Can you predict your reactions in unpredictable times?

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Uncertainly is all around us.  We live in turbulent and changing times. How we deal with it and accept and even embrace it can be transforming. There are so many conflicting things that we have to try to make sense of in our personal and professional lives. The only certainty is uncertainty.

There are four types of uncertainly, according to a paper by Barry Mason entitled “Towards Positions of Safe Uncertainty”:

  1. Unsafe uncertainty – dangerous, unclear, chaotic, random
  2. Unsafe certainty – controlling, toxic, negative, critical
  3. Safe uncertainty – adaptive, innovative, challenging
  4. Safe certainty – comfort zone, repetitive, complacent

Mason suggested that safe uncertainty was the most helpful where there is a foundation of security but within that freedom for creativity and exploration of new ideas.

Mithu Storoni wrote problems occur when uncertainty doesn’t happen in short bursts but is prolonged.  Our brains change the way we process information so that stimulus is perceived as more negative.  With this negativity we become hyper vigilant to threat that can manifest as chronic stress. She noted one of the biggest sources of uncertainty in today’s world was not knowing how to interpret the intentions or actions of other people.

How we react in unpredictable times can make a big different to our experience of life.  The ten question quiz on the subject in Psychologies Magazine suggested my uncertainty response was overthinking:

“When you’re a worrier, its no surprise that when life becomes uncertain, your thinking goes into overdrive.  Sometimes, it makes sense to think through possibilities. But, if you allow yourself to ruminate long enough, you can convince yourself that your worst-case scenario fantasies are actually real. The knock-on effect means that stress and anxiety levels go up. It’s hard to keep a perspective on risk when you’re in flight-or-flight mode, so you can end up stuck, avoiding making decisions or taking opportunities that are open to you.  And it’s only by exposing yourself to uncertainty that you develop your tolerance for it.

Mindfulness may help rein in you imagination. When you feel your anxiety levels rising, try using your breath as an anchor for your mind, or simply grounding yourself in the present moment by checking in with your sense, and noticing what you can hear, smell and see. Sometimes there isn’t a wrong or right decision, just different paths. Try ‘sitting with’ the uncomfortable feelings triggered by uncertainty, and you might be surprised to find they start to dissolve, or become easier to tolerate”

I’m not a worrier particularly but there are times when I get an idea in my head that I can’t shake, I’m convinced something is going on when it’s not. There must be something going on otherwise why does x,y,z happen? I can get myself in a bit of spin over it and allow it to impact relationships.  The stupid thing is, by thinking the worst-case scenario that isn’t really happening, am I increasing the chances of it happening because that’s how I’m visualising it?


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