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Poking the Worry Monster

What is a “worry monster?”

For me at least, it is that part of myself that can worry on command.

You can wake it up out of the deepest, soundest, most dreamless sleep, and it will just start worrying. You don’t even need to suggest a topic.

This is relevant for two reasons:

1. First, because my personal worry monster loves to snooze even more than it loves to worry. So it is usually happily engaged in endless snoozing….unless it is disturbed.

2. And second, because sometimes I just can’t seem to resist poking it.

You see, there is this other part of me – I suspect it is the worry monster’s mentee – that just thinks it is unwise to let too much time pass without any worry at all. 

The mentee likes to sneak up to the rest of me and whisper, “You know, if you don’t start worrying about (fill in the blanks) soon, something bad is sure to happen.”

So – without even thinking – I poke the worry monster and wake it up, and it starts worrying.

Of course, while I’m doing this, the mentee sneaks away to hide from us both and pat itself on the back (not necessarily in that order).

It drives me CRAZY when I fall for this trick time and again. I HATE worrying. I really do.

Worrying is so unproductive. It never helps me to worry about something. I don’t ever find clarity or have any “aha moments” when my worry monster has my brain in a headlock yet again.

And then I burn up lots of energy – energy I could have used much more productively to actually solve the issue I’m worried about – trying to soothe the worry monster back to sleep…singing its favorite lullabies, plying it with tea (or something stronger), distracting it with shiny things, or feeding it lesser worries to keep it away from “the big one” – whatever that happens to be at the time.

I suspect there is some particularly well-buried part of my ancient limbic brain stem – that part where my fight-or-flight instinct also hangs out – that has retained the habit of worry in a misplaced attempt to boost my odds of survival.

And since it has taken my limbic brain millions of years to date to do its research, analyze the data, and put my current survival toolkit together, I’m guessing removal of the now-nonessential worry piece isn’t going to happen overnight.

Perhaps in about another 100,000 or so years of evolution, with a little of Darwin’s survival-of-the-fittest magic formula sprinkled on top, I might finally be rid of it.

But for now, I seem doomed to keep poking the worry monster. I just can’t stop.

Today’s TakeawayHave you ever found value in worrying? What is the experience of worrying like for you? Are you an occasional or chronic worrier? What do you think the reason – if any – might be that worry is something many of us seem to share in common?

Monster image available from Shutterstock

Poking the Worry Monster

Shannon Cutts

Freelance writer. Author. Cockatiel, redfoot tortoise & box turtle mama.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2015). Poking the Worry Monster. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Aug 2015
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