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How to be Certain about Uncertainty

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Christina McDonald 

Winter 2018

How to be Certain about Uncertainty

If you were a member of the Girl Guides or the Scouts, you would have been familiar with the motto: ‘Be Prepared.’ From a young age, I was taught the importance of being able to deal with whatever surprises may come through careful and meticulous planning. Good advice I would say. Sometimes no matter how much we prepare and make plans, we are thrown off course by a curve ball we didn’t see coming.

You might say uncertainty is a part of life. It is something that we all know but have yet to feel comfortable with accepting. The plans we make are there to reduce the likelihood of uncertainty which (if resisted), can make us feel very stressed and anxious. If things don’t go to plan, is that more stressful than not having a plan in place for the situation?

Experiencing some stress in the face of uncertainty is a necessary part of ‘feeling prepared’.

As someone who used to suffer crippling OCD anxiety, I usually felt out of control. The scary part was it could happen in an instant. In any given moment, fear could grip me and not let go.

If I could have found something… ANYTHING to make the fear and anxiety go, I would have agreed to anything in that moment such was my desperation. It got to the point that I was so used to feeling anxious that even feeling calm would induce panic. I was resisting and not accepting what was happening in the moment. All I had was uncertainty. The control I felt I had performing compulsions was an illusion I had to accept.

Resistance is a barrier to everything the present moment offers.

We have a much greater chance of success if we learn to work with what we are given.

Even if the circumstances we find ourselves in are not what we want, we may find that we are much more able to cope if we surrender to the requirements of the moment. When I use the word ‘surrender’, I am not suggesting you accept a situation that you are not happy or comfortable with. If you simply observe the situation rather than have a negative emotional reaction (resistance), you are in a much better position to act (rather than react) in order to find a solution.

I had to make friends with my fears and by doing so overcome negative feelings I had about uncertainty. My mind likes to go over all the potential eventualities of what could happen and to be prepared for those scenarios. (The ‘what if’ monologue!)

As we struggle for control, are we actually better learning to accept whatever situation occurs or are we ensuring our ability to cope is safeguarded by some form of preparation?

I think it is finding a balance between both. Feeling comfortable with uncertainty has the potential to open up an ability to cope with multiple possibilities knowing you are able to ‘go with the flow.’ I always look to the natural world for inspiration. If we look at water, it is soft, flexible, yielding to the opportunity and carves a path through the obstacles it meets.

When water meets a barrier, it finds a way to work around it. There is no resistance, just a cooperation with what the moment presents.

This cooperation is powerful and an ally to what we need to achieve a goal. Working with what is given is a creative tool to unleashing potential we may have not previously considered. When our unconscious mind is primed to know what to look for and expect, we have the ability to create the future we want.

If we practice bringing our attention to the present moment, we may find that we are calmer in the face of uncertainty as we are able to deal with whatever situation we are presented with. The mind will naturally wander towards future possible outcomes in the search for certainty but if we change our thinking towards the positive, then we will be able to look forward to any event with a feeling of happy anticipation in the light of the fun we might have! Learn to think positively and even if things don’t turn out the way you might expect, then ask yourself where the positives are within the situation. By doing this, you are creating a positive mindset that enables you to make the best out of any situation.

Our anxieties come from not knowing what to expect.

The fear of the unknown and the stress we encounter as a consequence can trigger the fight or flight response.

After the sympathetic nervous system is initiated, we receive a shot of adrenalin/cortisol and are in a state of high alert to react in whatever way we need to the uncertainty we are encountering. Sometimes having too structured an outcome or plan is counterproductive. Think of the last time you planned a trip to the last detail only to find every aspect of your travel arrangements disrupted! (We’ve all been there!)

If we can train our minds to be comfortable with uncertainty and practice surrendering to the unknown, the present moment becomes an incredible vehicle for transformation. We can be in a relaxed state of readiness through acceptance rather than in an anxious state of agitation created by fear. If we become comfortable with uncertainty, we are experiencing the essence of existence. There is only the present.

You are here, now and everything you need to deal with will only happen in the here and now.

If you can learn to be content within the present moment, you eliminate fear of uncertainty by embracing the certainty you have in the here and now. The anxiety caused by uncertainty comes from not being able to control it from your current position in time (which is impossible to do as the future is only a projection of your mind at this point – this is why our ability to visualise and think about a positive outcome is important as we have the ability to manifest our reality through the thoughts we are thinking).

Your unconscious mind knows what you need to do as you have practised and completed the necessary groundwork (such as preparation to do a presentation/speech for a group or perhaps a musical performance).

The preparation you do supports the creative process. Knowing you will be doing this will undoubtedly create some nervous anticipation, but thinking has its limits when it comes to preparation.

Being in a state of presence is something that takes practice to achieve.

The quietening of the mind is one of the keys to overcoming anxiety. Accepting uncertainty is the only certainty we have. The minute we do not accept uncertainty, we begin to focus on our negative insecurities. We then run the risk of becoming inflexible and likely to break as soon as some pressure is applied. If you allow yourself to bend with the wind like the branches of the trees, you are more likely to withstand the pressure as you are not putting up a barrier of resistance to whatever the current moment is presenting.

If you flow with the energy and not against it, you have a much greater chance of being flexible to deal with whatever you need to. Sometimes we do not know what the answers are, and we cannot be certain… but that’s OK. We can prepare as much as we can but trusting in the gift of presence can open up so many creative possibilities.

As Bruce Lee would say, be ‘like water’.