Anxiety and Dealing with Uncertainty in Life
Dealing with uncertainty in life is one of our greatest challenges. We live in a time when people are dealing with it as never before.
The ways in which we experience uncertainty in life are very individual. The uncertainty that is of greatest concern to each of us is usually associated with our greatest anxiety. What are the forms of uncertainty that concern you most?
Ambiguity, and Not Knowing What Will Happen
I can’t speak for you, but, in my experience, situations where there’s a lot at stake, but the outcome is highly uncertain, can be very painful. We are creatures whose brains are designed to help us maximize a sense of certainty and control. When that sense is not there, and the situation is one we care about a lot, we can feel extreme discomfort.
In our time, there are many sources of uncertainty and hard-to-predict outcomes. Issues with work and employment, health, children’s future and well-being, aging parents, social and political uncertainty — all these and more.
In addition, we face all the questions about how to live with uncertainty and ambiguity. How can we tolerate situations where we just don’t know the outcome?
The Head Game of False Certainty
One possible response to uncertainty in life is to simply pretend that it doesn’t exist. Sometimes people try to do this consciously, but more often, its a matter of unconscious denial.
At a deep level we humans need to see ourselves and our world as solid, stable, and lasting. When we experience things that threaten that view of the world, it can be intensely anxiety-provoking and disorienting. So as a result, we can often perceive things as more stable and lasting than they are. It can be reassuring to let ourselves be lulled into seeing things as stable and lasting.
But what about the times when we really do have to face the facts, and accept that our world — and our lives — are changing? Sometimes we really do have to find a way to do this, even though we might find it so much easier to believe that the “same old same old” is occurring?
Such uncertainty can occur in the midst of major life transitions, and during midlife transition. The individual may want to believe that all is going on in life as it always has, but in reality, life is moving in different directions, and some of them might be very difficult to accept.
How can we deal with all the uncertainty in life that comes our way?
Accepting Uncertainty and Moving Toward Trust
We are never going to eliminate the uncertainty from our lives. How can we live with the unexpected?
Part of the answer can be learning techniques and approaches that help to reduce our anxiety. There are good things that we could and should do to reduce the anxiety that we experience from the uncertainty in life.
Yet, in addition to that, there is importance in finding connection to something greater than ourselves, that persists unchanging through the course of human life. It is essential for each of us to find a sense of meaning for ourselves that goes beyond the endless chances, changes and uncertainties of our life. C.G. Jung tells us that the coping issues that we each confront
must be understood, ultimately, as the suffering of a soul which has not discovered its meaning.
The process of finding the deeper sense of meaning and security in our lives, and moving toward trust is a life-long project. The journey to this sense of security can be aided a great deal through exploring and accepting the uncertainties in our lives. which is a key part of the work of effective /a-midlife-transition.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst