12/07/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Bodymind Wisdom: It's Not Only Skin Deep

Sarah, one of our students, always started coughing and would break out in a rash whenever she spoke with her mother on the phone. She would put the phone down and her skin would start itching and getting red. After this had happened three or four times Sarah got the message. According to bodymind understanding, her skin was telling her that there was some repressed emotion in her towards her mother that she needed to release and heal.

Through the skin we face the world, and are known by it. Every feeling has an effect--the feeling passing through into the nerve transmitters--hence we blush with embarrassment, go red with anger, go white or sweat with fear, get goose bumps with excitement or horror. Some have "thick skin" because they appear less sensitive to feelings or criticism, while others have "thin skin" indicating they are too highly sensitive. And it is always our own: we can never change or replace our skin, no matter how often we may want to "jump out" of it!

In Deb's award winning book, Your Body Speaks Your Mind, she explains how psycho/emotionally our skin is our boundary, the meeting place between ourselves and the outer world. Skin issues therefore, often arise when someone or something has crossed that boundary and "got under our skin", or where communication is making our "skin crawl". We may be feeling invaded, trespassed upon, or have gone beyond our limitations and reached out to far. Or perhaps we are limiting ourselves too much, holding back inside while putting up a protective cover.

Skin issues are also about touch and feel issues. Touching is the most basic form of communication and is essential to life--without it young babies will mentally and physically deteriorate, while adults feel lonely and psychologically deprived and can develop mental illness, as if they are shriveling up inside a shell. We are tactile creatures, so being starved of touch is the ultimate isolation, hence the importance of hugging and holding. Through the skin we communicate our feelings with another person, we give and receive reassurance, love and caring, and the knowledge that we are safe. A mother animal licks her newborn into life, and a child is soothed of its upset by a tender hug.

However, touch associated to trauma or abuse can create long-term conflict, making it difficult to be touched again; past fear can make us withdraw and refuse tactile intimacy. Skin is the primary sex organ as its sensitivity is so stimulating, but such sensitivity and intimacy can also make us hot with anger, fear or resentment if it is abused.

With melanoma, there are obvious environmental causes, such as the decrease in the ozone layer and the increase in carcinogens. But melanoma also implies that our self-protection is down, due to someone or something penetrating our boundaries. Either something is affecting us and causing deep turmoil from the outside; or that turmoil is inside and is trying to make itself known. It may be connected with issues of touch, intimacy, sexuality, self-acceptance or self-dislike, made worse with stress and emotional upset. The result is that we feel raw, unprotected, and exposed.

Skin Review
If you have skin difficulties, ask yourself the following questions:
*Are my boundaries being penetrated against my wishes?
*What and who is getting under my skin?
*Am I limiting or protecting myself too much, hiding behind a protective cover?
* Am I trying to break free of restrictions being imposed on me?
*Is a fear of intimacy making me want to resist touching and feeling?


Ed and Deb Shapiro are bestselling authors of Your Body Speaks Your Mind, corporate consultants, meditation teachers, and the creators of Chillout daily text messages on Sprint cell phones.
See their website: