Dr Eddie Murphy: It’s time to ditch a life full of persistent worrying

Advice column with Operation Transformation psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy

Dr Eddie Murphy: It’s time to ditch a life full of persistent worrying

Use the advice in the acronym APPLE — Acknowledge, Pause, Pull Back, Let Go, Explore —to help alleviate your constant worrying (see left for full details)

The inability to tolerate uncertainty tends to be a unique feature of people who experience generalised anxiety and excessive worrying.

This is an attitude many people have towards life.

When one has this attitude, uncertainly, unpredictability, and doubt are seen as awful and unbearable experiences that must be avoided at all costs.

People who hate uncertainty and need guarantees may:

• Say things like: “I can’t cope not knowing,” “I know the chances of it happening are so small, but it still could happen,” or “I need to be 100% sure.”

• Prefer that something bad happens right now, rather than go on any longer not knowing what the eventual outcome will be

• Find it hard to make a decision or put a plan or solution in place, because they first need to know how it will work out.

You may think that worrying is a way of preparing yourself for the worst — getting you ready for anything that might happen.

Worrying is seen as a way of attempting to predict life so that there are no nasty surprises. As such, worrying reduces your experience of uncertainty and unpredictability.

And because worrying reduces your feelings of uncertainty, you will continue worrying and worrying and worrying.

In other words, you keep worrying because you believe it is your only strategy for making things in life more certain and more predictable — it helps you believe that you have more control.

In reality, has your worrying made anything more certain or more predictable?

By worrying, does it change the outcome of what will happen? Isn’t life still as uncertain and unpredictable as it ever was?

It is only your perception that you somehow have more control by worrying. But is this really true?

In fact, all you have done is think of all the worst case scenarios and worked yourself up and made yourself feel really bad in the process.

So, ask yourself, is it really worth it? Does having a ‘fake’ sense of certainty justify all the negative consequences of worrying?

If your answer is ‘No’, then there are two ways you can tackle your intolerance of uncertainty.


We can deal with uncertainty in two main ways. We can challenge our need for certainty by looking at the advantages and disadvantages of needing to be certain and how it affects us.

We can explore other areas of our lives in which we do tolerate uncertainty, or look at how other people deal with uncertainty, such as friends or characters in television programmes.

READ ALSO: Dr Eddie Murphy: How to get help if you are self-harming

An Apple A Day

The other way is to learn to tolerate uncertainty — to reduce our need for certainty.

And we can do this, using the acronym: APPLE

Tolerating Uncertainty with APPLE:

ACKNOWLEDGE: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.

PAUSE: Don't react as you normally do. Don't react at all. Just pause, and breathe.

PULL BACK: Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary.

It is only a thought or feeling. Don't believe everything you think! Thoughts are not statements of fact.

LET GO: Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don't have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.

EXPLORE: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well.

Notice your breathing, and the sensations of breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right Now. Then, SHIFT YOUR FOCUS OF ATTENTION to something else — on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else, but mindfully , with your full attention.

It’s time to ditch persistent worrying, its time to take an apple a day!

Dr Eddie Murphy runs a psychological and counselling service in Portarlington, Co Laois. If you are organising a speaker or training for school, community, voluntary, sporting or work groups, call Dr Eddie on 087 1302899 or go to www.facebook.com/ dr.eddie.murphy.psychologist


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