Let’s think about Worry.
How do you worry?
Why do you worry?
What do you imagine happens when you worry?
Does it help?
“Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.”
“Worry pretends to be necessary.” My mother definitely had some issues with worry. She would fear imagined consequences when I was driving us somewhere. I would hear her take an in-breath, making a warning whooshing sound about some other driver that had nothing to do with what was actually happening in the moment. Scared me to death! I would yell out, “What’s wrong? What’s happening???” And it turned out that she just caught a glimpse of something and decided that meant danger and of course I hadn’t seen it because NOTHING WAS HAPPENING DANGEROUS!
Drove me nuts. Plus it was dangerous to do to me, the driver.
She also worried about money, relationships, my kids, etc. And because of who she was, I tried very hard not to worry. I couldn’t see any benefit. It didn’t accomplish anything. When my kids would climb on some very tall structure, my mom would make that whooshing sound. I would instead call up to my kids, “Wow, look at you!” I never gave my children an inkling of worry about climbing, figuring that if they fell, they fell and then we would deal with it then. By the way, they NEVER fell. And they were never afraid.
When I was looking for a condo to buy, I had my eye on a certain one, and it finally came up as an open house during one of the rare weekends I’m away. My ex-husband and friend went to look at it for me and they took pictures. I put a bid on it without looking and got it! I could see from the photos, it had bedrooms, bathrooms and a kitchen. I knew the complex had pools and a guard gate. I loved the neighborhood and as I went forward on purchasing a condo I hadn’t actually been in, I kept saying, “How bad could it be?”
And that story may sound crazy to you? But I had a certain trust that I did my homework, I knew different areas, I knew what my kids needed and I had looked at many properties up until then.
By the way, this condo was a good buy for me in all kinds of ways. Not perfect, but so good. And frankly, what is perfect? I don’t think I could have afforded perfect anyway.
So think about worry and trust. When you worry where is your trust? In yourself? In others? Does the worry make up for the lack of trust you are experiencing?
With my spiritual practice I have a saying, “Don’t catastrophize an unknown future.” I see so many people catastrophizing what has actually not happened. You can imagine, you can project, you can worry about what is happening today, tomorrow, a month from now or even the next minute but you cannot know for sure. You can base your worry on previous experience, but you cannot know absolutely because that the future beyond this moment is unknowable.
And you could be right.
And you could be wrong.
But what did worry produce? Okay, the disaster you thought would happen, did. Did worrying help? Did it prevent it? No. You just got worked up before you needed to. It’s funny when you think about it. How many of us don’t live in the moment and how exhausted we must be thinking our worry will help avoid calamity?
Worry is a habit. It’s like biting your nails. I can’t see any benefit. Can you?
Changing a worried mind is a practice of disciplining mind. When you worry, try and catch your thoughts. Ask yourself if what you are experiencing as worry is a projection into the future? Ask yourself if you can know that outcome? Does worry change the outcome? Will it unfold the way it will whether you worry or not? Most of the time you’ll realize that you cannot know anything for sure. You can project, imagine, suppose, but you cannot know for sure.
Practice helps us let go of the belief that our thoughts are true. They are just thoughts and most of them are just that. Thoughts. They aren’t true.You are deconstructing the thought to help you let go of what doesn’t serve you.
Another suggestion is to go into a mild meditation and see if you can notice sensations in your body when worry shows up. Take deep breaths, close your eyes and observe where “worry” lands in your body. For me it’s in my throat. When I feel worry my throat tightens. Even writing this, I can feel my throat tighter and there’s nothing that feels good about that.
When I breathe, I gently allow myself to let go. Let go of the tension in my throat by taking deeper breaths and focusing way into my belly. I remind myself that I actually seek peace. Worry can even make you forget about what you truly may want: equanimity, balance, joy, delight?
There is a scene in the move Parenthood with Steve Martin and Mary Steenburgen, where they are arguing about having another child. Steve plays a very worried father and Mary is his balanced partner who takes it as it comes. In the scene, Grandma comes in and starts talking about the first time she road a roller coaster, how she was amazed at all the feelings she had just going up, down and around. She reflects, “It was interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so so excited and and so thrilled all together. Some didn’t like it. They went on the Merry-Go-Round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”
I love that scene. I’ve always known that my soul chose this up and down life.
I choose the roller coaster.