Infinite Possibilities

Are you a chronic worrier?

Me too.  I’m a champion at it.  I can take any situation and deftly find a way in which I can worry about it.  My husband teases me, saying that when I don’t have anything to worry about, I will make things up in order to worry about them.

Counseling and Therapy Pittsburgh PAIt happens all the time.  I see a friend outside a store, on the street.  I say hello, they don’t say anything back.  They don’t say hello! What did I do wrong? I’m worried.

I text a friend but they wait a really long time to text me back.  What did I do wrong? Do they not want to be friends anymore? I’m worried.

It sounds silly and juvenile, I know.  But to chronic worriers, thoughts like these, even small ones, can cause problems.  And logical thinking that can help us in this situation doesn’t always work very well for us.  We can be logical people, and even see the logic in other people’s worries, but when it comes to our own, we’re completely in the dark.

And, somehow, what I’m worrying about always seems to have to do with something I’ve done – something that’s my fault.  If my friend outside the store didn’t say hi to me, it’s because I must not have been doing my best in upkeeping the friendship.  If they don’t text me back right away, it’s because I’ve said something the last time we talked that offended them.  It’s always something I have brought upon myself.  And then I worry about that.

It’s a vicious cycle, all this worrying.  It’s exhausting, and really does tax our real-life relationships, as well our bodies and our emotional well-being.

But how can we work to break the cycle? Remembering that there are other possibilities.

Toward the end of the 1999 film “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc,” Joan* (referenced as “Jeanne” in the video clip below) is awaiting a trial in an ecclesiastical court.  She’s being tried for heresy, because she claims God told her to lead soldiers into battle to defend France against the English. While she’s in prison, she’s visited by a man (played by the incomparable Dustin Hoffman) who challenges her beliefs in a sort of pre-trial exchange:

Did you catch what he said? “Every event has an infinite amount of causes, so why pick one rather than another?”

Why is that so striking? I think it’s because, for those of us who are chronic worriers, we move towards the worst-case scenario.  We pick the cause that is so bad because that’s what we’re used to doing.  It’s familiar to us.  We’re used to things going wrong, of the other shoe dropping so many times, that it feels strange to be in a place of wellness and happiness, of security.  We don’t know how not to worry.

But learning how to question our worries can be a great help to us.  If I see a friend on the street and say hello and they don’t respond the way I’d like, I can ask myself why.  Instead of the automatic thought of “What have I done?” I can try, “I wonder what happened? Maybe he’s having a bad day, or maybe he didn’t hear me, or maybe he doesn’t feel like talking.”  If I text someone and they don’t instantly reply, my response doesn’t have to be “What did I do wrong?” It can be, “I wonder what they’re up to? Maybe it’s dinnertime, or maybe they’re charging their phone in the other room and didn’t hear it, or maybe something else called them away and they forgot about it.”

I have good news, friends.  The sky is not falling all the time.  We don’t have to constantly think that it is.  And if we do, there are tools we can use, like this one, to help us feel better and less anxious.  If you’re a chronic worrier, let’s take hope together, that we can work to set ourselves free!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!

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