People worry a lot. We all know we shouldn’t, we all know the adverse effects stress can have on our well being. We still worry, though. We worry about what grade we’re going to get on the final exam, we worry about work, we worry about what that certain someone will say if we ask them out. We worry about everything all the time. I do too, quite a bit sometimes. But I want to break down exactly why worrying serves absolutely no purpose. It seems like common sense, but I believe it’s easier to stop ourselves from worrying when we take the time to analyze exactly why we do it and what it accomplishes.
Alright, so, you just got into a car accident. You and the other driver are both fine but your car is wrecked. You have insurance but you’ll have to pay the $500 deductible in order to repair your car. On top of that, the accident was your fault so your insurance rate will probably go up. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time seeing as how you just payed $200 for that speeding ticket you got a few weeks ago. Your car will probably be in the shop for a few days so now you’ll have to find a ride to and from work. Naturally, you start to worry about how you’re going to make it through this.
That would be pretty rough for a lot of people. Let’s talk about the definitive stress/worry causers in this situation:
- Your car is wrecked. If you’re like me, you love and need your car. You depend on it to get from point A to point B. I drive 60 miles a day to get to and from work. Having to find a ride for how ever many days my car would be in the shop would be a nightmare.
- You’re now $500 in the whole (on top of that $200 you spent on the speeding ticket). That’s a lot of money (for most people, at least) and it’s going to hurt a lot. You may not even be able to pay it off depending on how much money you have/ make.
- Your insurance rate is going to go up. In this economy, some of us just can’t afford more expensive insurance. Oh, and it’ll be even worse if you aren’t 25 yet (like myself).
We’ve now identified what exactly caused us to be worried in the scenario. Now what exactly does worrying actually accomplish in this scenario? What exactly does it do for us? The answer is that it actually makes the situation worse. Not only do you have the three negative outcomes of the scenario, you’re completely stressed out about what’s going to happen and how you’re going to make it through. This stress will inevitably make you unhappier. It causes your mind to become generally unfocused because it’s too busy worrying about the car accident. This lack of focus can effect other aspects of your life. When we worry about something, we actually end up creating more problems for ourselves. These self-created problems can sometimes be even worse then what we were worrying about in the first place.
You might be thinking, “This is obvious. We all know worrying is bad. What do we do about it? How do we make it positive?” Well, I’ll be honest, it’s not easy. The fact of the matter is, you got into a car accident, you are $500 in the hole, you have to find a way to get to work and your insurance rate is going up. All of that has already happened or is going to happen. There is nothing you can do to stop it from happening. That’s the scariest part about it. The fact that we can’t change it makes us feel powerless. We feel like we don’t have control. It makes us scared. It’s completely natural to worry and stress about it because we feel like that is all we can do.
That’s not all we can do, though. We aren’t completely without control. You see, by simply not worrying, we’ve actually made the situation better and more positive and therefore easier to overcome. With worry and stress out of the picture, we retain our ability to be happy, to be positive. We may not have control over what has already happened to us, but we most certainly have control over how we react to the situation when it happens. That’s the key.
A beautiful girl in the village was pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who the father was. At first, she was resistant to confess, but the anxious and embarrassed girl finally pointed to Hakuin, the Zen master whom everyone previously revered for living such a pure life. When the outraged parents confronted Hakuin with their daughter’s accusation, he simply replied “Is that so?”
When the child was born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who was now viewed as a pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. “Is that so?” Hakuin said calmly as he accepted the child.
For many months he took very good care of the child until the daughter could no longer withstand the lie she had told. She confessed that the real father was a young man in the village whom she had tried to protect. The parents immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby. With profuse apologies they explained what had happened. “Is that so?” Hakuin said as he handed them the child.