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Tickling as a form of torture

What your boyfriend doesn't know

Dear Matthew Alice:How come some people are ticklish and others aren't? My boyfriend claims it is simply mind over matter. If so, am I mentally weak for being ticklish? — S.J., Chula Vista

Maybe mentally weak for listening to Prince Charming too much, but otherwise you’re probably no more mush-brained than the average Matthew Alice correspondent. That’s not an unqualified endorsement, but it means at least you can cope with normal daily living without getting your necktie caught in the toaster. Anyway, ticklishness does have a mental element to it, but it’s basically physical. And basically a modified itch or pain response.

The sensory nerve endings distributed around our skin are set in three layers. The outermost receptors are sensitive to light pressure, which the brain interprets as a tickling or itchy feeling. (Signals from deeper receptors and additional pressure are interpreted in our brains as varying degrees of pain.) Where you are ticklish and how ticklish you are depends in part on the distribution pattern of these receptors across the outer layer of skin. Beyond that, how hysterical you get at the threat of being tickled is pretty psychological. With a lot of concentrated effort, you probably could train yourself to remain as calm as a Buddhist monk when your boyfriend lunges at your vulnerable armpits or feet. You’d still feel the tickle, but you’d short-circuit your reaction to it, though there may be a limit to how much of the response you can suppress. (Tickling is believed to have been one of the more creative methods of torture in Ancient Rome.) Certainly, that would remove all the sadistic fun for Romeo, but my guess is he’d quickly find something else to harass you with — fingernails on a blackboard, maybe. All in all, it would probably be easier to put forth some concentrated effort and find a new boyfriend.

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Dear Matthew Alice:How come some people are ticklish and others aren't? My boyfriend claims it is simply mind over matter. If so, am I mentally weak for being ticklish? — S.J., Chula Vista

Maybe mentally weak for listening to Prince Charming too much, but otherwise you’re probably no more mush-brained than the average Matthew Alice correspondent. That’s not an unqualified endorsement, but it means at least you can cope with normal daily living without getting your necktie caught in the toaster. Anyway, ticklishness does have a mental element to it, but it’s basically physical. And basically a modified itch or pain response.

The sensory nerve endings distributed around our skin are set in three layers. The outermost receptors are sensitive to light pressure, which the brain interprets as a tickling or itchy feeling. (Signals from deeper receptors and additional pressure are interpreted in our brains as varying degrees of pain.) Where you are ticklish and how ticklish you are depends in part on the distribution pattern of these receptors across the outer layer of skin. Beyond that, how hysterical you get at the threat of being tickled is pretty psychological. With a lot of concentrated effort, you probably could train yourself to remain as calm as a Buddhist monk when your boyfriend lunges at your vulnerable armpits or feet. You’d still feel the tickle, but you’d short-circuit your reaction to it, though there may be a limit to how much of the response you can suppress. (Tickling is believed to have been one of the more creative methods of torture in Ancient Rome.) Certainly, that would remove all the sadistic fun for Romeo, but my guess is he’d quickly find something else to harass you with — fingernails on a blackboard, maybe. All in all, it would probably be easier to put forth some concentrated effort and find a new boyfriend.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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