We have so many worries. We worry about money, yet we know that money is only a tool, a means to an end. What we really want is happiness, a bit of security in our lives, some modicum of joy. Happiness, security, and joy are inner states. They are free; money cannot purchase them. Worry is merely a habit—and a negative, unpleasant habit at that. Worry will not change anything, nor will it bring you those things that you really need and desire. And money will not bring you happiness. I have treated many extremely wealthy people in my psychotherapy practice, and many of them have been miserable and unhappy. Money is a neutral thing, neither good nor bad. What you do with money creates its value.
We worry about success and failure, yet we cannot really define these concepts. Is a poor person who is happy and who has wonderful, loving relationships a failure? Is a rich person who has terrible relationships and no love in his life a success? Our cultures have defined success and failure for us, and the definitions have been deficient. So what is the point in worry about success?
We worry too much about what other people think of us—about their opinions, judgments, and criticisms. Yet their opinions are based on the same cultural values as those measuring money and defining success. Once again, we are worrying about nothing.
All other apprehensions fall into the same paradigm. Worrying cannot effect positive change or growth. It will not change the future. Planning for the future is useful, but worrying is not. This is a useless habit, a conditioned response we have acquired from our parents, our teachers, and our communities. Intellectually we all know this, but old habits are difficult to break. If we could only stop worrying so much, how much happier we all would be! We would experience much less stress in our lives.
The irony is that, when observed from a more detached perspective, this type of stress is an illusion. It is not real. We create it ourselves. And we all know this.
Events or perceptions that have the capacity to induce stress reactions in us are subjective and relative. An occurrence that traumatizes you may not affect me at all, or vice versa. An event that caused you considerable stress last year may hardly register this year, because your attitude or perspective may have changed in that period of time. You may even enjoy the experience this time around or perceive it as an exciting challenge rather than a threat, trauma, or stressor. It is quite simply all in the eye of the beholder. Our free will determines our reaction to these events. Will we react with fear, or with confidence and optimism? The choice is ours to make: stress or confidence, fear or love, anxiety or inner peace.
Brian L. Weiss, M.D., is a psychiatrist who lives and practices in Miami, Florida. He’s a graduate of Columbia University and Yale Medical School, and is the former Chairman of Psychiatry at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami.