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Response: Learning to Trust

November 28, '98

Yes, it sure seems like anxiety and worry are learned and can be unlearned. The trouble is that it can become so much a part of you that this can be very difficult. As a child, I believe that we learn much from our relationship with our brothers, sisters, and of course , parents! But you can't always put the blame outside yourself. If not in the proper perspective, sibling rivalry can develop into a mindset that transfers into daily living as an adult. You look at everyone else and say "Why not me?"

Anyhow, these topics are coming more out into public view as many of us realize the value of talking about it. Therapy can or cannot be the immediate answer. Self-help books are a good thing. A new book called "Worry" has a really good discussion of these topics.

BK

March 26, '99

Mike:

I am like that child. I always thought that if you worried about something you would prevent it from happening, because it is what you do not worry about that usually graps you by surprise. Your statement that what you worry about usually doesn't happen is true, and now I see that my logic to draw a cause and effect to this is faulty. The reason why is that in life there are an infinite number of things you can worry about and you can not worry about. Even us worriers can not hit every variable to worry about. Though bad things do happen, there are an infinite number of possibilities in every moment for a disaster to occur. The reason why what we worry about usually doesn't come true is that even the best of worriers can not find every opportunity to worry.

x = number of worry events

Infinity - x = number of events not worried about

x is much much < than Infinity - x

So the probability that the disaster occurs in Infinity - x is much more likely if the disaster is random. We could never test the hypothesis that worrying helps because you would have to be able to worry about an infinite number of events in each present moment and that is virtually impossible because the human mind like a computer in reality can have only one thought at a time.

So events happen randomly..and we can choose to think we are controlling events. The only thing we can do is mitigate known highly likely problems through preventitive care.

Hope you like this proof.. A past worrier, now mathematician..

Debbie

May 9, '99

Thought your article was useful. One way of dealing with anxiety that has helped me, is to confine worrying to a designated period of time, and make sure to do something to divert attention from worrying when the worry period is over. Sharing a worry with someone else lends perspective and stops the worry from escalating. Write down the worry and refute it. Exercise helps too as does cutting coffee intake. I find too much coffee sets me up for an ongoing anxiety state.

R. Jones

October 4, '99

Mike,

I learned to worry, and also not to worry, by watching my parents raise six children born between 1941 and 1951 (one more, born in 1958, only lived two years). My father, a tacit worrier, was a school teacher. My mother, an openly-practicing worrier, has always been a homemaker. They sent all six of us to American high schools as foreign students for a minimum of two years each. Then we all graduated from colleges both in México and in the USA. (***sidenote*** I wish today's economy would allow families to educate six kids on a public-school teacher's salary).

When the Mexican peso devaluation began in the 1970's, I expressed my worry for their well-being since they were already in their late 50's and early 70's and in a collapsing economy. My father's reply, "you don't seem to realize that we already lived through one depression," was very clear and confident. I did not realize the full significance of his statement until I had personally: survived a recession or two, survived a market crash or two, survived a few corporate restructurings, seen all my siblings and myself leave jobs from which we had expected to retire, seen all my siblings and myself begin new jobs or businesses, gained the perspective of a near-senior-citizen, ...and... paid attention to the advice in Matthew 12:22-31.

Thanks for your wisdom,

Ramón

April 11, 2000

while anxiety may be a learned behavior, it can also be a phyiological reaction to an emotional trauma.  i
know this to be a fact!!

i went throught my mid-life crisis two years ago (i'm now 40) and my husband (also 40) is now going
through it.  after learning of my husband's affair with a 19-year-old i went into a horrible survival-mode that
had me lose 50 pounds in a couple of months, had me in a state of shell-shock so great i thought I was
going to loose my mind also.  after a few months of some type of recovery from the shock of the whole
think, i finally started putting my life back together and in the past month my body has had a physiological
reaction to the strain and stress of the previous six months (actually, most probably the past 24 months).

the answer to my new-found anxiety attacks???   magnesium supplements !!  they have really worked.  i
seemed to have developed a magnesium deficiency during the stressful months and my body is just now
reacting to this.  i now take high doses of magnesium and it has really made an incredible difference!!!  i no
longer suffer from the anxiety that i had even one week ago, let alone the levels of anxiety that i was
experiencing 1-4 months ago.  it's been a real life-saver.

AD

October 8, 2000

I appreciated your column, Mike.  I'm a life-long worrier myself, although I've taken it to an artform.  I agree that anxiety is learned behaviour.  My mother was a chronic worrier to the point of paranoia.  She died last October without ever have known a moment's peace from this hellish phenomenon and my heart broke for her in the end.  Every day of my childhood, from the time I could walk, she sat me down and told me every gory detail she heard on the news of children being abducted, assaulted, murdered, and killed in accidents.  She believed that my everpresent awareness of the my own vulnerability would protect me
when she could not.  I started having terrible nightmares at a young age, and at 31 continue to dream frequently of being harmed by a stranger or an accident.  I became so sensitive that I was given sedatives daily from the time I was 10, just so they could get me to school and to function.  A drug addiction and alcohol addiction followed quickly.  I was hospitalized for an emotional meltdown at 16 - if you can believe it.  By the time I was 21 I couldn't even step out my front door without being heavily sedated, so constant was the worry about the things that could hapen to me.

I'm not in Heaven today, but I'm no longer in Hell.  7 years ago I had enough of fear and anxiety.  The drugs and alcohol went down the toilet and I took a leap of faith that someone somewhere knew what I was going through and knew the way out.  The minute I found out I was no longer alone as a prisoner of profound anxiety, half of the pain of it was alleviated.  It's been a long road, but others have walked it; there are self-help support groups for people like us and they are worth bringing into our lives.  Today, I'm a writer, an adventure canoeist, a mature student in university, a stepmother to two challenging (one severely
brain-damaged) children, and willing to do whatever I have to do to free myself of the bonds of toxic anxiety.  It can be done.

But it's not over yet.  Today, because I have more blessings by far than I have ever known, and so many more than most, I find myself once again pained deeply by the sense that the other shoe is about to drop. If I'm not careful, my high level of tension will cause me to force the solution, and then perhaps the dropping of the shoe will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I will be okay because I am not alone in this special type of struggle for freedom.  We all will be well one day, and we are not alone.

Just my two cents,
Stephanie in Dundas

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