Reisefieber

Those Germans, they’ve got a word for everything. Reisefieber (pronounced “ri-zé-fee-ba”) means “travel nerves” or, quite literally, “travel fever” and that’s exactly what I’m feeling right now. Tomorrow I head off to Japan for a two week holiday and, although I’ve been there several times before, I still can’t help but feel nervous. See, I’m a worrier. I worry about absolutely everything. Am I going to get sick? Will I forget to take something? Will the pilot be drunk and try to fly the plane into the sun resulting in a gigantic firey death for everyone on board? You get the picture.

A few years ago I went to see a phycologist who specialised in cognitive behavioural therapy as I was suffering from acute insomnia. I couldn’t sleep at night because I couldn’t stop worrying about not being able to sleep at night (clever huh?). I clearly remember my first visit to him. I marched into the room, sat down in front of him and, after being asked what the problem was, declared “I have trouble sleeping!”. He looked me straight in the eye, raised his $200 an hour eyebrow, and replied “So what?”. It was the best money I ever spent.

Last year I tried to go for another stint of CBT with someone else (my previous saviour had moved on, probably looking for something a little more fulfilling than curing middle class young men of insomnia) to try and resolve my travel issues. Maybe these worries are just too deeply seated but unfortunately we never managed to make much progress. What became abundantly clear though was that I have what’s referred to as “catastrophic thoughts”. No matter what, I will always, without fail, imagine the absolute worst case scenario possible. My brain is a wonderful thing.

In times like this, I’m comforted by a famous quote:

“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”

- Winston Churchill

It’s a great quote and helps to put things in perspective. Most of my worries are either actually very insignificant or things that haven’t even happened yet. A worry is just a thought, it doesn’t exist in itself after all. I, personally, need to learn to control my thoughts and rationalise them, looking at them logically and not letting my emotions take over. Basically, I need to become a Vulcan.

So what’s the moral of this story? I guess it’s “don’t worry about things that haven’t happened yet”. Or something like that :)

Anyone else a worrier?

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9 Comments

  1. Daniel says:

    Your brain is a wonderful thing. And I agree with the first psychologist but not with Churchill. Those worries are real; they are real to your mind. If you keep pretending the don’t exist, they will keep existing. The mind works like that.

    Worries are simply an attempt to control the situation so trying to control them is just one more struggle for control. When they get too bothersome my own approach is to have fun with it.

    My brain: “Your gonna die!!”
    Me: “Wooot! I get to go home early”

    My brain: “The plane will crash!”
    Me: “Awesome, gotta be better than Space Mountain.”

    My brain: “I’m sure you’ll forget sometime important.”
    Me: “It will be the oven. The gas will explode and send the house sky high. Poor Dorothy.”

    See, it’s a little mental jujitsu that turns the weight of the worry against itself. If the fear is irrational, be irrational right back.

    • Gordon says:

      Interesting strategy :) I’ve read some books and other material on CBT and it’s all about trying to rationalize your fears and worries. The problem of catastrophic thoughts occurs because your emotions aren’t in sync with your rational brain so you freak out without needing to. It’s like your body is just trained to automatically freak out, kinda like muscle memory. Apparently a good way to deal with it is to follow the thoughts through to their conclusion and analyze what exactly the root fear is and understand that’s pretty unlikely to occur.

  2. Beej says:

    Oh, am I ever a worrier. With the wedding coming up in a few months and details having to be ironed out, my life-long obsession where I overthought everything has expanded twenty-fold. There’s not a thing I don’t worry about, and I’m sure it’s going to end in some stress related ailment in the future.

  3. Longasc says:

    Be a warrior – not a worrier! :)

  4. Markosias says:

    Don’t worry, be happy! I’m not much of a worrier, I don’t have time for it I guess. Or if I find my mind wandering starting to worry about something (like in an airport wainting to board) I read a book or do a crossword puzzle or a game to refocus my mind on something more benign and fun.

  5. I’am a german and it is true. we have a word for everything. nicely written :) thanks! i am a writer myself :) are you an eve player?

  6. by the way, since i read a book by eckhart tolle i stopped worrying at all. i really can recommend it.

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