Worry is like a rocking chair…..

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One of my favorite quotes is “Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere”. In session, I often discuss the false sense of control we get when we worry about something. I grew up in the days of “be home when the street lights come on.” One evening, a friend of mine, who was typically a rule follower, lost track of time and came home well after the lights went on. As she furiously pedaled her way back home, she worked herself up into a panic; worrying about how angry her parents would be and how much trouble she would get in. By the time she got home, she was in tears. Her parents quickly realized that she had, in essence, punished herself and did not yell at her and did not ground her. A few months later, she again lost track of time, but recalling how great her parents had been the last time she was late, did not worry and ended up getting grounded. What did she learn? That worrying protects her from negative outcomes. Was she aware of this lesson? No. How does that lesson look like as an adult? She worries about everything, unconsciously thinking that her worry keeps her safe. Unfortunately, she learned the wrong lesson. It wasn’t the worry that kept her safe. It was how she handled the event and herself that determined the outcome.
In therapy, I encounter many people who have mistakenly learned this same lesson in their childhood. We work together to determine when their worry is productive and when it is unproductive. With productive worry, an action can be taken to impact the outcome. Unproductive worry is like the following photo:

optical illusion staircase

One can go in circles on the never-ending staircase and never get anywhere. It gives us a sense of purpose and control to keep moving, but we get nowhere. In the process, we get worn down to the point that when we are able to take action, there often is little to no energy and motivation to do so.
So the next time you find yourself worrying, ask yourself, am I sitting in a rocking chair? If so, try getting up and taking action, which is the best antidote to worry!

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