“If you want to test your memory, try recalling what you were worrying about one year ago today.”
E Joseph Cossman
Speaking from experience as a talented and long-practicing Worry Wart of the highest caliber(!), I can say that one of the best lessons I’ve gained of late is learning to use my energy in more productive ways than continuously scaring myself to death with the dreaded “What if…?” Question…or her equally scary sibling, “Ohhh no…maybe you should/shouldn’t have said/done X…!”
Letting go of persistent worry is a huge hurdle to overcome…but adding a regular contemplation practice to your life is a tremendously powerful weapon to have in your Heart Arsenal! So give yourself the gift of a little extra time and energy with a Pause here.
Get comfortable. Think about turning up the corners of your mouth just slightly, close your eyes…and envision this “Doorstep Dialogue” with a Worry I’ll call “Confidence” (I’ll explain that name in a moment.)
See yourself waiting inside a warm welcoming room as you watch for any kind of worry thought to appear. When you become aware that a Worry has begun knocking at your mind, you rise to open the door…the Door to your Heart…and then greet her* kindly by name, so she knows she is being acknowledged (*I will be using feminine pronouns throughout this essay for simplicity. Please substitute the pronoun that works best for you.)
You’ve now opened bravely to the knocking at your Heart Door, knowing already who it is, and feeling that all too familiar mixture of emotions Worry always inspires…plus one or more typical physical signs like a raised heart rate, faster breathing, tightened muscles, a beginning headache or an upset stomach. But instead of your usual shaky salutation of “Oh my, is that YOU again, Worry?!”, you select a different moniker.
“Oh, hello ‘Confidence!'”
We choose here whatever “Name” we sense is appropriate and real at that moment…but it will need to be the opposite of what the Worry appears to be presenting to us.
Therefore, “Confidence” is my name for the particular Worry that appears in order to express her doubts about my ability to accomplish something I am planning to do.
Additional names could include “Being Prepared” or “Competence” or “Self Trust”…
Or perhaps names of emotion, like “Peace”, “Happiness”…”Excitement”…”Calm Heart”…etc.
Worries come disguised as many things. When we can figure out their true names – the authentic source and reason behind their appearance on our “Heart Doorstep” – they begin to lose their power, further weakening their ability to reduce us to that “other person” that is often unable to take action or make competent decisions. Calling worries by their opposite names also throws them off guard and helps us to take charge of the conversation.
One important strategy to remember during each conversation: we will be practicing staying a step or so away from the Worry so we can continue observing objectively, rather than being pulled into the fearful stories she presents.
Back to our Dialogue:
In as genuine a voice as you can muster, you simply say “Thank you for visiting, Confidence.”
Even if we don’t feel all that grateful or welcoming quite yet (and we usually don’t!), we will find just saying such words begins to shift things around a bit inside our Heart. Gratitude contains huge stores of positive energy and will carry us farther than we can imagine.
Listen briefly as Worry begins to speak up right away. You see, she’s planning on staying for a loooong conversation.
After all, she’s used to it.
“I’m really sorry to bring this up again,” she says, “but I am SO afraid you won’t be capable of……”
But here’s what’s different this time.
You’re going to speak right up yourself, interrupting her as quickly and gently as possible….because beginning in this very moment, the past protocol for Visitation by Worry is no longer in effect…simply because you chose to change it!
As you stand there looking over at her from a step or two away, you suddenly realize quite clearly, and with some surprise, that you are completely separate from this particular Worry…and you discover with relief that the view from this perspective is freeing you from being obligated to buy into her assumption that she has control.
That’s right: YOU are NOT your Worry. You are separate…just as you are separate from every thought or feeling you have ever had or ever will have. You can see the truth in this, because you are right there OBSERVING the dialogue from a step away. So how could you BE the thought or emotion when you are the Observer?
Once we grasp this idea, we can then accept that WE ARE the one in charge…and can remain that way by choice. Additionally. This will hold true for every Thought or Feeling that shows up in the future…as long as we maintain our watching from at least a step away. Not always simple to do…but fortunately something we can practice and improve. If we think of all the Worries and all our thoughts/emotions that have yet to come visiting, we can easily see that we will have copious future opportunities to practice stepping away, observing and then taking charge.
Returning to our dialogue, where Worry had just firmly stated her deep doubt and fear regarding our ability to accomplish our task. Our response:
“What? You’re apologizing for inconveniencing me? Oh no, no, no! I’m actually grateful you showed up. In fact, I believe you actually want to gift me by helping me discover something new about myself. Also I just realized the only way I could accept your gift was to open the Door to my Heart a little more so I could get a good look at you. Now I can receive what you have brought me!”
Worry tries again but you quickly use her new name to get her attention.
