10/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Does Worry Prevent Tragedy or Destroy Your Life?

Studies show that most things we worry about never happen. Is this because the worry prevents bad things from happening, or is it just a waste of energy? My first wife always said to me, "I have to worry for both of us." If worry was an indicator of future events, worry would be more predictive than it seems to be. Certainly, people who worry a lot do not seem happy and often suffer from stress. But are they all saving us from tragedies with their collective worries?

Can Worry Become A Death Spiral?

Worry is a pattern of circular thoughts focused on a particular event or possibility that makes us anxious. We believe that something might happen in the future, like losing our jobs, and we think about that possibility over and over again. These circular thoughts fill our consciousness and we feel more and more stressed. Our state of mind deteriorates and in some cases nervous breakdowns occur. What happens is our consciousness narrows to focus on a worry and filters out everything else, including pleasant sensations that come naturally with day to day living, like a beautiful morning. Additionally, since we seem to have a need to be right about our thinking, we actually begin to select things that prove our worries are justified. We become taken-up by a worry death spiral.

What Are We Missing Because of Worry?

Since our consciousness narrows and becomes invested in being right about our worries, we miss most everything else. We often fail to connect with the people in our lives who are most important to us. A beautiful day seems dark. As the pattern of worry sets in, even wonderful events in our lives bring on the feeling of impending doom, with thoughts like: this can't last, this is the quiet before the storm, I don't deserve this. We also are so focused on our worries that obvious solutions to our problems are overlooked as they appear. We go to work in a bad mood and people wonder what is wrong with us. Someone, maybe our boss, might start to become concerned about our attitude, which may lead to a layoff. Then our mind will say to us, "See you were right to worry, you just did not worry hard enough."

How Can You Stop Worrying?

The first step in letting go of worry is realizing that thought at best is only an approximation of reality, and at worst can drive you crazy. As a poet, I often try to inspire people by describing the deep beauty of the world we live in, but even with my skill with words it is still just an approximation of the beauty I experience. For example:

It seems to me that there is a deep intelligence within the formless that expresses itself in form. You can call it: The Flow of Heaven, The Life Force, The Grace of God, Divine Intention, The Great Intelligence, The Great Spirit or Natural Intelligence.

This intelligence is continuously expressing itself in form. Everything we see around us has arisen from this intelligence: the trees, flowers, oceans, fishes and, yes, each of us as human beings. We are an expression of divine intention, or as many say, God. This "Great Intelligence" is woven into every fiber of our being and drives life itself. It is always there within you and all around you. If you are consciously aware of this reality, your entire being shines from within and your thoughts are filled with joy and wonder. Collaborating with this intelligence, which literally pulsates within you, creates thoughts and actions that we call an expression of genius.

I can tell you that after years of practice as a writer, though these thoughts may inspire you, it is only an approximation of what I experience. Realizing that thoughts are only an approximation of reality will change the way we deal with them. If thoughts, like the above, inspire you to higher levels of consciousness and happiness, then they are useful, yet only an approximation. If, like worry, they narrow our consciousness and create stress, then they are useless, if not harmful. Just like you naturally pull your hand from a flame when you feel the pain, learn to let go of thoughts that create psychological pain. As we move our consciousness from our thoughts, natural beauty and grace fills us. We don't have to do anything but let go of our thoughts and we will begin to feel great. It is nature's, or God's, way of directing us ... and yes it is that simple! "Don't worry, be happy."