My work in health care tends to put me in touch with worried people, so I began to wonder about worry itself. If so many people worry, it must have some kind of value.
Most of us would agree that when we’re young, we don’t worry as much as when we’re older. Yet logic would have it the other way around. Aren’t the young at more risk than those of us who are older and more experienced? It should be the young who worry more, shouldn’t it?
There must be something we learn over the years that teaches us how to worry better. More than grey hair or wrinkles, what we gather throughout life is experience, both pleasant and painful. Probably, it’s our past painful experiences that give way to worry. I can’t recall hearing much about people who were worried about good things happening. When we remember painful past experiences, we experience some of that discomfort all over again.
With time and repeated experience of these memories, we become wary. Perhaps it’s coincidence, but the words "worry” and "wary” are awfully similar.
I think that we try to avoid bad situations by imagining what might happen ahead of time. Just like the boy scouts, who want to "be prepared” we attempt to predict every problem before it occurs. We mentally try on future problems like we might try on shoes. In fact, we do it so well that we feel the pain almost as it were real.
Focusing on these imagined problems only serves to make us more wary. Over time, our imaginings can seem to make the future progressively more threatening. Yet, how often have we been proven wrong, having anticipated trouble only to discover that things went smoothly? It seems as if we forget these occasions in our hurry to prepare for the next perceived problem.
A good example of too much worry is something that has happened to my wife and I in our efforts to learn how to navigate a sailboat. Repeatedly, as we approach an unfamiliar shoreline, we begin to dwell on our charts, study the shoreline through the binoculars, and fervently stare at our depth sounder. We worry excessively about running aground or being lost. We start to become very anxious that we will have some kind of problem arriving at our destination.
As we get closer to shore, everything begins to make sense and we successfully find our destination. All of our anxiety was a result of trying to know too early where we were rather than letting things unfold.
What value can be derived from worry? Possibly, worry is like a sign post saying that we’re trying too hard to prepare for future problems. Worry tells us that we are imagining bad things so well that we are becoming uncomfortable with our own imaginings. We are beginning to dwell on the unforeseen in an effort to prevent future pain; however the degree to which we are doing it is causing present pain.
Worry is a valuable indicator that we are spending so much effort trying to secure the future that we’re suffering in the present.
Be aware, prepare for the future, but remember that over preparation won’t improve the future; it will rob you of the present.
Dr. Pepperdine is the owner of Southcare Chiropractic in Nanaimo, Call 755-1554.