(adapted from a lecture by Sri Paramarthananda)
Problems are common to all persons. The problems maybe short-term or long-term and may relate to health, money, career, business, relationships etc.. Problems also bring in their train mental worry, which itself is a big problem, as one cannot think and reason clearly with a worried mind which is always accompanied by a troubled intellect. Since in life problems come together or in succession the problem of worry seems to be eternal and continuous. Even on those rare occasions when there is a spell of problem-free time one is driven by the worry as to how long that good spell will last! Since constant worrying has a negative impact on mental and physical health, sometimes leading to psychosomatic disorders, this problem of worry is to be viewed seriously. For that let us first try to understand its nature and how it operates.
Worry occurs in four stages; occupation, victimization, immobilisation, and dissipation. We shall see them now in a little more detail.
1) Occupation – Worry may be concerning the family, finances, health, friends etc. Whatever be the subject matter, it occupies one’s mind without volition on one’s part. Once it occupies the mind, one’s mind is hijacked by the subject matter of worry and one loses mental freedom or mastery of the mind.
2) Victimization – Once the worry over a problem enters one mind, how long it stays there is not in one’s hands. As it stays in the mind it goes on churning the mind producing unhealthy emotions such as fear, bitterness, self-pity, frustration, anger etc and victimizes one in the process. This victimization of mind leads to deterioration of mental health which in turn affects the physical health
3) Immobilisation – Because of the disturbed and negative mind-set, one’s intellectual resources and capacity to solve the problem get immobilized. Like a virus affected computer, the stored knowledge, secular and spiritual, cannot be retrieved and employed effectively to solve the problem on hand. With intellect immobilized, the problem-solving capacity gets blunted.
4) Dissipation – The disturbed mind and immobilised intellect stands not only in the way of one’s solving the problem on hand but also renders one not capable of engaging in any constructive work that requires deliberate thinking and mastery over the mind and intellect. As a result one is confined to a mechanical life without being able to employ freewill. This is living in absentia where one broods over the past and does not live in the present and life gets dissipated.
To sum up, at the stage of occupation freedom is lost, at the stage of victimisation health is destroyed, at the stage of immobilisation solutions disappear and at the stage of dissipation life itself becomes meaningless. One should be beware of the mental trap that considers worry as a manifestation of the sense of responsibility and thinks a person who does not worry is an irresponsible and non-caring person. There is a famous verse which says that between the funeral fire and worry, worry is more destructive as the former burns only a dead body whereas worry burns a living person.
The scriptures urge us to work on the problem instead of worrying over it. Working on the problem is something every responsible person should do. We shall now see about working on a problem. Like worry, working also comprises four stages: decision, crystallization, exploration, and preparation.
1) Decision – Unlike in worrying where it occupies the mind when it chooses, now one decides when to think over a problem. The time and duration of thinking one keeps under one’s control. This way one is not vulnerable to the gate crashing of the problem in one’s mind on its volition.
2) Crystallization - Keeping the intellect or the rational faculty in command, one condenses and crystallizes the problem into a few important points without being emotionally affected. This way the problem is not allowed to continuously churn the mind leading to emotional disturbances.
3) Exploration - At this stage one thinks of various solutions to the problem. This is solution oriented thinking as opposed to problem-oriented thinking which is worrying. As against immobilisation of the intellect, it is put to proper use to look for and arrive at possible remedial measures. If we find it difficult to go through the stages of crystallization and exploration, it means we are worrying and we are being victimized by the problem.
4) Preparation - When we go through the stage of exploration; we will be able to identify many alternatives or solutions to the problem. We have to choose one alternative and plan its implementation. Hopefully our implementation will succeed in solving the problem.
In the fourth and final stage, one starts dwelling on implementation of the possible solutions. Until the implementation programme is successfully completed (which may take time), one should try to strengthen the mind by means of cogent and rational analysis and understanding of the relevant issues and by prayer to the Lord for strength of mind to accept the results of one's efforts and for developing a proper attitude by which one rises above the problem, making it appear insignificant in one's enlightened vision. This will make one turn one's attention to other constructive activities instead of being plagued by the problem which defies solution. Sometimes the implementation of one’s strategy may not solve the problem. In such a case one must not lose hope but try again with alternative solution going through all the four stages once again. Until the problem is solved, one must try again and again summoning one’s inner strength to face the problem.
At times a problem becomes unsolvable as in the case of a medical problem where the doctor says that one has to live with it. This is a choiceless situation. In such a case, preparation is strengthening the mind by wisdom, understanding and prayer to God for mental strength to rise above the problem, so that the problem does not trouble the mind. The lives of many handicapped people who had conquered their handicaps mentally and had become great achievers is a big inspiration in this regard. These people did not seek sympathy or brood over their problems but working with a strong will and focussed mind rose to great heights and serve as inspirational models to others.
Thus, one needs to conquer worry by strengthening one’s mind and retaining one’s ability in relation to decision making; crystallisation of problem, exploring and implementing possible solutions and preparation of the mind to face the ultimate results with a prayer to the Lord asking for strength and wisdom to solve those problems that are solvable and to accept and rise above the problems that are not solvable. This way even if one is not able to solve the problem, one can live a happy and constructive life.