I was reading Brian’s blog post (a new blogger I just started following) in which he talked about being a worrier. We all are worriers, to some extent, because we’ve learned by now that life isn’t a happy little stroll down a path without having also had the experience of some bumps and potholes in the road on which we’re traveling.
When I was working in the office of a psychological practice, one of the therapists used to have a frame on the wall of her office where she changed out printed quotes inside it every 2 – 3 weeks. When I asked her about it, she told me that she realized that the quote wouldn’t affect all of her clients within that time frame, but there was a good chance it would be a light-bulb moment for one client and a better chance that someone would remember the quote and pass it on to someone who needed it.
When I commented on Brian’s post, I used one of her quotes that has stuck with me all of these years and which, indeed, I have passed on quite often. The quote is, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”
Jane also shared with me a ‘game’ that she would play with clients who were not able to ever stop worrying, especially about small things (at least small in the grand scheme of things). She called her game “What’s the Worst That Can Happen”. She explained it to me with a (hypothetical?) example. A father is worried that his son, a senior in high school, the star player on the school’s football team and already offered a scholarship to two different colleges. The son had been having occasional muscle cramps in his right calf over the summer before senior year, and dad was worried that something would happen to permanently injure his son to the point of not being able to play and losing the two offers for scholarships. The father is asked, “If he loses those scholarships, what’s the worst that can happen?” and replies that his son will have to take out school loans in order to afford college. When the father is asked, “If he has to take out school loans, what is the worst that can happen?” and this goes on and on, taking each reply and countering it with “if that occurs, what’s the worst that can happen?” Finally, the father was asked, yet again, “what’s the worst that can happen?” and he stopped for a moment, thought about it, then said, “I guess that’s the worst.” For him, the worst was that his son would have student loans hanging over his head for a good number of years. Um, don’t we all know at least one person who has paid or is paying off student loans???? But in the hypothetical example, we can see how worrying to the extent that the father was worrying was almost obsessive.
Psychologists will tell you that worry is controllable, and using this form of thought replacement can certainly work to validate this belief. Worry is considered to create a milder form of distress than anxiety does. Worry tends to be more focused on thoughts in our heads, while anxiety is more visceral in that we feel it throughout our bodies, so with some good cognitive thinking skills, we should be able to keep the thoughts that make us worry under more control.
And yet, there are those psychologists that will suggest that some people are wired to worry intentionally, albeit on a subconscious level, that is to say that they worry on purpose? Why would anyone do that?
One thought that immediately comes to my mind has to do with ‘drama‘. There are people who thrive on living life that seems to be always in an uproar or filled with chaos. These are the people we know who have mastered the art of “making mountains out of mole hills”. I’m not educated enough to know why, but I suspect that these people use that constant unrest to fill a hole in their lives that is missing. For some, it may also be stirring the pot out of a need for attention, or to hide their insecurity behind.
What we all need to consciously recognize is that worry is about the future, the possibility of something happening that will change the future than how we see it happening. Whether we’re worrying about ourselves or another, when we worry, we express a fear inside us because we can’t control what may happen to be the outcome we desire. And, as I said before, it’s natural for us to worry and we all do it from time to time. But worry doesn’t have to become our focus to the point where we’re consumed by it and that it affects us in a deep level. I play the “What’s the Worst That Can Happen” inside my own head (yes, in essence, I talk to myself) whenever worry gets to be burdensome. Sure, the worst could be a disaster or even death, but we know we have no say in how and when death will occur for any of us. And it’s okay to feel fearful of losing a loved one, but we must remind ourselves that this thing called death is going to happen to all of us, whether we like it or not.
Don’t let your worry take over for your fear of what might happen. Remind yourself that you have no control over with might happen and if you are feeling fearful, either try to find the root of the fear and address it or ignore it and spend time being in the moment of the here and now, not in the yet unknown future.