Worry is a misuse of imagination. Dan Zadra
What I have learned from life and coaching is that most people spend more time worrying about troubles than actually thinking of preventing them from happening, or handling them positively after they do. Additionally, what I have learned from my Emotional Intelligence training and research into the brain science is that the tiny amygdala glands, located at the back of our brains, are responsible for having us react to physical as well as non-physical threats in a similar way, and sometimes in the same severity.
One of the main challenges of this age we live in is that most threats (dangers or calls for fear) are distant non-physical ones. They are likely to be perceived more intellectually than through our senses. Yet, our brains are still reacting towards them with similar kinds of chemical messages triggered throughout our bodies. In the past, when a stone man saw a lion, he would consider that an immediate threat, and would respond to it with an instant flight. However, nowadays, if matters related to the success of our work performance, or survival of our business goes badly, we may perceive them as an immediate threat, of which we remain stressed out for a while, even though we may be enjoying the safety and warmth of our homes or offices.
When a stone man fled the danger of facing a lion, he was releasing the built-up tension through physical activity (like running). Physical activity not only offered him an escape from an immediate threat, but also balanced out the adrenalin effect with other feel-good hormones that are normally triggered upon working out, walking, etc. On the other hand, the office person may not get the opportunity to release his/her tension the same way a stone man would. We rarely see a businessman in a suit running down the street. An employee’s feelings of fear may not find a immediate way to channel them out, like a physical activity, due to time restraint and the restrictions of social codes of proper demeanor. In fact, an employee may have a heart attack while sitting in front of his/ her own computer. Even though it is not a lion that might have scared them, but rather a perceived danger that equals to them a similar fear of death.
On the other hand, when fear sustains or builds up on daily basis without a proper channel to release it out, or proper mental contemplation of all the dimensions of the causing factors and possible ways to improve the situation, it turns into a constant stress and prevailing anxiety, which can be described as a prolonged case of perceived danger. If the brain and body think they are constantly being exposed to danger, each day a flood of chemicals will continue to expand its negative effects on them without proper re-channeling of these negative feelings, and this may lead to dangerous health problems.
Therefore, what is required from all of us who live in this day and age, is a positive/ productive perspective, with which we can balance out the modern, complex and stressful challenges. A proper shift in perspective can prove very powerful when it comes to solving a problem. New solutions unfold before our eyes that we may have never thought of before. Although fear (stress) as an instinctive reaction had been built in inside us to help us survive and protect ourselves from danger, thinking while one is relaxed is much more fruitful and successful in supporting us to survive and overcome our troubles.
All of us have problems, but we rarely think of them as positive differentiators from the rest of the people, since our problems tell a story about our lives, they tend to make us unique in that respect, for they can better equip us to handle them as they happen, and allow us to help others who go through similar challenges. Our problems endow our experiences with authenticity. You may not accept advice from someone who has never tasted the same pains you had in the past. Rather, you may be more prone to believing in someone who had been through the same obstacles and problems as you have, and has overcome them successfully in a way that you admire.
Many people may look at their past with a degree of sadness, regret, anger or frustration. Few are the ones who would relate to you the positive side of past experiences. Others may only remember the bad incidents. That can be the result of the significance of their emotional memories of those bad events. On the other hand, changing previously formed underlying beliefs may feel fearful to many of us, even though it may be to our benefit. I have commonly noticed among many people I have spoken with that it is easier and more reassuring for them to hold on to past negative memories and beliefs than committing to new positive perspectives. These people rarely stop to realize that by holding on to past negative emotional memories, they are subconsciously perpetuating the past negative effect of those memories, and refreshing them inside our brains to an extent that we can almost immediately recover all the feelings associated with them. Holding on to past negative underlying beliefs is like convincing ourselves of a fake sense of safety, out of fear of change. For instance, the more we hang on to fearful or hurtful memories, we are falsely protecting ourselves from potential similar experiences in the future. Rather, we are subconsciously sustaining our sadness, pain, hurt, or fear, and may be rejecting the opportunity of a possible and more positive change.
