B1 Intermediate UK 297 Folder Collection
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It's not an illustrious category to belong
to of course, but there are plenty of us at

least. We worry about work, money, being left,
illness, disappointing, over-promising, madness

and disgrace, just to start the list. We worry
in the early hours, we worry on holiday, we

worry at parties and we worry all the time
while we're trying to smile and seem normal

to good people who depend on us. It can izeel
pretty unbearable, at moments. A standard

approach when trying to assuage our blizzard
of worries is to look at each in turn and

marshal sensible arguments against their probabilities.
But it can, at points, also be helpful not

to look at the specifics of every worry and
instead to consider the overall position that

worry has come to occupy in our lives. There
is a hugely fascinating sentence on the topic

in an essay by the great English psychoanalyst
Donald Winnicott: 'The catastrophe you fear

will happen has in fact already happened.'
When we worry, we are naturally fixated on

what will occur next: it's the future, with
its boundless possibilities for horror, that

is the natural arena for exploration by our
panicked thoughts. But in Winnicott's unexpected

thesis, something else is revealed: the disaster
that we fear is going to unfold is actually

behind us. There is a paradox here: why do
we keep expecting something to happen that

has already happened? Why don't we better
distinguish past from present? Winnicott's

answer that it's in the nature of traumatic
events from childhood not to be properly processed

and as a result, like the dead who have not
been adequately buried and mourned, to start

to haunt us indiscriminately in adulthood.
But they do not make themselves felt in straightforward

For example, we may panic
that we are about to be humiliated and shamed.
There are no particularly strong grounds for

this in objective reality, but we are utterly
convinced nevertheless, because this is precisely

what happened to us when we were tiny and
at the hands of a parent. Or we worry intensely

that we are about to be abandoned in love
not because our partner is in any significant

way disloyal, but because someone who once
looked after us at a very vulnerable point

definitely was. A benefit of understanding
how much our worries owe to childhood is a

new sense that it isn't so much the future
we should be distressed about as the past.

We can replace dread and apprehension with
something sadder yet ultimately more redemptive:

mourning. We can feel profoundly sorry for
our younger selves as an alternative to being

panicked for our future selves. Appreciating
the childhood legacy of worries, we also stand

to realise that we can adapt and improve on
how we respond to what alarms us. If we have

been well parented, we will have been bequeathed
a repertoire of good moves to latch on to

when crises occur: we know how to reach out,
seek help, perhaps move away and only take

as much responsibility as we are due. We have
access to a corridor through our troubles.

But when we have lacked this kind of tutelage,
we remain in significant ways, in relation

to our troubles, like the frightened children
we once were. We may be tall, drive a car

and sound like a grown-up, but faced with
concerns, resort to our toolkit of childlike

solutions: we overreact, we go silent, we
scream, we have a little sense of other options,

we feel extremely limited in our powers of
protest and agency, we lose all perspective.

To which it is appropriate, and in no way
patronising, to remind ourselves of what can

– in our deeper psychological selves – still
be an entirely implausible thought: that we

are now adults. In other words, in response
to the kinds of terror we knew so well at

the age of four or eight, we don't have
to be either as afraid or as powerless as

we were. We can mount a direct protest, we
can make an eloquent case for ourselves, we

can complain and defend our position, we can
rebuild our lives in a new way elsewhere.

There are two ways to mitigate risk: to try
to remove all risk from the world. Or to work

on one's attitude to risk. Knowing that
many of our fears have childhood antecedents

as do our responses to them can free us to
imagine that history won't have to repeat

itself exactly. Adult life doesn't have
to be as terrifying as our childhoods once

were and our responses to our fears can have
some of the greater vigour and confidence

that is the natural privilege of grown-ups.
We'll still be worried a substantial portion

of the time, but perhaps with a little less
fragility and fewer burning convictions of

total upcoming catastrophe. Thank you for
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Why We Worry All the Time and How to Cope

297 Folder Collection
Wei-Ting Chou published on March 16, 2018
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