Most of us worry a bit from time to time, and there are probably a lot of us worrying about the state of the world these days. But you know, too much worry is a dangerous thing. You see, our awareness of the future is an important part of our search for meaning and purpose in life. However, when awareness of the future becomes dominated by uneasiness, then restlessness, fear and worry take over.
One of the staples in the Institute’s library is by J. Ruth Gendler, “The Book of Qualities.” While it was first published in 1988, much of it is relevant today. (And yes, it is still available.) It the book, Gendler makes “Worry” into a person who seems very real:
“Worry etches lines on people’s foreheads when they are not paying attention. She makes lists of everything that could go wrong while she is waiting for the train. She is sure she left the stove on, and the house is going to explode in her absence. When she makes love, her mind is on the failure rates and health hazards of birth control. The drug companies want worry to test their new tranquilizers, but they don’t understand what she knows too well: no drug can ease her pain. She is terrified of the unknown.”
That is the bad news. The good news is that, just as we manufacture stress by repeatedly looking forward in fear, we can learn to build new habits that replace worry with more constructive, positive thoughts. And in taking charge of our own thoughts, we are less at the mercy of other voices that seek to decide, for us, how we think and what we think about. Let’s face it, there is a lot of manipulation going on these days. We want to be very careful to avoid falling into a worry pit.
We can short-circuit the downward spiral of worry and fear and substitute images that will work for us instead of against us. We can learn to do this, because it is happening every day, all over the world.