“I am an old man and have a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” - Mark Twain
What did you worry about a month ago? Did the things you worried most about happen the way you thought they would? After listening to people worry over a 20 year career as a therapist, I have come to believe that 90% of the things we worry about either do not happen or happen very differently. The actual bad things that do happen in a day usually were never foreseen.
The truth is, it doesn't pay to worry! Worry robs sleep, makes us unhappy and takes up too much precious energy – energy that could have been used to take care of the real challenges faced in a day.
I have a theory that worry is simply a fertile imagination gone rogue. Our complex brains allow us to anticipate what might happen in advance so we build scenarios that help figure out what we want to do in the future. We can imagine all sorts of futures before we ever actually do anything.
When imagination is under the grip of a strong negative emotion, such as fear, anxiety, anger or depression, worrisome scenarios can haunt us. Our imaginations create and recreate all kinds of trouble. But rarely do these scenes play out the way we think they will.
We can decide to deal with our emotions before they morph into worry. We can redirect our imaginations to ideas of how to be happy, healthy and helpful to others. By examining what emotions our worries stem from, we can rein in our imagination and put it to good use. So if you absolutely have to worry, worry about your own feelings. If that feels like too much, get support to help cope with what you feel.