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Don't let it bug you - how not to worry

14 Comments
By Michael Hoffman

First of two parts

Why worry? It’s stupid, pointless, distracting. Worry feeds on the joy of life, leaving us weary and dispirited. “Worry is 90 percent misunderstanding,” says President (March 1). Really?

A glance at the state of the world shows plenty to worry about: war, warming, aging, democracy threatened, autocracy rising, economies uncertain, the future far from clear. To say nothing of personal problems.

President focuses mostly on the latter. The home, the office – especially the office. It’s a business magazine, after all.

What a minefield, the office. The surly bosses, the jealous rivals, the rivals of whom you’re jealous, the relentless competition, the endless pressures, the looming deadlines. Why is all this work being heaped on me while so-and-so sits doing nothing? Why was so-and-so promoted and not me, when I do so much more? Don’t the bosses see? Why do those who understand so little rise so high? Is it power harassment? Should I complain, keep quiet or quit?

Stop, close your eyes, take a deep breath. Reflect, consider, meditate, pick up a rock and stare at it for 15 minutes a day

That’s Takeshi Yoro’s advice. Yoro, 86, is an anatomist by profession; his essays appear frequently in President. Worry, in his opinion – not only his; other contributors, among them a Zen monk, a Christian priest (whom we’ll meet in Part 2) and a neuroscientist (see below) share it, though they draw different conclusions – arises largely from a distorted view of the world.

Not all worry is misplaced, Yoro acknowledges. Prehistoric humanity evolved beset by dangers. Anxiety was a survival tool, a survival prerequisite. The calm, easygoing, trusting and relaxed got eaten. We’ve outgrown our primitive past, maybe, but we haven’t shed it.

Life today is less of a battle but not much less of a struggle – for position, prosperity, self-respect and the respect of others if not for dear life. Maybe we struggle too hard for things that don’t matter? The distortion Yoro sees us committed to is a hyper-emphasis on abstract “data” at the expense of what used to count so much more: concrete objects and emotions.

Life’s virtual relocation online didn’t begin the “information age” but heightened it to the point that the world of nature has come to seem very remote indeed. Handling data, we lose a feel for things. We lose a feel for feeling, Yoro argues. And yet “human relations” compose our world and our day, he says. Out of touch with flowers, trees, birds, the moon (and what is the moon but a rock?) – out of touch even with ourselves – we are more sensitive than ever, as Yoro sees us, to what others think of us. A sour expression on the boss’ face, a snappish remark dropped by a colleague, an email from a client that, read again and again, takes on sinister implications – make daily life a succession and ultimate merging of one useless worry after another.

A rock is so much more than a rock when contemplated with due tranquility of mind. It is tranquility embodied. Can 15 minutes’ daily communion with a rock restore lost balance?

We leave the question open and pass on to another point Yoro makes, not quite related and yet not quite unrelated either. A distinctively Japanese trait, he says, is an unwillingness to “cause trouble to others” – the familiar Japanese word “meiwaku.” This unwillingness he explains as arising from the extreme density of Japan’s population. So cheek-by-jowl an evolution fostered hypersensitivity to others’ feelings, and a fear of trampling on them. The spacious expanses that bred Western individualism were and remain for Japan a luxury denied.

A partial compensation that developed was the aggression, sometimes violent, that marred (or made) ancient festivals. A modern offshoot has been the office drinking party, where inebriation excuses the most extravagant verbal venting of pent-up feelings against bosses and colleagues. But young people today, Yoro sighs, no longer care for that sort of thing. They prefer to go home after work and drink on their own time. So that’s that vent closed.

“What goes on in the brain when we’re upset?” asks neuroscientist Toshinori Kato – whose answer is, Less than we think; much less. Anxiety seems stimulating, it keeps us awake nights, and we picture the anxious brain bursting with activity. “If only we could stop it,” we say. We’re mistaken. Anxiety is precisely stoppage. The brain – half the brain anyway – shuts down, which is why, Kato says, the all the cerebral churning yields so little in the way of solutions.

The mapping of the brain was a triumph of early 20th-century neurology. One hundred billion brain cells arranged in 50-odd regions organize for specialized tasks. Familiar since then has been the left brain/ right brain split, a simplified version of which is that the left side deals with fact, logic, math and other hard things while the right handles art, rhythm, imagination, art and emotion.

Anxiety, Kato explains, paralyzes the left, thinking side, leaving the right, emotional side to make us feel the way we feel when we are troubled – like the world is coming to an end.

It’s not.

[To be continued. Part 2 will appear Monday, March 4]

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

14 Comments
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The dictatorships want us to believe that democracy is crumbling but the dictatorships are still pathetically weak in all aspects of the quality of life of their citizens. And they aren't much better at military endeavors either.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

A distinctively Japanese trait, he says, is an unwillingness to “cause trouble to others”

Oh come on!

Is there really some kind of empathy involved or is it just not wanting others to think badly of you? This may come from a place of insecurity rather than compassion or sense of harmony.

Plus, it is a short-term strategy that relegates the need to sort out long-term problems to beneath the carpet.

And many apparently individualistic western countries are densely packed too and even showcase behaviour designed not to cause immediate trouble.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

 A modern offshoot has been the office drinking party, where inebriation excuses the most extravagant verbal venting of pent-up feelings against bosses and colleagues.

I dreaded having to sit through those. I've seem some colleagues acted as complete drunk d@cks at such events and while maybe they got to vent their frustrations, they left themselves more isolated and suspicious over all.

