Tag Archives: Gay Hendricks

Don’t Worry!

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This message is a cautionary tale from a longtime “worrywart” (or as my father-in-law used to say, “worryhorse”).  I have wasted many hours and sacrificed endless enjoyment by worrying about all sorts of things, most of which never came to pass.  It is my hope that my insights today will help other worriers to reform their ways and increase their happiness in life.

Reasons Not to Worry

I recently listened to an episode of the Happiness Hour from radio talk show host, Dennis Prager.  The focus of this hour was on worrying, so I knew I needed to listen carefully.   Unlike many people who have “blind spots” in terms of their weaknesses, I knew full well how much of a detriment my habitual worrying was to my life and my happiness.

Dennis Prager stated that there are two powerful reasons to break the habit of worrying:

  1. Most of what we worry about never comes to pass.
  2. When one is worrying about what might happen, it is impossible for him to be happy in that moment.

Freakish Accidents and Ailments

Let me explore both of these reasons and relate some personal experiences.  In the past few years, there have been some high-profile celebrity illnesses and deaths, some of them from rare or “freakish” accidents or ailments.  Two which come to mind are the death of actress Natasha Richardson from a seemingly minor skiing accident and the near-death of singer Bret Michaels from a rare type of brain hemorrhage which strikes without warning.

After I read about the death of Natasha Richardson, I started to become terrified after even a minor head bump which would occur around my house.  I worried that I would suffer a fatal brain bleed like that of Ms. Richardson.  I was so fearful that I even went to the emergency room after bumping my head on an open cabinet door back in April 2009.  While I did feel dizzy and lightheaded, I learned that most dangerous head injuries are coupled with unconsciousness or severe symptoms within a short time period after the injury.

Many Worrywarts Out There…

During my ER visit, I was given a CAT scan which revealed no hemorrhaging and was sent home shortly thereafter with instructions to rest in order to recover from the slight concussion I had experienced.  I was also told that the incidence of ER visits for head injuries had increased exponentially since the death of Natasha Richardson.  Evidently, I’m not the only worrywart out there…

It is common for people to worry about being struck with a life-threatening ailment, but what we have to realize is that the worrying doesn’t do anything to prevent such illnesses from occurring.  Yes, we can modify our lifestyles to minimize the risk of certain accidents and diseases and we should endeavor to do what we can to prevent ourselves from becoming ill.  However, there is only so much we can do to mitigate our risk.  After all, even a person who never leaves his or her house could be victim to earthquakes, tornadoes, break-ins, or errant plane crashes!

Wasted Worries…

A caller to Dennis Prager’s show related a powerful experience.  She was hit by a truck and was lying on the ground waiting for the ambulance to arrive.  As many thoughts went through her head, including the fact that her injuries might prove fatal, she had one thought that was especially poignant to me as a lifelong worrier.  She said that she wished she hadn’t wasted so much time worrying about breast cancer.

When we are in a state of worry, it is impossible for us to enjoy what we’re doing.  Worry is almost always future-focused.  We concern ourselves with what could happen and what might happen, and in the process we are not present to where we are and what we’re doing in the moment.

Personal Experience With Worry

My husband and I periodically travel and leave our two cats in the care of a very caring and competent pet-sitter.  The pet-sitter comes to our house twice a day to feed our cats and give them love and attention.  I know my cats are in good hands, but that doesn’t stop me from spending quite a bit of time and energy in worrying about them.

I noticed myself doing this on our recent trip to the San Francisco Bay Area and was able to stop myself.  There I was on vacation and spending time with my mom and my husband at one of my favorite art festivals, yet my mind was at home in my apartment with my cats.  Fortunately, I was able to alleviate much of my worry by checking in with the pet-sitter a couple of times and then using self-talk to shut off the automatic “worry machine” which seems to continually operate inside my head.

Gay Hendricks on Worry

Gay Hendricks provides some useful tips for eliminating worry in his excellent book, “The Big Leap.”  He correctly asserts that “worry is useful only if it concerns a topic we can actually do something about, and if it leads to our taking positive action right away.”  He suggests that when we find ourselves in the midst of worry, we ask ourselves the following two questions:

  1. Is it a real possibility?
  2. Is there any action I can take right now to make a positive difference?

If the answer to the first question is no, that should be a cue to stop worrying!  If the answer to both questions is yes, you should take the action you’ve identified as soon as possible and then stop worrying.  If the answer to question one is yes, but the answer to question two is no, then you should also cease your worry because it is counterproductive to your enjoyment of your one and only precious life.

Those Cancer Worries…

Let’s take the example of breast cancer.  According to the American Cancer Society’s website, the chance of developing invasive breast cancer at some time in a woman’s life is slightly less than 1 in 8 (12%).  So developing breast cancer is indeed a real possibility for women.   However, there may not be any action many women could take to reduce their chances of developing the disease.  While an overweight smoker with a poor diet could make lifestyle changes which could help, many healthy women can do little to affect their chances of developing breast cancer (although regular screening is definitely recommended).

