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.
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.