a person. In its simplest interpretation, it just means you’re doing something you don’t like. And the things we do can change – even quickly – with the right tools and the right guidance.
Need help gaining access to the right tools and the right information? Visit the Trichotillomania Relief Specialists‘ website at http://www.trich-free.com. Alternatively, feel free to call us at any time of day or night toll-free at (866) LIFE-NOW.
Question: Have you found yourself in the past asking “what’s wrong with me?” in response to your pulling activity? And how do you feel differently about this issue now? Feel free to leave a comment below.