People who make worrying a way of life have developed a Worrier thought pattern made up of automatic self-talk. Worrier self-talk is frequently self-demeaning, and sounds like this:
- If others really knew me, they’d reject me.
- No matter how hard I try, nothing works out—I may as well give up.
- Dreams and fantasy are better than reality.
- No one is as scared and embarrassed as I am.
The Emotional Life of A Worrier
Worrier pattern feelings swim in a confusing undercurrent of sadness, tension, and tentativeness. You long for affection, yet fear rebuff. Since you are so introspective, you’re acutely aware of these painful feelings. Yet you refuse to face or discuss them. More often than not, your solution to this turmoil is a self-protective state of numbness.
Another strategy for surviving this discomfort? Fantasy. Worriers often substitute daydreams for direct involvement in life. But fantasies only point out the vast discrepancy between your imagined life and your daily reality.
Loneliness is common. Because your emotions are so blocked, you may redirect the need for self-expression into reading romance novels or writing soul-searching poetry. Lacking close friends or confidants, you may rely on a companion like a pet cat or dog who will not reject you.
How Did You Develop the Worrier Pattern?
Children who subsequently adopt the Worrier pattern usually experience loving nurturance from their family of origin. They develop an attachment bond that motivates them toward social contact with others. But then they are often subjected to regular humiliation. They can be criticized for not doing things perfectly by an overly judgmental parent, or may be mocked or shunned for mistakes.
Shauna was pampered for her lovability until the age of six, when she entered school. Her father highly valued academics. When Shauna had difficulty learning to read, her father perceived her as intellectually slow. As an adult caught in the Worrier pattern, Shauna recalled how demolished she felt when her father would call her “Dummy.”
Some children are particularly sensitive to criticism from their parents because they are genetically predisposed to shyness. It is normal for such children to pull back for a time, or cry, when faced with new or strange situations. If their parents respond with ridicule or anxiety, it reinforces the children’s reserve. And they begin worrying that they are somehow flawed.
Learning theory suggests a “learned helplessness” to explain withdrawn behavior. This can develop by repeated experiences of fearful events over which people perceive they have no control, resulting in a paralysis of the will.
How To Change From Negative to Constructive Thinking
Eric e-mailed me, showing beginning signs of progress in changing his Worrier-patterned thoughts:
I wonder if God is going to leave me stuck like this the rest of my life. Other people are living their lives. It seems like I’m always left far behind. Yes, I know I’m supposed to think positive, but it’s hard when I feel so closed up. But I did go out for a walk today after work. And when I called my girlfriend, I stopped myself from dumping on her about how down I felt. I think the new antidepressant is working too, because this morning I woke up feeling lighter. I actually thanked God for the sunny day.
For more on how to transform the Worrier personality pattern, read: