Problems and worries. How to avoid them

(Or how to pay the bill twice)

Here is a brief reminder of how most of us pay the bill twice when it comes to worries. I’m one of them. That is, I was. I have gradually become better at paying it once.

A little explanation: Man is endowed with a brain that has the ability to remember things that have happened in the past or to live in the present, but also to imagine what will happen tomorrow. This trait has probably made us the leading animal species on earth. 

Our intellectual capacity has enabled us to play future scenarios inside our heads, prepare for what is to happen and also distribute tasks in a better way, if what we were to do tomorrow required cooperation.

In the herd of people who were to hunt prey the next day, each of the participants was given a task, perhaps distributed by a leader of the tribe or the group. Probably was he the oldest or strongest or the one who had the best conditions for reproduction. 

I do not know what it was like then, but I reckon it did not differ much from how we do it today. The same conditions apply. More or less.

Table of content

How to imagine being a better baskeplayer


The ability to imagine, the ability to daydream and the ability to plan have thus made us the dominant species on earth. Studies have been done on how this works and one of these studies was about how a group of people got better at basketball (of all things) based on three different ways to prepare.

A study conducted by Dr. Biasiotto at the University of Chicago was done where he divided people into three groups and tested each group on how many penalty throws they could make.

After this, he had the first group training on free throws every day for an hour.

The other group just visualized that they were making penalty kicks.

The third group did nothing.

After 30 days, he tested them again.

  • The first group improved by 24%.
  • The other group improved by 23% without touching a basketball.
  • The third group did not improve as expected.

A gift or a burden?

Man’s ability to use the frontal lobes and through that imagination, to imagine possible outcomes of the future, is thus a gift. But is it a gift we always want? I have in my background a number of experiences that are not good at all. In retrospect, I see that they resolved themselves reasonably well anyway. I came out of them with some scars both inside and out, but by and large: I live and the experiences are good to have.

And that’s the whole point, of course.

What I was not particularly good at was seeing that most things would work out – in advance.

Now you may be saying to yourself: Do not bring that think positive thinking mantra on me again. All these self-help books that encourage you to think positively and thus everything will work out. You will be happy and successful.

When you lie in your bed at 3 o’clock at night with catastrophic thoughts about what will happen tomorrow, positive thinking will not bring you anywhere. Everything gets worse when you are tired and it is bedtime or in the middle of the night. Bills (literally) that have to be paid, become huge, meetings you have to have with people you don’t want to meet, become something you do not look forward to, tasks that have to be solved grows beyond any logic size.

The power of vulnerability.

First a recommendation. Before you do anything see this famous TED talk.

Brene Browns the power of vulnerability. It speaks for itself.

Some of us have a notion that if we prove vulnerable, we are weak. The world is ready to “take” us apart if we show any kind of vulnerbility. This is an attitude I obviously strongly disagree with. Vulnerability is not weakness. On the contrary. 

I realized many years ago that having PTSD did not mean weakness or cowardice or what it was the world around us had put as labels on the disorder. On the contrary. PTSD is, as one psychologist told me, a normal reaction on an abnormal experience. Neither more nor less.

Instead of asking you to think positively about things, I would ask you to think that the world is not actually taking notice of you. You are not the center of the world. Sorry, mate, you are not. People usually do not want anything bad to happen for you. 

In most cases, people you meet in your daily life are not particularly concerned about you at all. You may think in your anxious narcissism that it’s all about you, but it is not. Quite simply, most of us are most concerned about ourselves and only in exceptional cases let us touch on what others are doing. Or to put it another way: most people are very concerned about what others think of them. And that is something else. 

For a brief moment, people are preoccupied with what we are actually doing, but then it is forgotten. Of course, we take care of each other and have empathy (another human trait that has made us get to where we are as human beings, but that’s a different story.) And that’s good.

Empathy is what makes me sure that you are met with understanding and that things usually will work out for you.

Why things have a tendency to work out


In another blog post, I mentioned that happiness or satisfaction is about solving problems. We humans live life in an endless stream of problem solving. Every task we are able to solve gives us a boost, a flow that brings us further along the way. Sometimes such a continuous boost can give us a feeling of happiness. Therefore, there is a connection between facing problems and feeling happy.

Paying the bill twice, which was the thought behind this blog post, simply means that the problem you are going to solve tomorrow, whether it is a real problem, task or something else, will be solved on one level or another, regardless of whether you are awake in the evening or the night before and ponder it. 

If you are going on a trip the next day, it is natural to be excited. If you imagine the trip will be tough, you may be right. But it may also be that you are wrong. A few years ago I had this modus operandi: that all tasks, large and small, were something that I initially expected to be hard and troublesome the next day. 

Thus I lay awake and had a lump in my stomach. The next day came and went and the task was solved. Sometimes I was right, it was an unpleasant experience, other times I was wrong, it went well.

(And I gradually realized that it almost always went well.)

I began to see a pattern between the degree of worry in advance and the outcome of the task. Great concern in advance, often led to the task not going well. Although in many cases it was the same task as when it previously went well.

The difference was that I had pondered beforehand.

So what had happened?

Quite simply, I spent a lot of energy worrying beforehand. The energy I used turned the task the next day into a negative one, simply because I was tired. Had I avoided worrying about the task, the extra energy would have made the task the next day easier and more positive.

A win win deal so to speak.

How to change a mindset?


I will give some careful advice. Paying the bill twice means, as you have probably realized, worrying about something that may go well or something that does not go well. If the task is solved perfectly, you have spent energy worrying unnecessarily and if the task is solved incorrectly, you have worried twice about something that did not have to be a problem more than once. So you have paid the bill twice.

I spent a lot of time (and still do occasionally) paying bills twice. What I have discovered in recent years is that what happens the next day, or in a week, or in a month, happens regardless of how I think about it the night before or the weeks before.

It just happens. And I’m basing this on an old man’s actual presence when writing this – I’ve had my experiences, some good, many bad – but I’m still here.

I am alive.

The evolutionary question

In terms of evolution, this is what we fear when we worry: We are afraid of death. I will not be too biological here, but the fact is that when we are afraid of losing something, not fixing a task, fail those around us, then it is basically old evolutionary theory about failing the herd, to be rejected, which is what we want to avoid. 

A few thousand years ago, this was the same as death. As strange as it sounds today – it is the same mechanism that applies to us as well.

If we are expelled from the herd – we die. Anyway, that is what we believe in our deep, deep cortex, evolutionary brain.

The gut feeling

I know many people who don’t believe in the term “Gut feeling”, but it is actually scientifically proven that we have a brain in our stomach. The number of neurons (the same ones we have in our brains) is like a small brain in our stomach. Which means that when we talk about a gut feeling, it’s a real ability we humans have.

If you take on tasks or want to solve problems, follow your gut feeling at an earlier time to decide whether to say yes or no to do it. Sometimes things come up in everyday life that we have no control over and cannot say no (or yes) to.

But many of the things we take on are about tasks we “feel” we have to do. This is where the gut feeling comes into play. Is there a wrong feeling in your stomach when you say yes or no? Follow the brain you have in your stomach. Say yes or no based on your gut feeling. 

This is the easiest way to avoid paying your bill twice. But in those cases where tasks cannot be avoided, remember that tomorrow comes, and you will solve the task anyway.

The fact that you are reading this proves that you have so far solved all the tasks in your life, in an excellent way.

Because you are still alive and not expelled from your tribe or wathever.

Knut Braa

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