Living in a worry culture
In the previous two posts I talked about why we shouldn’t worry and about how to stop worrying, but there was something missing: an understanding of how we live in a culture that works as hard as it can to keep us worrying!
I want to give you some examples so we can see how as we try to worry less almost everyone else out there is trying to get us to worry more. If we can just understand what we’re up against, it’ll have far less impact on us.
Let’s just take news and commentary. Whether you’re conservative or liberal, whatever you read is a pitch to get you to start worrying. Here are some examples from the right and the left, from just the last two days. I literally just went out and grabbed the first headlines I could find on some very prominent sites:
Conservative: “Pro-Migration Group Tells Biden: Let Foreign Parents Join Illegal Immigrant Relatives”
Liberal: “How can we survive Trump’s abuse?”
Conservative: “’Fox News Got It Exactly Right’: De Blasio Doubles Down on Mission to Redistribute Wealth”
Liberal: “Fascism Came to America—But How?”
Conservative: “How the Chinese Use Honeypots in Spy Operations”
Liberal: “The Trump Presidency’s Last Days Will Be Its Most Terrifying”
Scary headlines like this are everywhere. The whole point of these headlines is NOT to protect your good sense or your mental health, of course. It’s to get you to read the piece. But it’s the side effect I’m interested in, which is the sense that if you’re not alarmed you’re not informed and you’re not someone who cares about what’s important.
If you want to go as far away from politics as you can, look at any woman’s magazine. The headline on Cosmo is “The Secret Side Effect to *Waves Hands* All This: Everyone Is Lying Now.” [If you didn’t understand the headline, I didn’t either!] But if “everyone is lying now, there’s lots of worry fodder there, plus all the beauty and fashion tips you’ll never have the time or money to implement.
And take something as simple as hanging out with moms in the park (a pre-pandemic memory!). Far too much of mom-to-mom talk is one mom telling another mom about stuff she needs to worry about or else scolding her for not worrying enough about something. “Really!?! You let your kid do that? I would never let my Trevor do that. It’s been shown to be way too dangerous.”
It may well be your own mom who makes you worry about whether you’re too much this or too little that.
And hey!, if you want to be a big hit at your next business meeting, just say, “You know I found something really worrisome in...” some chart or paragraph or something. You’ll certainly have everyone’s attention.
It’s almost as if half the world wakes up every day with one goal in mind: “If I can get just one person to start worrying about something, then I’ll have done my job.”
There are for sure things we need to do or do better or stop doing. But all this worrying? It just turns us into nervous overeaters and shopaholics. Any food or purchase to soothe the beast that can never be soothed except by our stopping worrying.
But we can stop worrying. You learned how here, and now that you’ve been alerted you’ll be a lot more protected against the whiney voices trying to draw you back into the cracker-filled bed of worry.