Ann Lamott writes on a range of topics. In one of her reflections, she writes about the Worry Worry Chant. She writes: “I have been feeling a little — what is the psychiatric term? — cuckoo. My mind has been doing a worry chant, that I must have learned in childhood …WORRYworryworryworryworryworryworryworry”.
Perhaps it’s time we get to the root of this worry chant. What causes you to worry?
Amazingly, I have found that often one of our greatest strengths can often be the source of our worry chant. At times we all get triggered and our strengths can become a weakness. Sixty-70% of our weaknesses are just a misuse of our top strengths. Misuse can turn into worry. Consider these two stories:
Alice’s greatest strength is strategic thinking. She is skilled at comparing and contrasting possible pathways towards a goal. Alice articulates pros and cons of the pathways and makes recommendations on how to proceed. And, if she does not have a clear goal she goes into her worry chant. Alice’s worry chant sounds like….”we could do this or this or this!” She wakes up in the middle of the night with one more possible pathway and sees no clear goal in sight. Worryworryworryworry.
Jose’s greatest strength is empathy. He is comfortable with the range of human emotions. In addition, he has a sixth sense for picking up the emotions of others: frustration, happy, sad, and mad. As a strength, he listens to others and validates their feelings, connects with them. Yet, his worry chant starts with owning other people’s emotions. Jose starts to worry about someone who is mad or sad and then starts owning other people’s emotions which weigh him down. Jose turns into a rescuer instead of a listener. He tries to fix the emotions of the sad or mad person. Worryworryworryworry.
Catching ourselves in the worry cycle takes requires self awareness and strategy. One strategy to calm the worryworry chant is to pivot towards a powerful question. For example, Alice might recognize her worry chant as continually generating pathways. She then stops herself and asks…”What is the most important goal I need to achieve right now”. This breaks the worry chant and can result in more productive outcomes.
Try this scenario to practice with your strengths: You just got a new job and have to pack up and move in the next week. You have to get all your belongings packed up, get a truck, find someone to buy or sublease your housing, get your mail forwarded, etc. Can you hear your worry chant? Now ask yourself:
- What is your worryworryworry strength that gets most anxious about moving?
- What does this strength look like when you are worrying?
- What is the powerful question you could ask to shift the strength from a weakness zone (worryworry) to strength(get the job done with minimal worries).
If we recognize the root of our worry chants we can stay in our strength zone.
Last week as I walked home, I noticed a moving truck was parked next to our condo. It was drizzling and all the household goods had to be moved from the condo to the truck. However, I laughed as I neared the truck because painted on the truck was the scene of an African Serengeti plain. The name of the moving company was “Hakuna Matata.” The owner of this company clearly has found a way to manage his worryworry chant. A dose of humor and song. This week if you feel your worry chant coming on and you can’t pivot your strength. Try this: