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Why is uncertainty so difficult to handle?

When you are on the brink of change, whether that’s wanted or put upon you, you will most likely go through a period of unease, where uncertainty grabs hold of you and sends you into a time of discomfort which can manifest itself as worries and anxiety.

If you are, like me, a sensitive person, your natural inclination might be to try to push the discomfort away, only for it to grow bigger and bigger, and come up in the form of rumination and intrusive thoughts as like one of my mentors, Sheryl Paul says, ‘at the core of intrusive thoughts, is the need for certainty’.

This is because when faced with uncertainty, and in other words, the unknown, our mind tries to find patterns within our past experiences, or unconscious knowledge that we inherited, to try to find and pre-empt how a situation will unfold.

We are conditioned to find answers in the mind, not be present with sensations and fluctuations of the body, so when uncertainty shows up, often the default counterbalance is to travel to the mind and try to plan, or pre-empt in an attempt to limit and ‘fix’ that uncertainty. For the sensitive mind, this will often create a loop of self-perpetuating fear and anxiety.

This sometimes brings up issues, that you didn’t even know were present for you, this is when it is sometimes helpful to explore those issues with curiosity and compassion and look into what the unconscious is trying to communicate to us, and what it wants us to make conscious and ultimately integrate. This is when Jungian psychology would indicate that the discomfort experienced is a signal from your unconscious that something within you needs to be integrated, in other words, something unconscious needs to come to light.

So why is it so important to stop and pay attention to that discomfort?

Because whenever you travel to the mind to try to counteract the uncertainty you are facing, you miss an opportunity to not only grow but also to increase your tolerance for uncertainty and thus your tolerance for life. Because learning to be present with the discomfort is the true key to learning to work with uncertainty, and let's face it to navigate life with greater ease. And this uncertainty and discomfort are the gateways to helping you grow.

The difference between traditional coaching versus my holistic approach which is rooted in Jungian psychology and Eastern philosophy is that I don’t try to create a ‘more controllable’ version of uncertainty for clients which would entail creating rituals to help them feel more in control. Instead, I meet the client where they are at, and try to guide them to a place of trust within themselves, so that they learn to be more comfortable with the discomfort.

So my question to you is, how do you deal with or avoid uncertainty in your life? What tools and practices have you found helpful to navigate a transitional time? And if you haven’t been willing to turn towards your discomfort, what has been holding you back?

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