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The Benefit of Worry

Today I would like to discuss worry and anxiety.  You may be asking yourself…..benefit?…..what?…..Let me explain my thought process.  We, as humans, are creatures of habit.  In addition, we tend to be a little bit (or, in some cases, a lot bit) selfish.  In my mind, that means we do things that benefit us in some way.  So that brings me to question what benefit we get from worrying.  If we did not get something out of it, we simply would not do it.  So what is it?  What is it about worrying that warrants repetition?

I once had a client who described a situation where they were nervous to approach and talk to a member of the opposite sex.  They were afraid that the other person would reject them.  My response to them as with most of my clients who suffer from anxiety was, “What is the worst that could happen?”  When working with anxiety, I like to have my clients go through different scenarios and take them to the very end.  Most of the time they end up back where they started.  Let me use the previous story as an example because that statement can be confusing.

When I asked my client what was the worst thing they thought might happen, their response was that the person might laugh at them, they might throw a drink on them, or they may simply shoo him away in some rude or mean way.  All of these are possible outcomes, but notice my client never mentioned the positive outcomes that could happen.  As humans, our brains are hardwired to look for the negative.  It is a defense mechanism.  We are constantly looking for the threat.  In the case of this client, the end results of being rejected would land him back to where he currently was…not in contact with the individual.  Once they comprehended this, I continued to have them list the positive outcome possibilities.  This allowed the client to change the way they thought about the situation and begin to change their behavior.  It allowed them to see that the threat was actually non-existent.

With that, however, I come back to the initial thought.  What makes us worry?  I mean the actual brain function, not the situation.  What do we get out of it?  Does it give our brain something to do?  Are we just bored?  Does it make us feel important or wanted in some way?  Just like always, I cannot answer that for you.  I would love to hear your reasons?

Let me know!

Jonathan Hart MA, LLPC, NCC

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