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Emails to my Therapist

The Prickly Pain of Uncertainty

One of the gutsiest things I know of is to be able to tolerate uncertainty or ambiguity: do I go or stay? is the biopsy going to show trouble? will I win the Nobel? is he going nuts or just being mean? am I on next week’s layoff list? And on and on like that.

A good deal of life is made up of that stuff. And a lot of the time it’s important to be able to stay in an uncertain state long enough to make good decisions. By contrast: I remember once in my single years when I felt I’d be relieved for a romance to be over so I could stop fearing the end of it. So I hurried that process along.

Some things that help me in these fretful wobbly periods:
*meditating and exercising
*getting deep into work or some other trance-inducing activity
*telling myself I’ll stop thinking about possible outcomes or choices until Tuesday of next week and then I’ll get back to it
*doing some research on the question
*check items off a to-do list, whether or not they’re relevant
*take any relevant action that might help
*whining to friend

Things that don’t help:
*not eating
*scraping at my skin and other twitchy habits
*making big decisions that could wait
*getting into arguments that could wait

It doesn’t take a big issue like a biopsy to trigger the limbo state. I remember my need to decide at the start of ninth grade about whether to sign up for French III. Mon Dieu! People have married and produced children with less obsessing.

I assume that when some little uncertainty goes big as French III did, that there’s often a larger one underneath. Something like fear of death, fear of failure, fear of being a ninth grade dork, simply looking for a place to land. Could be the best thing is just to let it land and then sit it out.

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Categories: courage, fear

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