Uncertainty IS Scary
We all live with uncertainty on a daily basis, and I think we can all relate to the fact that not knowing the outcome of something can be quite scary. It is really impossible to go through one's day without facing a situation that brings up the paralyzing fear of uncertainty. Most of us have loved ones fighting COVID right now, or are facing other uncertainty-filled situations such as going for medical check-ups, a child struggling with mental health issues, running a business in the midst of a pandemic, going through layoffs or company downsizing, or maybe even contemplating a career pivot altogether.
Before getting familiar with the work of Pema Chödrön and her incredible books, my strategy to deal with the fear that arises from not being in control of "the situation" was to ignore it altogether and not to acknowledge the uncertainty at all. There were two ways I dealt with uncertainty, I either blocked all emotions that arose from the potential outcomes or what's was worse, I allowed the potential worst-case scenario to take total control of the situation, which generated inner suffering of enormous proportions. The worst part is that I used to put on a brave face and internalized all those negative emotions and fear, which triggered tons of stress and unease. Sounds Familiar?
In her teachings, Pema Chödrön describes a liberating way to relate to our fears: not as something to try to get rid of or cast out, but as something we became very intimate with. In so doing, she explains, we come to find that the journey of knowing fear is in fact the journey of courage. From this wisdom, we learn to embrace the fullness of our experiences in life.
Reading about it is the easy part, practicing is a whole other thing. One of the techniques that has worked well for me, besides the practice of becoming aware of the feelings that arise within myself, is to talk to my inner self, and to imagine that my inner self is a young child, maybe 4 or 5. When a child is afraid of something, we adults, strive to find comforting ways to help them through it, so why not putting the same effort and compassion into calming our own fears?
Acknowledging that we are afraid, is extremely liberating, and I see it as a sign of strength rather than weakness. The most comforting part of it all is the certainty that we all go through it, ALL. Why do you think they say Doctors make the worst patients? Because, as patients, they are in the same boat that everyone else is, they lose control of the situation and fear pays its visit.
We have certainty that uncertainty is something we can't delete from the human experience, so it will only seem logical that if we learn and commit to deal with fear in a different way, in a friendlier way, in a more accepting way, we will end up in a better place. If we bring this powerful emotion to 'the table', as we do with the good ones, then the situation will become lighter, more manageable. Don't they say that things get better after a good "talk", then let's open space for ALL our emotions to engage with each other and see where that takes us.
“When we protect ourselves so we won’t feel pain, that protection becomes like armor, like armor that imprisons the softness of the heart.” Pema Chödrön