No Worries by Sarah Edelman

No Worries by Sarah Edelman

Author:Sarah Edelman
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: ABC Books
Published: 2019-05-13T16:00:00+00:00

Although we can rationally see the benefits of abandoning the worry habit, on a gut level, we may feel uneasy about doing this.


All of us have beliefs about ourselves, others and our world. For instance, we might believe that the world should be fair; that people should behave decently; that we should be liked and approved of by others; that we should be reliable, successful, productive and achieve the things we set out to do, etc. (More details about these types of beliefs are described in my earlier book, Change Your Thinking.)

In addition to beliefs about ourselves, others and the world, we also have beliefs about our own thought processes and emotions – how we should be thinking and feeling. These beliefs, called metacognitive beliefs, are held at an unconscious level, although they can be brought to awareness through self-reflection. Metacognitive beliefs play an important role in maintaining many of the unpleasant emotions we experience, and they explain why some people are particularly resistant to releasing established habits.

The following are examples of metacognitive beliefs that perpetuate distressing emotions and unhelpful thoughts:

‘If I have made a mistake, I need to suffer. I shouldn’t let myself off the hook too easily, or else I will do it again.’ (This perpetuates guilt and self-criticism.)

‘Just because this depression is starting to lift, I shouldn’t focus on the positive. Better to stay pessimistic, so that I can avoid possible future disappointment.’ (This perpetuates a depressed mood.)

‘I need to stay angry. If I release my anger, I am giving a victory to the culprit – it means they win and I lose.’ (This perpetuates anger.)

‘I need to maintain unrelenting perfectionist standards. If I don’t, I will become lazy and achieve nothing. If I don’t give myself a hard time, I won’t succeed.’ (This perpetuates perfectionist thinking and self-criticism.)

‘I need to be hypervigilant to my body sensations all the time. If I stop focusing on my body, I might miss something and end up having a panic attack.’ (This perpetuates hypervigilance and anxiety.)

Notice that these are beliefs about how we should be thinking and feeling, rather than beliefs about our external world.


Most habitual worriers are not aware of their metacognitive beliefs about the benefits of worrying, but these play a very important role in perpetuating the urge to worry. Metacognitive beliefs are the ‘engine room’ of GAD. As long as we believe that worry is protective, we remain motivated to keep it going.

These beliefs vary between individuals. Below are some common examples:

‘Worry helps me to identify problems.’

‘Worry prepares me for the worst.’

‘Worry motivates me to get things done.’

‘Worry gives me control.’

‘Worry means I care.’

‘Worry can prevent bad things from happening.’

‘To not worry would make me careless and irresponsible.’

Addressing metacognitive beliefs that maintain the urge to worry is a key to breaking the worry habit. The first step is to identify our own metacognitive beliefs about worry. The second step is to put those beliefs under scrutiny, and question their unrealistic suppositions.


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