“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
~ Mark Twain, pen name for Samuel Langhorne Clemens, American author and humorist (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910)
Uncertainty is an inevitable part of life. Here’s a small sampling of what we have to deal with:
I can’t be sure when the guests will arrive.
Will I close the sale?
I wonder if the renovation will get done as planned?
The kids’ claims are dubious; what really happened?
I wonder if they will attend university, let alone where and what the costs will be.
Will it be warm enough to swim today?
The future is indefinite and indeterminate; the people we deal with are sometimes unpredictable, not reliable, and not trustworthy. Many events and ideas are not clearly identified or defined and may never occur. Influencing factors are variable and fitful. There is much information that is unknown to us.
Gelatt, H.B. in Positive uncertainty: A new decision-making framework for counselling, Journal of Counselling Psychology, 36(2), 252-6, 1989 came up with two attitudes and four paradoxical principles that help in the treatment of anxiety caused by uncertainty. The two attitudes are:
Accept that the future is uncertain — and will always contain uncertainty despite any efforts to make it more certain, and
Be positive about this uncertainty — because things are not determined in advance, there is room for you to make a difference
There are many uncertainties that we already accept or tolerate. They are essential parts of our lifestyle: driving, flying, eating out (sometimes eating in is quite uncertain!), meeting new people, renovating your home, and many other activities that cause anxiety.
Gelatt recommends going beyond just tolerating, beyond just accepting uncertainty to viewing it as a positive force. Tolerating is the starting point. We learn to endure or resist the anxious aspects and allow things to happen as they may even if there is some hurt or suffering.
Accepting is the next stage. Recognizing that we cannot control the factors that cause uncertainty we willingly accept the event, better still give approval to it. It is endured without protest or reaction, regarded as proper, normal, or inevitable.
But what if you swung your attitude around to viewing uncertainty as something positive, something representing an opportunity for you to make a difference? Not convinced it can be done? Why not?
“There are people who are always anticipating trouble, and in this way they manage to enjoy many sorrows that never really happen to them.”~ Josh Billings, pen name of Henry Wheeler, American humorist and lecturer (April 21, 1818 – October 14, 1885).