Worrying: An Overthinker’s Favourite* Game

Worrying, for some (especially over-thinkers like me), has the potential to become a full-time occupation. The brain chunters away below the surface of whatever else is going on in life, taking in the view, and coming up with the worst possible situation at any given moment.

Black Heart

On a whim, at the drop of a hat, or at any given moment, the brain might choose to fixate on something, get its teeth stuck in, and gnaw away at a previously innocuous circumstance, inflaming it, turning it wild. At this point the thinker had better have the nous to step smartly away, take the brain in hand, and stop it making things worse.

The advanced over-thinker can even worry about worrying, in this way!

Worrying (I think) stems from a sense of self-preservation. If we can imagine the worst possible outcomes, we can prepare to manage them, or better, avoid them completely. If we can envisage catastrophe, we can hopefully see a way to extricate ourselves before it happens, or at least with as little damage as possible. Worrying might well be ingrained in our systems precisely because it is such an effective protector of life. Without it, we wouldn’t be here.

Our early years are fraught with the contagious concerns of our parents, regarding what we might touch, trip, or choke on. We learn to be cautious, even fearful. We learn to internalise a cycle of worrying in hopes it might prevent disaster.

At some point, this vicious cycle has to be stopped, or consume the thinker entirely.

Maslow’s base concerns aside, it’s easy to get lost in the back-and-forth of whether or not one’s other needs are being adequately met.

From a safety point of view, worries can appear like pop-ups in the day-to-day of life; do I have enough money to last the month? do I like my job enough to stick with it for now? should I find an alternative route to this dark alleyway? (yes, probably.) what’s the likelihood of running out of petrol before topping up, and getting stranded?

Worries about the next tier up (love and belonging) are less a pop-up, and more a series of tangling threads weaving through the everyday. In spite of the luxury of some of those threads remaining consistent and strong (thanks, family, and close friends), there’s always a trail of loose ends and snaggling thoughts regarding belonging, the deserving (or not) of love, and whether or not I think enough of myself to feel I ought to belong in the first place.

Here, the tangling threads grow seeds and roots, tapping deep into the next level up – esteem. Worries in this area are sown early, childhood experiences proving fertile ground for those demon seeds to set root, forcing their tendrils through the psyche, cracking it beyond all knowledge of repair. When life waters those seeds (and it does, often), the hell-plants take on vigour, bearing stinking blossoms, fast-falling fruit, and a further smattering of demon seeds to start the cycle once more, with feeling. The thicket of worries rooted in esteem has only proven susceptible to machetes wielded carefully by those who care deeply, and the blazing sunshine of their love, from which it recoils, screaming.

Conversely, the worries surrounding self-actualisation, I have found consistently encouraging, as though finding new things to concern myself with mean additional stepping stones along the way, with the implication that each stepping stone stepped is one less stone that needs stepping in future. As though I am something which can ever be finished. However distant that goal, I am content in discovering new ways to become my best self, and part of the joy is in the journey – seeing how far I’ve come, as well as how far I think I can go. In the meantime, I am determined to value the small successes, and reap their rewards, even if my status never goes beyond ‘Becoming’, I am certain it will only be in response to the shifting sands of time and circumstance, and half the fun is in navigating the changes in life.

In all cases, counting my blessings and being thankful has always proven suitable recourse from worrying, with the added advantage that once I realise how relatively little I have to worry about, an element of freedom creeps in, lifting my spirits.

 

P.S. Once upon a time I would have worried about being a flake, and whether being a let-down was truly all I was good for. Life and love have taught me differently, so I don’t write this from a place of worry, but from the calm of knowing that had I *not* had a slow day at work, I would have been just as welcome in the hearts and lives of my friends, as had I not written at all.

*As measured by frequency and intensity of undertaking, rather than by choice or enjoyment.

