why worrying is usually irrational

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Do you fear shark attacks?

Few days ago i came across a very interesting statistic but before i tell you about it let me ask you a question.
Would you rather drive a car or swim in an ocean that is known to have sharks?

I believe that most people would go for the first choice. After all a shark attack is a horrible thing that must be avoided at all costs. Now let me tell you about the interesting statistic i came across.

The number of people who die from shark attacks each year world wide is less than 10 , or even 5 according to some sources. Now the number of deaths that happen because of road traffic injuries are above 1 million per year!

So according to numbers it's much more dangerous to drive a car on the highway than to swim in an ocean containing sharks. Now i don't blame you for believing that swimming around sharks is more dangerous but the question here is: Why do you think you underestimated the threat of road accidents while you over estimated the threat of a shark attack?

The short answer is one word : Perception
now let's examine the long answer together.

why worrying is usually irrational

When the very rare event of a shark attack happens the media and the whole world keeps talking about the horrifying accident. The disturbing pictures you see after the accident and the way everybody talks about it makes the threat seem 1000 times bigger.

In other words because your perception of such event has changed dramatically the event started to seem much more likely to happen than it truly is. See how your beliefs change your perception.

This is exactly what happens when you worry. In most of the cases our perception of certain events change in such a way that we view those events as threats where as in reality those events could be anything but threatening.

If you are a worrier than am pretty sure you noticed how you sometimes seem to worry about things that are extremely unlikely to happen. Because the way you saw those evens and the way you interpreted the information you got was twisted you ended up believing that you are in danger where as you were totally safe. See also the real reasons behind worrying.

I am not saying that you should never worry about anything but what you should be able to do is to differentiate between real threats and threats that just seem real.

When worrying makes sense

Worrying can only make sense when you have something to do. If for example you are worried about finding a job and you are not sending your CVs everywhere then in such a case worrying can't be stopped by altering your perception. Simply because in such a case you are not doing your homework.

In my book, The ultimate guide to getting over depression i said that once you do your homework your mind will ease the worrying and make you feel better. But if you are in a relationship with a good person and you are always worried about the possibility that this person leaves you, even though he never cheated on you before, then you need to work on changing your perception for you aren't seeing reality correctly.

In most of the cases we worry about things that can never harm us just because we saw the world from a specific angle then interpreted the events in our own twisted way.

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