By Nicolle

When people ask me how I come up with the ideas or topics for my weekly blog, I usually don’t respond right away. I have to think about the question for a second, and then when I actually respond, I don’t really have an answer. Usually, the topics hit me over the head while I’m doing something completely unrelated to blog writing.

Take this week for example: I decided on Sunday that I wasn’t going to do a blog this week. I’ve been exhausted lately and have been trying to cut unnecessary stresses out of my life to give myself more opportunities for rest. Sunday night rolled around and I was confident in my decision – until I was applying hydrocortisone cream to some strange, itchy red bumps I’d developed on my earlobe.

As I’ve recently tweeted about and blogged about in this very column, I’m allergic to everything: gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, lip balm, tea tree oil, benzyl peroxide, penicillin, amoxicillin, pollen, grass, dust, chalk, smoke, dogs, cats, mice, donkeys… the list goes on.

All of those allergies elicit different allergic reactions, internally and externally, and it wasn’t until this past week that I’d gotten these bumps on my earlobes. As I tried to calm the redness with my aloe-infused cream, I thought again about going to the doctor to get a medication to alleviate the condition. But, just as fast as I wondered about a prescription, I firmly decided against a trip to the doctor for one reason: Doctors rarely get to the root of the problem.

Sure, Dr. Epperson could give me a topical ointment to terminate my red bumps, but the likelihood that they’d come back is extremely high because he’d only be treating the symptom, not the issue. Whatever thing I ate or product I used (I’ve now narrowed it down to a new hairspray I tried) would only cause a repeat allergic reaction the next time I use it.

Treating the symptoms and not getting to the root issues is often how we go about dealing with our relational problems. We debate, argue and fight about why he forgot our anniversary, or why she got mad at us for spending a night with the guys. We get lost in our hurt feelings about why he didn’t want to cuddle or why she pulled away when we went in for a kiss. While those things legitimately hurt, we often let ourselves get lost in those details instead of spending our energy deciphering why those small-in-the-grand-scheme-of-life incidents pull on our emotions so intensely.

When a (now ex-) boyfriend had a conflict that he didn’t want to reschedule in order to pick me up at the airport after I’d been away for over a week, I was hurt. But I wasn’t hurt just because I felt unimportant to him – I was hurt because it reminded me of when I came home from a six-month semester abroad in Australia and my dad didn’t rearrange his schedule to pick me up at the airport, which reminded me of my not-so-great relationship with my dad, all the hurt that came along with that and all my insecurities and trust issues about relationships. So when said boyfriend declined to taxi me home, he didn’t realize that he was unleashing a Pandora’s Box of nasty insecurities and memories.

Now, none of that was explicitly his fault, but until I could figure out why his lack of desire to shuttle me home from the airport irritated me so, the issue couldn’t fully be resolved. I could get over it, yes, on a surface level, but I couldn’t solve the issue in a definite manner until I dealt with the root of it. Until I’d analyzed and picked apart what had happened and why I’d reacted so emotionally, I couldn’t be sure it wouldn’t happen again.

Feeling unimportant because my boyfriend wasn’t picking me up at the airport was the symptom. My trust issues and insecurities were the root issue, the actual cause of my feeling unimportant.

What we need to start being aware of is that our emotions and feelings about our relational interactions don’t just come from not getting picked up at the airport. We all have baggage that impacts how we interpret others’ actions. We all have baggage that colors our views of others.

Our itchy red bumps may come out more frequently and be easy to treat with topical medication, but the cause of those bumps is what actually needs to be treated. Until we acknowledge that, we’ll be cyclically covered in barely treatable itchy red bumps – and we’ll spend way too much money and energy on doctor’s appointments and medicine that only treats, not cures, our relational scuffles.

(And there’s your answer to how I come up with my weekly blog topics: allergies and rashes.)