Living in Uncertainty

This past week I have spoken to many people who are off-balance, fearful, anxious, and unnerved by the unknown of what is coming next. Back in April I wrote about dealing with the fear of uncertainty as we moved into the new normal of quarantine and social distancing. That post focused on the importance of moving out of the fear zone of uncertainty and into the learning and growth zones. Much of that post is still relevant and worth the read.

In this post I would like to expand on this topic and talk more about the nuts and bolts of how to move out of the fear of uncertainty. Our bodies and minds want certainty. Our natural human survival instincts focus on the safety of consistency. When things are unclear or shifting, we move into fear. Instead of embracing the unknown or having the flexibility to adapt, often we grab on to anything and call it fact and truth so we can feel better with this false sense of security. Instead of manufacturing this falsehood, strength can be found in feeling calm and safe by accepting uncertainty.

The hard truth is that nothing is true; nothing is an immovable timeless fact. Truth is not truth, certainty is not certain because:

Our Knowledge Expands – What we know as truth today will probably be corrected tomorrow. Whether is it the belief that the sun revolves around the earth or that the atom is the smallest until of matter, science’s tiring exploration of our known world usually disproves its own findings. The atom was the smallest unit of matter until science was able to see into the atom and uncovered quarks, and it is obvious now that all the planets in the solar system move around the sun until, that is, science uncovers something different. Truth is just a pin in the map and pins can be moved as we learn more.

Perspective Colors Truth – I can only know what I know from my perspective. I can only see life from my view as a Caucasian middle-class woman who grew up in the Midwest.  I process what I experience solely based on my life which is not the whole truth; it is just my slice of it. I make judgments and assumptions based on what I have experienced and learned before. The bias may not be intentional, but it is there. As it is said, there is his story, her story, and the truth. Only when we can see from multiple perspectives can the true truth come to light.

Reality Trumps Belief – If we are afraid of change, we hold on to our beliefs as if they were universal facts. Nothing is wrong with faith. Faith is a strong belief or trust in something. But faith is personal, not universal. Faith is an internal experience, not a tangible fact. It is understandable that when we are afraid, we elevate our faith to the level of fact so we can use it like a security blanket. As with perception however, faith is not a tangible form of truth. Wanting to believe something is true, does not make it so.

Hindsight is 20/20 – A history teacher friend of mine shared how Abraham Lincoln was viciously attacked in his day and yet in hindsight, history has shown him as an incredible orator who ended American slavery and brought the country together after war. In my own life, I can see how my initial reaction to people and how I felt in the moment was clouded by my perspective, then eventually the wisdom of age and objectivity provided me with new insight and understanding.

Photo by Joan You on Unsplash

Instead of holding foolishly on to a fake certainty, here are ways to become friends with uncertainty:

Accept What Is – Just today I witnessed the pain a friend was experiencing because she wanted this whole Covid thing to be over. Complaining that things shouldn’t be as they are, only causes pain. Accepting things as they are, is the first step to peace and the power to change. Check out Byron Katie’s book, Loving What Is, which helps us all learn to accept what is and find our peace.  

Be in the Moment – Regret and stubbornness happen when we look to the past. Fear happens when we create a future based on our worst nightmares. Covid has certainly taught me that I can’t plan past the next five minutes; I have no idea what will happen after that. Staying in the moment keeps us centered. Staying in the moment keeps us in the right place to make changes. We can’t change the past or predict the future, but we can affect what we experience right here and now.

Release the Why – I have some theories why things are happening like they are right now, but heck, I don’t know for certain. When we release the need to know the why and the how of current events, we can find it much easier to accept the present and adapt with peaceful flexibility.  

See the Whole – Our survival instinct keeps us focused on what could harm us. But that laser focus on the bad, keeps us from seeing the full picture. Stay out of narrow-minded black and white thinking. Stop feeding your fears. Noam Chomsky recommended triangulating your news sources to help see the whole picture. I find this to be very helpful. Don’t just read what you agree with or what scares you. Look to at least three different news sources to help you get a fuller picture. I personally look at one conservative, one liberal, and one international news source to help me take out the bias and focus on the facts. Do your research to undercover the true truth about everything you read.

I hope through acceptance, presence, surrender, and open-minded research, you can release your fear of uncertainty and find stability in this every changing world.

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