Friday, February 12, 2010

Worrying - Part III

The third post in my worrying series continues the list of the dirty dozen from last time (part I here, part II here). So far, we have:

1. Seeking Reassurance
2. Trying to Stop Thoughts
3. Collecting Information
4. Checking Things Over & Over
5. Avoiding Discomfort
6. Numb Yourself with Alcohol/Drugs/Food

Here are the rest:

7. Over-Prepare
Alright, hands up if you have defended a thesis or given a talk? I can guarantee you that every single one of us over-prepared for those bad boys! Doing this infers that you have to be totally in control of your worries, and that not being perfect = looking like an idiot. Another problem, and I've found this in my impostor syndrome research as well, is that if we over-prepare and succeed, we believe the only reason is because of how much we prepared. So, next time we over-prepare again. Ah, vicious cycles.

8. Using Safety Behaviors
This is anything that makes us feel safe. For example, not making eye contact at a party or in the hall (that way people can't reject us!). Yes, we feel safe, but it also reinforces we have no control and it maintains our fears and worries.

9. Always Try to Make a Great Impression
This behavior is common of people who were brought up with an insecure attachment to their parents, or grew up in an atmosphere with an emphasis on what others think or feel, or feel that they have a responsibility for others. Always wanting to appear perfect, or fun, or lovable all the time makes you anticipate being judged by others.

10. Thinking it Over & Over
This is all about thinking about what has happened, or what is happening (instead of worrying about the future). People who do this are more likely to be anxious and depressed. And, perhaps not surprising to many of us, women are more likely to over think/analyze past events. We do this because we think (hope?) we'll eventually come to a solution and stop feeling bad. However, the problem is the solution must be perfect (so we never find one), and it increases our awareness of how bad we feel. This, in turn, reduces our ability to see the positive side and to come up with alternative, non-perfect, solutions.

11. Demand Certainty
"Oh, if only I knew when X was going to happen, I would be fine!" We all know there is no certainty in this world, so wanting to know what's going to happen and when just makes us more worried (because we know that's never going to happen). Plus, if we knew that one thing, then we'd just find something else to worry about.

12. Refuse to Accept Your Thoughts
"Nope - I'm not allowed to be worried about this. NAH NAH NAH NAH!!!!". That ain't going to work! This makes you feel that your thoughts are bad or wrong, and that you should be ashamed or feel guilty. So, you must get rid of them immediately, or else you might just lose control completely!! Another big problem with this one? We start to believe our thoughts are predictive (if I think about the plane crashing, it will! If I think I'll get pregnant, I'll jinx it!).

Alright - I'm 12 for 12. Wow. What's interesting is that I've been told to try these techniques - no wonder I never felt better!

In summary, each of these techniques imply you:
- cannot face your fears
- should not think of the worst outcome
- should avoid upsetting feelings
- need reassurance from others
- cannot face uncertainty
- need to get rid of negative emotions.

So, how freeing does is feel that you're ALLOWED to feel upset and negative, to think about the worst possible situation, and you don't need someone else to tell you what to do? Scary, but freeing at the same time, no? It's just all about how you handle that worry.

The next part of the book discusses the seven steps to taking control of your worry. I haven't decided if I'm going to dedicate a post to each one (each is a chapter in the book, The Worry Cure by Robert L. Leahy), or put them together. In any case, stay tuned!