The other day I suffered through some anxious thoughts about a pending visit to the dentist. A gap had grown between my lower left wisdom tooth and the neighboring molar. It felt like a large part of the tooth had fallen away. The gap felt especially annoying. By the time of the appointment, I’d become very concerned that some major dental repair might be needed.
Thankfully, the hygienist could see nothing had broken from the tooth, but there was a gap. She further noted that the tooth, in question, was capped with a gold crown. Later, my dentist confirmed the observation. He filed away a little bit of the upper opposing crown and told me not to worry. The lower tooth should migrate back to its normal place.
I need to be especially mindful of my thoughts after each visit with dad. According to my aunt, dad’s sister, he’s had the habit of worrying since his boyhood. My childhood tendency towards worrying had been fortified due to his parental influence. It’s been quite a lifetime struggle to keep my worries at bay. The day before my dentist appointment, I visited dad in the nursing home. I allowed my awareness to lapse and unconsciously mimicked dad’s worrying nature.
Like most of us, I’ve been told and have read that worrying is a waste of time and energy. If a problem or situation is not something you can control, there is no need to ruminate about it over and over in your mind. The act of worrying not only makes the problem seem worse, but it can lead to inaction.
Our actual circumstances may be difficult and might even be painful at times, but suffering comes about by worrying about the state of being. Worry causes suffering. What goes on inside our minds can cause fear and anxiety to grow and to dominate our awareness. Our personal worlds are influenced by our beliefs, expectations, fears, and desires. That means we are largely the creators of our own worlds. Our attitudes determine how we experience life. How we feel about others and ourselves is an aspect of beliefs that we can change.
I can ruminate about actions I did in the past, thus creating worry over my behavior. There is absolutely no way that the past can be changed. Instead of learning from my mistakes, I will likely reinforce them as I create fear and beliefs about similar circumstances.
However, the most common worrying regards fears of the future or possible events in the future. If we allow ourselves to be fearful of the future, we’re at risk of creating a negative reality for ourselves and the World by virtue of our expectations. Our nightmares contain the seeds of self-fulfilling prophacies. Knowledge of this fact can generate more worries. The worries can spiral on and on to create anxiety and fear of action.
Because most of us have some concerns or worries about the future, we can be easily exploited and manipulated by unscrupulous people. By appealing to our concerns about an uncertain future, we can be more easily convinced to support people and causes that are not in the best interests of ourselves and others. Political ideologies and mass movements are born and maintained by such manipulation. This is a big way, worry can cause a great deal of harm to humanity.
Recently, increases in geothermal activity at Yellowstone National Park have been reported by observers and sensationalists. The reporting of these changes has been largely alarmist. In many cases, the reports contain descriptions of worst-case scenarios and doom. We are told that an eruption of the Yellowstone cauldera could spew debris and ash over thousands of square miles of North America. There could be tons of ash and smoke in the upper atmosphere that will cause a “global winter”. The end of civilization, as we know it, is nigh. Certainly, some knowledge about the potential for disaster can be helpful, but we cannot change what might or might not happen beneath Yellowstone Park.
Volcanic caulderas aside, most of our worries regard personal and familial situations. Many of us are kept awake at night over particular issues. We can work ourselves up unnecessarily to the point where we deprive ourselves of sleep and cause us to be less effective in dealing with our issues.
Even if the situations seem dire, we only make it worse by allowing ourselves to despair and worry over them. We waste valuable energy by fretting over problems instead of focusing on helpful, constructive action that will help, not harm.
Fear and frustration are normal at some times in our lives. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have to weather uncertainty in my own life. I’m just an average person who has no magic solution to halt worries. I’ve found it useful to accept that I sometimes feel fear and anxiety over problems. I try my best to remain adaptable and flexible, so I can draw on inner strength to get myself beyond worrying.
One of the more troubling aspects of worry is that we can be quite hard on ourselves. We become prone to negative self-talk and putting ourselves down. We become doubtful about our abilities to handle our life situations. Part of curbing worries, is the use of positive reinforcement. We can remember to congratulate ourselves when we do something right. The only warning is that we not indulge in “happy talk” that enables a pollyanna-like attitude. If we’re realistic in assessing positive outcomes, by stressing those, we will come a long way in keeping worry away.
In time, with desire for self-awareness, we can wind down from being worked up. We don’t need to lose sight of what is really happening. It’s best to calmly look at the opportunities we may have at our disposal. Sober, objective examination of a situation by yourself and with someone who is knowledgeable about similar situations, can bring us back down to Earth. Knowing what is going to be tough and what is going to be helpful, will reduce the impact of fear and anxiety.
In a nutshell, worry is caused by endless analysis and scenario hatching. Relief from worry comes about by facing situations, head-on, and performing real action.