So dragging one’s fears from the past into the present all along to the future, we are not leaving space for unknown future outcomes, which may be positive indeed. Stressing over a matter for a long time, wastes one’s energy, instead of harboring it. This may not be the best formula for achieving future success or happiness, as it does not lead us to feel empowered in the field we wish to seek happiness from. Life’s happenings are fast and many, so if we couple that with the heavy burdens from the past (namely fears, pains, negative perspectives, etc.), then we are setting ourselves for disappointment, falling as prey for stronger competitors, and losing faith in whatever it is that we wish to achieve in life. Time has proven that in times of ordeal, stronger species continue to exist. Strong does not mean “devoid of fear”, but rather “acting productively to overcome fear”.
One of the examples of strong personalities in movies was Scarlet O’hara, who had been through almost every embarrassing situation on the face of the earth, but constantly managed to get out of it with grace, beauty and much pride. One of the sentences that she constantly repeated whenever she was feeling stressed, overwhelmed or burdened by something was: “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” (imdb.com) What a powerful statement! Not only can she purposefully disconnect from her miserable present, she can also control when she would want to think again about it. Wouldn’t this make you realize that feelings, thoughts or even actions are merely choices that we make? Why we make them the way we do is a different case, but they are – at the end of the day – choices. Isn’t this perspective more empowering than feeling blocked or victimized by others? Notice what kind of energy fills you when you realize that you can make more powerful/ positive choices, even with the way you feel about things!
This is where the importance of harboring the habit of goodwill thinking becomes important. Goodwill Thinking is being able to see the positive side of things, regardless of their negativity, and contributing that to the belief that something better is being set up for us in the horizon. The opposite of Goodwill Thinking is Progressive Bitterness towards life, God, or whatever it is that people may deem responsible for their misery.
Generally, in life, when we do what we have got to do, there isn’t really much we can do next to control the outcome of our actions. However, if we change our perspective from a negative one into believing that there is a bigger, stronger and more fair force in the world that has been responsible for ages for maintaining immaculate balance in the entire universe, with all the living and non-living elements it contains, we then may feel supported and privileged that whatever happens – even negative happenings – are there to teach us valuable life lessons. Some lessons may have been harsh or cruel, but with a proper contemplation of the possible lessons derived from them, one may be able to salvage him/ herself or others as a result of this knowledge. When we help others, we help ourselves. Therefore, these lessons came to our as well as others’ benefit. Most people may not believe this, but if they view their experiences from a kind perspective, they may stop judging life, God, or whatever it is that made them miserable. Rather, upon accepting kind thoughts, one then can feel even more powerful, successful and effective.
Goodwill Thinking is the habit of interpreting life’s events from a positive perspective, and trying to maintain hope by seeing them as valuable lessons to use in our future actions. Having faith in a much stronger force frees us from feeling trapped, subdued and pressured to control every single detail or predict their outcome in our lives. On the other hand, this is not to exclude self-responsibility as a key factor in achieving the results we wish to achieve. However, after doing everything we can, and following the plan we had set for our actions, there isn’t much we can do next to control their outcome. We may then want to believe that even if we do not get the desired results, there may be a better alternative awaiting us.
If we trust that the strong and fair force in the world will eventually grant us the results we had planned for or even something better, we may then feel more settled and at peace (i.e. achieving a positive closure of the past so we can start afresh or moving towards the future with optimism). If we do not get what we want, we can either interpret this as the thing we had sought after for a while was never good for us in the first place, or that something else needs to be done to get to it. Things happen for a reason, and no matter how much we stress about achieving them, things continue to fall in their right places.
Every evening I turn my worries over to God. He’s going to be up all night anyway. Mary C. Crowley
- Stepping Into The Unknown With Determination (wisdomwithinus.wordpress.com)
- Lee-Anne Peters – Are Worries Ruling Your Life? – 18 April 2012 (lucas2012infos.wordpress.com)
- You become your thoughts, so discern EVERYTHING (michellesantos.wordpress.com)
- Challenge Your Worried Thinking (georgesecko.wordpress.com)