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Hurry, Worry, And Irritability

Categories: Uncategorized
Sources: The Freedom Of Life

PROBABLY most people have had the experience of hurrying to a train

with the feeling that something held them back, but not many have

observed that their muscles, under such conditions, actually _do_

pull them back.

If any one wants to prove the correctness of this observation let

him watch himself, especially if it is necessary for him to go

downstairs to get to the station, while he is walking down the
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steps. The drawing back or contracting of the muscles, as if they

were intelligently trying to prevent us from reaching the train on

time, is most remarkable. Of course all that impeding contraction

comes from resistance, and it seems at first sight very strange that

we should resist the accomplishment of the very thing we want to do.

Why should I resist the idea of catching a train, when at the same

time I am most anxious to do so? Why should my muscles reflect that

resistance by contracting, so that they directly impede my progress?

It seems a most singular case of a house divided against itself for

me to want to take a train, and for my own muscles, which are given

me for my command, to refuse to take me there, so that I move toward

the train with an involuntary effort away from it. But when the

truth is recognized, all this muscular contraction is easily

explained. What we are resisting is not the fact of taking the

train, but the possibility of losing it. That resistance reflects

itself upon our muscles and causes them to contract. Although this

is a practical truth, it takes us some time to realize that the fear

of losing the train is often the only thing that prevents our

catching it. If we could once learn this fact thoroughly, and live

from our clearer knowledge, it would be one of the greatest helps

toward taking all things in life quietly and without necessary

strain. For the fact holds good in all hurry. It is the fear of not

accomplishing what is before us in time that holds us back from its


This is so helpful and so useful a truth that I feel it necessary to

repeat it in many ways. Fear brings resistance, resistance impedes

our progress. Our faculties are paralyzed by lack of confidence, and

confidence is the result of a true consciousness of our powers when

in harmony with law. Often the fear of not accomplishing what is

before us is the _only_ thing that stands in our way.

If we put all hurry, whether it be an immediate hurry to catch a

train, or the hurry of years toward the accomplishment of the main

objects of our lives,--if we put it all under. the clear light of

this truth, it will eventually relieve us of a strain which is

robbing our vitality to no end.

First, the times that we _must_ hurry should be minimized. In nine

cases out of ten the necessity for hurry comes only from our own

attitude of mind, and from no real need whatever. In the tenth case

we must learn to hurry with our muscles, and not with our nerves,

or, I might better say, we must hurry without excitement. To hurry

quietly is to most people an unknown thing, but when hurry is a

necessity, the process of successive effort in it should be pleasant

and refreshing.

If in the act of needful hurry we are constantly teaching ourselves

to stop resistance by saying over and over, through whatever we may

be doing, "I am perfectly willing to lose that train, I am willing

to lose it, I am willing to lose it," that will help to remove the

resistance, and so help us to learn how to make haste quietly.

But the reader will say, "How can I make myself willing when I am

not willing?"

The answer is that if you know that your unwillingness to lose the

train is preventing you from catching it, you certainly will see the

efficacy of being willing, and you will do all in your power toward

yielding to common sense. Unwillingness is resistance,--resistance

in the mind contracts the muscles, and such contraction prevents our

using the muscles freely and easily. Therefore let us be willing.

Of course there, is. a lazy, selfish indifference to catching a

train, or accomplishing anything else, which leaves the tendency to

hurry out of some temperaments altogether, but with that kind of a

person we are not dealing now. And such indifference is the absolute

opposite of the wholesome indifference in which there is no touch of

laziness or selfishness.

If we want to avoid hurry we must get the habit of hurry out of our

brains, and cut ourselves off, patiently and kindly, from the

atmosphere of hurry about us. The habit gets so strong a hold of the

nerves, and is impressed upon them so forcibly as a steady tendency,

that it can be detected by a close observer even in a person who is

lying on a lounge in the full belief that he is resting. It shows

itself especially in the breathing. A wise athlete has said that our

normal breathing should consist of six breaths to one minute. If the

reader will try this rate of breathing, the slowness of it will

surprise him. Six breaths to one minute seem to make the breathing

unnecessarily slow, and just double that seems about the right

number for ordinary people; and the habit of breathing at this

slower rate is a great help, from a physical standpoint, toward

erasing the tendency to hurry.

One of the most restful exercises any one can take is to lie at full

length on a bed or lounge and to inhale and exhale, at a perfectly

even, slow rate, for half an hour. It makes the exercise more

restful if another person counts for the breathing, say, ten slowly

and quickly to inhale, and ten to exhale, with a little pause to

give time for a quiet change from one breath to another.

Resistance, which is the mental source of hurry, is equally at the

root of that most harmful emotion--the habit of worrying. And the

same truths which must be learned and practised to free ourselves of

the one habit are applicable to the other.

Take the simple example of a child who worries over his lessons.

Children illustrate the principle especially well, because they are

so responsive that, if you meet them quietly with the truth in

difficulties of this kind they recognize its value and apply it very

quickly, and it takes them, comparatively, a very little time to get


If you think of telling a child that the moment he finds himself

worrying about his lesson he should close his book and say:

"I do not care whether I get this lesson or not."

And then, when he has actually persuaded himself that he does not

care, that he should open his book and study,--it would seem, at

first sight, that he would find it difficult to understand you; but,

on the contrary, a child understands more quickly than older people,

for the child has not had time to establish himself so firmly in the

evil habit.

