What are you worrying about?


Some of you may have seen the above photograph before, as I used it to illustrate my post for Bob Clubb‘s series on Desiderata, a few months ago. My post was based on the line from the poem: But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings

I took “dark imaginings” to mean “stop worrying” and one interesting thing I discovered writing that post was a definition of worry:-

“To torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts” (dictionary.com)

Torment sounds altogether more serious than “worry” – a rather weak word to describe what can be totally destructive. Having covered ways of distracting from negative self talk – another way of describing worry – I wanted to round this off by emphasizing some points:-

1) Worrying is not the same as problem solving. When we worry our thoughts tend to churn stuff over and over – getting more entrenched and negative. As the post linked to shows, problem solving moves from defining a problem to a course of action.

2) Often worries are trivial and out of proportion. We can get in the habit of filtering out praise and only hearing criticism. Several people may congratulate you on a piece of work you have done, but you dwell and ruminate on one negative remark.

3) Worry can give our imagination license to run riot. We create “worst case scenarios” that fill our hearts with dread. Unfortunately we can be great at magnifying problems and minimizing what is working well, what is great about our life.

4) We worry about the future and future events – whilst none of us have the power to predict the future.

5) We worry about what other people think of us – yet none of us have the capacity to read others thoughts.

The techniques of distraction and challenging which I went through in the last two posts are important in tackling worry and building great self confidence. They do require practice and are ultimately about changing habits.

But don’t forget to remind yourself what is good about your life. I predominantly use affirmations (and affirmation software) to remind myself about what I have to be thankful for, as much as what I am striving for (e.g. I use the family photograph on this page with the affirmation “I have a wonderful family and live in a fantastic house in a great location”).

Get in the habit of looking at the world in a positive light – glass half full, not half empty. As I have said before, I’m no believer in any law of attraction – in the same way I don’t believe in fairies. But in effect it works for many people because it nurtures and encourages a positive outlook – so I would never discourage anyone from using it helps in this way.

Finally, I come back to my photograph. Who knows what birds think! Who knows what will happen tomorrow – perhaps the sun won’t come back! If it doesn’t, we’ll be really annoyed we wasted today worrying about what now can’t happen….

Simonne December 5, 2007 at 10:32 pm

If the sun doesn’t come back, all we need is to have flashlights nearby, so we can find our way in the darkness. There’s no point to worry before it happens. And when it did happen, there’s no point to worry, because we cannot turn back time anyway.

Which are the twins in your family photo?

David December 5, 2007 at 11:44 pm

The more we look at worry rationally, the more absurd it becomes!
The twins are the taller two, center and right as you look at the photo. It was taken in July on the last day of a holiday in Croatia – which is why we all look brown!

gale December 6, 2007 at 9:17 pm

insightful post. i always put a positive spin on worry, however. In the 7th grade, my (favorite) teacher said “you should worry. worry about your work and you will do well”. Since then, I viewed worry as a mechanism to help me attain my goals – when i stop worrying, my goals are achieved. My definition of worry is vastly different from yours, but your post nonetheless is great motivation for people who worry instead of focusing on problem-solving. keep up the great blogging!

Mert Erkal December 7, 2007 at 7:48 am

Very good insight David.

I rarely worry about losing my family. I don’t care what the others are thinking about me.

Never the Same River Twice December 7, 2007 at 4:48 pm

I’ve had a lot of struggles with worry in my life. In the past I’ve used some techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to deal with them.

One technique is to take whatever you’re worrying about and completely blow it out of proportion. For example, if you’re worried about losing your job, you would imagine yourself getting fired, losing all of your friends and family, ending up homeless, and freezing to death in the rain. This may sound macabre, but it forces you to realize that nothing is bad as it seems. In comparison, being downsized, on unemployment for a couple of months and finding a new job seems easy.

Thanks for sharing your techniques.

David Rogers December 7, 2007 at 7:10 pm

Gale, as I’ve said before “if it works for you, go for it…”
Nice to hear from you again Mert
Maria – I think my photo is of a similar vein to this idea, look at the absurd or extreme, put things in proportion.

Karen (Karooch from Scraps of Mind) December 8, 2007 at 4:44 am

I totally subscribe to what you are saying here David. And a speak as a former member of the Worrying Party.

But I actually use the ‘worst case scenario’ as a tool to manage worry. I calmly examine the worse case scenario and establish that if it happened I would not be destroyed. And then there’s no point in worrying.

Robert @ reason4smile December 8, 2007 at 3:24 pm

David, great message, thanks for reminding all of us not to worry!

Sol Lederman December 10, 2007 at 3:58 pm

Nice post. I’m aware that most of what I worry about never happens. What has helped me the most was to quit my cushy but draining job and go own on my own as an entrepreneur. It’s interesting, now that I have much less income than I did a month ago but living my dream I worry a lot less even though my future is less “certain” than it supposedly was when I had a job.

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