Client: I recently had a situation that got resolved, but not as I would have preferred. I want to be able to cope a little bit better when things happen and not sit and lie awake at night you know, wondering if I’m going to have a heart attack or you know, what’s wrong and I try to be quiet…I don’t want to feel so worried and anxious all the time.
Orion: It is especially challenging when we have to manage and deal with things in a way we don’t like. In your case, the situation was resolved, but you didn’t feel fully satisfied. You also had to cope with the limits of what you actually can do or, further, are given to do.
Client: And then I find myself worrying about everything and what I would do if something happened to my partner and so on.
When we are overwhelmed, when we have to handle things to a degree but not fully resolve them, when we have to accept limits to our control, our mind can easily wander a road of possibilities. ‘What if something happened to J?’, but in actuality this considering, this worry, is not a true thing and you cannot see what you would do in some future time. You cannot know what you will do or need to do until the actual day and time that should occur. You cannot know in this now what you will or would do then, because you simply do not know the you of then, the other person of then, the actuality of then.
But worrying, as disruptive, draining and so on as it is, is common. We invite it. We embrace. We get taken over by it. What do we gain? We gain a very strong sense of control, even if another part of us knows it is mostly an illusion of control. Some part of us feels some ease in worrying, as in 'I can think about this and I will find all the solutions. I will do it better. I will go back and say the better thing to the person and maybe one day I’ll get to say the better thing.' So we get to be ‘Monday morning quarterbacks’. We get to say how the game should have went and the feeling is as if we can change what has occurred. We feel 'I’ve got a plan,' so we feel actually feel safer as we worry. We are literally using energy, and even though to you it’s stress and tension, some aspect of the body is recognizing it only as energy and thus, angry, tension becomes calm as the body as, ‘Oh energy it here.’, as if an action has actually been taken.
When we worry, when we wake up in the middle of the night, when we run over in our mind how we should have said it or could say it, we quite simply feel like we’re doing something. And what we see is this illusion of action, worrying, occurs most often when you can’t really do very much about it – such as the aforementioned middle of the night, or when riding in the car or train, etc. The very fact that you are not in a place to take action, is a clue that you are dealing with something out of your direct control.
If you know you have to pay bills the next day and you have the money in your checking account, you don’t really worry about. You might think about it, 'Oh yes I’ve got to pay those bills tomorrow,' but you don’t worry about it. The things that spiral in our minds or wake us up are very typically those where you cannot be the change agent. We accept this in many ways and understand that our worry can have no effect, ‘What is the weather tomorrow? What is the President going to do?' But in our personal lives we actually often increase our worrying because we want to hold on to the idea that we can have an effect and this idea/ideal persists in today’s culture more than ever before.
In other times, people very well understood the limits of life. They didn’t feel that they had every possibility to fix, every possibility to do something else; every possibility, every option. They typically simply didn’t have those possibilities. It was an unusual person that had more possibilities. If he lived in a small town, it was an unusual person that went somewhere else. It was an unusual person who didn’t follow in their father’s business or trade or farm and so on.
But in this era of the illusion of everything goes, every option is possible, makes us feel we can do anything. And with that very sense of possibility, is it’s challenging twin, that it is your responsibility to do all things and your personal failure if you cannot achieve, prevent, resolve all that comes to your attention. We see a conflict happening now within the culture as the division of the one percent or the half percent and the rest of the people grows, people are really seeing that all options are not open to everyone, that they may be facing limits and blockages they cannot surmount.
In some ways the world is becoming smaller for many people. And it can happen to most anyone. You are impacted by the surround; the culture, the world you live in. An example is a story a television commentator shared. He is British and a US citizen. His first baby was born and he thought about how, 'Gee, my son is a dual citizen and because he’s in the United States, the baby is going to be an American citizen and a British citizen and because he’s in Britain he will be in the E.U. and his world, the baby’s world is very large.' And then Brexit happened in England and he realized just like that, his new born baby’s world was smaller.
