Yes, I worry, just like the rest of you. Stupid really. If you think back on all the things you worried about during your life to date, the chances are that none of them happened or, if they did, like when I was bankrupt at the age of 40, you lived through it and almost certainly came out of it a better person.
But then, does worry have some value perhaps? This got me thinking and I came up with 5 stages of worry –
So when does worry help us in life and when is it destructive? I figured Concern was pretty valuable (unless you’re a Budhist monk) as it is Concern that results from anticipating future pitfalls and making us aware of them sufficient that we can take avoiding action.
The next level is Worry. Now I guess this kicks in either when your avoiding action doesn’t seem to be working or, more commonly, I think, when there is a sufficient degree of uncertainty that you can’t be sure that it’s going to work, so you worry about a possible outcome that you might not have been able to avoid. The fact is that the closer you get to that outcome, the better you seem to be able to deal with it and what you were worrying about slips quietly from future to present to past. I don’t think worry is terribly destructive but it’s certainly a huge waste of happiness! I am blessed to be married to Helen whom I have loved as a dear friend from when she was 16 to when we married about 25 years later. And yet I still waste many a happy moment worrying about next week or next month or next year.
Then comes fear. I put this in the same box as depression except that fear is not usually chronic whereas depression usually is. When you get to this level (and I think we all do at times), you lose your ability to fight and, as a primitive you would be running away as fast as your legs would carry you, but in the modern world we usually have nowhere to run to, so we’re stuck with our fear like a deer in the headlights. I find I lose my creativity, unable to write to my blog, unable to think of my great idea before breakfast, uninterested in work. In fact unable everything or disabled. Now this is a bad one, because shit is about to happen and you’re powerless! What can you do?
First, recognise it for what it is. Tell your spouse that you’re depressed, so that (s)he doesn’t think that (s)he’s upset you. Share the problem openly and honestly with your spouse or someone close to you. It won’t go away, but there’s some truth in the saying “a problem shared is a problem halved”. Now we get on to my personal method. I’m fortunate to have learned a self hypnosis technique called Relaxaction (Sedley Burger circa 1982). I also practice the “Science of Breath” (Yogi Ramacharaka) and the control of Chi (the energy that you draw in through your feet, breath and forehead and circulate up your spine and down your front). I combine all these with a very soft smile (promoting the “inner smile”) on my lips. When I am totally relaxed, I can breath in happiness and breath out fear. I’ve been using these techniques for years so am able to get into that steady state pretty quickly, but interestingly it works the very first time you do it (just taking longer and more concentration to get to the right point) so the return is immediate. I’m not making out that this is a magic bullet, but it sure as hell helps me through the roughest times. I don’t think I can give you the exact Relaxaction method as Sedley’s son is still in the business in Capetown, but if you Google self hypnosis, you’re bound to come up with an equivalent.
And finally Panic. I can’t say much about this because I’ve never gone past Fear despite my rather colourful life. I suspect that this is suicide place and not the place to go. If you find yourself heading in this directlion, seek help. Psychologists can make a very valuable contribution to your wellbeing and there’s no shame in going to one (I’ve been to 5 at different times during my life and value every one of those series of sessions). If you get through one of these terrible patches, take steps to make sure that you don’t hit another one. Learn about one or all of the techniques above and use them at the Fear or even at the Worry level. Of course, for the religious amongst you, you have the power of prayer which, I venture to suggest can be combined with at least the Inner Smile, the Science of Breath and the flow of Inner Energy.