Thursday, 20 October 2011

It's nothing to worry about!

When we're in distress it's natural to turn to our nearest and dearest for comfort. Usually we've learnt this strategy at an early age when our parents were always there with a hug and and a plaster to make us feel better. So why is it that sometimes the comfort we need isn't forthcoming?  

How do you 'worry'
Different people tend to 'worry' in different ways so it's not surprising this issue crops up quite often for the couples we work with. If you've been following our BLOGs about language and behaviour patterns, you'll know that exploring your own and your partner's patterns helps you understand the way you both think and therefore communicate. 

We tease my elderly mother about being a worrier. She worries about the big things in life: the situation in the Middle East, the state of the economy, how England will do in the next Cricket Test Series. As we encourage her to talk about these bigger issues, she'll often clarify her own point of view and after a while is able to let go of her worry - until the next thing happens! She worries also about her children: my brother, my sister and myself. But once again talking about the specifics - getting the worry said, so it isn't lurking inside her head to become A FEAR - allows her to put things in perspective. After all she knows we are all resourceful, independent adults. 

A number of people we know have another strategy for releasing their worries. They like to be outside and walk off their anxiety. For them physical action is a precursor to coming up with the answers or understanding they need. 

Many people turn away from worry. Simply knowing there is nothing they can do, is enough for them to ignore it and get on with life. '
We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.'

Myth - worry is bad for your health 
It seems to me that our negative emotions have got a bad press. It's as if you are a lesser person if you show anger, despair, worry, fear, anxiety, sadness....(I could go on!) I have a different belief - I view our negative emotions as important messengers. They need and deserve our attention until we've heard their message. What is bad for our health is hanging onto them beyond this point instead of responding to the message. Learning to let go of negative emotions once they've delivered their message is a matter of developing new habits and this can take practice. It might mean developing a new strategy. Some entrenched worriers may need some help to do this. If this rings a bell for you, then get in touch or give us a call on 0800 298 5938

So what's the point of worry? People who worry are able to spot potential pitfalls in a project and tend to avoid making mistakes. Our recent BLOG on 'towards' and 'away from' patterns goes into this in greater detail, telling you how to spot these patterns and how they affect people. The people who naturally turn away from worry are very likely to be doing this because their attention is elsewhere. They are looking towards where they want to be and do not want to be distracted by anything that may hold them up.

How to offer comfort to someone who is worried
The traditional response to someone who expresses their worries or fears is to tell them not to worry. 'Don't worry, it'll work itself out.' Or 'it's nothing to be afraid of.' The intention behind these phrases is almost always to soothe and comfort. The result is often at odds with this intention and trivialises the worry or fear. There's nothing wrong with offering comfort -it just misses out a step. 

The first step is about acknowledging the worry or fear as real. This needs to be done so that it doesn't lurk at the back of the mind, hidden and festering until it takes on a larger role than it needs to. If this doesn't seem at all natural to you, here are the sorts of things to say /questions to ask:
  • I can see that this ...x... has you really worried, is that right?
  • You seem afraid that ...x... will happen, is that right?
  • Is there anything else you need / want to say about ...x...?
  • Is there anything you want to do / want me to do about ...x...?
  • How do you feel about it now?
By acknowledging the fear or worry as real, you are empathising with the position they are in. This is different from taking their worry as your own. Finish with a hug if appropriate... there's no better form of comfort from your partner!

Let us know your strategy for dealing with worry

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