The first time I learned about family systems theory, I was told "A system will do anything to stop pain." This week, I'm substituting "itching" for "pain."
Have you ever been REALLY REALLY itchy? Like unable to think about anything else? Willing to do desperately destructive things to yourself, if only that burning ticklish insistent feeling would just STOP?
(Are you getting a little itchy just thinking about this? Sorry!)
One of my children has hives right now, and after a couple of days of home treatment gave him no relief, we spent a couple of hours at the allergist and pharmacy today. There was a questionnaire, a physical exam, a scratch test, and an in-depth interview--none of this revealed a cause. This surprised exactly none of us--often hives are 'idiopathic', a five-syllable way of saying "We're not sure."
The good news is, the first line of treatment is the same, regardless of the cause--take an antihistamine to calm the itch down!! Often this needs to be something of prescription strength--Benadryl may not do the job long-term. Make it so the patient can sleep and go about a normal day without keeping an eye out for new implements to scratch every bit of skin off their torso/arm/back/wherever.
In our congregations, anxiety can become both paralyzing and explosively damaging. We become entirely reactive. But just like treating a skin condition, calming down can really help.
Easier said than done!
Sometimes we can calm ourselves. Sometimes we need a trusted leader or even an outside expert to come in and prescribe something just so we can get to a point where we are able to reclaim our full cognitive power, to remember the theological and emotional ties that bind us together as a congregation.
Once the itching is controlled, we can doctor the scratches, consider the underlying causes, and build a way forward.
(And to bring this post full circle--sometimes hives are caused by stress. Like you might find in a congregational conflict.)