How you relate to doubt in your inner world can cause chaos in your external world.
How many times have you worried about events that never occurred? Very little of what we fear and worry about actually ever happens and hardly ever in the fashion we expected. We worry about future possible events that are highly unlikely to happen.
Worry is defined as the state of being anxious and troubled over actual or potential problems. When we worry, we usually zoom in on the worst-case scenario. The “what can go wrong “and “it can be bad” narratives dominate our thoughts.
Our brains evolved to help us survive by sensing danger and solving problems. It is always on the watch for bad possibilities, however remote. This is part of the human condition.
“Worry predictions aren’t based on what’s likely to happen. They’re based on what would be terrible if it did happen. They’re not based on probability—they’re based on fear”. – David A. Carbonell
We know a scary movie is not real. Still, we experience fear even with the knowledge that there is no immediate danger. Humans are unique in that we can experience fear in the absence of real danger. We don’t control our thoughts and these thoughts create scary movies in our heads.
The “Worry Trick”
The trick is this: you experience doubt and treat it like danger.
Doubt is the discomfort we can feel about uncertainty. Excessive worry and anxiety affect the quality of your life. Worry and anxiety are not just all in your head. You experience its negative effects physically as it leads to chronic stress and improper responses that are not in your best interest. We confuse worrisome thoughts as being important messages about the future.
Do you believe that the simple act of worrying can change the future?
Your thoughts don’t shape or cause events outside you, in the external world, but they can shape and cause physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety within you.
“Worry usually has a very poor record for predicting what actually happens in the future because worry is based on ideas of what “would be bad” rather than what is a likely future possible result.”
Your goal should be to behave, in the external world, more in keeping with your own hopes and aspirations for your life rather than being limited by whatever thoughts happen to crop up in your internal world.
An unproductive way to deal with worries
David Carbonell, in his book “The Worry Trick”, gives a comprehensive explanation of why the “worry trick” fools us into inadvertently keeping worry alive, even when we are trying so hard to make it go away.
The more you try to control thoughts and feelings, the more out of control they seem. Worry is a special kind of counterintuitive problem, one in which your gut instincts of how to help yourself are likely to make it worse rather than better. Experience shows that people worry more when they attempt to manage their worrying.
The Rule of Opposites
The Rule of Opposites suggests that your gut instinct of how to respond to worry is typically dead wrong, and you are better off doing the opposite. Instead of trying to block the thoughts you should expose yourself to it. Make room for those thoughts and humour them.
The path to having less trouble with worry involves changing your relationship with worry rather than trying to change the worries themselves.
Carbonell suggests a three-step process for handling chronic worry. The acronym, AHA, can be used to help you remember a couple of steps to take when you’re being encumbered by worrisome thoughts.
Acknowledge and accept (unwanted thoughts).
Humour the worrisome thoughts (don’t judge or try to solve your thoughts).
Activity – resume doing things that are important to you in your “external world” (and take the worries with you if necessary).
“Turning yourself over to worrisome thoughts without resistance usually relieves them of their power”.
Acknowledge your worrisome thoughts, but don’t argue and try and resolve them. Cultivate an accepting attitude toward the temporary condition of being worried. The advantage of doing the worrying this way is that it helps you to be a better observer of your worry.
Taking action about worry is usually much more helpful than thinking about it. Face it without trying to solve it. Simply observe. Moving from being a participant to an observer creates a better perspective.
“There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem and a concerned person solves a problem.” – Barry Demp (The Quotable Coach)
The key to freeing oneself from worry is learning how to relate to it from a new perspective. It is how we respond to worry and how we relate to it that makes the difference.
Worrying is not “taking action”.
Thoughts are not dangerous, but your resultant actions can be.
The above article was written and adapted by Marius Kilian.
*“The Worry Trick” – How Your Brain Tricks You into Expecting the Worst and What You Can DO About It”, David A. Carbone, PhD