Uncertainty is all around us from the minute we wake up in the morning to going to bed in the evening. Uncertainty is something that most of us deal with simply by living our lives and carrying on with our day to day activities not phased by the possibility that something unexpected could occur which may have negative consequences. The reason being, because although we are aware of uncertainties in life, we live by the ‘I will deal with it if it happens’ idea and pursue on living our life as we know it… in the present, current moment.
There are others however for whom uncertainty is anxiety provoking, not knowing whether something is going to happen or not becomes a very negative and even threatening part of life. People who experience such difficulties will then puruse to try and find ‘certainty’ in most things they do, only realising that this is not possible and that the worries regarding uncertainty in life simply continue.
Not being able to tolerate uncertainty is very common and is one of the factors which causes and keeps generalised anxiety (worry) going. Therapy will not alleviate worries because worrying is a normal and natural human function which in some cases can be useful. Therapy will however help teach you why you are worrying and help you to develop skills whereby you are able to rationalise and challenge the reasons as to why you are worrying and ultimately the worry itself.
In my experience this begins with helping people to decide whether they want to be able to achieve ‘certainty’ in life or whether it is more realistic for them to be able to tolerate their ‘uncertainty.’ Once this has been highlighted and clients know that it is more realistic for them to work towards achieving tolerance of uncertainty it is useful to then look at examples from clients’ experiences where something has been uncertain but there was no catastrophic or negative outcome. This allows individuals to begin challenging such uncertainties in life.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is all about challenging one’s beliefs and the ways in which one interprets certain situations. To help deal with uncertainties experiments can then be conducted whereby clients are ‘acting as though they are tolerating uncertainty’ in situations which cause them anxiety. An example of this is if a person regularly worries about sending emails to a manager and spends a lot of time reading over the email again and again, a particular experiment may include them reducing the amount of times they read over the email before they send it. Again this will allow clients to start to tolerate some level of uncertainty in life.
Mindfulness (which was blogged about on this website) I have found is extremely useful to weave in throughout therapy as it encourages clients to practice mindfulness whilst doing the experiments, this helps clients to stay in the present and prevent ruminating on worries from occuring.
These are just a few methods through which the cycle of anxiety regarding uncertainty can be broken. Uncertainties are a normal and natural part of life and not necessarily something negative. Changing the ways that you view uncertainties will change the ways in which you deal with them ultimately allowing you to be more accepting and more able to cope with life’s uncertainties.