Finish the Sentence Friday

This post was written for Finish the Sentence Friday, and the lovely (if flaky) Kristi Campbell, and the wonderful (never flaked on me yet) Kenya Johnson

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23 thoughts on “Worrying: An Overthinker’s Favourite* Game

  1. My original post that I stopped writing was going to be about all the things i’ve worried about with my son. I’m really working on not being that parent but it’s difficult. At least I don’t see that I’m being contagious. My son wants to enjoy life (freedom) without fear and each time I go a step in the direction of educating him on what could happen he says, “See mom, that’s what I’m talking about. You’re ruining it.” 😦

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    • Oh NO! Bless his boots for being so happy-go-lucky and unaware of how quickly life can turn into a shit show! Eeeek! I can’t imagine trying to parent a young man, especially not in America these days. I think so many of your fears are probably founded, but…I’m sure you’re worrying for his protection rather than not. I hope he does at least KIND of listen to you!

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  2. I really loved this! I think that my perfectionist nature contributes to my worry wart nature; I always am over thinking about whether I measure up, am I doing enough of the things? And then I beat myself up for being such an anxious, overthinking person, which doesn’t help. I like the idea that you brought up that some worrying helps me be cautious – like I am worried about getting into an accident because the drivers around here are CRAZY and so I don’t use my phone AT ALL while driving and I’m very vigilant so I have had near misses that would have been devastating if I wasn’t worrying about it. However, I also liked what you said about counting my blessings and being thankful about what little I actually do have to worry about. Most of my worries are low-level or irrational, I have very few big things to worry about, and that makes me happy!

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    • I’m really glad you don’t have many big things to worry about. Long may that continue!
      I definitely think there are worries which keep us safe, whilst there are others which distract us from the goodness of living, and those are the ones we need to keep in check.

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  3. I like how you mentioned worries in tiers. I found myself thinking about the layers of worries as well, as I considered this prompt. Having my car die on the train tracks might be (is) a worry that pops into my head every time I cross tracks, but is it a big, huge, immobilizing worry? No, just a bothersome thought. I also love how you find the antidote to worry is being thankful! 🙂

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    • Definitely. Thankfulness will always side-track me back into the light, as I know I can get caught up in the concerns. It’s much nicer not to. I’m glad I have a way out of getting paralysed by it any more, yaknow?

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  4. “Worrying (I think) stems from a sense of self-preservation. If we can imagine the worst possible outcomes, we can prepare to manage them, or better, avoid them completely. If we can envisage catastrophe, we can hopefully see a way to extricate ourselves before it happens, or at least with as little damage as possible.”
    I think that, right there is 100% on the nose for me. I can and do come up with the worst case scenario of……. everything, pretty much.

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  5. Of course I’d still love you if you hadn’t written at all and you’ve never been a let-down! People get busy. Life happens. Work happens. Sleep (hopefully) happens. It’s funny that we’re able to worry about worrying, yes? Sigh. I like the idea of worrying keeping us safe. I think there’s something to that. When I’m stuck in traffic or something, I always look around to see which direction would be best to run to if needed. Instinct maybe.
    It’s those next level ones that suck. The “am I enough?” worries. Those need to be smashed and tossed. Glad you had a slow day at work so that you could write!

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    • Lol. I know ❤

      Sleep…not so much, but some. I am still ME after all!

      The worries that keep us safe, I think are built in on purpose in the same manner that bad news travels faster (sticks in our minds because potentially it's a big threat we need to beware of). The ones that eat us alive…those are far harder to shake but love definitely helps. Thanks always for yours xxx

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  6. Worrying is the worst. Depending on the situation it leads me straight into anxiety and a panic attack can ensue. Imagining the worst that could happen ends up helping, which is counterintuitive I know. But it works for me. Usually because once I envision the worst then I envision the best case scenario knowing the reality will fall somewhere in between and I am more than capable if handling that. And if the worst case scenario does happen well, then it’s over and done and I survived without perishing. And became stronger, and possibly embarrassed but still alive. Generally I find exercise or doing something meditative (like reading or knitting or running) helps immensely as well. Anyway, I think you are ‘becoming’ along better than you think. You are so far from the person I first met, and i loved her in spite of your warnings and consider myself very fortunate that I have been able to see the metamorphosis happen. 💖

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    • Awwwh Pinky. I am so so glad you stuck with me. You’re one of the people who has truly given me faith in myself that I’m someone worth spending time with and caring about. Thank you endless for your friendship.

      I’m sorry you get into panic attack mode *HUGS* That really sucks. I do find that envisaging the worst means I’m better prepared when it happens, though. *MORE HUGS* ❤ ❤

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