Worry happens in two directions. We can worry about ourselves or we can worry about others and/or the outside world. Neither one actually is an action in the world, both are thought-spins that decrease our ability to act simply due the fact that worrying takes both time and energy.
If you study the concept of worry closely enough you will see that everyone worries about the same thing: belonging. Humans are pack animals, so belonging is at our core. Not belonging is both lonely and risky, whereas belonging is to thrive.
For a child, not belonging to their school social structures creates stress. The human mind knows it’s natural state is connection to others, so when a child has their belonging threatened they will experience stress. This can happen via a parent or teacher or a fellow student inadvertently communicating that a child will not belong to the successful strata of society unless their performance improves on some front; social, intellectual or physical.
Adults are also prone to worry because they also believe that their appearance, their level of success or their social skills may lead to them never being accepted at work, in a relationship, or with friends. Essentially everything a human being does is designed to increase their level of belonging to society’s various groups. There’s safety in numbers.
Since you’re doing this and others are too, it becomes a bizarre game of musical chairs where everyone wants to sit, and yet everyone senses there aren’t enough chairs. This leaves people permanently on guard or, in other words, worried. So rather than try to be the best chair-sitter, today will be about how you can add more places to sit.
Group cohesiveness is a group activity. It doesn’t really matter who goes first, or whose need is greatest, the fact remains that the more people feel a part of a group the healthier they will be and the more important maintaining the health of the group will be to them. In short, giving begets giving.
To use the musical chair metaphor, we can remove our own worry by surrendering the idea that we need a chair for ourselves. We can remove another’s worry by informing them that if they do not get a chair themselves, that we will offer them our lap, and if that isn’t enough to allay their fears, we can extend the offer to say that they can have the entire chair.
There is no guarantee that this will create belonging–sometimes it won’t–but precisely because we are all pack animals, cooperation is still the most likely route to increased cooperation and so, over time, people all end up coming to that conclusion. It’s just a matter of when.
If people can either have our lap or the whole chair, it then becomes difficult for them to not offer their own chair or lap to us. This isn’t to say they will offer it, but over time they’ll discover they can’t always win, and so the best safety net is ultimately to work together. If an entire room of musical chairs does this it essentially means no one is ever without a place.
Your job today is to find someone who is worried; about what doesn’t matter. Your only job today is to make it clear to that person that you will not remove yourself from their life. You simply have to find a way to communicate to them that your support for them is truly unconditional, meaning you don’t expect perfection from them. They’ll always have a seat with you.
Without the worry that perfection is required they are free to relax into themselves, and that relaxation is the type of security that soon translates to generosity. If you have no worries about your own sense of belonging you naturally start proving your strength and capability by offering others the chance to feel that way too. It’s just human nature.
Today, when you see a person struggling with belonging, reach out to them. Offer them that unconditional support. In doing so you will prove you have enough because you can give, and by giving you will begin to build the bonds that successfully tie together a happy and confident society.
Find your example and act. Because anything you do for another is truly something you’re, in a wonderful way, doing for yourself. We’re all in this together. It’s time we started making that clearer. And don’t forget to enjoy the process. After all, you’re doing something very nice by alleviating another’s worry, so feel good about that and enjoy your day.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.