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The Illusion of Worry

Updated: Jun 10


Worry pretends to be necessary - but serves no useful purpose.’ (Eckhart Tolle) –to this great wisdom I would like to add that telling someone (or ourselves) ‘Don’t worry,’ also doesn’t work! (If it did, we’d all be doing considerably less of it!) Unfortunately, right now there seems to be more worry and anxiety around than ever.


Anxiety and worry are of course not the same – while anxiety can be a normal reaction to stress or can be linked to apprehension of an exciting event, both of which will pass, it can also be a mental-health disorder. As such it is often attached to other mental health conditions such as depression and can present with a variety of physical symptoms.*


Worry on the other hand is that rumination we ALL do – about any number of things, significant or 'not-so-much' – and it’s very often greatly exaggerated by our imagination. As the quote implies, it’s pretty useless, in fact it can be detrimental and even lead to more severe anxiety.


So, let’s look at  what we can do about that …..(yes, happily we CAN do something about it.)


Most worry is created and driven by the mind’s ‘what if?’s – picturing future worst case scenarios. Our innate capacity to imagine all possibilities is unfortunately easily applied with the negative focus of the brain’s threat system, creating worry that becomes the most ineffectual use of our imagination possible.  We masters of the ‘What if?’, apply it more prolifically than rabbits reproduce and in so doing create a never-ending stress-producing loop inside ourselves. Worry only ‘pretends to be necessary’ but is in fact damaging us and it needs to be taken in hand and changed!


But how do we change that? HOW do we redirect the imagination to interrupt that loop so we can stop worrying?


Step one: we can begin by exploring our worries, face those imaginings head on – for we can only change something if we address it - (Example: we can only clean a stuffed closet if we are willing to open it and look at it!)


When we familiarize ourselves with the images we are creating – the ‘what if?’s of our future imaginings, fears or trepidations – and we allow ourselves to fully BE with them and the emotions we feel, slowing our breathing down, we will likely find that the worries are unrealistic, rooted in negative beliefs and expectations. As the brain’s threat system calms and the ‘executive brain’ clears, we can more readily identify the discrepancies between our worries and the creation of a more positive probability, helping us see that we are in fact using our imagination to create what we don’t want! (Our worries turn out to be not only useless but counterproductive.)


Now the mind’s door is opened to a Step two: anchor your thoughts and feelings OUT of your busy-brain imagination: write, in a journal – or anywhere!



1: Activate your brain’s creative centres (i.e. by moving your body, playing music, engaging with nature, activating appreciation) to come up with constructive ideas for new ways of addressing whatever it is you were worried about. Write or draw them.


2: If you need to make a decision –list likely positive and negative consequences or outcome. You can create images and a narrative of a future self to which each choice would lead. The images can include specifics, people as well as episodes, with details that bring it to life in your mind. Timelines can even be extended far into the distant future, with all their implications and ramifications. Focus on being even more detailed about the positive scenarios.


For all of us, such expansive use of the imagination works specifically because it changes what and how we feel. You could say it activates a higher emotional intelligence.


Our resulting more open emotional state changes the chemicals in the brain which in turn creates a more positive ‘loop’, widening our perspective, giving us even more possibilities for positive outcomes.


With practice this can also help us more readily tune into our intuitive intelligence.

............................But that’s for the next blog………stay tuned (pun intended :-)



* If you have concerns that you or someone in your life may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, please see your GP or seek professional help as soon as possible.

(We may address the increase in anxiety disorders in a future post.)



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