Friday, August 24, 2007

Worry: A Form of Slow Suicide

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"It makes no sense to worry about things you have no control over because there's nothing you can do about them, and why worry about things you don't control? The activity of worrying keeps you immobilized."
- Dr. Wayne Dyer

I confess to a bias in favour of the thinking of Wayne Dyer on many questions. He always bases his answers and propositions on the realities of human nature. Human thinking, without taking human nature into account, lacks a feeling of reality, such as ordinary folks may feel when reading philosophy.

Dr. Dyer focusses on worry in this quote. He could as easily have given his attention to anger, vengeance, self pity or self delusion about religious matters, all situations where people cause more harm to themselves than they receive as benefits.

Worry is a form of masochism, of harming ourselves without due cause. We always have an excuse for our worry, not a reason, though we believe it's real. Our excuses are more often self pity than anything else.

Let's take the example of a mother/wife worrying about the husband/son/daughter who is way past his/her expected time for arriving home. We all know there are thousands of reasons why people may be delayed. Some bear on bad judgment of choices about how to be responsible about getting home at an expected time or phoning to give a reason for the delay, but most are simply reasons beyond the control of the "late" party.

During the summer high season for tourists at the resort where my wife works, she usually leaves work at midnight. She drives alone along a highway that is known to have drunk drivers any day of the year. On a weekend night, the risk is greater. On any night she may encounter a deer, moose, bear, racoon or coyote on the road, among other possibilities, each of which have been known to conduct themselves inappropriately in the face of an oncoming vehicle.

Every night my wife works I have a valid reason to be concerned about her safety on the highway late at night. However, I could experience the same conditions in the daytime, myself, and think nothing of it. I think that if I wouldn't be afraid of driving the highway then I should have confidence enough in my wife to drive it safely as well.

Confidence? Perhaps trust would be a better word. We all know that our trust could be betrayed by anyone and the worst kind of trust betrayal is by a loved one. But it happens. I would rather trust because I can live with trust much longer than I can live with worry.

When my wife gets home, she finds a happy (if sleepy) husband who is glad to see her home instead of a frazzled mess of a man who can't keep his emotions under control.
If I worried, it would not be about the safety of my wife so much as how I would get along without her in the event of a fatal accident. That's reality.

If we worry about our financial problems, they incapacitate us. Rather, we incapacitate ourselves since worry has never accomplished anything. Nothing ever got better because someone worried. Nothing ever got solved. No one ever felt more loved because someone worried about them--cared, yes, but not worry.

Worry is purely destructive. And we do it to ourselves. No one ever asks us to worry about them or about our problems. No one holds our head under water until we promise to worry. Worry is purely voluntary. We hurt ourselves.

How can we not worry about important matters? After all, some things we worry about may change our lives, always for the worse. They seldom do. Few of the things we worry about come to pass. Worry prevents us from doing anything about matters we have the ability to address. It immobilizes us, as Dr. Dyer said.

When we accept that worry is nothing more than a form of self pity, it becomes easier to shake the habit. No one wants to be thought of as harming themselves. That's akin to suicide on the morality scale.

If you can't do anything about it, don't worry because it won't likely happen anyway. If you can do something about it, get on with it. If a situation means that much to you, change it or change the conditions that create it.

Finally, worry could kill you. Like any strong emotion, worry compromises the immune system, causing it to fail when it's needed most. It's like sending your immune system into a gunfight with a pencil as a weapon. A compromised immune system leaves you open to attack from any kind of harmful microbe, especially those you wouldn't have any trouble with if you were healthy.

People who worry are not healthy. Not physically, not emotionally.
No one can enjoy life when they worry.

Walkers claim that you can't walk and worry at the same time. Instead of worrying, go for a walk. It's good cardiovascular exercise, so you will be much healthier for it. And you will live longer and healthier.

Good thing I don't worry when my wife drives home at night. There are too many bears out there on the dirt road in the forest where we live.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to get through your life safely and happily while banishing your problems. It works and the plan is embarrassingly cheap.
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