THROUGHOUT MY TWENTIES and into my thirties,
I was constantly plagued by weight-lifting injuries. Somehow
I got it into my head that something must be physically wrong
with me. "Why," I wondered, "do I have so many
injuries? Do I have some kind of muscles disease? Am I destined
to deteriorate and waste away?" I worried about it and it
made me even more desperate about building muscle before I wasted
Then one day I read about a study. The
researchers attempted to discover what the cause of most weight-lifting
injuries were. They found it was tension. When the exerciser
was stressed or tense, they were more likely to pull a muscle
working out. So basically, my fear that I had a problem was making
my situation worse producing more tension and so more
injuries. I learned to relax and haven't had an injury since.
According to many books on anxiety disorders,
one of the common things a doctor tells someone with an anxiety
disorder is, "It's all in your head," which may be
true, but it doesn't point to any way out. Now the poor anxious
person has a new thing to feel anxious about. If he worries something
is wrong with him, it can make him feel anxious and withdraw
from people or withdraw from a goal or active interest or participation.
And thus there is something wrong with him by virtue of the fact
that he thinks there is something wrong with him. Thinking he
has a problem has become a bigger problem than the original problem.
And sometimes people know they are more
anxious than others, so they think something is wrong with them,
and that makes them worry even more.
The way to clear out this gunk is with
purpose. Your watchword from now on is: Purposefulness.
Stop pondering what you don't want and start obsessing about
what you do want and how you're going to accomplish it.
Stop ruminating about what might be wrong with you and start
working toward accomplishing a goal. Your whole psychology will
shift from victimization and passivity to control, competence,
and achievement. Fear and anxiety will transform into desire
I can't emphasize this enough. When I was
a teenager, I saw a woman who was coping rather well with a challenging
life. As she was in the process of a divorce, she had an abortion.
Then she felt guilty about it. She went to a therapist for some
help and he busied himself with delving into her past and convinced
her she had deep-seated emotional problems, based in her childhood.
It was all very deep and mysterious, and it would take many years
of therapy to sort it out and dig up painful memories.
She believed her therapist, and she started
to unravel. Eventually she escaped into a bottle to cope with
her anxiety over her terrible, deep-seated problems. The therapist
put her attention on her fears and enlarged them. This is a woman
who was prone to anxiety but was managing pretty well up to this
point. The therapist put her attention on her problems and magnified
them. This did not help her. Her biggest problem became her belief
that she had big problems overwhelmingly big problems
and it made her withdraw. She ruined her life with the
belief that she had a big problem.
Don't make this mistake. Delving into psychological
problems can be an endless task because the mind will find whatever
you're looking for if you look hard enough. The mind tries to
answer questions you pose it.
If you ask yourself, "What am I afraid
of?" you can come up with so many answers you might never
want to leave your house! But ask, "What do I want to accomplish?"
and you might just accomplish something!
The woman was raising children. Had the
therapist asked her what she wanted to accomplish, she probably
would have said, "I want to raise healthy, happy children."
And she would have been off and running in a positive, healthy,
life-giving direction. Any problems she needed to solve on the
way would have been prevented from looming too large because
they would be solved on the way to something more important
her goal thus limiting the problem's importance and preventing
Don't make your anxiety worse
thinking your anxiety is a big problem.