Dear Dr. Norquist:
How can I stop myself from this crazy worrying and obsessing and thinking too much about past and future and being a perfectionist etc.? I need help! And some advice! Thank you.
Dr. Norquist responds:
It sounds like you need a well of inner peace to delve into – a well that is never far away, always close at hand. This well exists in us and all around us, always, yet we are so focused on our thoughts that we don’t notice it. It’s like the air that surrounds us. It envelops us, yet we don’t notice its’ life-giving sustenance. Instead, we focus on things in the outer world, or the “things” of our internal world of thoughts and experiences. A daily practice that puts you in touch with this life supporting well of peace would be quite healing for you.
Eckhart Tolle (“The Power of Now,” 1999), uses an analogy that is helpful here. He points out that when we look up into the night sky, what we focus on are the stars and the moon. We fail to notice the immense space that exists as the background to the “things” (stars) that we focus on. He talks of the need for developing “space consciousness”, or an awareness of the space between “things”. This requires developing the ability to relax our grasp on and our obsession with things including our obsessive worry thoughts. Try focusing on the space between thoughts – as many books on meditation will instruct you to do.
You are not alone with your worries. Worrying is a common habit. Worrying may have a genetic component, but it is also a habit that we can easily learn from our parents’ approach to the world. It is fed by fear, the need for control, and basic security needs. It is ameliorated by faith, accepting/embracing each moment, and learning how to relax your body.
The most powerful thing you can do to manage your worries is to commit yourself to practicing the ability to step back, and be in the moment. Focus on the space between things, sense the stillness that supports inner life, and experience the peace that wells up inside when you stop to be still. Enjoy the serenity that surrounds nature. Give yourself time to practice being fully in each moment – with your senses and your awareness. Find a practice, approach, or way of thinking that helps you to bring this well of peace into your life. Practices that can be helpful in this regard include meditation (traditional or mindfulness-based), yoga, prayer, Tai chi, sports, relaxation/breathing exercises, guided imagery, and time spent with nature.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)
Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns.Ó 2016 Chaitanya Counseling Services