There is an actuality to the fact that options one may have had ten years ago are not viable now. Opportunities you had in your business are not present now. The climate has changed. We are not trying to depress you but recognizing limits in life is very relevant to worrying. It asks us to question the actuality of our worrying, i.e. ‘Can I effect this now? Is it in my control? Can I do now what I used to do? Is it mine to do? Remember, the swirling mind is trying to hold onto the illusion of action; telling you that ‘worrying’ is just the same as doing. So we must gather some tools to interrupt the illusion and bring balance toward action.
Once you really consider that worry itself rarely creates the change or action you want and is more an illusion of control and action, you can begin to create a ‘kit bag’ of techniques to rebalance yourself. You may begin by simply saying, ‘Well, I’m worrying again.’ Once a pattern is identified in this way, you can experience distance from it. The pattern is no longer automatic, subconscious or unconscious; it is recognizable. And even if you just lie in bed and say, 'Well, I'm just going to lay here and worry.', nine times out of tem it will stop, because the energy has moved from spinning, from being unconscious, to thinking about it. And, literally, thinking is a different energy.
Again, recognizing, labeling, and identifying the feeling - 'I am worrying.' - interrupts the automatic circuit and moves it into thinking, which feels more a step-by-step thing. And often what does one do after worrying? You wake up and say, 'Okay, let me make a plan. Let me write a list. Let me get some help with this.' Worrying is so often expressed as a feeling of spinning and swirling and we feel it does move the brain circuits in an automatic pattern. Expressing 'I am worrying' consciously does interrupt the pattern. So often, we 'surrender' to the worry and get up and think about it, make a list and so on. And you will note, that as soon as you choose thinking, considering, over worrying, the spinning, overwhelmed sensation begins to abate. And you don't need to literally get up and write that list, the thought of doing so, now or later, switches the system.
Another tool is to consciously question your capability to be the change-agent. Ask ‘Can I do anything right now? Is this a real help? There’s no one to talk to about this at 2 am.’ Bargain. ‘I’ll do that in the morning. Thanks for reminding me.’ If is a worry that you already know you cannot resolve, try an Interruption Mantra. We see saying ‘No thought. No thought’ repeatedly often interrupts the ‘swirl’. Use any other phrase you are drawn to. Sometimes you really have to literally do something else. If you’re worrying in the daytime, do an activity. Some people create ‘symbolic actions’ to interrupt the swirl pattern. A cup of tea. A cup of coffee. Checking Facebook. [client laughs] If it’s in the night, it can be okay to just get up, read a few pages in a book, drink some cocoa. You might worry that will interrupt your sleep, but we see again, that conscious interruptions redirects the mind and it is soon ready to sleep again. You can objectify your worrying, which again makes the mind-swirl pattern conscious and that bit of energetic space, can let you rebalance.
A long-time client called her worrying pattern ‘Little Miss WorryWort’ and she even made a sculpture of her. When she felt overwhelmed with worrying, she say ‘Oh Little Miss WorryWort is here again.’ By making it an actual object outside of herself, she was more able to interrupt and keep distance from the worry pattern. In all these actions, you are consciously shifting gears away from the worry pattern.
And in the end, you have to make peace with 'I don't know' and 'I may not be able to resolve this'. Acknowledging we may have limits can interrupt the worrying and in that, open ways to find actual solutions to many situations, which may have to come from others. And then there are those aspects of life which simply may not be resolvable by you or at all. Here you have to find your way to be with limitation; to consider that perhaps you are being asked to be only the witness and although purpose may be revealed in what you cannot now do, it may take a long time to reveal itself. Sometimes when we face our limits, others may come into their own action.
Lastly, embrace the proverbial 'cup of tea' to calm worries. Taking a moment, taking a breath, walking away - all break the pattern. And with your tea [literal or figurative] remember Little Miss WorryWart is trying to help, even as she becomes a problem. Tell her you'll handle things another way, not just worrying, and shift the perspective.
excerpted and edited from a personal session, with permission
Title Image - Swirl-CounterClockwise - by Deb Booth-DifferentLightStudio.com