How Can We Change the Way We Worry?

October 4, 2010  |  fear, imagery, imagination, thinking, worry

In The Worry Solution, I teach a simple but very positive process called Positive Worry, in which you turn around your futile worries by imagining the best possible outcome instead of the worst.. On the surface, Positive Worry sounds simplistic and even inane, but it works—especially for worries that you either cannot or will not do anything about. I first learned this approach from my colleague Dr. Rachel Remen who told me about using it with cancer patients that she counseled. I began using it with cancer patients that came to see me and was surprised how well it worked for them. After all, who is more worried than a person newly diagnosed with cancer? There is so much uncertainty in that situation, and people often feel very helpless as well as terrified.

By using Positive Worry imagery, you are a) still paying attention to the problem at hand, so you are not ignoring it; b) still occupying your mind with imagery, so your mind is not empty and open to uninvited thoughts and feelings; and c) still thinking about the people, organization, or community that you are worried about, so it’s not as if you are forgetting about them. The difference is that instead of focusing on the negative imagery of the outcome you don’t want, you are focusing on the outcome you do want.

You don’t lose any of the potential psychological benefits of worry, but you shift your attention from negative, frightening imagery to imagery that is more hopeful, positive, and just as realistic. After all, your hopes and fears are both products of your imagination.

Positive Worry imagery often makes you feel that you have done something about a situation in which your options are limited or nonexistent, because, in fact, you HAVE done something! You have clarified, focused, and energized your intention, desire, and will. You have symbolized and energized what would happen if you got to write the script, if you got to determine what would ultimately happen.  To the extent that your thoughts can affect the situation, you have taken action, and if the outcome is not what you desired, it won’t be because you haven’t done everything you can. And it certainly won’t be because you have been focusing your energy on the negative outcome.


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