Do you feel deep down that if you don’t worry, you’ll forget about the threat and accidentally enjoy yourself then boom – it will blindside you? Do you equate worry with taking action?
Worry is one of our many trauma responses and is an unhelpful habit of the mind that easily escalates into debilitating anxiety. It is natural and helpful to be aware of what is happening. I’m not suggesting ignoring reality. That’s denial. But sticking our head in the sand and blithely dancing along to “Don’t Worry Be Happy” is not our only option.
The Kiloby Inquiries have two great tools for exploring our beliefs and releasing what keeps us stuck – the Reverse Inquiry and the Utility Inquiry. We commonly use Reverse Inquiry on core deficiency beliefs, like I’m not good enough or I’m not lovable, and we can also use it directly on worry.
Think of something you’ve been worrying about that has some power to distract you by repeatedly coming up in your mind. Are you worried you will lose your job or home during Covid-19? We are all concerned that we will get the virus or someone we know will and get sick and possibly die. We wonder about the long term effects of Covid-19 on mental health, drug overdoses, socialization of children and the economy. We are all legitimately worried. Our world has changed.
Choose something you worry about and say the opposite to create a Reverse Inquiry statement. We do this to reveal how we really feel about something. We’re looking to see our resistance. Here’s an example of how it could work for someone afraid of getting Covid-19 if they go into a store.
Some people dismiss their fear. They know someone in the store might have Covid-19 but give themselves a pep talk. I might catch it but I have to shop. I have a mask and sanitizer. It is a necessary risk. They go in and shop, unaware of their tight shoulders and shallow breathing but get through it. Other people are aware of their heart pounding and that they are sweating. Both might look around suspiciously at other people in the store while they hurry to get through their shopping. Others might block all of that out, taking their time and shopping as usual, touching everything as they leisurely decide what to buy. Still others of us might get angry and yell at someone who is blocking an aisle or is not wearing a mask.
These are common responses and we might cycle through all of them. It is natural and healthy to have some level of fear when we take a risk. What happens in your mind in this situation?
Reverse Inquiry: I’m completely comfortable shopping for groceries.
Resistance comes in words and images and it also shows up as a contraction or energy in our body. What is your response to that statement? Some examples:
- That’s not true! I am afraid of shopping right now. We don’t know who could be infected.
- What if I get Covid-19? Images flash into our mind of people on ventilators. I could die in ICU all alone, not being able to breathe.
- A wave of anger washes over us. It’s the fault of ignorant people who refuse to wear masks, or young people in bars, or governments pushing us back to work when it’s not safe, or ________. They clearly don’t care if we die.
Now we have brought up some of our unconscious worries and beliefs and we can work with them. Learn about the tapping, tracing, focus shifting, mining and other powerful tools here
The problem is not that we are afraid. The problem is that fear can drive catastrophic thinking that drives hypervigilance and fight/flight/freeze/fawn responses. Our brain is overwhelmed with worry, our rational brain goes off-line, and we are unable to make good decisions. Using the Reverse Inquiry will elicit information about what is going on inside of us and using the tools will help us to resolve sticky beliefs that cause suffering.
Utility Inquiry: How do I benefit from worry?
The benefits of hanging on to a strategy that doesn’t really work often relate to approval, control and safety. These are a carry over from childhood and from our survival level need to be included and accepted. Before masks were mandated in public places, I sometimes felt like people judged me as over-reacting, especially because I live in an area with low incidence of Covid-19. I felt awkward but defiant as I did what I felt was right for me. My need for safety was a higher priority than my need for approval and inclusion but I still felt pressure to conform.
We do benefit from a realistic look at threat and from deciding on measures to lessen our risk. Being aware of the need for approval and inclusion helps us to resist “going along” against our better judgment.
Worry and anxiety make it harder to keep ourselves safe by affecting how we think, and it also lessens our immunity. We can be tortured by images of ourselves or someone we love in ICU. Be alert for that type of anxious thought and intervene immediately. One way I work with it is to acknowledge both the thought and the fear underlying the thought. I might do some tapping, or get up and shake it out, or sit quietly with my hand on my heart, reassuring myself. It is natural to feel fear. Right now that is not happening. It is just fear. Take a deep breath. Go for a walk. Inquire. Call a friend.
Practice helps! We develop the capacity to notice earlier and to interrupt the patterns. Worry and anxiety are a common response and we don’t have to let them ruin our life. We don’t control what other people think or do and that is frustrating and scary because it affects us. We can work with our own mind and down-regulate our own nervous system. We can take steps to keep ourselves as safe as possible. Reducing anxiety and worry improves the health of our immune system. This we can do.
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Scott Kiloby is passionate about making these tools available to everyone. He is offering a free playlist of 36 videos explaining the Kiloby Inquiries in great detail, including the Reverse Inquiry, so that you can learn and work with them yourself or between sessions with a facilitator.