By Brian Robinson.
If you’ve read Blushing Part 1, you will have met with the idea that blushing is a strategy designed to help keep us safe. Basically, it is one of a number of non-threatening signals we can send out in order to avoid conflict. The problem is, while this might have worked well in the Stone Age, in today’s world it can be misunderstood in a variety of ways. The problem is further exacerbated, because blushing, like much other interactive signalling, is an automatic reaction which we cannot switch off or control.
Many people who experience social discomfort will simply want the blushing to stop. If they no longer blush when in the company of others, they believe they no longer have a problem. They may say to the therapist, “If you can’t fix the blushing, then you can’t fix me.” However, the therapist may take a different view. They may want to target the causes of blushing rather than the blushing itself. Remove the causes: and in theory the blushing will stop.
So, how do you get that message across to the sufferer? One way is to turn the attention to the feelings that go hand in glove with the blushing: the feelings of wanting to escape; the feelings of being found out; the belief that you make others feel uncomfortable, and so on. In fact, it would be reasonable to argue, that it is these very feelings that lie at the heart of the problem; and it is these very feelings that cause the most distress in the sufferer. Blushing is simply what the sufferer tends to focus upon; but in reality, it is always symptomatic of underlying issues.
Here is an example to illustrate this point. Suppose you were suffering from a real illness. It had unpleasant symptoms which made you feel miserable and wanting to stay at home. And along with that, you had an unsightly rash on your arms. You visit your doctor and he offers you two options. Option 1: he can give you a pill which will make the rash disappear completely, but you will still feel miserable and awkward because the symptoms will still persist. This is the fast-track option. Option 2: he can give you a potion which will actually target the virus which underlies the symptoms. This may take a bit longer to work, but eventually all the symptoms will disappear including the unsightly rash. Which option would you chose?
Having made that point, the therapist shouldn’t ignore the sufferer’s strong wish to focus on the blushing altogether. Indeed, it is the case that with many of these problems there may be practical steps which will help alleviate matters somewhat. So, we ought to give some attention to the practical approach first. Even if that turns out to be a dead end, the sufferer may benefit by becoming resigned to this fact, and may therefore become more accepting of the blushing. Part 3 will take a look at the practical approach.