ANXIETY, TIME & LANGUAGE by Dr. Michael Thweatt
ANXIETY is the mother of most psychological disorders and problems. Alcoholism, phobias, drug abuse, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, all stem from anxiety. In fact, it’s fair to say that many psychological problems are merely symptoms of the fundamental disease – anxiety.
Anxiety comes from dwelling on the PAST or FUTURE. Of course, it’s natural to “visit” past events and future scenarios – but if you start to dwell there, live there, establish your residence there, it can become a real problem. if you start to import past regrets and future concerns into the present, then you lay the foundation for anxiety.
“Time jumping” into the past and future is one of the legacies of acquiring language. Awareness of it is the key to moderating anxiety. It helps to develop a sensitivity for the trigger words that send us temporarily away from the present.
For Past Time Jumping, a key phrase is “if only.” If you stop to think about “if only” is about the most useless and self-destructive mental exercises you can engage in. “If only” is at the heart of all regrets. If only I had done this other thing, instead of what I actually did, life would now be perfect. Wrong. But we obsess about it anyway. Let’s consider some specific examples:
IF ONLY I HAD STAYED IN COLLEGE
IF ONLY I HADN’T PUT THAT MESCALINE IN MY BEER.
IF ONLY I HAD ASKED HER OUT ON A DATE.
IF ONLY I HAD BOUGHT 100 SHARES OF MICROSOFT IN 1986
WHAT’S THE POINT OF SAYING ‘IF ONLY” ??
It is completely ridiculous to cry about “if only.” You can’t go back in time and re-write history, so why wonder about it?_____________________________________________________
For Future Time Jumping, a key phrase is “what if?” Let’s consider some specific examples:
WHAT IF I GET ATTACKED BY FIRE-PROOF ZOMBIES AND THERE’S NO WHERE TO HIDE?
WHAT IF I FORGET TO SEND MY GIRLFRIEND A VALENTINE CARD?
WHAT IF BATMAN HAD THE POWERS OF THOR & SUPERMAN?
DON’T WASTE TIME WITH “WHAT IF”!
Most of the future “what ifs” we worry about will never come to pass. So it is simply an anxiety project to speculate about them. If you can slow down the inevitable human propensity to time jump and dwell in the simple present, you will be much calmer.