We were feeling deflated. My colleague’s client wanted to work on insomnia but weeks later, we weren’t sure if she was ready to stop worrying.
“But I need to worry, otherwise I’ll feel worse” she said as we ended the session.
That provided the first clues.
My colleague wondered aloud with me, “Perhaps she’s worrying because she’s trying to stop the flashbacks and intrusive images”. You see, the client was also battling with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Armed with this new hypothesis, my colleague presented this idea. The client acknowledged that it was indeed the case. Everytime she worked on her worries successfully, she’d get a flashback. Worrying became safer.
Indeed, Borkovec suggests that worry is verbal-based. When we worry, we stop our brains from engaging in the pathways that bring up vivid mental images and that cause emotional and bodily distress. This makes us likelier to want to worry, for fear of facing much more distressing mental images.
As time goes by, we believe that worrying is useful, because it protects us.
However, because we don’t process our fears, they never go away and we feel trapped in the cycle of worrying. Those who are likeliest to worry in order to avoid are people who believe that worrying solves problems or those with an insecure attachment style.
So, if you worry a lot, is there anything in particular you are trying to avoid by worrying?
If you’d like to master your anxiety, perhaps that’s the first question to ask yourself.
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