Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear. ~ Corrie Ten Boom
The author of that quote, Corrie Ten Boom, was a Dutch Christian who helped Jews escape from the Nazis during World War II. She and her family were caught and sent to concentration camps. Corrie survived. But most of her family died in those camps. Wouldn’t you say that Corrie Ten Boom had plenty to worry about? But she chose not to.
Worrying is one of the few things that just about everyone on the planet is good at. It’s a little like eating nachos: we may know it’s not good for us, but we do it anyway—and we keep eating. Once we get that worry train started, it’s hard to stop. And most of what we worry about is not within our control. For example:
What Other People Think: One of the most limiting mindsets we can carry is worrying about what other people think of us. How others judge us is based more on who they are – their past experiences, decisions, and attitudes – than on who we are or what we do. Will everyone like us? Approve of us? Think we’re smart/funny/attractive/doing the right thing? Probably not. But we still worry about it. Real freedom comes from the attitude that “what other people think of me is none of my business!”
How Other People Feel: What we do or say doesn’t “make” anyone feel a certain way. They end up feeling however they feel based on how they interpret our actions or words and on how they choose to feel about that interpretation. For example, if you tell your wife that she’s looking especially beautiful today, she can either take the compliment and feel great, or spiral into anxiety wondering whether you mean that she hasn’t been looking good lately! When you ask someone to donate to your favorite charity, he might feel honored, obligated, resentful, or excited to help. You can’t control any of those responses. Yet we still worry about it, don’t we? At the end of the day, our only responsibility is to come from our most authentic selves in what we do or say.
External Factors: We can’t control the weather, the economy, political activity in other countries, or whether our favorite neighbors decide to get divorced. Your worrying about the stock market flipping up or down will not change its course – unless that worry becomes pandemic and investors all over the world panic!
Sometimes, we mistakenly feel like we’re actually doing something when we worry and we worry that if we stop worrying, we’ll neglect to do the right thing at the right time to avoid whatever we’re worried about. But as Wayne Dyer says, “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 do control? The activity of worrying keeps you immobilized.”
Despite the Bobby McFerrin song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” I don’t think just trying to be happy is the real antidote to worry. Can I really get happy about a rough diagnosis or financial difficulties? Probably not. And positive thinking – “Everything will be fine” – usually isn’t powerful enough to offset the intensity of a full-blown worry. So what are we supposed to do to replace worry and remobilize into positive action?
In Neuro-Linguistic programming (NLP), the goal is to move from a frozen state of worry to what we call a “resourceful state.” A resourceful state is one in which your internal emotional condition supports you so you can come up with creative solutions and take positive action. When you’re in a resourceful state, you feel calm, empowered, capable. You can see possibilities, potential solutions, workable strategies. Rather than “inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear,” you engage in productive thinking and planning based on a foundation of confidence.
We’ve all experienced that resourceful state. Some of us feel it when we meet an interesting challenge. Others experience it when doing something very familiar. But here’s the million-dollar question: How do we get into a resourceful state when we’re stuck in a state of worry?
We have several powerful techniques in NLP for accessing this resourceful state. But to get there on your own, start by making the conscious decision to move out of your worry state. Take a few deep breaths to release the tension of worry from your body. Next, recall a time when you felt especially resourceful and empowered, and let yourself really feel how that felt. Notice how you feel emotionally and physically in that resourceful state. Retaining that feeling as much as possible, ask yourself, “Is this issue in my control or not?” If it’s not in your control, take several more deep breaths and release it to the best of your ability. If it is in your control, while retaining the feeling of that resourceful state, as yourself, “What are some possible action steps I could take?”
Corrie Ten Bloom also said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” Taking just a few moments to move out of worry may not resolve all the issues that got you there in the first place. But by accessing your resourceful state, you relieve your own stress levels and gain a much better shot at finding practical solutions.
About the Author:
Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership, where he serves as a master trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a practical behavioral technology for helping people achieve their desired results in life. Dr. Matt has also immersed himself in Huna, the ancient practices of the Hawaiian islands of forgiveness and meditation for mental health and well-being, and he carries on the lineage of one of the last practicing kahuna. In his most recent book, Find Your Purpose, Master Your Path, Dr. Matt melds the ancient wisdom of Huna with modern psychology to assist us in leading conscious, purpose-driven lives. He contributes regularly to The Huffington Post and Psychology Today blogs. For more information and to receive Dr. Matt's NLP Fast-Track Video eCourse for free, visit www.NLP.com