Summary of Chapter Six in The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller. Will is a  pastor working in London and Rob is a Christian psychiatrist. Both are recovering worriers.

1. Although we love to be certain about things, we must learn to accept and live with uncertainty.

2. People who worry have unhelpful positive beliefs about worry (see the golden worry beliefs), and unhelpful beliefs about certainty. They maintain worry by setting such high standards for certainty that they are quite unachievable. These include:

  • Being uncertain is an unpleasant experience
  • You should act only when you are absolutely certain.
  • Better safe than sorry
  • I can’t be safe when I’m not sure
  • If I am sure, then I can predict bad things and so prevent them.

3. These beliefs about certainty create a desire to control any uncertainty, creating more worry when they can’t, and so on.

4. Present contemplation is the gold-standard technique for overcoming worry. Two lesser techniques that will train us for that are “thought records: and “making new appraisals.”

5. “Thought records” help us to recognize the irrationality of worry thoughts and the link between thoughts and feelings. An example of a “thought record” can be seen here. The general format is:

  • Situation: The moment when you had a worry thought.
  • Mood: Your feelings in response to your worry thought (rate intensity out of 10)
  • Automatic thoughts (and images): The thoughts that result from your worry.
  • Evidence for: The evidence that supports the likelihood of your worry coming true.
  • Evidence against: Evidence that opposes your worry thought.
  • Alternative thought: Review original worry in light of the evidence.
  • Review and plan: Re-read your original worry and review your mood/feelings (rate intensity out of 10)

Thought records can really help us familiarize ourselves with worry and help us see that most of our worries are poorly founded.

6. “Making new appraisals.” This is a less controlled version of thought records that operates in our thoughts not on paper. It involves the assumption that we are overestimating our worries and starts to consider a range of more probably alternative outcomes and conclusions. We look at our predicament from different angles and produce alternative conclusions.

7. Unhelpful techniques for worry include:

  • Trying to get more information. Looking up stuff on the internet usually increases worry and keeps you on the “I-must-be-in-control” treadmill.
  • Journaling. Unless you keep it to a couple of paragraphs a day, this can set your mind racing when you are trying to sleep.
  • Phoning a friend. This is often a way of avoiding responsibility for decisions and only produces short-term reassurance.
  • Alcohol. And any other addiction like shopping, eating, self-harm.

8. Experiment with losing control. Try a mini-experiment by not trying to control what you usually demand control over. Before doing it, predict what will happen. Then write down what did happen. Keep trying this with various control issues until you learn that there really is nothing to worry about.

The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller.