Worry is ubiquitous. Worry can be destructive and exhausting. Worry can also be creative. Wait! How can all of these be true? Basically, worry is our built-in technique of dealing with fear. Worry is the mind’s way of trying to figure out what the fear is, how urgent the fear may be, how to categorize it, how the threat may or may not affect our well-being, etcetera.
Basic arm-chair psychology tells us that fear can be the seed of courage. What is rarely, if ever, mentioned, is that worry can be the seed of wisdom. The negative effects of worry are well-known and the creative, positive side of worry are lesser known. Which of these directions will we take when confronted by worry? Will we be bogged down by continued overthinking and dithering in our decision-making; or will we understand that the worry is a red flag? If we use worry as a prompt we are likely to take a stand and go into action. We can go ahead, already aware of potential risks, and expense.
If we examine minor worries we had in the past and how we felt the fear and went ahead anyway, we understand some of life’s lessons. Regardless of whether the worry was justified or not, hindsight about such scenarios is priceless. Did we get so caught up in worry that we failed to do anything because we were so afraid? Did we suffer the paralysis of analysis? Were we so worried that our work suffered due to the mental distraction?
Face it, the business of life is anxiety producing with all of its distractions, stresses, and threats. These can cause momentary or long-term worrying. This is the modern human condition. We are not lesser beings because we live in worrisome times.
We live more effective, satisfying lives if we confront our worries and fears head-on instead of allowing them to fester. It’s in the confrontation of the worry, that creativity can manifest. The mind comes up with solutions to get out of its own mental quagmire when we take decisive action regardless of possible outcomes. This is how we become a little more wise.
When I was a tween and then as an adolescent, I was worried to the point of physical exhaustion by the anxiety about the possibility that my friends and classmates might find out that I’m gay. I imagined all manner of terrifying scenarios like being ostracized by family and friends, suffering humiliation, and getting beat up by the school bullies. The very real fears of getting kicked out of my home and physical violence were paralyzing.
One day, I realized that my worrying was a cruel form of self-torture. The epiphany felt liberating. This caused an automatic process of figuring out how to tell other people who I really am inside. I’m not a drama queen, so the actual process of coming out was cautious and tentative. The very first person I told was my best-friend Duane. This turned out to be a good decision. Duane was a real Mensch, he listened, gave me a hug, and reaffirmed our friendship. Duane stuck with me throughout the most difficult stages of coming out to the rest of our friends group. When I had further worries, I could hash them out with my pal. Eventually worries about coming out to more people diminished. Those concerns are still manifest whenever I meet another potential friend or acquaintance; but they’re not worrisome.
Life is full of questions. To worry is to get lost in the echo-chamber of questions. Each question begets another question. To focus on one question and work out a way to satisfactorily address it is key to diminishing the fear and worry. We will continue to have minor and major worries throughout life. Ask yourself each time, “What is the main question?” Once that is determined, it’s easier to focus on working out a solution. You can determine whether to go it alone or enlist help. Having an immediate plan along with a contingency plan then activating the process right away, calms the mind and energizes the body. Here again, we feel worry’s creative aspect.
When I raise the main question I constructively focus on the answer, then I usually resolve the question. At least this works for me. I seem to be getting better at it.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes essayist and novelist, Nicholson Baker. “Haven’t you felt a peculiar sort of worry about the chair in your living room that no one sits in?”