Some people talk about talk, which can be healthy. A psychologist would call it “meta-talk,” examining the words and phrases you use to talk to a spouse, for example. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” We can call that meta-fear.

I find that many people are engaged in meta-worry. They worry about worrying. They become consumed by their worries: financial obligations, social responsibilities, job requirements, non-financial debts owed, child-rearing, and so on. They can also worry about things outside of their control altogether: nuclear proliferation, starvation in foreign lands, tyrannical governments, natural disasters, and so forth.

After a while, they simply worry about worry.

We all have a limited amount of energy. Some of us have larger batteries than others, some of us are better in the morning, others after lunch. But for each of us, the energy is finite. (“Give me 110%” is a dumb apothegm, like telling me to make three pints from a quart of milk.) Therefore, all energy dedicated to worry is energy prevented from being directed at performance, productivity, and profit.

Some things you can’t affect, so worry is pointless, merely a drain. (Another comet may hit the Yucatan, not much I can do about it.) Things which you worry about over which you do have some influence are better resolved through positive actions than worry (confront the person being rude to you instead of dreading the treatment each day).

I’d advise you to be more like a clueless restaurant server who, when thanked for bringing a dish, says, “No worries.” It’s not quite “You’re welcome,” but it’s also “no problem.”

© Alan Weiss 2015

2 thoughts on “Meta-Worry

  1. There’s a classic line the new movie, Bridge of Spies, where the Russian spy’s life is on the line and he says dryly, “Would it help if I worried?”

  2. I asked a client what she intended to do as a “Plan B” if things didn’t work out and she said, “I intend to go to my room and fret.”

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