Introduction to Uncertainty
The topic of uncertainty can feel overwhelming at the mere mention of the word. Anxiety-provoking, the word “uncertainty” leaves a sour taste of confusion and sometimes even feelings of helplessness. Philosophers, psychologists, and artists alike will use the topic of uncertainty as a core topic in their work.
Yet, despite the scary sound of the word uncertainty, there can be hope and ways to find yourself grounded in its midst. Perhaps musician Dave Grohl put it best in his song “Times Like These” where he says, “It’s times like these you learn to live again.” 1
So how do we learn to “live” with the uncertainty?
The Science Behind Uncertainty
To look at the science of uncertainty, we can turn to two leaders in the world of psychology: Martin Seligman and Viktor Frankle. Psychologist Martin Seligman has dedicated his life to work in Positive Psychology, a form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy that focuses on the positive aspects of life and ways to get back to the positive. [efn_note] Gibbon et al., 2020 [/efn_note]. What Seligman is essentially saying is that humans are resilient and are capable, with training, to emphasize the positive, even in the most challenging of times.
Neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankle also holds another title to his name: a holocaust survivor. Through his observations and experiences during the holocaust, Frankle developed the theory of logotherapy, which states that finding meaning in a situation assists with survival during uncertainty.[efn_note] Persuit of Happiness, n.d.[/efn_note].
Now let’s talk about ways to put their theories into practice.
How Do We Find Hope in Uncertainty?
How do we take the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy principles Seligman lays out and logotherapy that Frankle founded to find hope in modern-day uncertainty? I am now going to lay out strategies on ways to cope, and hopefully find hope, among uncertainty in three different areas: on your own, with others, and with children.
Finding Hope in Uncertainty on Your Own
I highly encourage you to sit with yourself and assess how you are feeling. What emotions and thoughts come up for you? You can do this either though sitting with yourself quietly, or through a meditative practice. Really pay attention to how you feel during this exercise. How can you channel these thoughts and feelings into positive motivation or meaning?
Finding an artistic medium that can help relate to how you feel can be very helpful during times of uncertainty. Journaling, poetry, music, film, dance, and art are examples of ways to find artistic mediums to represent your emotions. The key of this exercise: Do not keep your emotions bottled up internally, but instead, express them to help relieve yourself of the burden of the weight of the emotions. Focus on the keywords that Seligman and Frankle use: positivity and meaning. Can you relate these two topics into your artistic expression?
How can you move your body to release some of the tension and nervous energy that can build up in one’s body as a result of uncertainty? There is no wrong answer to this. Full workout, riding a bike, taking a walk, pacing around the room. Get that energy out!
Finding Hope in Uncertainty With Others
The key with finding hope in uncertainty with others is to make sure you are supporting and uplifting each other, and not draining each other. Finding solidarity and community can be pivotal to coping with uncertainty.
Acts of Service
Can you find ways during times of uncertainty to assist others? Perhaps you can help an elderly neighbor with an errand, give a call to someone to check in, or volunteer for a day. Contributing to the good of another can be an uplifting experience during times of uncertainty, because that act of service is something within your control when there my not be too many opportunities to find things in your control at the time. This can also be a motivation for meaning during uncertain times.
Spend Time With Others
Whether that is to check in with someone, to find distractions, or to help each other self-care, having others to speak with can be helpful. Like the expression “there is strength in numbers” there is also emotional strength in numbers. Who in your life can you add to this team? How can you uplift each other positively?
Finding Hope in Uncertainty With Children
Perhaps in some ways, the most difficult way to find coping strategies during times of uncertainty is with children. Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, godparent, aunt, uncle, older sibling, or any other caregiver to a child, it can be hard to talk about challenging topics when you want to protect them. However, it is that very innocence that children have that can give us that very meaning Frankle talks about and positive Seligman discusses.
Give Yourself Permission to Play
Say it with me: play is healing, not childish. Playtime is a time which children get to release energy, be creative, and distract themselves from the outside world temporarily to have fun and recharge. Engage in play with the children of your life to get a break for yourself and to help ease tensions your children may witness.
Be Honest About Uncertainty
Don’t lie to children if they ask questions surrounding topics of uncertainty. You can be honest without being graphic with them. You can add a layer of hope by making sure to talk about things within your control and what are things you and the child can do to take positive steps during this time.
Let Children Express Their Opinions and Ask Their Questions
By allowing children to voice their questions and concerns, you are not only permitting them to express themselves, but you may find a certain level of relatability with the children in your life. Through relating, you and the child can find connection with each other, and as I mentioned previously, there is emotional strength in numbers.
Connecting with Support
Times of uncertainty can be challenging and scary. Yet, despite how overpowering uncertainty can feel, we don’t have to lose ourselves. We can continue to find meaning and hope during adversity and use that to assist others facing similar challenges.
Remember, you don’t have to do it alone and we are here to support. If you need additional support during uncertain times, please consider working one of our compassionate therapists at online-therapy.com .
Just as I began this post with a quote, I will end it with a quote as well. This time from Viktor Frankle’s book “A Man’s Search For Meaning:”
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” .[efn_note] Franke & Lasch, 1962.[/efn_note].
Frankl, V. E., & Lasch, H. (1962). Man’s search for meaning: An introduction to logotheraphy. Hodder and Stoughton.
Gibbon, P., Lifson, A., Heitman, D., & Blitz, M. (2020). Martin Seligman and the rise of positive psychology. The National Endowment for the Humanities. Retrieved March 8, 2022, from https://www.neh.gov/article/martin-seligman-and-rise-positive-psychology
Grohl, D. (2002). Times Like These [Recorded by David “Dave” Grohl [Foo Fighters] On One by One [CD]. Roswell Records.
Pursuit of Happiness. (n.d.). Viktor Frankl. Pursuit of Happiness. Retrieved March 8, 2022, from https://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/viktor-frankl/