But young people today, Yoro sighs, no longer care for that sort of thing. They prefer to go home after work and drink on their own time.

Not a bad thing at all. I wonder why Yoro sighed? Ain't he got no home to go to, eh?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Not a bad thing at all. I wonder why Yoro sighed? Ain't he got no home to go to, eh?

I read this part as a problem when young people keep accumulating stress without venting it as it has been the case previously, it would not be bad at all to replace this with other forms of de-stressing, or with a work-life style that does not come with so much stress on the first place; but Yoro seems to think the young people are still stressing the same without getting relief, even in the flawed way after-work parties give (I am not really sure this is the case).

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There is a piece of neurological data that is not correct. There are no "One hundred billion brain cells" They are approximately 86 billion, and the entire body of a 70kg person is 140 billion approx.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I forgot to say that in the brain, no structure corresponds to a self or "I". In folk's terms: Nobody is home!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Aaah. I wanna scream at psychological articles where 'the invited experts' are not even psychologists but anatomists. As for priests and monks its a very good idea to have a spiritual point of view included nut a bunch of psychologists is a must!

Stop, close your eyes, take a deep breath. Reflect, consider, meditate, pick up a rock and stare at it for 15 minutes a day

Now imagine. You have a situation at work and your brain is bursting with rumination, thoughts and acute emotions. Ideally, you need to stop rumination and slow down your nervous system. closing eyes and a deep breath okay but may not necessary make you calm down immediately and definitely not drive away your thoughts and then you jump into reflecting. Insane. with all that mess in your head. if anything you need to start with 15 minutes gray rock staring even then it doesn't guarantee you wont stop replaying your situation in your head while staring at it. The safest thing is to talk it out with a person who is empathetic, close to you not a hostess or a drinking pal in a bar, ideally - a psychologist. Just talking it out makes frustration go away, afterwards you will be able to analyze the situation more clearly.

Worry, in his opinion arises largely from a distorted view of the world.

Oh, come on now. It can't be that easy, can it? :D

Honestly, an experienced psychologist would cry tears here and not from joy.

Prehistoric humanity evolved beset by dangers. Anxiety was a survival tool, a survival prerequisite. The calm, easygoing, trusting and relaxed got eaten. We’ve outgrown our primitive past, maybe, but we haven’t shed it.

Is there a point to talk about prehistoric humans here now? Biological evolutionary theories are nice and stylish but that has nothing to do with a plethora of psychological knowledge that can direct people in a much more logical flow of thought.

Life’s virtual relocation online didn’t begin the “information age” but heightened it to the point that the world of nature has come to seem very remote indeed.

So that's what it is all about! :D

mister Anatomist-sempai clearly clearly feels the need to criticize younger generation.

A distinctively Japanese trait, he says, is an unwillingness to “cause trouble to others” – the familiar Japanese word “meiwaku.” This unwillingness he explains as arising from the extreme density of Japan’s population.

from the point of psychology traditional Japanese culture elements such as keeping everything to oneself not to bother, conforming, not being sincere or direct about your views or emotions, etc are all very similar to behavioral patterns caused by covert narcissism.

They prefer to go home after work and drink on their own time. So that’s that vent closed.

And Im sure Mr Anatomist-sempai is very very sad with those young people who have enough boundaries and courage not to go with the flow and go home when they have a full right to do so and not to interact with drunken boss\colleague harrassment :D

Venting has much better and safer spaces to be expressed at.

Anxiety, Kato explains, paralyzes the left, thinking side, leaving the right, emotional side to make us feel the way we feel when we are troubled – like the world is coming to an end.

Anxiety causes our mind to switch from prefrontal lobe cortex (that gets shut down) to amygdala, that is to switch from our executive function brain to survival brain. If you are in a state of worry, anxiety or fear know that your amygdala is ruling your life now, not a creative prefrontal lobe.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Does anyone remember 'Mad' magazine's Alfred E. Neuman cartoon character's catchphrase, "What, me worry?"

Worry is a mental construct. No different from the feeling of 'loneliness'. Both can be eliminated. Without alcohol or drugs.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Do what one can to prepare for what will happen, and then have a clear conscience about having done all that is reasonably possible. Under these circumstances, extreme worry is counterproductive, and undeserved.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

My hero! Alfred E. Neuman! Booze, Coca-Cola, under duress, or just being follow by a Spy vs. Spy, no woories. Thanks for the reminder. One look at him and I'm in Oz!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Democracy? Bah, if two wolves and a sheep deciding what's for dinner is democracy, then a dictatorship is better than a democracy. If red, blue, red, blue, a dichotomic choice was a democracy, I'd rather have red all the way. If democracy was touted as the best choice of all the political systems, I'd rather have a dictative meritocracy. If corporations ruled the world, that billions of government spending has been bought by foreign investors, effectively buying the government, I'd rather have an honest authoritarian, socialist, communist government than one who pretends and hides behind a facade that it's still democratic, that in truth, really the people are ruled under IBM, Apple, Exxon, BP, etc. At least those who believe the Western government's are democratic, they want that ruse to continue, they want to believe that they're ideal fantasies are still true and factual. Why argue about one dictator in power, when you here have a thousand dictators in power?

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Don't let it bug you - how not to worry

Easier said than done.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"We suffer more in the imagination than in reality." -Seneca

True for me, for sure.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Rational/emotive therapy.

Take your worry {an emotion }} and look at the situation rationally.

Works most of the time.

Concentrate on breathing slowly.

Hard to do in an anxious state.

Damn...get me a beer...

Works most of the time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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