Redefining well-being through the best practices of Jungian psychoanalysis
“There is nothing certain but uncertainty.” Michel de Montaigne
Uncertainty exists in all of our lives. You may not like it; you may not want to admit it, but it’s there. We can try and plan every aspect of our lives and implement as many controls as possible, but unfortunately, uncertainty is not something that can be eliminated. That word ‘uncertainty’ means different things to each of us. Feeling uncertain gives rise to many emotions, and for most of us, they generally aren’t positive. I can’t remember ever hearing someone shouting out in joy that they were so happy to be uncertain.
What does it mean to be uncertain? The MacMillian dictionary defines it as
None of those definitions inspire us to march on with confidence. And if you have a look at synonyms for uncertainty, it won’t surprise you that none of them are particularly positive either – ambiguity, ambivalence, anxiety, concern, confusion, distrust, mistrust, skepticism, suspicion, trouble, uneasiness, unpredictability, worry.
I wonder why the unknown always has negative connotations. And why being uncertain or having uncertainty in your life is a bad thing. And lastly, why do we default to equating uncertainty with a negative outcome?
“The reality is that tomorrow is most certainly uncertain, and now matter how many expectations we form, tomorrow will come, tomorrow will go, and it will all be what it will be.” Lori Deschene
If we are truly honest with ourselves, nothing is certain; life doesn’t offer guarantees. We can only be sure of this present moment. But that is if you look at life from a situational perspective – what we can be certain of is who we are, our character, and our values. Knowing who we are plays a vital role in how we deal with uncertainty. We don’t think of the next moment or tomorrow as uncertain, as our days are generally predictable. When something completely unexpected happens, something we can’t control or are not sure of the outcome, that’s when uncertainty creeps in. And the funny thing about uncertainty is that it often brings up that awful emotion called fear.
When we feel uncertain, we tend to over-analyse and come up with the worst-case scenario – and if you are like me, nothing has ever come close to it. You would think that after everything that has happened over the past 2 years, uncertainty would be something that we’re used to. The pandemic changed our lives for ever – uncertainty almost became a way of life.
Our world has changed; we now have a King and another new Prime Minister, our economy is under pressure, and job security is no longer guaranteed. Financially many of us are taking strain and looking for additional ways to earn a second income. Life may be uncertain, but that doesn’t mean the future won’t be bright!
It’s time to take out your journal and reflect on how uncertainty impacts your life.
Uncertainty means change is coming.
Perhaps we need to change our perception of uncertainty and think of it as a mystery or an adventure. A mystery is something that needs solving; it calls us to action. An adventure is something that is exciting, it will have challenges and obstacles along the way, but in the end, we will have conquered them and become the hero of our own story.
Looking back on your thoughts around uncertainty, it’s time for reflection – why do you deal with uncertainty the way you do? If you thought of the things that are uncertain in your life right now as mysteries to solve or as the start of an adventure, would that change how you feel and approach them? And perhaps, as Joseph Campbell says, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
Embracing uncertainty. It sounds so profound and spiritual and all of those other things, but what does it actually mean?
For me, embracing uncertainty means accepting that there is uncertainty in our lives, but more importantly, it is accepting your feelings around uncertainty. It is perfectly fine and normal to not like uncertainty and to not want it in your life. Perhaps if we understand that how we react in terms of expecting the worst is natural, it is almost instinctive. It puts us on high alert; we are looking out for the dangers so that we can protect ourselves.
Embracing uncertainty is about acknowledging those feelings, acknowledging where you are, and accepting that uncertainty can’t be changed at that moment. Right now, you can only control how you respond to it. I think the following quote by Bob Goff highlights an aspect we don’t think about – “Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.”
If everything remained the same and everything was predictable, wouldn’t life be exceptionally boring? And without uncertainty, we would continue to make the same choices; there would be no reason to take another path. There would be no mysteries to solve, no adventures to embrace. And let’s be honest, you may as well embrace it because it isn’t going anywhere.
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” Marcus Aurelius
How many times have you been met with uncertainty? And how many times have you made it through to the other side? Well, if you are reading this, it means you made it through every time!! There is a quote by Jack Canfield that says, “For every reason, it’s not possible, there are hundreds of people who have faced the same circumstances and succeeded.” We are not facing anything that someone else hasn’t faced before us and succeeded. When we know we can overcome anything; it is no longer scary because we know we can get through it.
Think about all the uncertainty you have faced in your life; no matter how dark it seemed at the time, you got through it. Life is always trying to teach us something; if we don’t learn from it, that experience will keep repeating itself until we do. Think of uncertainty as your friend, for without it, you wouldn’t try anything new, you wouldn’t try and find another way of doing something … you would stagnate.
“Sometimes it’s okay if the only thing you did today was breathe.” Yumi Sakugawa
During times of uncertainty, we may need to take a step back and breathe. We don’t need to always spring into action; sometimes we need to treat ourselves with kindness and grace. Practicing self-care amid times of uncertainty and stress is crucial to your ability to move forwards from a place of strength. Things can be overwhelming, and yes, it is okay if the only thing you did that day was breathe. When we are stressed and overwhelmed, it’s as if our brains can’t cope with the multitude of thoughts racing through our minds. And that is when we need a bit of self-love.
