intolerance of uncertainty | thoughts on a new year

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It’s no doubt that the things which are the most important for us to know are the things which, once heard, feel the most obvious. The things which, once said, feel the most simple. And yet, it is these things which are often, once heard and said, the things which change us the most. The things which make the biggest impact in our worlds because even though they are obvious and even though they are simple, they are still the things which are most important and have the most impact.

A New Year’s resolution has been to read an article a workday. Workday means ultimately five articles a week, and article means a research or peer-reviewed journal article, so what to do when throwing a party or how to build biceps fastest doesn’t count as articles.

I was reading, a few days ago (because I’ve also learned that New Year’s resolutions I wait to start until New Year’s are 100% less likely to happen than New Year’s resolutions I start a few days before) an article* about depression, anxiety and rumination. I was reading for a client that I’ve been making little progress with, and also reading for myself as is almost always the case whether any of us in the field choose to admit it or not.

The article speaks to depression, anxiety and rumination, or ongoing perseverative thoughts about situations or details, as moderated by the intolerance of uncertainty. And while the phrase “intolerance of uncertainty” feels as common and as known and as obvious as any other phrase that’s said over coffee or in elevators or across lunch tables, I felt myself freeze in the phase of the written words, as if the obvious and known was suddenly becoming an answer to a mystery.

The more we are intolerant of what we can’t control and what we don’t know, the greater our anxiety, depression and stalling.

With multitudes of caveats and uncontrollable variables, the notion has stuck with me since. The ability that I, or others, have to tolerate uncertainty influences the way we see the future and handle its impending realities in the present. Since all of the future is uncertain, no matter the degree at which we enjoy misleading ourselves, my ability to tolerate that uncertainty is a predictor of my emotions, attitudes, and decisions.

Since reading this article, no doubt an encouragement to keep up my New Year’s resolution, I’ve been challenged to face each day with a reminder to myself that what is to come is unknown, and my trust in the fact that all things are done well and that all things work together is and will be a major factor in my ability to move forward well into the grief and joy that lies ahead in 2013.

Here’s to an uncertain new year.

djordan
Pine Tree

* Liao, K. Y. & Wei, M. (2011). Intolerance of uncertainty, depression, and anxiety: The moderating and mediating roles of rumination. Journal of clinical psychology, 67(12), 1220-1239.

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5 thoughts on “intolerance of uncertainty | thoughts on a new year

  1. greg says:

    “Abraham I cannot understand, in a certain sense there is nothing I can learn from him but astonishment. If people fancy that by considering the outcome of the story (with Isaac on the mountain) they might be moved to believe, they deceive themselves and want to swindle God out of the first movement of faith, the infinite resignation. They would suck worldly wisdom out of the paradox….Would it not be better to stop with faith, and is it not revolting that everybody wants to go further?Would it not be better that they should stand still at faith, and that he who stands should take heed lest he fall? For the movements of faith must constantly be made by virtue of the absurd…” S. Kierkegaard, from “The Knight of Faith and the Knight of Infinite Resignation”, Fear and Trembling.

    • Most Hopeful says:

      “For the movements of faith must constantly be made by virtue of the absurd…” and “the infinite resignation” …I love those phrases. Thanks for the quote. So, the tolerance of certainty, for a woman or man of faith, is one of infinite resignation. On this side of ‘the time to come’, we might call it, as Sara Groves does, “The Long Defeat.” Thanks!

      • greg says:

        Yes. And faith is the risk of falling too. I recommend that whole piece to you. Thank you for your thoughts. Alawys.

  2. […] “Hope is rooted in the past but believes in the future. God’s world is in God’s hands, hope says, and therefore cannot possibly be hopeless. Life, already fulfilled in God, is only the process of coming to realize that we have been given everything we need to come to fullness of life, both here and hereafter. The greater the hope, the greater the appreciation of life now, the greater the confidence in the future, whatever it is.  […]

  3. Liesl says:

    Hey Donald, I love this post. I find myself continuously chewing over what you wrote. Very helpful. Thank you for risking through these writings that you share. I love hearing your heart. Much love, and we do look forward to seeing you soooon!

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