I have in mind a little girl in whom the habit had begun of worrying

lest she should fail in her lessons, especially in her Latin. Her

mother sent her to be taught how not to worry. The teacher, after

giving her some idea of the common sense of not worrying, taught her

quieting exercises which she practised every day; and when one day,

in the midst of one of her lessons, Margaret seemed very quiet and

restful, the teacher asked:--

"Margaret, could you worry about your Latin now if you tried?"

"Yes," said Margaret, "I am afraid I could."

Nothing more was said, but she went on with her lessons, and several

days after, during the same restful quiet time, the teacher ventured


"Now, Margaret, could you worry about your Latin if you tried?"

Then came the emphatic answer, _"No, I could not."_

After that the little girl would say:

"With the part of me that worries, I do not care whether I get my

Latin or not; with the part of me that does not worry, I want to get

my Latin very much; therefore I will stay in the part of me that

does not worry, and get my Latin."

A childish argument, and one that may be entirely incomprehensible

to many minds, but to those who do comprehend, it represents a very

real and practical help.

It is, in most cases, a grave mistake to, reason with a worry. We

must first drop the worry, and then do our reasoning. If to drop the

worry seems impossible, we can separate ourselves from it enough to

prevent it from interfering with our reasoning, very much as if it

were neuralgia. There is never any real reason for a worry, because,

as we all know, worry never helps us to gain, and often is the cause

of our losing, the things which we so much desire.

Sometimes we worry because we are tired, and in that case, if we can

recognize the real cause, we should use our wills to withdraw our

attention from the object of worry, and to get all possible rest at

once, in the confident belief that rest will make things clear, or

at least more clear than they were when we were tired. It would be

hard to compute the harm that has been done by kindly disposed

people in reasoning with the worry of a friend, when the anxiety is

increased by fatigue or illness. To reason with one who is tired or

ill and worried, only increases the mental strain, and every effort

that is made to reason him out of it aggravates the strain; until,

finally, the poor brain, through kindly meant effort, has been

worked into an extreme state of irritation or even inflammation. For

the same reason, a worried mind should not be laughed at. Worries

that are aroused by fatigue or illness are often most absurd, but

they are not absurd to the mind that is suffering from them, and to

make fun of them only brings more pain, and more worry. Gentle,

loving attention, with kindly, truthful answers, will always help.

By such attention we are really giving no importance to the worry,

but only to our friend, with the hope of soothing and quieting him

out of his worries, and when he is rested he may see the truth for


We should deal with ourselves, in such cases, as gently as we would

with a friend, excepting that we can tell the truth to ourselves

more plainly than we can to most friends.

Worrying is resistance, resistance is unwillingness. Unwillingness

interferes with whatever we may want to accomplish. To be willing

that this, that, or the other should happen seems most difficult,

when to our minds, this, that, or the other would bring disaster.

And yet if we can once see clearly that worrying resistance tends

toward disaster rather than away from it, or, at the very least,

takes away our strength and endurance, it is only a matter of time

before we become able to drop our resistance altogether. But it is a

matter of time; and, when once we are faced toward freedom, we must

be patient and steady, and not expect to gain very rapidly. Theirs

is indeed a hard lot who have acquired this habit of worry, and

persist in doing nothing to gain their freedom.

"Now I have got something to worry about for the rest of my life,"

remarked a poor woman once. Her face was set toward worrying;

nothing but her own will could have turned it the other way, and yet

she deliberately chose not to use it, and so she was fixed and

settled in prison for the rest of her life.

To worry is wicked; it is wickedness of a kind that people often do

not recognize as such, and they are not fully responsible until they

do; but to prove it to be wicked is an easy matter, when once we are

faced toward freedom; and, to get over it, as I have said, is a

matter of steady, persistent patience.

As for irritability, that is also resistance; but there are two

kinds of irritability,--physical and moral.

There is an irritability that comes when we are hungry, if we have

eaten something that disagrees with us, if we are cold or tired or

uncomfortable from some other physical cause. When we feel that kind

of irritability we should ignore it, as we would ignore a little

snapping dog across the street, while at the same time removing its

cause as quickly as we can. There is nothing that delights the devil

more than to scratch a man with the irritability of hunger, and have

him respond to it at once by being ugly and rude to a friend; for

then the irritation immediately becomes moral, and every bit of

selfishness rushes up to join it, and to arouse whatever there may

be of evil in the man. It is simple to recognize this merely

physical form of irritability, and we should no more allow ourselves

to speak, or act, or even _think_ from it, than we should allow

ourselves to walk directly into foul air, when the good fresh air is

close to us on the other side.

But moral irritability is more serious; that comes from the soul,

and is the result of our wanting our own way. The immediate cause

may be some physical disturbance, such as noise, or it may be

aroused by other petty annoyances, like that of being obliged to

wait for some one who is unpunctual, or by disagreement in an

argument. There are very many causes for irritability, and we each

have our own individual sensitiveness or antipathy, but, whatever

the secondary cause, the primary cause is always the

same,--resistance or unwillingness to accept our circumstances.

If we are fully willing to be disturbed, we cease to be troubled by

the disturbance; if we are willing to wait, we are not annoyed by

being kept waiting, and we are in a better, more quiet humor to help

our friend to the habit of promptness. if we are willing that

another should differ from us in opinion, we can see more clearly

either to convince our friend, if he is wrong,--or to admit that he

is right, and that we are wrong. The essential condition of good

argument is freedom from personal feeling, with the desire only for

the truth,--whether it comes from one party or the other.

Hurry, worry, and irritability all come from selfish resistance to

the facts of life, and the only permanent cure for the waste of

force and the exhausting distress which they entail, is a

willingness to accept those facts, whatever they may be, in a spirit

of cheerful and reverent obedience to law.