Have you ever worried about someone you love? Seems like a ridiculous question, doesn’t it?
It’s such a familiar feeling. We don’t want negative experiences for anyone we care about, but this constrictive sense of anxiety seems to come with the territory of loving someone.
But does it have to?
I bet you know an older relative who constantly worries about everything, perhaps you in particular! You know its not good for them, but you haven’t figured out a way to stop their worrying.
You’ve got your own worries to think about!
I’d like to offer a new perspective on worry.
Intuitively, you know it can be a waste of time, and energy, here’s why:
• Worrying causes stress on your mind, and body – excessive hormones (e.g. cortisol) are destructive to your body’s health.
• Worrying does not add value to your relationships, and in fact drains them.
• Your natural self-repair mechanisms stop working when you worry.
• Worrying does not mean you love someone.
• Worrying is different than concern.
It’s an example of an ‘unhealthy pain’ I wrote about in my last article How to Let Go of Pain.
The stress response for fight, or flight we need for survival, but today incessant worrying has gone awry: chronic, anxiety-ridden, and dysfunctional. Worrying can stop the creation of new brain cells, is responsible for tremors, headaches, anxiety, and a six-fold increased risk of heart attack.
It’s believed to increase your risk of cancer, gastrointestinal issues, and depression.
While acute stress makes you think more clearly, and get focused; chronic stress is poisonous.
Where love exists, worry tends to follow.
Worry gets tied to a story we’ve convinced ourselves is real: I worry because I love you.
You see your loved one suffering. You naturally want to relieve their pain. You reach out, and are not mindful of your own fearful feelings that get thrown in.
Say your child gets sick. You worry by trying to control the situation, and it’s future, which leaves you feeling anxious. Maybe you get demanding, or impatient with “you have to take this medicine!” or irrationally shouting “we need to get to the hospital!” without stopping to see what you can do now that may be more beneficial.
Perhaps you’ll complain or blame your spouse that he’s not doing enough or feel so overwhelmed that you’re unable to think or act. All stems from worrying.
You’re afraid, and now your child is too!
I experienced something highly unusual growing up.
My parents both being physicians remained exceptionally calm even during incidences where some alarm would be expected – like the time I was 6, and rode over a cliff on a bicycle.
Sure, their medical background kept ‘falls’ in perspective. They promptly took me to the hospital where my jaw needed to be wired shut, and my face so bruised was unrecognizable. But I wasn’t anxious because how they responded wasn’t worry – it was concern.
The difference between worry, and concern.
I grew up with Murphy’s law that “anything that could go wrong, would go wrong” so best be prepared or avoid so it doesn’t happen. I played it safe. Took few risks.
Friends were amused at my mother’s postings on our fridge: “Top 10 Driving Tips You Need to Know” and the news stories she’d share: “did you hear about the child who got left….or the woman in the underground parking garage…or the man riding his bike…? Message: Be careful.
I grew up in a kind of happy prison. My mother being overprotective is putting it mildly.
You might expect I’d grow up to be a complete worry wart!
Not at all. I was surprised to discover people living with constant worry, and stress. It was as if a safe place wasn’t available for all the negative things that could show up. At first I thought people had more difficult life experiences, and I happened to be fortunate, which is partly true, but it wasn’t the whole story.
It was the way people had learned to justify worrying as if this meant love.
There’s an unspoken rule that we must sacrifice for those we love. It’s as if love without a burden is somehow fake, and fleeting. There’s an obligation that has confused love with something that disguises itself as necessary.
The power of love gives, listens, empathizes, and understands from a place that feels grounded, even if it requires effort, and hardship for you. It’s a gift (however difficult) you want to give, not something you owe someone.
Worrying can turn acts of love into a kind of forced duty or self-pity as opposed to a desired commitment, and responsibility you treasure. How often have you, or someone you know conjured up tall fabrications due to worry?
Your reaction to a scary situation will either disempower with worry, or empower with concern.
I look back on many moments in my life where things didn’t go as planned, but I’d wade through the mess, and get back on my feet, often more determined. I’m not a risk taker, but I was willing to try things that went against the grain. I noticed whenever I stepped out of my own box, others would follow me.
It was like I was silently giving them permission to act on what we both wanted all along. I attribute it to what I experienced growing up.
If you spent any length of time with my mother, you’d notice 2 things. That during difficult times, even a crisis, she doesn’t respond with worry, stress, or complaining. Seriously, it’s almost bizarre. It’s as if she doesn’t give in to a perspective that says “I can’t handle it”.
I had a safe place to land because I’d learned a different love story.
Love was shown by caring with concern not worry. Concern says “I trust, and believe in you”, and therefore I don’t need to worry. You can handle it. It gave me faith in me.
That’s exactly how I felt heading into University, having no idea what I wanted to pursue, and without any worries about what that might be. It all turned out fine despite pursuing what was expected (accounting), and later switching careers to what I love today – writing for you, and spiritual coaching around relationships, and life.
Ever felt like someone worrying about you was proof of their love?
Doesn’t it seem contradictory that you would want someone you love to experience the angst of worrying about you? Concern, absolutely.
It’s the same experience when you worry about what someone might think of you.
There’s an underlying fear that you aren’t good enough if you are worried because part of you secretly believes it might be true. You don’t fully trust yourself.
We do care, and are concerned about what our loved ones think of us because we respect, and value who they are, and their thoughts, and ideas on anything, including us are important whether we agree or not.
“The word worry comes from the Old High German word wurgen which means to strangle. Worrisome thoughts and their resulting feelings are a form of self strangulation.”
Worry provides no value to you, or the person you love.
Notice how your mind can take 2 completely different ideas (worry, and love) and collapse them into one limiting belief that seals your fate of being a worrier: because I love you I have to worry about you.
It’s one of the biggest lies that needs to be tossed out.
By separating these 2 ideas (worry, and love), and seeing them each for what they are, you can become a warrior for concern in love, and let go of your worries. Follow these steps:
- No complaining, accept the present situation (you don’t have to like it).
- Notice your own fears (let go of need to control outcome).
- Trust, and believe in yourself.
- Let go of the false belief that worry = love.
Stay tuned for my next article on how to handle our real fears.