Thursday, December 15, 2011

The "Magic" of Worry

"I worry about her."
"I love him so much that I just have to worry about him."
"I just worry about people."
"I'm so worried about what's going to happen."
"All I know is this: I worried, and that terrible thing didn't happen."

What in the world is "worry"? "Worry is the act of obsessively thinking about a feared outcome" (Pucci, 2006). If worry is simply thinking, then is worrying about something acutally going to help the outcome go your way? No, not really. Worry is only mental exercise. It doesn't affect anything outside of the worrier. Action affects the situation.

One of the reasons we humans tend to get ourselves trapped in worry is that we often worry about a whole lot of things that never actually happen. Sometimes we begin believing that it is because we worry that these things don't happen. We humans like to think we have control over situations, and believing that our worry affects the outcome of a situation gives us a false sense of control. Worry has never actually protected you or anyone else from anything. It is only action that has had any influence in decreasing the threat of harm in any situation.

If you happen to find yourself caught in a web of worry, ask yourself two questions:
1. What is my goal for this situation?
2. Is there any information that has come to my attention that my goal in this situation is actually being threatened?
If the answer to the 2nd question is no, refuse to worry. If the answer is yes, then it's time to take appropriate action. The best approach to handling worry is to recognize if there is a true threat, and if a true threat exists, to act on it. Simply being concerned or worrying about a threat does nothing to decrease it.

If it happens that you or someone you love is in a threatening situation or a situation that is highly likely to become threatening, refuse to worry, pull out your problem-solving skills, and take appropriate action. When you determine to remove worry, and the magical thinking that accompanies it, from your life, you will notice your life becoming more calm and peaceful every day.

For more information about magical worry, read Aldo Pucci's The Client's Guide to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, available here.

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