Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW
Negative thinking is not unique to any single culture. We are all the evolutionary products of ancestors who successfully attended to danger and survived long enough to pass along their genetic material. Back in the day this meant living in a state of total alert in order to not miss the subtle sight of a slithering poisonous snake or the faint crackling of a camouflaged meal moving in the underbrush.
Society has evolved much more quickly than our brain. As a result, many of us still live in that state of alert, screening our environment not for the life threatening dangers of our ancestors but instead screening, thinking, obsessing and worrying about problems. Problems that don’t exist, or problems that aren’t that bad, or problems we have no power over, or problems that belong to someone else.
I’m talking here about clinical anxiety disorders. Nearly 20% of the US population is affected by them.
If you are a worry wart or a problem perseverate, read on!
There are four questions to ask yourself to distinguish the kind of anxiety that drains you from the kind that sustains you.
- Is it possible? If it hasn’t happened before (i.e.: aliens land on earth, enslave us and eat our dogs) let’s satisfy ourselves with a tidy “no.” Theoretical possibilities are in fact, just theoretical folks.
- Is it probable? Assign a statistical value to the possibility of your worry coming true.
- Can you prevent it? And…
- At what cost?
Consider numbers 3 and 4. Prevention includes two considerations: First, if it is preventable. Second what the cost of prevention is.
Personally I always wear my seatbelt because even though the chances of dying in a car accident over a 50 year driving career are 1% (1 in a 100), wearing a seatbelt (and driving safely) is a comfortable, convenient way to minimize risk.
Sure you can protect your child from being killed in a random act of violence by never letting them leave the house. But is the prevention of an unlikely event worth the total loss of freedom for you both (because let’s face it the minute you walk out that door to buy groceries, your kid is going to be climbing down through the window)?
Let’s all say yes to seatbelts, and no to the oppression of self and others!
- When Worries Never End: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (everydayhealth.com)
- Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders (brighthub.com)
- Why We Fret (psychologytoday.com)
- Spotlight on the Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (brighthub.com)