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Why do we worry?

We think, first and foremost, and that's the start of it. When you think, it means you have things to think about, and there are as many bad things as there are good things, but the bad things are far more likely to concern us. Good things, well, those can really only experienced to make the good feelings follow.

Thinking of good things without experiencing them is about as rich of an experience as day dreaming that we're rich. It makes for a nice dream, but coming back to reality makes such a dream more frustrating than it is pleasant. It reminds us that we are not rich once we're back to reality, so in dwelling in an unreal pleasure, we're faced with a real lack of that pleasure.

But thinking of the bad, well, that makes us face just how close our reality is to that bad. To stick with the wealth analogy, when we consider being poor, rather than being faced with relief that we're not actually poor, it seems to make us face just how close to being poor we are at the moment. Most of us live in thinly veiled life of material comfort, just one or two crises away from destitution.

I think this dichotomy of thought, from bad to good, is an evolutionary result. Life, this blessed but cruel teacher, has instilled into us that the bad can kill us and the good only brings us temporary pleasure. That's the whole role of the amygdala, to identify every possible threat, and that list grows about as fast as we can identify our surroundings. Thus fear is the foundation of our ability to persist in life. Without it, we would not perceive our threats, and they would eventually delete us from the lists of the living.

So is it possible that we can have a more balanced approach to the good and bad? I can take an optimistic approach, see how few lucky breaks lie between me and a better life, and perhaps see how resilient I have been against trials in the past. But I can't escape the feeling that this rings more hollow than the pessimistic perspective. Perhaps the brain is to blame, or maybe it's simply how our brains have been trained by the ever present existential threats of this world. Whatever the true cause, it seems clear we will never run out of things to give us worry.

But why worry about the fear? The notion that worry makes us suffer twice is particularly compelling, and gives me a sort of solace in the unpredictable. It's not merely in a devil may care sort of way, but in a more ulcerless zebra manner. I believe I can control how I respond to what I cannot control, and there's a power in such an awareness.

Worry serves us. Watts had it right, that there is a wisdom in insecurity, and it teaches us best when we accept it. So that's why we worry, because to worry is to be aware, to worry is to learn. But we don't have to let the worry control us. Instead, let's allow it to instruct us.

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