In my many years, I have put in hundreds of thousands of hours of worrying, becoming expert as a result. Some might say I have a Ph. D. in Worrying.
When I had a daughter – I double majored in Worry; for my own incompetence as a parent and for my daughter’s development. Poor Girl, she never had a chance.
I worried about her health, her body image, her feelings, her choices.
I worried when she was bullied the first day of school and an older girl stole her $1.00 she was so innocently waving about on the bus. Still breaks my heart.
One night in her sophomore year of high school, she didn’t come home– I searched everywhere, finding her passed out drunk at a new friends’ house.
I worried she would be abused.
I worried she would become addicted.
I worried she would be raped.
I worried she would suffer the same torments that I had.
What does worry give?
The illusion that I am a caring person because I worry. The illusion that I am doing something. The comfort that I see a problem.
What worry is:
A series of repetitive thoughts. Catastrophizing. Heart racing, stomach clenching– on the verge of hysteria actually. Energy spent to keep myself from exploding. Imagining my worst fears. Distraction from feeling my worst fears. An illusion that there is an answer in it.
What worry isn’t.
Creating a solution. Influencing the outcome in a positive way.
Who is worry for?
Worry makes me feel sorry for myself. Is it ever about the other person? If I tell you I am worried about you—is it helpful? If I let you know that I haven’t had any sleep for days because I am worried about you – does that give you any insight into your problem? Worry keeps me busy; satisfies some need to show I care so much about you that I am out of self-control. Can it be giving me an excuse for being self-indulgent? What a funny message. My being obsessed and out of control of my thoughts, my sleep and my actions is for you!
What to do instead?
When I see the absurdity of that line of thinking I can laugh.
I can notice what is happening to you.
I can ask you about it.
I can offer any help you think could be useful to you.
I can be aware of how your situation is triggering certain thoughts in me. Thoughts which lead me to have fears and concerns.
I can look at my own fear with curiosity.
I can challenge my thoughts that lead to fear.
I was terrified my daughter would drink herself into a stupor because she didn’t value herself. I was afraid she would be taken advantage of by some man. I was afraid she would be stuck in a pattern of self-hatred and abuse. Sounding familiar? Could this be my own fears and sadness about what happened to me?
A Happy Ending. A New Beginning.
I don’t worry any more. Let’s rephrase that -- when I start to worry, I pull out my self-coaching tools. I stop and pick up my pen and paper. I look at my thoughts and separate out the facts from speculation and opinion.
By the time my daughter was 17, she was making her own choices. I could try to keep her safe in my house – but I had no control over her, though, believe me I tried. I attempted to manipulate her to be so afraid of what could happen to her that she would do things differently. I wanted her to hold onto her virginity, to go to college, and to focus on her education instead of boys. Not much to ask for, you agree. Curiously, she did many things differently than I did.
She pushed away from my controlling parenting.
She discovered her passion for work.
She took risks (still does) and developed confidence early.
She came to me for support when she needed it.
She felt loved and expresses gratitude for that love.
She is her own woman, though we have much in common, somehow, despite my worry and manipulation, she managed to emerge a bright loving woman who shows gratitude and compassion.
How did that happen? She left me, moved out. I stopped worrying about her and started looking at myself and the healing that had yet to be done.
That is how I continue to live each day. Scanning my thoughts, writing them down, questioning them and cleaning them up. Feel the feelings that arise inside me and then dissipate on their own. Daily making better choices leading to more love, joy and happiness for me.
There is of course, grace here to. Despite good parenting, children are addicted, children do choose to be in abusive relationships. Children suffer major illness and die. We all have many opportunities to look at ourselves and the healing that is yet to be done.
I can help you look at your worrying thoughts and give you tools to practice an alternative response to worry. Give me a call.