• Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

Painful Tickles

When my sister Carla was about eight years old and I was about eleven (sometime after the life-altering event where she brought home a small explosive that blew off some of my brother's fingertips and our parents blamed me for it) Carla acquired a weird habit of tickling me, touching me so as to cause me to twitch and beg her to stop. She soon learned the tickle zones, the neck, armpits, sides, belly, and feet. She was already heavier than I was so when she pinned me down it was hard for me to squirm away from her. I was very ticklish and my twisting and turning as I tried to get away seemed to be great fun for her. She would dig her little girl fingers into my little girl body in a gross way. I was not strong enough to stop her.

I begged her to stop. I demanded that she stop. I complained to my parents but they did nothing. And she continued to tickle me. I tried tickling her so that she would understand that she was hurting me but I did not have the stomach for it. I despaired knowing that she would suddenly tickle me when I least expected it, while I was reading, thinking, napping; "(t)he body’s response to being tickled is panic and anxiety. It is thought that this is a defense mechanism...where an external touch, such as a poisonous insect crawling on you or the like, might be occurring."

Source: https://www.bing.com/search?q=response+to+tickling&cvid=e9eaaf35aa9e4716987ac8de8fd19e66&aqs=edge..69i57j0l2.3845j0j1&pglt=771&FORM=ANNTA1&PC=U531

So I used my fairly good young mind to think through the problem, what could I do? Maybe, if I could stop being ticklish? I tried tickling myself so that I could work on overcoming it. But a self-tickle is impossible. "When you tickle someone, you actually stimulate the unmyelinated nerve fibers that cause pain,' said Dr. Alan Hirsch, founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. This also explains why you can not tickle yourself - your brain is aware that there is no need to produce a response to the action." Source: http://www.zlechien.ca/tickling---brain-and-nervous-system.html

I realized that I would have to approach the problem in a different way. Perhaps I could focus my mind while she was tickling me, subdue my panic and learn how not being ticklish. I do not know how I did it, but it only took a few more of her icky tickles before I was completely immune to tickling. Voilà!

My sister never hugged me, never kissed me, never held my hand, only painful tickles.

Painful Tickles

by Annmarie Throckmorton 2021

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