Worrying can be a form of self punishment

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Worrying has many causes

I'd be saying nonsense if i told you that there is one cause for worrying. In my article The real reasons behind worrying i explained how there are so many reasons that could lead to worrying. One or more of those reasons could come together and cause your worrying habit.

This is why to understand worrying and deal with it you need to understand your own specific case because each person might have his own different reasons for worrying. Now one interesting theory about worrying says that worrying can be one sort of self punishment.

But don't get this wrong. The theory doesn't state that worrying happens because a person wants to punish himself but it states that worrying happens when the person expects the worst as a result of believing that he deserves to be punished.

let me give you an example to explain this in more detail.
Let's suppose that a person has certain ethical values. If that person constantly violated those values then shortly he might develop the belief that he deserves to be punished. See also Deserving happiness

Now one of the most popular studies about worrying says that some people are more likely to worry because they are more likely to pay selective attention to certain threats. In other words people who selectively focus on bad possibilities are more likely to worry about negative things happening.

Worrying and selective perception

Now i believe the connection between worrying and self punishment has became evident to you now. When a person believes that he deserves to be punished then probably he will keep expecting the worst to happen.

This person will then selectively look at certain threats and think about the worst possible case. Of course as soon as this happens worrying kicks in and the person finds himself totally worried about the bad future possibilities. See also Thinking strategies that lead to worrying

Now the interesting part in here is that any kind of unconscious guilt can cause worrying even if you weren't consciously aware of it. Let's suppose that you did something bad then forgot about it or suppressed it in your subconscious mind.

In such a case while you might not be consciously aware of what happened still those unconscious thoughts will feed the belief that you deserve punishment and as a result you might start getting worried about possible negative scenarios.

Worrying and harmony

Just as i said in the beginning of the article worrying can be caused by several different factors however if the cause of worrying was suppressed guilt then we can safely say that becoming more in harmony with your values can certainly help you end worrying.

What matters here is believing that you are adhering to the values you believe in. If for example you think that cheating is wrong but you have been cheating on your partner then there is a great possibility that your defense mechanisms will kick in and that you will start worrying a lot just because your mind thinks that justice will happen.

People who have strong religious values are more likely to suffer from this problem if they weren't properly adhering to their religious values. In short, whenever your mind sends you a bad or unwanted emotion you just need to investigate to find out what went wrong.

Even if guilt has nothing to do with it you just still have to stick to the same approach to find out exactly what's going on at the back of your mind.

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