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The Barrier of Worry by Amy McNeil

The Barrier of Worry by Amy McNeil

Are you a chronic worrier? According to Dr. Elaine Aron, highly sensitive people tend to become easily overwhelmed by life, which leads to worry, stress, and anxiety. Many of us are such chronic worriers that we accept this triad of fear as a normal part of life. We fail to see the ways that worry harms us and blocks us from our best selves.

Since worry triggers and fuels many negative emotions, it’s important to kick this terrible habit. The first step is to understand what worry is and how it hurts you. One dictionary defined worry as “the negative self-talk that distracts the mind from focusing on the problem at hand.” Put another way, worry can be thought of as a barrier that blocks you from your best self. When you are in a state of intense worry, you have extremely limited access to things like intuition, knowledge, and talent. Instead, you have increased access to emotions that are more compatible with worry, such as anxiety, fear, and depression.

As an example, many highly sensitive people have a tendency to under-perform while being watched. This happens because anxiety creeps in as soon as you start to worry about the opinions of those observing you. As anxious thoughts enter your mind, they distract you from the task at hand. When you realize that things aren’t going well, you worry even more, which further disrupts your concentration. It is in this way that worry can act as barrier to block you from your knowledge and talent. In the absence of an observer, you are not worried and have free access to your abilities. As another example, how often have you struggled to find the right words in the middle of a stressful argument, only to have those perfect words come easily to you after the argument has ended — once your anxiety levels are lower?

Besides acting as a barrier to your best self, worry also serves no useful purpose! You will not change the outcome of anything by worrying about it. Let’s say you are diagnosed with a serious illness. You can worry all you want, and not one thing will get better. There are many things you can do to treat an illness, but worry is definitely not one of them! In fact, there is some evidence to show that worrying will actually make the illness worse.

In short, the only thing that worry will accomplish is to increase your suffering and to choke you off from all that is good. So why do it? Author and teacher, Leo Buscaglia, put it best when he said,

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”


I appreciated these thoughts by Amy McNeil, a fellow highly sensitive person. I’ve found that worry doesn’t help my life in any way. Action steps are far more useful. However, I still have trouble stopping myself from worrying! I guess it’s human nature.

Are you a chronic worrier? If so, what do you do to manage your worry? Do you find that worry gets in your way? Does excessive worry keep you from taking chances or pursuing your dreams? I’m interested in any thoughts or comments that you have.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. We simply worry in life with some of us more than others. Add some particular circumstances to the mixture and you can have true, very painful worry. It is nonsense that you can have a life without worry and the article is a bad example of a can-do, maybe typically North-American, mentality. Shut your eyes and go for it! Do not look back! That is not the way it works. Is there a useful purpose to worry? Maybe sometimes there is, maybe sometimes there is not! I just worry when it so happens. It is a waste of time to become obsessive about eradicating unpleasant feelings. Life comes with these feelings and you have to accept them. That is the lesson of the Biblical Job. Finally, how to deal with excessive feelings? I do not know. That is very personal too and if sensitive people worry more, so be it. If they cannot get out of the door because of worry, they should look for a way to alleviate it, if they can, but not eradicate it.

    1. Hi Jan,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on my article. People should do whatever works for them. I find it helpful to shift my perspective when I find myself caught in a useless cycle of worry and anxiety. I have never once worried about something and made a situation better. Instead, I have found worry, especially when it’s about things I can’t control, to be a destructive force in life. If worry amplifies my suffering and never solves problems, I see no reason to do it. I find taking constructive action to deal with a concern far more empowering. Fretting is disempowering and an obstacle I seek to overcome. Worry can’t be instantly eradicated by wishing it so… it takes work and discipline, but I believe in taking responsibility for my own happiness.

      Best Regards,
      Amy

  2. Hi Jan,

    Unfortunately, worry is a part of our lives. Different people handle worry in different ways. Some people react to it to the extreme where it hampers their everyday functioning. The key for us is to have a defense mechanism where we don’t let it rob us of our joy of living.

  3. I am not quite sure I agree. There can be periods in your life that worries get the best of you and that it affects your joy of living. That is what life is. It is not one big party and that does not matter. In addition, I do not understand this focus on wanting to be in control of everything. It is not always possible and often it is not possible for a longer period of time. Best is to accept that and let things come as they come. This acceptance is the base of the sensitivity story for me and of so many other stories. Joy of living is not. That is not a goal in my life.

    1. Acceptance of reality is important. I agree with you there. But why not seek a joyful life? Sure, life has its ups and downs. It’s unrealistic to think that life will be joyful all the time (or even most of the time), but why stop trying? Why not take action to stop bad habits of thinking? If I accepted and believed every negative thought that entered my mind, I would be depressed most of the time. Nobody says that you have to obsess about your thoughts and work tirelessly to eradicate every last anxious thought…but why not stop and question your attitude? Are your thoughts serving you? Can you see things a different way?

      1. Hi Lynn,

        You brought up some excellent points! If I accepted every negative thought I had, I’d be a basket case! Questioning your thoughts to see if they are serving you is extremely important! We should always strive to see things in a different way if our thoughts are working against us.

  4. Hi Jan,

    I like your philosophy to let things come as they come. It’s easier said than done for me. For small things I can do that. For large important things, I’ll have to work on that. I’m still hopefully a good work in progress. I’ll remember what you said. Thanks for your input!

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