Tag Archives: Worry

What if we view anxiety as what it means to be human?

Do you often feel guilty that you struggle with anxiety? Do you beat yourself up afterwards? When you hear, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything and with thanksgiving present your requests to God” (Phil 4:6-7) do you feel more burdened knowing that you are often anxious and filled with worry?

Indeed the Scriptures speak very frequently about our anxieties and worries. Might it be that it is a human experience (this side of the Fall) that will not be removed? If you worried less about your worries; if you felt less shame and guilt for them, how might that change how you respond to your worries?


I leave you with this thought as you ponder your way of responding to your worry. Psalm 56:3 says, When I am afraid I put my trust in you. It doesn’t say that such trust erases fear. You can be afraid and be full of anxiety and trust God in the middle of that experience. One does not necessarily invalidate the other.



Filed under Anxiety, Uncategorized

The “End of Worry” in a dangerous world?

In light of the recent bombing in Boston, I thought I would use today’s post as a timely book note. Will van der Hart (Anglican vicar) and Rob Waller (Psychiatrist) have written a small but helpful book entitled, The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop (2011, Howard Books). What makes this book interesting is the fact that Will freely discusses his own struggle with worry, made more evident after the 2005 bombings in his city of London. While the bombings were the final straw to panic attacks, Will also explores some of the early roots of worry in his life.

If you struggle with worry, there are several reasons why this little book might be a comfort to you.

  1. The authors write as if they know worry and fear.
  2. It is not, as they say, “triumphalistic.” Meaning, they do not believe the right beliefs/prayers/faith will automatically solve the problem
  3. Worry is portrayed not only as a spiritual problem but also explored through lenses of psychology, biology, and habit formation.
  4. It is written to the worrier, not about the worrier
  5. Each chapter gives you opportunity to engage in a few key exercises
  6. They differentiate between solvable worry and floating worry (and the tyranny of the “what ifs…”)
  7. Their solutions are practical but do not pretend to be simplistic. In fact, they devote some space to the notion that you should “stop trying not to worry.” Sound radical?
  8. A number of their solutions are helpful for those who ruminate (OCD, scrupulosity)

The book sits firmly in the cognitive behavioral model of intervention. Therefore, much of it encourages readers to explore belief systems about self and world and to begin challenging faulty thinking and to work to replace with more appropriate cognitions, meditations, and self-talk. CBT is not the only therapeutic model but offers anxious people something to do.

If you would like to work through a book that describes the process of worry and perfectionism and then gives you some ideas to examine and change your own struggle, this might be the book for you.

*I received a free copy of this book without any obligation to write this post.


Filed under Anxiety, christian counseling, Cognitive biases, Good Books, Uncategorized

Physiology Phriday: Repetitive thoughts?

Have you ever been tortured by a repetitive word, sound, phrase, song, or the like run through your head? Does it happen only during the day? At night when you wake up?

In psychological studies, there are a number of ways people talk about these experiences. Sometimes folks talk about intrusive thoughts/imagery, but this is usually in the context of PTSD or OCD studies. Others talk about rumination or repetitive thoughts, usually in the context of worry, depression, or anger. Finally, another batch talk about hallucinations in regards to psychotic disorders.

But what is going on in the more mundane repetitive thoughts? Diagnostically, they probably fit a bit more in the OCD genre than anything else (like counting, ordering, etc.).

1. Stress is usually a factor. They happen more frequently the more distressed a person is. It means the person is on higher alert than normal. The repetitions may be directly related to the stressor or may not. What is not know is whether the repetitions are a consequence of stress or a mediator of stress. What is known is that when a person, under stress, experiences repetitive thoughts salient to the stress, feels responsible to fix the problem, and attempts to suppress repetitive thoughts, their ruminations are MORE likely to increase.

2. Neuroticism is probably a factor as well. Sorry folks: those with anxious and depressive tendencies have more repetitive thoughts than others.

3. Emotional intensity as a native trait of the person may also be a factor. There is some evidence that individuals with strong emotions have a greater predisposition to PTSD (and therefore intrusive thoughts) if exposed to traumatic events.

