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Getting to the Root of Worry

Does it ever seem like worries show up one after the other?  One week you are worrying that your child won't get into the right summer camp, the next week you worry that your partner will react poorly to something you did, the next week you worry about a conflict at work, and so it goes.

You are working to be self-responsible so you say to yourself, "These are just my worries and worrying doesn't help."  Relating to worry in this way helps you to be just a little bit bigger than the worry.  But what do you do with this "little bit bigger" perspective?  If old habits have their way, you might try to minimize worry by telling yourself it's ungrounded.  You might try to talk your way out of worry by naming the positives in your life.  You might try to rationalize about worry by analyzing all the relevant variables.  Or you might just try to ignore it.

Worry around practical issues such as food, shelter, and physical safety can typically be soothed by taking care of these needs and making a predictable plan for how they will be taken care of in the future.

Worry around interpersonal interaction, or what we could call, "relationship fear," may not be so obvious.  Relationship fear is usually arising out of fear of two very specific kinds of pain.  The first is the simple pain that occurs when someone does something that doesn't meet your needs for kindness, respect, or consideration.  This kind of pain often includes elements of hurt, shock, and disappointment.

The second is the pain of a loss of self-connection.  When someone else's behavior triggers you so much that you lose connection to your own sense of worth and choice, you find yourself in very painful emotions like anger, desperation, depression, and shame.  Losing yourself in relationship can result in years of quiet suffering that you don't become fully aware of until it's unbearable.  Ironically, it is this kind of pain and suffering that you can do the most about.

You can strengthen and maintain self-connection so that it remains stable in the face of intense relationship experiences.  This means a regular practice of self-empathy (like we talked about in a recent Connection Gem:  It also means surrounding yourself with people and experiences that support your sense of self-connection.  This means having friends that listen as much as they talk.  It means having mentors that ask hard questions which push you to look inside for answers.  It means having community that asks you to be of service while cheerleading your integrity and autonomy.  It means having those one or two people in your life that know you intimately and can offer a deep and subtle empathic presence while holding you accountable to self-care and living with integrity.  Lastly, it means recognizing when a situation has the potential to trigger self-disconnection and getting the support you need to face that situation with groundedness.  Groundedness that keeps you connected to the experience of your innate goodness and the direct knowledge that you are worthy of the love and support you need.

Sometimes this groundedness is actually very close.  All you need do is remember to turn towards it.  It is primarily unexamined worry and relationship fear that has you tossing about like a rudderless boat on a stormy sea.  

When you notice worry, pause in mindfulness and ask yourself, "Can I stay grounded if the situation really does play out in the way I fear?"  or  "What support do I need to stay grounded if the situation does play out in the way I fear?"  It's not enough to mentally answer these questions.  It's essential to answer them all the way to a felt sense of groundedness in body, heart, and mind.


Take a moment now to name three things in your life that support you staying connected your innate goodness and a felt sense that you are worthy of love and support.

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