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  • Ian McKechnie

Worry is an infinitely skinned onion

Someone upset you - what did they mean by that? Something you did wasn’t great – did you do your best? Did you definitely lock that back door? Are you doing well enough on recycling? Are you good enough? Have you ever been good enough? Did you buy the right trainers?


The marvellous philosopher Alan Watts has got this thing down. He talks about worry as ‘an infinitely skinned onion’. Peel off one layer of worry (of course you locked the back door…) and another layer instantly appears to take its place (still not sure about those trainers…). Listen from 3.45 – 6.00 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6obTapAjXc as he explains.


Although worry is completely useless, we can feel guilty if we don’t do it. A proper amount of worry seems like showing a good sense of responsibility! When I’m coaching, I look out for the stories people are convinced about in their working lives - especially the negative ones that freeze movement – and I’m looking for evidence that these worries have some foundation to them. Unchallenged, fears persist, under scrutiny they soon dissolve. But more onion layers soon take their place if you’re chronically addicted to worrying.


Thanks to Maria Hochgesang for this photo

So here’s a couple of tips to practise:

1. If you’re worrying about something, ask yourself ‘is this a problem for me RIGHT NOW, in this exact moment? If not, press ‘cancel’ on the worry.

2. Ask yourself what you were worrying about on this day last week, last month, last year. If you can’t remember, join the club, you’re human.

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