In today’s article we are going to advise on how to accept uncertainty from a cognitive behavioural perspective. Accepting uncertainty is taught throughout cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT) and can be a huge deficit for those suffering with a mental disorder such as generalised anxiety disorder.
The inability to accept uncertainty is an attitude many people hold in their everyday lives. When there is an attitude of uncertainty or unpredictability, this can be seen as awful and unbearable. An experience that must be avoided.
If accepting uncertainty is difficult, then you may perceive worrying to be a useful tactic. You may think that worrying is a way of preparing yourself for the worst.
Worrying might be seen as a way of attempting to predict life, so that there are no negative future experiences. Therefore, worrying reduces the experience of uncertainty and unpredictability.
Because worrying reduces your feelings of uncertainty, you will continue worrying and worrying and worrying. In other words, worrying helps you believe that you have more control and certainty in life.
- In reality, has your worrying made anything more certain or more predictable?
- Does worrying really change the outcome of what will happen?
- Life is still as uncertain and unpredictable as it ever was, it is only your perception that you somehow have more control that has changed. But is this really true?
- In fact all you have done is think of all the worst case scenarios and made yourself feel really worse in the process. This often paralyses your ability to take any action.
- So, ask yourself, is worrying about uncertainty a productive and healthy way of living?
TWO MAIN STRATEGIES TO ADOPT
First read through the following questions and familiarise yourself with each strategy. Then get a journal and pen or pencil and write out your answers. There may be some questions that resonate more with you than others, these could be questions you write out answers to daily.
Challenging Intolerance of Uncertainty
- Is it possible to be certain about everything in life?
- What are the advantages of requiring certainty, versus the disadvantages?
- How is certainty in life helpful or unhelpful?
- Do you tend to predict bad things will happen just because they are uncertain?
- What is the likelihood of positive or neutral outcomes?
- How likely is it that things you predict will happen? Is it possible to live with the small chance that something negative may happen, given its likelihood is very low?
- Can you live with some of the uncertainties of life? How have you done this in the past? Was it as negative as you originally predicted?
2. Acceptance and Mindfulness
When there is intolerant of uncertainty the mind tends to be focused on the future. An antidote to this style of thinking is to practice becoming more present focused and accepting of your current experience.
By practicing mindfulness techniques until they become apart of your daily routine and natural behaviour.
- Being aware of what you are currently thinking and what you are feeling in your body.
- Use the feeling of your breath to remain present.
- What are you noticing when you are needing certainty?
- Acknowledge these as thoughts or feeling, note them as either one or the other then let them go
- Letting go by refocusing on the breath
- Pass no judgement on yourself by bringing a gentle curiosity to the thoughts that drift by without judging them or trying to change them
- Focus your attention fully on sounds around your or sensations in the body, or your breath, or the task at hand.
I’d love to hear your comments below on your experiences of accepting uncertainty or any of the other topics mentioned above and throughout this website.