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  • Writer's pictureEdward Dreslinski

The Biggest Bully

Worry is the biggest bully. It gives you nothing. It only takes.

Worry has many faces: anxiety, rumination, overthinking, stress, etc. etc. Whichever word you choose it almost always boils down to a fear of consequences. I tell people all the time that it's OK for fear to be part of your decision making it just can't be what drives it. People who worry so much that it impacts their ability to function usually can't stop asking themselves ‘what if’ questions.

What if he/she doesn't like me?

What if I gave my parents COVID?

What if I never find a partner?

What if I don't get the job?

What if I said the wrong thing at the party?

What if no one wants to hang out with me?

What if my dog gets sick?

What if the plane crashes?

What if I cost my team the game?

What if I am poor forever?

What if my kid gets hurt?

We could all come up with an infinite number of ‘what if’ questions. The reason we spend so much time thinking about them is that it gives us an illusion of control. Our minds trick us into thinking that if we obsess over all the possibilities then we can control the outcome. Unfortunately, it’s just not true. The trick to life isn't learning how to control all of the variables. The trick to life is learning how to be OK with the fact that you can't.

For people that worry excessively I ask them to change the ‘what if’ questions to the following:

Am I worrying about something I have no control over?

Am I proud of the things that I did have control over?

Do I want "worst case scenario" to be what drives my decisions?

We are defined by the choices we make; the way people react to those choices defines them, not us. The same is true in reverse. We aren't defined by the choices that others make, but how we react to them will.

Here's an example of a worry that I would want someone to let go:

What if my flight is delayed?

Think about all the possible "what if" questions...

What if miss my connecting flight?

What if I'm not at the wedding on time?

What if the weather gets bad?

What if I don't get as much time as I want with him/her?

I could list ten more but I won't...

So do you have any control over whether the plane is late? Absolutely not.

So is the event so important that you or someone you care about would be devastated if you weren't there? If the answer is ‘yes’ the only thing that you would need to check with yourself about is whether or not you gave yourself a cushion. Beyond would worrying help? You can't control weather. You aren't a plane mechanic. These things are out of your control. If a delay causes you to miss a connection there are people that work for the airlines to help you figure out what's next. You will survive. It won't kill you. If you did your part and the people in your life still got mad at you for being late that would define them, not you. If you only have six days in Europe instead of seven your life isn't going to dramatically change.

You have to trust that you are capable of handling whatever life happens to throw at you. If you don't, that's the thing that you should be discussing in therapy!

So instead of worrying about every possible thing that could go wrong try to just focus on identifying what you have control over and whether or not you are proud of the choices you're making. That will take you way further than worry ever could!

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