“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” ~ John Allen Paulos
Lives of humans have always been uncertain. Every moment there is a decision to be made. The decision leads to a new unknown and uncertain situation. Its like this. There are doors in front of us. We keep choosing a door and walking into a room and we have no idea what will be inside that room. What we might see. Who we might encounter. What events will take place in that room. What doors exist in that new room. And then what the doors in that room might lead to next. This process goes on and on and on.
Some of us experience fear when we think of what might happen in the next room. Our imagination brings the undesirable outcomes into our thoughts constantly. This negative thought processes become a habit and gets deeply settled into our subconscious. When that happens we begin to experience fear, anxiety, panic attacks and so on. Lets call these kind of people Type 1.
On the opposite side are those who are excited at the prospect of looking inside these new rooms. They are beaming with joy in anticipation and a child like curiosity. They do not have preconceived notions about what they wish to experience in that room, who they want to meet and what consequences that event needs to bear. They walk in to enjoy the moment and see what they can do with it. The expectations and plans are fluid and actions are crystallised when they enter the situation. Lets call these people Type 2.
Lets talk about Type 1. In clinical terms what they experience is called Intolerance of Uncertainty. The dictionary definition of uncertainty is “experiencing an unknown” and it is closely related to unpredictability, ambiguity, unfamiliarity, etc.
As the saying goes, if there is one thing that is certain in life is uncertainty. Let’s take our current situation as an example since most of thoughts as well as conversations these days are about COVID-19.
No one has a clue about it. Who will get it. Who won’t? Why does it impact some people more that others. Who will make it or who wont. Who will try to find an oxygen cylinder and get that prized possession? After all, it is more precious than gold these days. Who will struggle to get a hospital bed? Who will will be able to lay hands on Remdesiver and other essential drugs? Absolutely no idea.
We keep imagining situations and their possible consequences/outcomes. Hence there is inbuilt anxiety in this situation and it becomes exaggerated in the minds of people in Type 1 category.
So what shall we do? Stop imagining? How can that be? Imagination is an essential feature of the human brain.
Yes it is. But we can have more of a handle on our imagination especially about the future outcomes than we realise. We do not have an accurate idea of this POWER. This power that can help us transmigrate from Type 1 into Type 2.
The power is acquired when the following conditions are met.
- Attitudes and beliefs systems about situation: How do we view the situations that we find ourselves in? Do we fear the worst possible outcome? Or are we excited about the possibilities that the situation might bring. When we are enter the unknown situation with enthusiasm rather the trepidation, we transcend our struggles and embrace the new reality wholeheartedly. The need for certainty no longer imprisons us. If we could predict every single aspect of our lives, there would be mechanistic certainty to everything and that would lead to boredom. We would not be fully present in situations as we can pretty much anticipate the next event that will occur. There would be no scope for anything new to occur.
- Feeling Connected: One of the great universal truth is that we are all one. A part of that one big consciousness. But the way the industrialised societies or the corporate rat race has shaped our thinking, we have strayed away from this truth. We are in a perpetual mode of running the race and winning at every cost. As a result, instead of being one with the whole universe, we choose to stand alone and think of that as the advantageous stance. But the fact of the matter is when we feel separate, we are forced to compete rather than collaborate. Winning replaces compassion. Conflict is preferred over cooperation. Anxiety is a natural consequence of this thinking.
If we choose to make decisions from the stand point of what is in the collective good, our anxiety will loosen its hold on us.
- Realising and working towards our true purpose: Most of us at some stage begin to ask the question ‘what is the purpose of life?’
After reading a lot of philosophy, sociology, spirituality, I came to the conclusion that our life purpose is CREATION. Creation of ourselves.
What we create is totally unto us. There are attributes we think we have – our current self. Then there are attributes we would like to have or be known for – our ideal future self.
Let’s understand this with an example. Whenever I feel someone is lying to me, I lash out. But I think of my ideal future self as a calm person. So over time, when a situation occurs when someone is lying to me, I try to maintain a calm demeanour. Very unsuccessfully sometimes. But with every successive situation, I become better and better until I actually become a calm person. Thus, I create calmness.
Secondly, we have all said this sentence ‘Why does this always happen to me?’ It seems like life will give us the same situation over and over, till we actually learn from it and become our ideal self.
Now what does that have to do with anxiety one might ask. I would say – everything. And here is my logic.
We are so fixated on what might be the consequence of the action, that we forget to focus on the act of creation. Because our awareness is like a torch. It can focus only one thing at a time. Therefore when we constantly focus on creating, then we cannot be focussed on thinking about the consequences – negative or positive. So in a sense, we can either create that action which will lead to our ideal self, or we can create anxiety by focusing on what might be the result.
Begin to view situations for what they are and what can be created from that situation. What decisions can be taken that will benefit most rather than take selfish decision that will make the line between us and them deeper.
When you change some of these thought processes, anxiety and despair will be supplanted by a sense of serenity and connectedness. An integral part of the universe. And we can transition from Type 1 to Type 2.
Sasha Shruti Varma is one of the leading Psychotherapists in India. She is a licensed practitioner in India and the UK registered with the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists. As a practitioner of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, she likes to combine the principles of Yogic Philosophy in her psychotherapy work. Sasha is also a leading Trainer and Coach for Emotional Intelligence in the corporate world.
If you have a question for her please write to us on firstname.lastname@example.org.