There is a close relationship between the skin and the nervous system. In the early development of the fertilized human ovum into the embryo, adjacent cells are split off so that some will ultimately develop into the skin and others into the nerve cells of the central nervous system. When our skin is gently stroked our nerves are calmed, but when our skin is tickled our whole nervous system is convulsed. It is therefore not surprising that activity of brain cells is often reflected in the activity of the cells of the skin. In other words, emotional stresses in the mind are apt to produce nervous rashes in the skin. This is such common knowledge that it is reflected in our everyday speech when we talk of something “getting under our skin”; and we can observe emotional reactions in the skin when people blush with embarrassment, go pale with fear, or turn livid in anger. Thus the self-management of nervous rashes involves both a reduction in the general level of anxiety and a reduction of responsiveness to emotional stress.

A doctor’s wife came to see me because of a nervous rash which she had had for the past two years. I showed her a little about relaxation, and as she lived in the country it was arranged that she would return to the city in a month’s time for an extended visit so that I could help her further. But she wrote cancelling her appointment, saying that the rash had already cleared.

She came to see me some two years later when she had a slight recurrence. The rash quickly settled down just as on the previous occasion.


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