Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Worry Constant

The Worry Constant

Concerning Concern

I am a bit of a worry wort. I don't believe I've always been one. When I think back on the me of four or five years ago, I remember myself as being a pretty laid-back, roll-with-the-punches, laissez-faire kind of guy. Of course, I didn't have as many responsibilities as I do now. As rewarding as working for yourself can be, there are stresses that cannot be avoided. Home Ownership and Marriage require a fair share of maintenance as well. All in all, thinking back, the Laid-back Me just seems like a laissez-jerk. At least to Worry Wort Me.

But enough of my back, and its dwindling laid-ishness. That's not today's topic of discussion. Today what I wanted to share was a recent realization I had whilst dwelling about my worry worting, a realization not just about myself, but perhaps about the whole human race.

The Worry Indicator

To help explain my realization, I have prepared some visual aids.

Now, pay attention — here's me.


Here's me with a visual representation of my worry, complete with major problem.

Me with a large gator on my arm

Now, I previously thought that decreasing my problems would decrease my worrying, like so:

Me with the slightly less-threatening Caiman.

So that at some point, I'd have such minimal problems, that my worry would be nearly nonexistent:

Me with a teddy bear

But lately, I've come to realize that it doesn't work that way. I've noticed that after a while, that problem that previously felt so insignificant, eventually makes me worry just as much as the bigger problems.

Me worried about the teddy bear

It's as if my body naturally wants my worry to always be at a certain level; a Worry Constant.

Me worried about the teddy bear and cotton candy

Living the Worry-free Life

Now, I want to live a happy life, which I also tend to think is a worry-free life. I think we all want that. But now that I realize my body is sabotaging me, and lingering in a predetermined threshold of worry, I need to revise my lifetime plan for happiness. So I've thought up a couple of strategies...

1. Ignore the Problems And Let Your Body Do The Work:

On the surface this seems good. But I have a suspicion that not paying my mortgage, or repairing my leaking roof will lead to further problems, and they'll grow so exponentially large that my body won't have time to adjust. So I'll have to spend a year or so waiting for my worry constant to adapt, and before that happens I'd probably die from starvation or disease or the pummeling fists of debt collectors.

2. Revel In The Shifting Tide:

It seems like the only time I truly feel worry-free is that sweet period of existence between when a problem is solved, and before the worry constant can build up again. So perhaps what I should do is adopt a policy of purposefully causing problems that I know I can solve instantly, and then ride that problem-is-gone high until I'm back at the threshold. Unfortunately, there are some problems in life I just can't avoid, ones that take a while to solve, like selling a house or waiting for Ernie's anal glands to express. This option is doable, but not optimal.

3. Surround yourself with Misery:

As option two points out, the true "worry-free" state only occurs when there's a relative relationship between the problem, and the lack of problem. It's flawed in that I have to induce suffering on myself in order to experience joy. But... there is also a relative relationship between my problems, and the problems of someone else. So I think the key to remaining happy and worry-free is to surround yourself with people having worse problems than you.

Lessons For Life, On Living, For Life.

So there you go, three workable strategies for dealing with the Worry Constant. I myself have already sent Sutter a bouquet of flowers infested with flesh-eating bacteria, and next week my parent's septic tank will "mysteriously" stop working. I already feel happier. But not just because Stan and Rob will be kidnapped and held ransom, but also because I've finally gotten the proper perspective on the human condition.

I mean, before now I'd think that the guy who's going to testify against the Mafia, and the kid who dropped his ice cream cone would have very little in common. Living such vastly different lives, how could they ever understand each other? But now I know — both these people could very well be wrestling with an equal amount of worry. Their matching threshold of heart-rending pain gives them the capacity to show empathy and compassion not just to each other, but to all of us wrestling with our respective problems, be they alligator grave or cotton-candy trivial.

And on top of all that, is a practical lesson. For now I know I can give both of them the exact same Thinking of You card, and save myself 5-10 minutes of browsing card displays at Hallmark.

That's one less worry off my shoulders. Swish!

Comments on this Article

There are currently 23 comments.

[ Add one of your own! ]


I have nothing of useful to add. In fact, allow me to hinder with just one word:


I like to consolidate all my worry into one thing at a time, and take solace in the fact that all the other things that should be bothering me seem insignificant by comparison.

