What, Me Worry? (Part 2)
There is a story that I often share with clients. It comes from the writings of Dr. Bernie Siegal, a former oncologist, now author of numerous books about the power of self-healing through positive thinking.
The story begins with a farmer plowing his fields. Suddenly the horse pulling the plow falls over dead. Given the farmer’s dependency on a horse for his livelihood, the townspeople agree that this is an unfortunate event. The farmer responds, however, with a simple “We’ll see.” Feeling sorry for the man, someone in the town gives him a horse as a gift. The townspeople observe that the farmer is now a lucky man. Again, the response is “We’ll see.” A few days later, the horse runs away and the townspeople declare that the farmer is indeed unfortunate and again the familiar response is “We’ll see.” Days later, the horse not only returns, but also brings with it another horse. “Lucky man!” they proclaim. “We’ll see,” says he. With two horses, the farmer and his son go for a ride. The son falls off his horse, breaks his leg and the townspeople say “Poor boy!” And again the familiar refrain, “We’ll see.” The next day the army comes to town taking away all the able-bodied young men to war. “Lucky boy!” “We’ll see.”
As this story so beautifully illustrates, our responses to life circumstances are based on our interpretations of what those circumstances mean. And as is aptly demonstrated here, they are not always what they seem. We may not have all the information that we need or situations may change. There is an anagram for the word ‘fear’ that exemplifies this. “False Evidence Appearing Real” is our tendency to worry about what we think might happen, without having any hard-core evidence to support our concern. We reason that the more we worry, the better able we will be to fix the problem. Unfortunately, obsessive worrying robs us of our ability to think clearly and effectively process what we need to do.
In last month’s column, I recounted some of what was discussed at a recent workshop on anxiety that I attended given by Dr. Reid Wilson. One idea which I found quite useful was his distinction between two types of worry; those that merit concern, which are called “signals” and those that don’t, which are appropriately named “noise.” If the worry is a signal, then one needs to determine if it necessitates an immediate response and if there is a response that is appropriate. When one can’t respond to it immediately, then it is best placed in the noise category until one can get to it at a more convenient time. If it’s noise, then recognizing it as irrelevant and acknowledging that there’s nothing that can be done about it can go a long way to freeing us of the empty chatter that fills our heads.
So the next time that you find yourself needlessly worrying, you may want to consider if your concern is based on a signal or noise, if your fear has any evidence and if you can just let it go and wait and see what happens. If you need help, please give me a call.
Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
“Helping Your Life Work”
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