Worry Is != Action
Dec 21, 2010
The dictionary says that an action is characterized by physical or mental activity. Worry is mental activity. Still worry does not qualify as a useful action. We worry because we are anxious about something. The act of worry never takes us out of that anxious state. Instead it lands us squarely back into that same state. Any useful action will take us at least one tiny step away from being anxious. Since the worrying act is a loop that lands us back to where we started, the magnitude of worry actually increases each time the loop activates. This is because the root cause - which is lack of control on something that deeply matters - has not yet been addressed. If left unaddressed, spiraling anxiousness can lead into a depressed mental state.
When we are threatened our brain will let us freeze our senses and action to focus intently. This is part of our natural freeze-fight-flight stimulus response pattern preprogrammed in our brains to enable our survival. When in familiar situations, we always know what to do next. Only in unfamiliar situations, the possibility of the situation going out of our control exists.
The freeze response is to gather all available information leading to the threat. At an appropriate moment, we decide to either stand up and fight or run away from that situation expecting that such action will bring back some control. It is also possible for some of us to be eternally frozen in a state of collecting more data. Whatever be the response, if that response does not bring desired progress, we start worrying because we do not know what to do next. The loop starts.
Recently I saw a movie that characterizes this situation with two distinct personalities. Both are young college girls. Madhu is very beatiful in looks and character. Appu has a beatiful mind but nature has forced her to wear spectacles. Each develop a serious relationship. They wait for the boys to express their love first. However, as time passes, things happen differently.
In the case of Madhu, a difference of opinion develops. Boy and girl stop talking to each other. Madhu's lack of control drives her to keep increasing her distance from her boyfriend. She tells the boy that she is willing to forget the past and not sustain the relationship any longer. She actually tries to gain control on the boy by doing that. In reality she has chosen a 'flight' response. Madhu's self confidence triggered her flight response. However the boy retaliates by not caring about the increasing gap. Madhu sits and broods in the privacy of her room.
In Appu's case, the boyfriend meets another schooltime girlfriend and starts moving around with her. Appu instantly feels lack of control. She confronts and fights in public. She wants to find money to buy contact lenses. She worries a lot in the privacy of her room.
Worry is a symptom of lack of control on something that deeply matters. Worrying never ever will increase control on anything. Recognizing this to stop worrying is the first step to acquiring control on our own mind. We need our mind in our control first to be able to control anything else external. A runaway mind is not a helpful resource.