I spend way too much of my time worrying about events and ideas which usually never actualise. I believe there are many of us who have this problem – we know we shouldn’t worry so much about things we cannot control, but it’s the kind of thing that is easier said than done. Worry is the fear of the future, of what might happen tomorrow, of the possible misfortunes we could experience. Of course, I’m mostly referring to the day-to-day worries we experience and not the worry that comes from being immersed in a harrowing situation such as a serious illness or tragic event. I’m talking about the unproductive worries, the ones which you can do nothing about but they still suck away your time and energy.
Worrying is a natural human behaviour – without it we wouldn’t be aware of the challenges or threats facing us. But for some of us, we take worrying a bit too far. In Matias Dalsgaard’s Don’t Despair, the protagonist, Rasmus, is one of those people who just allow worrying take over their lives.
Rasmus’ worrying is linked to his self-absorption. Individuals who are self-absorbed, like Rasmus, are very concerned with their self-conception. Therefore, the maintenance and development of that self-conception takes over all of one’s mental energy, and you start to feel anxiety over how this self-conception can be secured. How can you protect your self-conception from unexpected pressures?
As Dalsgaard writes, you start to attempt to anticipate the course of future events in order to prepare yourself for all possibilities in order to protect your self-conception. When your self-conception is in danger, it triggers a fight response and you charge ahead. You charge ahead in an attempt to control the future. You acknowledge one danger and vanquish it, but then five new dangers come up. Even if you are not a self-absorbed person, you can probably relate to the feeling of wanting to control the future.
The mind likes to attach itself to the known, which results in anxiety. Worry is a symptom of the deeper-rooted fear you experience when you have to face the unknown. The more energy you give to these fears, the more anxious you become.
“Worry is a symptom of the deeper-rooted fear you experience when you have to face the unknown.”
All forms of worry represent an subconscious lack of trust in the goodness of life. Even though things could turn out in a number of ways, including positively, you only believe that things are going to turn out negatively. The best way to remedy this is to change your perspective by focusing more on positive things than negative things.
Worry, like self-absorption, is a disease which can get out of control. In excess, worrying can have severe mental and physical effects. We jokingly tell people to “stop being a worry wart” without understanding the dire effects of chronic worry.
Worrying too much contributes to the unhappiness of Rasmus in Don’t Despair, it plays a large role when I am feeling unhappy, and it affects the happiness of many people elsewhere in the world. The best way to conquer excessive worrying is to face the problem. Start by making a list of everything you are worried about, analyse that list. Separate the productive worries from the unproductive worries.
Do something about the productive worries to cross them off the list. Forget about the unproductive worries because nothing can be done to change the situation. Talk about it with someone; it might sound less significant when verbalised. In the end, trust that it will not be as bad as you anticipate it could be, and that if it is actually that bad, you have the strength to overcome it.