Worry & Self-Healing in Two Amusing and Insightful Parts (this is the first one)

worry woman“Worrying is praying for something you don’t want.” – Bhagavan Das

Is it possible to be a professional worrier? If so, I’ve held a long and distinguished career. Ever since I was a wee thing, I could worry myself into a frothy mess. When I was 8, my sweet (and probably worried) mother gave me a smooth flat stone with a little thumb-shaped divot in it. “It’s a worry stone,” she said. “Just keep it in your pocket and rub it whenever you feel worried.” I put it in my pocket and rubbed it throughout my (ever-so-worrisome) third grade day. In a week, it snapped it in half from overuse.

Here is an excerpt from an essay in my upcoming book, When In Doubt, Dance*:

“[After going to college and getting a job, I found that my life was still messy and I still was full of anxiety.] So I came up with a strategy. It was brilliant. Cosmic, even. I worried about everything that could go wrong. Everything. In my head, I considered all the catastrophes that I could possibly come up with and played them out all the way to the smoking wreckage of everything I held dear. My reasoning was (and yes, I’m not kidding, this was actually a conscious approach that I thought through carefully and ad nauseam) that I would outsmart the gods. That’s right, my approach for dealing with the anxiety and uncertainty was to outsmart the gods. I had only a vague notion of who, exactly, these gods were that I was outsmarting. Fate or the Universe or whoever was pulling the strings in the unfolding episodes of my twenty-something life. My idea was that the gods wanted to surprise me with their campaigns to screw up my life. I figured that if I thought of it first, the gods wouldn’t do it because I’d seen it coming. And therefore, it would logically follow that my worrying would foil their ploys to mess up my plans.

“I told you it was brilliant. When in doubt, worry.

“So that’s what I did. I worried. About everything. And you can imagine, my friends, you can just imagine how much fun I was to be with during the Outsmart-The-Gods-With-Worry Era. Not fun. It was also extremely not fun to be in my own head. It was like a hornet’s nest in the middle of a bramble patch in there.”

And it appears that I am not alone in this affliction. While leading Nia retreats in the Sacred Valley of Peru in the mid-2000s, I encountered a shaman from one of the local villages. After spending some time with us, I asked him what he observed about Americans. He looked at me with clear blue eyes and shook his head incredulously, “You worry too much.”

It’s true. We do. Well, I do, anyway. Maybe you relate to this worry habit that is, as Bhagavan Das says “praying for what you don’t want.” If you’re not a worrier, it’s likely that you know someone with the condition.

The martial art of Aikido teaches that energy follows attention. Worry is wasted attention. Worry stops me from listening and noticing what is happening now by zipping me into a (usually spectacularly dreadful) future. Worry really is just a habit, but for many of us it is so entrenched and long-standing that not only is it challenging to change, we may not even realize when we’re doing it!

Tomorrow, in the second part of this post, we’ll play with noticing when we’re worrying and how to make different choices with our mental energy. In particular, we’ll look at how to shift out of body-worry (one of my favorite things to worry about) and into self-healing. See you tomorrow!

* Yes! I’m writing a book of essays called When in Doubt, Dance. It’s early days, and right now I’m having a great time writing new pieces and reworking posts from Focus Pocus to include. If you’re interested in knowing more, reading sneak previews, and hearing about developments in the project, please just leave a comment below and include the title of your favorite Focus Pocus Post (it might be part of the book) and I’ll make sure you’re in the know!

  1. I stood on our front porch this morning, offering gratitude for rain (one subject of many which has recently received my attention through worry). With gratitude came the information download that my worry is an excuse to disconnect via food. then, I read your blog and felt connected. Thank you for touching my core, Susan.

    • you are so welcome, dear Joi. and yes, this is it exactly, worry takes us out, disconnects and makes us more susceptible to more disconnecting behavior (like food, alcohol, shopping, facebooking — whatever your escape du jour is). I love connecting with you! xo S

  2. Susan!!! I thought I was the only one who tried to outsmart the gods by thinking of the worst case scenario first so they couldn’t surprise me with it! I am laughing and shaking my head at both of us. But I do feel comforted in my insanity. So insightful you are, always! XOX

    • Ha! Isn’t it funny when we think we’re the only ones? Love that, I’m laughing, too. xo

  3. Blue said:

    I love reading your blog and I can relate to the worrying! One post that really stood out for me is the one about the 4 stages of learning. I don’t recall the name of that post though. The learning stages take us through a process of first feeling blissfully unaware of what we don’t know, then the feeling of awkwardness (knowing you don’t know) on to being competent, etc. I love that Focus Pocus post and got a lot from it!

  4. Blue said:

    ps oops forgot to ask–so are you going to put this post about the learning process in your forthcoming book?

  5. Ooh, yes, that post on the 4 stages of competence! Good one…I’ll put it on the “Considering for the Book Perhaps With a Little Bit of Reworking” list!

  6. Pam said:

    Love this! And, yes, I can relate to the sense of magical thinking that the bad thing(s) won’t happen, if you think/worry about them first! I’m very eager to read your book and to stay involved with the process. One of my favorite posts is https://focuspocusnow.com/category/core/, all about wagging your tail.

  7. I like that: “magical thinking”… sort of like Outsmarting the Gods! Thanks for your excitement about the book — it makes me wag my tail!. I’ll keep you posted! xo

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