Worry and Ruminating

Worry can be described as a distortion and misuse of our God-given imaginations. It is giving a small thing a big shadow (Swedish Proverb). Edward Hallowell says worry is vulnerability + powerlessness.  In our culture, and especially in the parental demographic,  excessive worry dominates thoughts and constricts relationships. Rumination is defined as persistent or repetitive worry. The word “rumination” actually comes from the action of a cow chewing its cud- chewing, swallowing, regurgitating, and chewing it again. That’s a grotesque picture which I find fitting in relation to worry.

Most worry is not a passive affair. Although one may not realize it, most people actively seek worry. It can be enlightening to assess how often worry actually saved you (or those you worry for) from something. Generally speaking, excessive worriers were often conscientious, inhibited, and highly sensitive children. There are some infant and in utero studies that suggest some people are more “hardwired” for worry than others. Though this might be true for you, this does not negate that fact that you must take responsibility for this propensity and learn healthy ways of managing this toxic thought process.

Some typical beliefs and assumptions that can fuel worry include:

  • Intolerance for uncertainty (Need to control and/or have certainty)
  • Intolerance for discomfort
  • An inflated sense of responsibility an culpability
  • A distorted assessment of potential risks
  • Perfectionism
  • Worry is overvalued (Examples: “Worrying prevents bad things from happening.” Or, “Worrying shows my children I care.” “Worrying allows me to focus on worst case scenarios so I won’t be surprised by life.” And even: “I can anticipate and avoid discomfort by worrying.”)
  • Worrying about worry (Example: “I’m going to make myself sick.”)

There are many ways to process and deal with worry. It all takes practice and processing to understand what leads to your specific worrying tendencies and how to change them. Some worrying is a part of other mental illnesses but have varying, and specific, characteristics (like with Depression, OCD, or Panic Disorder, to name a few).

A properly trained therapist can help you learn healthy ways of reframing your thoughts, practicing mindfulness, understanding cognitive distortions and themes in worrying, and identifying irrational thoughts. Understanding one’s view of God has major impacts on how one worries as well. If God is not believed to be sovereign in all things (i.e. have complete control), or if God is not believed to be good, these assumptions/ beliefs (among others) will impact our thoughts and thus our behaviors in our relationships with family, friends, and God himself.

Worry is a chain that binds and constricts, preventing us from living truly free lives, and allowing others to live free lives. It can give a temporary sense of (false) power and control over various situations, but in the end leaves us feeling exhausted, discouraged, and burned out on life.