“I’m worried about you.”
“I’m afraid things won’t work out for you.”
These are common statements most of us grew up hearing and using. They are pretty standard attempts to express love.
But, what I learned later is that this is not love. This is definitely not love. In fact, statements of worry and fear are the furthest thing from love.
Worry is fear, pretending to be love.
The same set of teachers that brought me along through other lessons, led me to reexamine the use of fear in my life.
In Al-Anon, the Twelve Step program, I learned that worry and fear about someone is as useless as idle chatter. But worse, it’s as damaging as gossip or slander.
And in Ghana, I learned about this from some great teachers.
What I experienced was that when you have nothing, you don’t fear losing it. If you don’t have a job, you don’t fear losing it. When you are hungry, you don’t fear being hungry.
And when I’d fret about these things, my friends looked at me as if I was a small child. They smiled, and gently said, “All shall be well.”
Of course, this just made me want to argue with them. But it’s hard to argue this and pretty pointless. Still, I tried.
In the west, we do act as if we are in charge of everything. So, when something goes wrong, it’s someone’s fault. If something’s not working, it’s a problem that needs to be fixed.
But in the areas I know in Ghana, so many have so little. The foundational aspects of our economy, what we consider basic rights, are often completely missing: clean drinking water, free education, books and libraries, sewer systems, reliable electricity, clean public restrooms, homeless shelters, and on and on.
So, an individual that works hard and is creative in Ghana, may still face problems that our grandparents faced, but we in more affluent countries have not.
In my mind, if anyone could justify worrying, it’s them, not me.
But, my friends taught me how to enjoy the day, and how to have faith that all shall be well.
To waste a day worrying is seen as being immature. We see children whining, and we say, Grow up!
That’s the message I got when I worried. Grow up! Evolve! The elders in this community have taught the young that worrying (like whining) is immature and a habit that can be and should be outgrown.
Holding on to the Right to Worry?
I don’t know why this is. But many people that are otherwise enlightened, hold on tightly to their right to worry.
They say, It’s normal. It’s natural. I always worry about myself and about others. I have to. Everybody does. If I didn’t, I couldn’t manage my life.
But that’s the small approach to life.
Connect to what worry feels like. When someone says they are worried about you, how do you feel? Discouraged.
And when someone expresses hope and a vision that things will work out? Encouraged.
Taking away or giving courage to someone. Which would you rather do? Give up your right to worry. Live large.
Instead of insisting on your right to worry, instead, insist on your right to hope.
“If you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.”- Dalai Lama
A Physical Approach to Handling Fear
“Fear is excitement without the breath.”
- Fritz Perls
There are two kinds of fear. There is the kind that you feel when a large animal is chasing after you. And there’s the kind that’s associated with worry. It’s this second kind that tears you up, inside and out.
When you pay attention to how fear feels, you’re likely to feel fear in your gut. We already know this and talk about this. We say we feel butterflies in our stomach, queasy or nauseous as we’re waiting to make a speech or do something we fear.
When your mind is racing with worries, you can use a body-based strategy to physically discharge your fears. Deep breathing, dancing, sitting on the ground, and acupuncture are just a handful of the possible solutions.
In Sahaja Yoga, we were taught to simply sit on the ground when your mind is racing. For me, sitting on the ground directly, instead of on a chair or a cushion, always helps me quickly feel …grounded!
I also learned simple techniques from books by Dr. Ann Marie Chiasson. One is just bouncing up and down and letting your arms and head go. The result is that as you hit the ground each time, your whole body seems to flop and jar gently like jumping on a trampoline. This is exactly what we learned in African dancing …and maybe one reason that style of dance feels so profoundly good to me.
Gay Hendricks teaches about fear and relationships. His insights about the few types of fear, breathing exercises and strategies for moving through it all, are inspirational and helpful.
After a Pause, Pave a New Path
When you worry, you are digging a rut in your future. As you imagine the mishaps, and worse and worse consequences, you will start to spin out of control and you’ll feel it in your gut.
First, take a physical approach to pause your fears. Then, work with your thoughts. Rewind and try again.
Not sure where to start? Byron Katie is an author and master at the process of inquiry. Her methods show you how to examine your thoughts effectively.
When you imagine a surprising blessing, a fortuitous meeting or a smooth resolution, you’ll feel better immediately. And you’ll know you’re on the right path.
It’s really that easy.
If worrying is what you’ve done since birth, it’s going to be a bit difficult to find a new route. That’s where your new friends come in. Find teachers that offer solid advice in person, or find books, audio books or DVDs with guided imagery and affirmations that resonate with you.
So, really, if you love me, don’t worry about me.
- Justifying worries
If I tell you, “Don’t worry,” what do you say? List your justifications for worrying. Analyze them and see if you really believe them or not.
- Physical fear
How does fear register in your body? Make a note of it. Do you feel it in your gut as a tightness or queasiness, or something else? Is it different at work or in intimate relationships?
- Flipping a worry over
When you feel yourself starting to worry about something, pause. Flip it over. Replay the story with “hope”.
- Justifying hope
Come up with three benefits to giving up worry and replacing it with hope. Think of the physical ramifications for your own body and the impact you’ll have on yourself and loved ones.
Can you see the silver lining of the thing you are worrying about? There is always one! Find it and be thankful for it.
- Releasing fears
What are some things you used to be afraid of, that you aren’t afraid of now? How did you move beyond those fears? Ask your friends for strategies too. Develop a toolbox of fear-busting affirmations and exercises.
Worry is Fear, pretending to be Love.