I’ve been asking myself a question more and more lately: Who would I be if I didn’t worry all of the time? If I wasn’t waiting for the other shoe to drop, what could I be doing with that time? What could I create if I wasn’t afraid of trying?
Okay, so that’s more than one. One seems to beget another, and so on. You see, I am a bit of a worrier. I come by it honestly, as we all do. I think I feel like if I worry about all possible outcomes, then I’m prepared if things go pear-shaped. Or even prevent them from doing so. By worrying, I have some sort of control on the outcome, because I won’t be surprised or blind-sided.
But holy cow, does it take a lot of work and energy, this trying to anticipate every possible outcome. And actually, in thinking about it, I don’t work on anticipating every possible outcome, because I seem to only focus on what could go wrong. Rarely do I bring my attention to what could go right. And that needs to change, because this is tiring and I’m especially tired of being such a downer to myself.
So… How do I do this?
I am going think out loud for a few minutes, as this seems to help me with stuff like this, so please bear with me. I took a Mindfulness course last year, a meditation course (aside — based on the teachings of John Kabat-Zinn, a doctor in Massachusetts. It was great and there is a lot of empirical evidence to support its success, should you ever want to look into it). Previous to that, I had always wanted to meditate, and tried lots, but that whole “you must clear your mind of everything” thing that I thought was meditation left me feeling like a failure, because who can do that? Honestly, no one. This was the first time someone was able to explain to me that you don’t have to actually clear your mind, that what you do is allow the thoughts to pass through without getting hung up on them. BUT also, that if you do catch yourself getting caught in them, that you still haven’t failed, because you noticed this and can now mindfully bring yourself back to the breath and start again. You do the same for sound, sensation, etc. Some days you are good at this, some days you are less good at this and it is all okay, because the point is that you are doing it.
So while the meditation part of that course has slid a bit in the last year (I’m working on it), that concept has really stuck with me and it has only just now, like right now, occurred to me that maybe I can apply this to turning my worried thoughts around. Maybe if I catch myself worrying about what could go wrong, I can notice and ask myself, “What could go right about this situation?” And I haven’t failed for having a worried thought, because I have succeeded in noticing it and working on turning it around. I know this isn’t a new concept and I am fairly certain I have heard this in other ways from other sources, but now that it’s sort of bubbled up again from within, maybe I can do something with this.
I think part of the reason that I have struggled with this in the past as well is because as a society, there is a big movement these days that might have started similarly to this, but has been morphed into a Think And Express Only Positive Things All Of The Time kind of thing, which can just make people feel like failures again when a totally valid worry or negative thought makes its way into the mind. The way it was best explained to me through that Mindfulness course is that the mind is made to think. That’s all it does. And it thinks about everything – that which is positive and that which is not. And when we fight a thought, it gets bigger and bigger, the more attention we give to it. Have you ever noticed this? “What we resist, persists.” (Carl Jung). So I think if I can calmly see it, acknowledge it, and then think “So how could this go right,” I can help myself turn things around and also have some lovely little daydreams as a side benefit, instead of the alternative — still only a daydream, but much less fun.
I should also say, I don’t think that it will totally eliminate my need to problem solve and anticipate and there might be some worries that are more persistent than others; however, maybe I will be better able to draw on past experiences of how I have handled things well, instead of freezing or catastrophizing. Almost a step-by-step of what I would likely do, how I have always been able to handle things in the past, and that should the worst happen, I will be able to work through this too.
So. There it is. Sounds easy. Maybe it will be easier than I think. :-)