“Yes, ‘Confidence’, at first I really WAS afraid to open the Door and see you standing there…ah…again. You know, you really do stop by a lot. But since your last visit, I’ve realized I need to get some other things done. Since I, not you, am in charge of how to use my time and energy, I’ve decided to begin viewing my Thought and Emotion Visitors from a step or two away. From that vantage point, I see more clearly that I just can’t spend as much time with you as before.”
She tries once more, leaning in ominously with more concerns…but you jump quickly back an extra step.
“Well yes, of course you can still come visit! I certainly can’t keep you from knocking: after all, you live in my neighborhood… right next door actually.
But you’re just one part of many in this entire Neighborhood of My Mind that comes by knocking on my Heart Door with your opinions. From a few steps away, I’m just beginning to comprehend how the number of my visitors has increased. And each time I get dragged into your stories, I notice I become more and more anxious. My Heart and Mind feel pinched and crowded, my muscles are tense and sometimes I even feel kind of nauseous.
If I want things to change, its time to consider changing my viewpoint, tough as that may seem to be. Initially, that appeared like a lot of work for me. But you see…I need to be a bit more fair to myself, so I’m working out how to balance out all these visits from all of you neighbors. I’ll be taking some more space for myself…some time to Pause and assess things…some more time alone in between visits.
Worry briefly voices yet another concern; you respond.
“What? No! It is NOT selfish of me at all! Actually the ideas that I am selfish for wanting Space, and that I should feel guilty for even expressing that need, are two beliefs that have been blocking my Heart for a long time…and frankly, it feels just awful. I don’t want to feel that way any more. I’m done with it. And I now know I can do something about it.
So…as of this moment, I’m making some Space in my Heart by donating THOSE two particular beliefs to Goodwill…
That is: Good Will towards ME!
Excuse me while I put them out here by the curb for pickup.”
You return in a few moments, feeling lighter after unloading.
“Oh, and there’s more to my new plan:
Our visits will become shorter as I get more experienced at understanding WHY you’re stopping by. Because just barging in whenever you want and staying around for extended visits is not very polite…or compassionate…or efficient. I am intending that eventually we will be able to simply wave and say ‘Hello’ as we walk by on the street.
I realize you often have trouble saying what the truth is…it IS scary. But I’ll help you along by being curious about what is really going on with you instead of being afraid along with you. I mean, thanks to you, I’m already a little less anxious about opening the Door. And I know it will get easier each time because I’ll be focusing on being excited about searching for answers instead of fearfully running away from the truths you hold.”
Worry takes a step back from the Door…
Ahhhh, a little more Space.
She’s already learning!
“Well, again, thank you for stopping by, ‘Confidence’. I know your true message was to let me know that I really CAN do what I planned to do. I appreciate your reminding me of my habit of listening to the voice that says ‘You’re not ready’ or ‘What will people think?’…and also telling me that I need not pay attention to those ideas. I believe DO have enough courage to go ahead and take action instead of waiting for the perfect moment.”
You pause once more…but now it’s YOUR Pause.
“Oh look at the time! I REALLY need to get going. But again, thank you so much for coming by. I can see now that you’re really my Friend: you were just so bundled up in your Fear costume, I didn’t recognize you at first!
What? You’re feeling better now? Oh I’m so glad! I know I am, thanks to our spending time together. Well…Safe travels!”
After each conversation (and they will get shorter and shorter as you become more adept at courageously searching out the real messages), usher each Worry one at a time to your Heart Door, out into your Mind Neighborhood, watching as they walk away.
See yourself smiling as you wave goodbye, remembering she is simply your Neighborhood Friend who got lost searching for the truth and wound up hiding inside her dark costume of worry. After all, your Neighbors only visit because they hope you might eventually inquire about their real reasons for visiting: they don’t like being burdened either!
They sense (correctly!) that your Heart is the Door to those answers.
By relieving them of their Worry Costumes, one at a time, you are letting each one depart freer than when they arrived….each time gaining more Space and energy for yourself.
Over time, the visits won’t be so frequent or necessary and it will become clear that actually only Gift-bearing Neighborhood Friends surround us.
We see we can finally leave our Heart Door open all the time…
Because we are no longer afraid.
Practice repeating this type of Dialogue whenever you feel overwhelmed by a Thought or Feeling Neighbor…and it will soon become a welcome and easy habit!
And if you can use this story/visualization when Worry and Friends are NOT actually on your doorstep, you will find yourself even better prepared for handling them when they do show up. Include compassion and humor (for yourself and for the Worry) when practicing your dialogue for future encounters: Compassion and Humor are two of the best defusers of Worry that we have in our Heart Arsenal.
See yourself in the role of Leader. Accept the truth that you, not your Thoughts and Emotions, are the Owner of your Heart…
As you always HAVE BEEN!
And you will find that as your Neighbors lighten their loads, so shall you.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“A Neighbor bearing a Gift.”
“Oh come right in ~ The Door is open!”