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Category: Friendly Philosophy

Why Not to Worry

Posted in Friendly Philosophy

Idea: Worrying is trying to control the future (which is impossible).

Last time, I talked about a helpful technique for shutting down worry. But it works by shutting down imagination. And to do that, we need a really good reason.1

I used to think I worried–I imaginatively rehearsed distressing future situations–because I was “trying to be prepared.” Worry is practice, and the more practice, the better.

But I recently realized that what I’m really doing is trying to control the future. I worry over and over not for practice, but because I only feel in control of the future while I’m imagining it.

So why not worry? It’s an attempt to do the impossible. And that’s not a worthy use of imagination. (We’ll have to talk about worthy uses of the imagination later.)

FOOTNOTES

How to Stop Worrying

Posted in Friendly Philosophy

Idea: The core of worry is imagining yourself outside the present.

I’ve been obsessed with the topic of imagination recently. This is partly because I realized that imagination is central to worry. You imagine something happening to you (or involving you) in the future, and feel distressed about it.

I don’t know how to not feel distressed about something. But I do know how to stop imagining. Specifically, to imagine yourself outside the present, you have to pay less-than-full attention to what you’re presently seeing and hearing.

Why? Imagination takes the parts of your brain involved in seeing and hearing,1 but uses them for pretending to see and hear things that aren’t there. So, if you focus those parts of your brain on your present environment,2 they’ll be too busy to imagine. And if you can’t imagine, you can’t worry.

But why would you want to shut down your imagination like this? We’ll have to talk about that later.

FOOTNOTES