Powerful Words to Remember

Fortunately, I spend very little time worrying about breast cancer, but it would serve me well to remember the words of both Dennis Prager and Gay Hendricks when I find myself immersed in other worries.  Some additional insights can be found in the Serenity Prayer, something which I’ve posted previously but bears repeating:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I vow to face my worrywart tendencies head on.  Eliminating needless worry (and much of it is that!) is integral to my journey toward healing my life and becoming a happier and more peaceful person.  If like me, you also suffer from consistent worrying, I invite you to join me in becoming an ex-worrier.

Principles of Louise Hay – Part 1

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In order to further lay the groundwork for “The Healing Project,” I would like to highlight some of the key principles which Louise Hay outlines in “You Can Heal Your Life.” I will list each principle as stated by Louise Hay, and then I will explain this principle in my own words and relate a bit about what it means to me personally.  As there are a number of principles which I would like to cover before delving into the deep work of my personal healing project, this is the first of four posts on this topic.

“We are each responsible for our own experiences.”

Louise Hay advocates personal responsibility.  Although she asks people to explore their childhoods and past experiences through the exercises in her book, she cautions her readers against laying blame upon anyone else for his or her current life condition.  While it is true that our past experiences and interactions with others have shaped who we are, we are the only ones who are truly responsible for where we are in our lives today.

There is both good and bad news to this principle.  The bad news is that we don’t get to blame anyone else or hold anyone else responsible for what’s happening in our lives.  The good news is that it is completely in our power to transform our lives wholly and completely.    This is, of course, a double-edged sword.  It is in our power to change, we are free to change our lives in both small and great ways, but it is US who must make those changes.

I am completely willing to own that I am responsible for my experiences.   This means that if I fall into “victim mode,” which happens to all of us at times, it is up to me to pull myself out of that abyss and step back into ownership mode.  I am responsible for what I think and what I do.  I am responsible for doing what I say I’m going to do and for honoring my commitments to myself and others.    This is a tall order, but it affords us great freedom to be and to create.

“Every thought we think is creating our future.”

We each think thousands of thoughts each day.  We are unaware of the majority of these thoughts and many of us have more negative thoughts than positive ones.  Our thoughts have both energy and creative power.  Like attracts like and through the powerful Law of Attraction (see “The Secret by Rhonda Byrne for more information), our thoughts are basically bringing about our experiences.

We all have a negative inner voice which exerts power over us.   This is the voice that tells us we’re not good enough, that we’re foolish to want what we want, and that we’ll never accomplish the goals which we’ve set for ourselves.  This voice is sometimes referred to as the “Gremlin” (see “Taming Your Gremlin” by Rick Carson) and it’s amazing how miserable this gremlin can make us!  I once did an exercise in which I recorded all of my negative thoughts over the course of an eight hour time period.  I literally had hundreds of negative thoughts and many of them were repetitive!  This simple exercise helped me to understand how I was limiting my energy, my creativity and my happiness by my limiting and destructive thoughts.

The good news is that positive thoughts are MUCH more powerful than negative thoughts.  If we consciously replace some of our negative thoughts with positive ones, or if we deliberately think positive thoughts throughout the day, we will notice a big difference in our sense of well-being.  One example of an easy positive thought to think is the declaration “I approve of myself” which I mentioned in my last post.  If you find yourself thinking something negative, either replace it with its opposite, say “cancel cancel” to clear the negative energy, or use a mantra like “I approve of myself” to turn your thoughts and your energy around.

“The point of power is always in the present moment.”

We cannot change the past and we have no control over the future.  The only time which is under our control is this moment, right now.  So often, we spend so much time and energy lamenting what we did or didn’t do in the past and worrying about what we might do and what might happen in the future.   These thoughts and worries are really a big waste of time and usually serve to make us less happy instead of more happy.

If you want to be happy and joyous, focus on the NOW.  Not only is this one of Louise Hay’s key principles, but it is also set forward as a precept among many thought leaders, including Eckhart Tolle, who published the best-selling book, “The Power of Now.”

This is a simple but not easy concept.  When one is first starting to live in the present moment, he or she will often find the mind drifting backwards or forward.  This is the time to gently nudge yourself back to the now, just as one might clear their mind or return to a mantra during meditation.  If you find yourself worrying about the future, it can be helpful to ask yourself the following two questions (from “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks):

  1. Is this worry realistic?
  2. If so, is there anything I can do about it right now?

If the answer to the first question is no, then bring your attention back to the present moment; likewise if the answer to the second questions is no.  If the answer to the second question is yes, then do something to remedy your worry.  Even something minor can be helpful.   Then bring your attention back to the here and now, the point of your power.