Uncertainty, Control, Stress

Uncertainty is a major stress factor for most people.  It goes hand in hand with lack of control, which often freaks people right out. We can face uncertainty in a strong and empowered way, or we can be irrational, inept and unhealthy.

Some ways that people attempt to take control is by doing their best to get certainty.

If it is in a specific area, they might, for instance:

  • do some research, eg the statistics on employment opportunities in a certain field, if the uncertainty is about paying their bills
  • do a FB search on someone before accepting them as a friend
  • Update for 2020 Virus:  Or log on to a news source every half hour to see what the latest is on the unfolding pandemic

But what if the uncertainty is more deep-rooted?

A feeling that you might not be able to trust someone close to you, a feeling of  concern for someone you love, a feeling that maybe life is not treating you fairly, a feeling that maybe the world is going in a direction that upsets you?  No amount of research can fill in the gaps.

Virus 2020:  Note that the language used to describe the virus by the news outlets is maximum hyperbole – revving up anxiety and uncertainty for personal outcomes. And constantly reading it plays into anxiety.

What to do about the stress of uncertainty?

Some people have quite unhealthy ways of coping

  • they might just get into an anxious funk
  • they might lash out at some person, or develop an angry, criticising, unhappy outlook on everything around them
  • they might do irrational things like buying a lottery ticket as “an investment”, or looking for psychic advice
  • or they might make a rash action, eg walking out on a relationship, with the notion that doing something is better than doing nothing
  • they might talk spitefully about someone who nudges their feelings of uncertainty
  • Virus 2020: Or they might panic-buy much more than they need at the supermarkets

Well, nothing much good comes from angry reactions, irrational behaviours, or from anger and fear turned inwards as anxiety or unhappiness.  Could there be another way? Why, yes!

We could consider where the feeling comes from in the first place regarding uncertainty.. why do we feel that we “need” certainty and control?

An inept way of addressing this is immediately again to turn towards someone or something as the cause.  Nope, that doesn’t work – it takes us straight back to the disempowering anxiety that we’re seeking to recover from.

The skilful and ultimately effective way – and so also the spiritual way – is to enquire again: What is it in me which supposes that certainty is necessary and that control is a requirement of living?

We may find that the notion of need for certainty may be one of the unchallenged assumptions which, amongst others, leads us to poor outcomes through much of our life.

In the time of the pandemic, one such assumption is that it shouldn’t happen.  And yet it has happened.  How does internal rage against the actual help us? 

So we have to turn back again and again to where anxiety and rage comes from. Challenging our assumptions about our wish for certainty, and control, once we have the courage to look without flinching, brings with it what we wanted all along – decisiveness and empowerment where action is possible, and also self-validation and self-motivation, which is not dependent on anyone else’s behaviour, nor on the way the world is.   We lose something illusory – certainty – and gain something much better –  the strength that comes of working with reality instead of wanting reality to be different.

 

 

 

 

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About Mataji

I am the spiritual director of the Australian College of Classical Yoga. We teach reality based spirituality.
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