Friday, September 30, 2016

How to Break Through Your Wall of Worry (6 Steps to Freedom)

We have all been there.

A major disappointment, an unexpected illness, a rejection by a friend, your boss, or a close family member. It can feel like we're  up against an emotional wall of worry.

When we experience these emotional wounds our initial reaction may lead us to feel anxiety, sadness, or other painful feelings. Negative self-talk that includes abundant self-criticism flows like water over Niagara Falls. 

We ask ourselves questions such as: 

"What's wrong with me?" "What did I do to deserve this?" and - the most common question - "Why did this happen?"

Judy's Story

I received a frantic call from Judy, a longtime client. Earlier that day Judy had an appoint with her primary care physician. As her doctor solemnly looked at the results of the echocardiogram, he shook his head and said, 

"You need to get in to see your cardiologist immediately!".

Her doctor continued talking to Judy, but she didn't hear anything he said. She was awash in fear and anxiety. 

Judy had been dealing with heart issues for two years. Just a few weeks earlier her cardiologist complimented Judy on her medical progress. 

"There is no need", he said, "to see me again for four months."

As Judy left her primary care physician's office, her mind raced with questions such as, 

"What happened? Why did my cardiologist say I was doing so well and now this doctor tells me I'm not?"

Negative "Why" Questions Lead to Strong Disempowering Answers

When we are dealing with highly charged negative situations, our "Why" questions invariably take us down the rabbit hole of debilitating thoughts and emotions. 

Why? Because those negative "Why" questions are built on the presupposition that the premise of the questions are true or have an answers we can uncover. 

"If I can learn why something happened", the mind tells us, "then I can 'fix' it."

The Subconscious Mind - Our Faithful Servant

The problem with this line of thinking is that our subconscious minds are faithful servants that do exactly what we ask them to do. When you pose a question such as, "What's wrong with me?", your subconscious mind searches your memories, your beliefs, and what you've heard others say.  It then offers up to your conscious mind all of the memories, beliefs, and conclusions from your mental hard drive relating to the question, "What's wrong with me".

There's only one problem: since your faithful servant - your subconscious mind - was operating within the framework of the, "What's wrong with me" question, it ignores any information, memories, and beliefs that are contrary to the presupposition of the question. 

In other words, to use the computer programming analogy, "Garbage in, garbage out".

The Worst Question to Ask

Of all the disempowering questions we can ask ourselves, the worst one is: "Why did this happen?" A close second is, "What did I do wrong?"

6 Steps to Freedom - Break Through Your Wall of Worry

So, what is a stressed out, anxiety ridden, worried person to do?

  • First, when you have even the slightest glimmer of clarity that your reactions aren't productive, take three long deep breaths and then yawn, stretch, and take three more deep breaths. This will slow down your racing negative thoughts and provide a slight bit of emotional distance.
  • Secondly, ask yourself this question: "Just for now, can I let go of trying to figure it all out?" Allow your mind to go quiet. If the mind chatter continues, repeat the question.
  • Third, tell yourself, "What happened, happened". Then ask yourself, "What can I learn from this experience?" If the first answer is, "nothing", keep quiet and let your subconscious continue to search. 
  • Fourth, wait silently for your subconscious to serve up the answers. Write them down or vividly remember what comes to awareness.
  • Fifth, continue with an empowering line of questions such as, "How can I use this experience and my insights to change the meaning of what happened?" or, "How can I apply these new insights to enhance my life - even if just a little bit - ongoing."
  • Sixth, sit silently in mindful awareness as your new insights are incorporated into mind, body, and spirit.

Better Questions, Better Answers for Judy

We applied this 6-step approach to help Judy find the best way forward for her. She went from being stuck in the questions, 

"Why did this happen?" and, "What went wrong" (both are "trying to figure it out" questions), 

to asking more empowering questions such as:

"What can I do now to help ensure I handle the situation calmly?" and, "How can I assure I'm asserting myself and I'm truly heard when talking with doctors?"

The facts of Judy's situation haven't changed, but her thinking has. That alone will make a huge difference in the decisions she'll make about her health. She is taking responsibility for her own wellbeing in a way she hadn't done before.

Next Step to Help You Ask Better Questions

For more suggestions about how to change your thinking to change your life, drop me an email at to be placed on the notification list for our upcoming "Questions for a Better Life" program.

Blessings, light, and love,

Steve Carter

Stress Solutions, LLC |