BTW I really like this site but keep forgetting to visit because your RSS feed only includes a tiny amount of text and no pictures (so I tend to skim over it), whereas the thing I like about your posts is the large amount of text and the beautiful drawings. How about posting a small preview in the RSS feed as well?


Hmmm - that's strange... can I ask what reader you're using? I use Net News Wire, and everything comes through for me... (except the main image, which isn't part of the feed)...

Joshua Lane

Enjoying the misery of others not only lifts your spirits, it also (by comparison) makes your own misery feel less miserable. It's a win win when OTHERS suffer too!


This one seemed to take .......forever. I thought you were dead. But Hooray! This one is up there with the cubbyhole mind!

I like the toes in fig. 6


I was dead! But I was brought back to life by a magical mushroom. That's a lesson for all of us... eat every mushroom you find.



I love how you just look at the alligator like you want to say "Et tu, Brute?".


My wife and I have mushrooms growing by the maple tree in our back yard. She doesn't like them and said to me, "Jason, get rid of those mushrooms."

Every morning, as I walk to my car to leave for work, I see those mushrooms, staring back at me with their WEEEE BEEADY eyes.

Now I know the delicious solution to the problem!


Gerren - We WERE best friends. Who could have guessed an alligator would turn on me?

Jason - I have to say, of all outdoor flora, I find the various incarnations of mushrooms to be the creepiest and grossest.

Brent O'Connor

You left out the strategy of having a personal relationship with Jesus and being able to go to him in prayer about the things you're worried about. It has worked for me. :) It would be cool to see an illustration of that.

Some good scriptures about worry, Matthew 6:25-34 and Philippians 4:6-7.

Also, ironically I learned the definition of "Schadenfreude" from this comic today, which describes your #3 strategy.


I cannot believe that you did that to that poor alligator. I mean, look at it: You can just see that it is thinking something along the lines of "Argh. not again", when it bit through its own rubber jaw and self-deflated. I had a rubber duck once... Poor Johny, same fate, different time.
My own worry indicator is, at the moment, governed by my upcoming economics exam. Although it isn't the exam that is worrying me, but rather that my worry indicator doesn't seem to show any readings. (Trust me, it should.)


I've just recently come to realized how much time I've wasted in my life by just being exhausted by worry. It zaps the life right out of you, sometimes. "When is rent due?!", "How long until that exam?!" and "Where did this armogator come from?!"

Has anyone else read/heard anything about a happiness "set point"? I heard some time ago about a study that was done incorporating various backgrounds, life stages, and incomes, and from what I gathered, it was found that, generally, we are each predispositioned to a certain level of happiness, EVEN in times of major crisis or success (divorce, or say, winning the lottery). Despite major changes in what's happening around us, we drift back to that set point pretty quickly. I imagine one's anxiety-o-meter would be along these lines as well. Out of 10, I imagine I'm set around 4 for a base stress level. Kevin, looks like your about a 5. What my point is, is that your Worry Constant setpoint theory is certifiable with scientifically gathered evidence

...which I wouldn't know where to find.

Elliot Jay Stocks

Illustration no.2 (arm in croc) is without a doubt the funniest, full-on laugh-out-loud blog illustration I've ever seen.

Randy Johnson

I'm still in that "pretty laid-back, roll-with-the-punches, laissez-faire kind of guy" as you put it. And I don't think that is going to change seeing as I've been doing it for 10 years now...
Maybe it's because I made a pact with the devil but that was in Vegas and I was drunk.


So no secret for staying laid-back? Well, no EVIL secrets?


I find worry to be very distracting, so to stay focused on life's plaeasues,I ignore the worry--- till the debt collector is on the phone. Meanwhile, the suppressed worrygives me some really intertaining dreams. Wish I could record them they are better than most of whats on TV.


Great Read!


i'm SO glad you don't know where i live.

i don't think i can handle opening a my mailbox only to find an envelope laced in anthrax. i've got enough to worry about trying to make my friends' lives more treacherous than my own.

thanks for the great tips though :)


In the end, I'm just glad to help make the world a better place for some, and really, really lousy for others.

Rex Spear

This one makes sence "One's first step in wisdom is to kuesstion everything - and one's last is to come to terms with everything."

kevin nocoins

the little therapist in me LOVED this one.


Does that mean... I'm cured?


Just as a note... it turns out there's a concept that we have a base level of happiness that we function at, some people have a higher one, some a lower one. This personal level of a default happiness is called the "Hedonic Tone".

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