But what to do about repetitive thoughts? Have you found anything helpful? There are certain things that are NOT helpful

1. Ruminating over the thoughts (Ugh, I can’t believe I’m still having that thought)

2. Trying to solve the problem they may be attached to

3. Trying not to think about pink elephants

Okay, so maybe those things don’t work. What does? Sad answer? We don’t know. Distractions do for a short time. Some actually give in to them and repeat them outloud to try to quell them. The more it is possible to pay them little notice, the easier it is to let them slide on out of the mind.

Maybe try to consider them an interesting mental quirk–like the lovable Monk (TV detective) 🙂


Filed under Anxiety, counseling science, Depression, personality, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Psychology

Do you live in the 90 or the 10?

No, I’m not talking about the decade of the 90s. I’m talking about that habit we have of living as if the 10% of life that irritates us is really 100% of our life. This week I was doing a live counseling demonstration with another teacher in front of Biblical students. She was struggling with some negative comments made by others. Even though she is confident in her opinion about what is right, a few negative comments about her position have thrown her for a loop.

Haven’t we all been there? I can get 24 fabulous reviews of my class and only one negative. But what do I think about for the next two days? I can get two great reviews of a submitted article but if I also get one pan, I find myself fantasizing the discussion with that reviewer where I dismember their argument, limb from limb. Or, even more insidious, we can get wind of the fact that someone MIGHT be upset with us or unhappy with something we have done. We don’t know for sure, but it might be true. So, do we assume the best or live in the worst?

So, in the counseling demonstration, I asked how confident she was with her opinion. She said 90%. In elections, that’s a landslide victory. In sports, your team creams the other team. But in life, we tend to live in the 10%. What if I’m wrong…what if I screwed up…what if they are mad at me…what if I’m not a good teacher…what if… We don’t do well with the unknown parts of life. We demand 100% approval and security.

So, do you tend to live in the 90% or the 10%? Neurotic folks like myself tend to replay the 10% until it might has well be 100%. In talking to my wife about this, she admitted this was why she stopped being a counselor. She didn’t like the chance that she might be screwing people up. Interestingly, egocentric folks who can’t admit ever being wrong often are but live in the 10% of the time when they were right. And fatalists assume they will screw up but just keep going and compartmentalize the 10% as something that they can’t change.

Where do you live? How do you respond? Are you a neurotic, narcissist, or fatalist?


Filed under Anxiety

Running Scared: the book

As a final comment on this past weekend’s CCEF conference, I want to briefly mention Ed Welch’s new book, Running Scared: Fear, worry, and the God of Rest (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007). All conference attendees got a free copy. Here are a couple of my observations about the book:

1. It is 30 chapters. You don’t have to read them in a linear fashion although they do build on each other. They have a meditative/reflective nature to them.
2. The book is really about worry. If you struggle with panic attacks, you won’t find helpful solutions. In fact, he does a brief put down of the cognitive-behavioral techniques. On the one hand, he is right that these don’t ultimately give us peace, on the other hand–sometimes they help us get through a moment.
3. He does a nice job surveying the kinds of worries that overtake us and the common responses (control, perfectionism, anger, stress, depression, overprotection, etc.)
4. What does your fear say? Ed considers a few of the common messages (e.g., I am in danger, I am vulnerable, I need and might not get…). He also points to the overemphasis of the future in all worry. Worriers, he says, live in the future (and see it in minute gory detail). Seldom does our worry come true as we thought and so much of our worry is that of false prophets–proclaiming something as nearly already happened that only is a possibility.
5. The book is pastoral. I hear Ed’s voice in this as soft and knowing. I think this book reads like his voice more than any other of his works. He reminds us that Jesus speaks tenderly when he calls us to not fear. He talks to us like a shepherd would talk to a little lamb.
6. Yes, God tests our faith and yet he is also very generous. In order for us to be rescued from danger, there has to be danger. He is near. He hears. He tests us. He gives us grace for today. He delivers (ch. 9).
7. The rest of the book details how we deal with fears about money, what people think of us, about death, pain, and punishment, and ends with a focus on “peace be with you.”

All in all, a good read for those wanting to meditate on something other than their own fears. This is especially a good read on those feeling guilty and judged because of their fear and lack of faith. You get a picture of a very generous God who knows your fear and is near. If you are looking for very practical steps (what do I do this afternoon about…) you probably won’t get ready answers, though I think you could do the work to apply some of the principles to your daily life.

Good book Ed.

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Filed under biblical counseling, book reviews, christian counseling