I want you to take time to think about what makes you feel better, what brings you joy, and what brings you comfort. Perhaps it’s Lindt chocolate, a bubble bath, reading, or listening to music. No matter what it is, you need to create a “Comfort during times of uncertainty” box. It is simply a box you can open which will help you get through that stressful moment without needing to think!! Fill it with notes of encouragement and reminders of your previous successes. It is your gift to yourself!
The call to adventure begins with uncertainty
“It is when you are confronted with uncertainty that you truly discover who you are. In that space is where growth and innovation thrive and where you learn that you are stronger and more resilient than you ever knew before.” Hania Khuri-Trapper
Uncertainty brings change; it brings a choice, and you can choose to see opportunities, or you can choose to see obstacles. Sometimes life brings unexpected gifts in the form of challenges. A Hero’s journey takes us from our known world to the unknown world. It takes us to the edge of what we are familiar with, and for us to succeed, we need to embrace uncertainty, the risk we are taking, and the adventure we are embarking on. This is the foundation of most stories. There is the call to adventure, which can be anything that leads to a change.
Once you have heard that call to adventure, that’s when the uncertainty creeps in. We become full of doubt, we think about the risks, we come up with an array of reasons as to why we won’t succeed. At this stage, we don’t have much faith in our own capabilities. It is all about changing our perspective, seeing the unknown as an adventure, and looking forward to it with anticipation as opposed to all those synonyms like anxiety, skepticism, and trouble. Our world will always be full of uncertainty, but if we cultivate a belief in ourselves and our ability to triumph, we will have created a form of certainty.
You can think of it as believing that you will always land on your feet and that everything always works out. You are always exactly where you are meant to be in order to learn the lessons you need to learn.
“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.” Albert Einstein
Refusing the call to adventure is like being that ship that is always safe at the shore. There will be no adventure; there will be nothing to overcome. There will be no lessons to learn. But know that life will continue to call. The challenges and obstacles you overcome exponentially increase your growth, learning, and self-discovery. We know that we cannot stand still any longer; we know that we need to do something. Life is calling us and asking us to step out of our comfort zone. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Are we willing to answer the call to adventure?
When we ignore the call and let uncertainty and self-doubt stand in our way, we pay for it one way or another. Our comfort zone becomes less comforting as time passes. Mistakes mean we tried, and we learnt something. There is nothing worse than regret, for we will never know what the outcome would have been.
“We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt’s outlook is perfectly aligned with how we should approach uncertainty. One step at a time, dealing with what is in front of us, and as we do, we will come to the realisation that nothing is ever as bad as it first appeared. Be the hero of your own story, discover your inner strength, and remember you aren’t the first and definitely won’t be the last person to embark on this journey. So what are you waiting for? What uncertainty is facing you at the moment? What action can you take to answer your call to adventure? Just take one step, one small step – it is often the first step that can be the most intimidating.
“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.” Robert Jordan
As I mentioned earlier, the trick to dealing with uncertainty, is to create inner security. You need to start believing in yourself, believe that you can conquer and overcome all the obstacles that lie in your path.
I have said this before, but during times of great discomfort, there is great learning. One thing that uncertainty and the change that is bound to join it teaches us, is resilience. Resilience can be defined as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” Resilience makes us strong. All heroes have that character trait, for without it, they would never succeed in their quest.
Trust that you have the skills and resilience to overcome what you once thought was impossible. You need to start believing in yourself; to do that, you have to banish your internal negative narrative. We can change our thoughts which will change how we perceive the world and ultimately act. We can change our mindset – to see opportunities and to take advantage of them.
“To really find out how strong and resilient you are, you must embrace uncertainty. Feel the fear and do it anyway!” Luke Lee Tet
When uncertainty comes knocking on your door, you may find yourself slipping into old habits of avoidance. And that is okay, as with anything in life, change takes practice. You need to stay in the present moment, and you need to be mindful of your thoughts. The stoics have a way of looking at problems – don’t suffer in advance; there is no need to agonise over what has not yet occurred – you can only deal with what is in front of you. And when in doubt as to what to tackle first, the obstacle is the way.
David Goggins has a unique way of approaching life and is definitely not someone who shies away from the call to adventure. Some of his “rules” for living are as follows:
You need to define what rules you intend to live by. For example, will you let uncertainty scare you, or will you get in charge of your brain and do the things you don’t like and take on those challenges? What type of person do you choose to be?
“Write the story of your life. Sharpen your pencil, freshen the ink & get to it. You are the author, the world your pages. The hero or the villain. You decide” Megan Hine
You can think of it as being the hero or the villain; perhaps coward would be a better word. You have the choice to write your own story, to go out there and make that indelible mark on the world, or choose the safety of the shore and pray no tsunami comes along.
Your self-belief is your sword… you have everything you need to slay that dragon called uncertainty. Don’t let it paralyse you, don’t let it hold you back and certainly don’t let it stop you from becoming the best version of yourself.
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