Alan Watts’ wise words are from an Eastern philosophical perspective. The mind thinks. But as well as giving attention to thinking, the mind also needs fuel for thinking. That fuel is emotion and need.
“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.”
If we look at worrying as a problem then we automatically take up a stance of opposition and force against it. We look for solutions for its elimination: ‘stop worrying’ or ‘go clean the oven’. Some clever people will tell you to start having ‘positive thoughts’ instead of ‘negative’ ones. Some bad meditation teachers invite us to ‘clear our minds’. We can stare at a candle or repeat a mantra until the thoughts go away, for a while. Your doctor might write you a prescription for beta blockers or benzodiazepines or the latest psychotropic. Your bartender might pour you a drink.
But if instead we take an approach to worrying as a manifestation of the start of a process; and an integral part of human nature, then we can begin to lay down our arms and our attempts to batter worry into submission. And like the dog that barks incessantly down the street in the middle of the night that we curse and curse, we can instead, get out of bed, walk down the street, and see what is the matter. The dog doesn’t exist to cause you insomnia, to annoy you for annoyance sake. He’s just expressing his needs. He needs to be untied, uncaged, to eat something, to drink, to feel that he isn’t alone or abandoned. He needs to feel loved, to feel warm and reassured, and to feel that he’s part of a family. Once his needs are met then he stops barking in the middle of the night, and he sleeps just like the rest of us.
By getting out of bed and going and having a look, you took the trouble to stop treating the irritation as a problem and began to inquire, with care and compassion, into the meaning of the irritation. You sought its purpose. In seeking its purpose you discovered that the expression conveyed need. Once you identified the need being expressed, you met the need, and once the expression had done its job the resulting peace and quiet followed.
When we inquire into the meaning and purpose of worry, we soon discover that it is purposeful and expressive of need. Often worrying is the unexpressed, incomplete concern about a future state that causes us fear or anticipatory anxiety. If we treat worry as a problem or if we indulge in worrying then we simply fuel the anxiety and fear and worry even more. If instead we begin to identify the needs being expressed in the anticipatory process, then we are in a position to see worry as the first stage of Being’s attempts to implore us to prepare for events that may happen. Worrying is our expression of concern and the needs for preparation that can protect us from possible harm or humiliation.
When we make conscious, detailed, genuine preparations for events that we fear might happen then we first of all listen to the purpose and concerns being expressed in worrying. Our deliberate, careful preparations also send a message back into the psyche that we are ready for whatever might come, and in so doing, we offer our deeper self the reassurance it needs. Once we have prepared enough for whatever eventuality or possibility we imagine (and there may be a number of them) then our need to worry is reduced and often met entirely. There may arise some anxiety later on, but when this is listened to and the energy channelled into the details of our preparedness, then once again we’re using our worry in the service of meeting the needs expressed by the anxiety instead of going round in circles in our heads.
Worrying is only half of the process of preparing for what might happen. It is your being’s expressed need for security, meaning and reassurance. You can meet those needs by making good preparations until you are able to say ‘Ok, I’m ready for anything’.
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