If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today.
 – E. Joseph Cossman

The word worry descends from an old English word ‘wyrgan ‘ which meant to strangle.  If you have ever worried, that can seem appropriate as worrying will affect your breathing and sometimes leave that lump in your throat.

Worrying is a habit that many people develop and then hold on to as if it was a proud memento of their life. Chronic worrying has been called a ‘thought disorder’, but it’s more a misuse of the imagination. I have often teased my clients that they write better fiction than Stephen King, the problem is they believe their thoughts and there are consequences for that. The more we worry, the more stress hormone we produce and the more we dream at night. In turn, over-dreaming caused by unresolved worry can cause clinical depression (something else to worry about!).

A day of worry is more exhausting than a day of work. – John Lubbock

Often worriers believe that they “need” to worry in order to ward off bad things. Therefore they begin to worry about everything, all the time, even if there is no legitimate reason for it. I have had clients who believed that they prevented their vehicle from falling over a bridge because of their worry, nothing to do with the construction of said bridge or traffic flow, etc. Also, many who believe that it has nothing to do with physics or pilot training, but their worry that keeps their plane from crashing.

Hypnosis, like worry can use the imagination. The difference is, with hypnosis we are setting a goal for a positive outcome and imagine our success at doing just that. Many clients will imagine themselves smoke free in my office, to become smoke free. Others will imagine whatever they are worried about turns out okay.  (I have been known to ask my clients, “What if you are wrong and things turn out alright?”)

If you are a chronic worrier, here is a tool for you to use.

When writers like Mr. King write their scary stories, they distance themselves from the horror they are writing about. By removing any emotion from those thoughts they lose power. Therefore I will ask a client to first go as dark as possible. Imagine what they are worried about actually came true. What would that look like and feel like. Then we discuss how likely it is that the worst case scenario occurs.  Next, we will work on distancing themselves from the worry.  Notice I didn’t say stop worrying, which is possibly the worst advice ever! Instead we imagine putting the worrisome situation “over there”. We may place it in a container or just put it on a screen to observe. Then we agree that if they want they can worry again, tomorrow at a set time for a set amount of time. What they will find is that the need to worry diminishes.

Ultimately, worry should be a tool or a signal that lets us know when something might need addressing. We don’t want to lose this tool completely, but no tool should ever be allowed to enslave its owner. Try using your imagination for good, you just might like it.