How Worry Makes Its Way In

A negative pattern of worry can be established in childhood.

Posted Nov 06, 2018

Father talking and spending time with his teenage son
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I believe a negative pattern of worry is established in childhood, based upon life circumstances, experiences, and perceptions. I further believe this pattern of worry can be exacerbated by physical realities and predispositions. In order to find a way out, you need to be able to backtrack along your way in, to where worry started in the first place. When you find your entry point, you're that much closer to rediscovering the world outside of worry.

A place of worry can come from a lack of security. Your feelings of security are formed in childhood. When you're a child, you learn to feel secure in your surroundings, your family, yourself, and your abilities. This sense of security provides a stable, strong foundation on which to venture forth into life. When this doesn't happen, you develop a foundation of insecurity, which substitutes a rickety, weakened foundation, ill-suited for adulthood and its challenges, risks, and dilemmas. 

A child with a sense of security looks out across the gulf to adulthood and sees a broadly supported expanse with plenty of room to move and solid railings. There's no need to focus on the abyss below because there is no fear of falling. Instead, the child has a wide-open view of the wonders that await. A child with a sense of insecurity looks out across the gulf to adulthood and sees a gap-filled, narrow track hemmed in on all sides by frayed, untrustworthy ropes. Forget looking up and out; there's an absolute need to focus on the abyss below because each fearful step forward contains the potential for falling. What starts out in childhood translates into adulthood. 

There are a variety of situations and conditions that can lead to this kind of insecurity growing up.  Here are some to consider:

Death of a parent.  When a parent dies, that shield is ripped from the child. Even within a family with a surviving parent or other supportive adults, children experience psychological shock when a parent dies.

Abandonment or rejection by a parent.  When a parent discards a child through abandonment, a child assumes all is not right with him or her. When a parent intentionally chooses to reject a child, a child learns they aren't good enough.  

Divorce.  Overwhelmingly, divorce not only sunders the relationship of the spouses but also rips apart the world of the children.  

Frequent moves.  Often, parents view a move as a positive change, due to a new house or new job. Children, however, have different priorities, and the one thing they cherish, such as a friend, teacher, a school, or an activity, can be sacrificed in a decision to relocate.

Learning disabilities.  Imagine what it would be like to go to school every day, apprehensive that you won't be able to meet expectations. 

Difficulties in school.  Children often worry about their work in school, but they also worry about social interactions. A child who is bullied, unsuccessful, or simply unnoticed learns to distrust what could happen tomorrow.

Family alcoholism or drug abuse.  When alcohol or drug abuse is present in the home, it becomes a home of calm and crisis. There are lulls between violent storms, whose appearance is not so much a matter of if, but when. 

Emotional abuse. If a child is told over and over they are not good enough, they'll believe it and be fearful of venturing out much as an adult. 

Physical abuse, including sexual abuse.  The devastation of physical and sexual abuse is so vast that it permeates all aspects of a child's life. This includes the concept of secrecy and holding on to the family truths in secret. 

Perfectionism in the family.  This is one of the most pervasive ways a child is taught to worry. No one can be perfect all the time, so every task, every expectation has a built-in guarantee of failure. 

A fearful or insecure parent or significant adult.  Some parents communicate hostility and negativity that damage the self-esteem of their children. Other parents can be more passively damaging through a pattern of constant doubt, fear, worry, and anxiety

Is it any wonder, if you grew up with one of these, that you would be a little more suspicious about life? Is it any wonder you might have developed a survival strategy of worry? Consistent worry can become a pattern that eats away at the foundation of life. 

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