When I was a young boy, I often had difficulty with a rash behind my elbows and my knees. I would scratch at an itch in these areas during the day and even while asleep.

Doctors tried a wide variety of attempted cures with me, including:

  • Lotions
  • Ointments, Hydrocortisone
  • Gloves on while sleeping (my sleeping self would just take them off)
  • Chinese herbal tea baths
  • Blood letting

Yes, that’s right. I was once brought to an acupuncturist who had a little metal hammer with small spikes on the head to help let out “bad blood” from my rashes.

None of these were effective.

My skin would become raw and often scabbed with dried blood.

I don’t remember exactly what age I was, maybe 9 or 10, but I remember thinking to myself:

Who is the one with the hand who is scratching this itch?

The real issue was that there was a hand with fingers and nails scratching at a part of my body and causing irritation and breaking the skin. If I could prevent this hand from doing this behavior, the skin would not become irritated. So, I set out to prevent the hand from doing so.

Who controls the hand?

I began to notice when the hand would be scratching. Sometimes, I would notice before it began to scratch, and sometimes I would notice when it was too late.

I had to be vigilant, and I had to be mindful.

When I noticed the itching becoming strong, I would let my hand slap the itch rather than scratch it. That would at least stop the breaking of the skin. Eventually, the skin became less irritated.

I no longer feel like I have a problem with irritation in these areas of my skin.

Sometimes, I catch the hand scratching my face or my head. Maybe I let it indulge sometimes.

Digital Eczema

When you wake up in the morning, maybe you like to scratch an itch by checking your phone in the morning. It’s quite a satisfying feeling. And yet, maybe after you do so, you may feel irritated at yourself.

Maybe you do this while you’re bored at work, or maybe you’re doing this when you’re procrastinating from a difficult task.

If you’re a software developer, maybe you’ve opened up Hacker News more times today than you’re proud of. You installed a browser extension to block the site from yourself, and you know you won’t be able to see it, and yet your fingers still continue to motion through that sequence of opening a new tab and you start typing news.yc....

The itch is strong and the irritation of shame is great.

Perhaps you may wonder:

Who is the one with the hand who is scratching this itch?

Who controls the hand?

Thanks to Christian Genco for the conversation that inspired this post.