Wondering versus Worrying
During a recent phone session, as a client remarked on something that might happen down the road, I realized that she’d finally stopped worrying about the future and had started wondering about it instead. And what a world of difference there is between the two. If you’re a worrier, why not consider converting your angst into wonder?
Take a minute and conjure up what it feels like to worry—the knot in your stomach, slightly nauseous feeling, fixation on potential harm which may befall you, your energy narrowing into prevention of future threats, the present slipping by because your thoughts are racing ahead of you, your body tensing up, your mind unable to think clearly. Worry generates self-doubt, irritability, helplessness, shame, and fear. What other physical, emotional and mental sensations does worry trigger in you?
Now remember what it’s like to wonder about the future. We often call that anticipation and associate the term wonder with childhood or being in nature. What does wonder feel like in your mind and body? It can feel neutral and generate curiosity and interest, or even fill you with lightness and brightness, make you smiley and happy, open you up emotionally, and heighten your senses. Wonder can promote feelings of curiosity and enthusiasm. What other physical, emotional, and mental sensations course through you when you wonder?
Using an example of planning a vacation, let’s see how worry and wonder play out. You could worry about any of the following: getting there and back, what it’s like where you’ll be staying, how they kids will do at your inlaws, what will be happening at work while you’re away and the mess there will be when you return, the weather, whether you’ll enjoy yourself, or how you’ll get along with the person/people you’re going with.
Or, knowing you’ll be fine whatever happens, you could wonder about how things will turn out which may involve idle curiosity—objective observation with no stake in the outcome—or excitement. You could focus on seeing new sights and having adventures. You could open yourself up to whatever happens knowing you’ll be okay if plans don’t work out perfectly no matter what you do.
Cultivate wonder and curiosity. Recall times when you were filled with wonder as a child because you hadn’t yet trained yourself to worry. Yes, plan for and problem-solve about the future. But, when you start to worry, turn the feeling into wonder instead.