The Role of Worry

We, in the west, tend to think of worry as something unproductive. “You worry too much.” “Don’t worry about it.” “Stop worrying.” The old bromides underscore our rejection of worry as something worthwhile.

Worrying, however, is very worthwhile.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the emotion of worry (and the energy it generates) is linked to the stomach and spleen/pancreas. These organs are physically responsible for a great deal of our digestive processes.  They mix our food with enzymes, and create muscular contractions to roll the food around ensuring that the enzymes are well-distributed and that the food comes into contact with lots of surface area so the nutrients can be absorbed into our physical body, keeping us healthy.

The role of the emotion of worry is to do the same thing with less tangible “food.” Ideas and experiences need to be rolled around, looked at from several angles, broken down or teased out into more distinct concepts before they can be absorbed, or discarded as the case may be. Without the worry, we would swallow ideas whole, without knowing whether they contained any nourishment for us, without knowing if they filled our needs. As we worry, we are being honest with ourselves about what our needs are, and in this way we are strengthening our integrity.

Another benefit of worrying is that as we mull our needs over, it probably doesn’t escape our notice that everyone else is doing the same thing. This commonality connects us and, aware of the connection, we possibly now start worrying about whether others’ needs are also being met. In this way, our integrity further develops, since we now respect both our own needs and others’ needs.

So go ahead and worry. It’s good for you.

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