Feeling Lost – Hello, My Name is Uncertainty
Over the last several years, and especially the last several months, there has been a lot of uncertainty for many of the clients I work with. What I have noticed is that with this level of uncertainty, people feel lost, confused, and overwhelmed. People are expressing more and more stress at the current state of our world between the civil rights/social justice call to action and the pandemic.
People are reporting feeling “trapped,” “lost,” “overwhelmed,” and even paranoid. All these feelings, I liken to the level of uncertainty in our world right now. Many of my clients symptoms of trauma are flaring up and I am noticing a lot of regression in people. As a therapist, all of these things make A LOT of sense to me given looking at the greater factors at play in our world and the systemic impact this has throughout our world, our communities, our families, and ourselves.
For many clients who have been marginalized or oppressed – the uncertainty is bringing a resurgence in the feelings of “learned helplessness.” When we unpack this dynamic, it is a feeling of extreme difficulty and people often feel stuck because they have so many barriers to access change. This concept is used in a variety of ways, but to me it makes most sense as we are looking at it through the eyes of those who have been oppressed by the way our world works. For many clients in this category, I am noticing that any movements they have felt at a personal or community level have been removed, recreating the intense feelings of uncertainty and learned helplessness.
What is Uncertainty? Why do we need it?
Uncertainty can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and trauma. This often results in people engaging in strategies that have been unhelpful in the past when they have had these feelings of loss or uncertainty. These strategies to get people’s needs met that are no longer adaptive can look like overcontrolling, secrecy, impulse spending, explosive emotions, avoidance, isolation, chasing or pursuing people, eating disorders, self destructive/injurious behavior, addiction, affairs, and numbing.
People who experience symptoms anxiety, depression, and trauma often feel needs for the direct opposite of uncertainty – certainty. Certainty allows people struggling with these disorders to feel more control and predictability. When uncertainty increases, it often results in feelings of chaos and disorder around people – this unpredictability results in stress.
When working with my clients, I work hard to support them in creating ways to balance their need for certainty and uncertainty. Here are some ways to help create more certainty and uncertainty in your life.
Ways to Create Certainty
Certainty is the need for structure, predictability, and organization. Often people use inappropriate attempts to control their surroundings as a strategy to access certainty. The problem with this is that we cannot control anything other than ourselves, our reactions, and our choices. When we work to do that for others we create a false sense of security and conflict in our relationships.
Here are some strategies that you might find useful to create certainty:
- Creating hobbies
- Predictable routines (waking, bedtime, etc)
- Scheduling connection points with friends, family, or partners
- Organizing your space
- Organizing your time
- Engaging in self-care
- Planning a meal
- Healthy connections with people you trust and are rejuvenating for you
- Watching movies or shows with people in your life, video calls, intentional shared time
- Join cause that you believe
Ways to Create Uncertainty
Often times we associate uncertainty with things “that are not good.” Uncertainty is the need for creativity, adventure, spontaneity, and chaos. Often times people can be stuck in uncertainty if they are unable to be reliable or may engage in addictive behaviors and/or relationship patterns to meet this need. With too much uncertainty people do not have any structure, predictability, and often live in chaos.
Here are some strategies that may be useful in meeting this need healthfully:
- Creativity or artistic endeavors
- Exploring a new area of where you live or somewhere outdoors
- Unplanned trips or adventures
- Meeting new people (consensually)
- Role play
- Learning a new skill
- Pushing your comfort zone
- Work on your own healing
- An activity that increases adrenaline (in a safe way)
- Engage in a debate
Although these suggestions are helpful in a microlevel, it may allow to create some self-efficacy and mastery. This will not cure the feelings of learned helplessness or the uncertainty in the world, but these suggestions may offer some ability to have some personal empowerment. Steps towards personal empowerment can help each of us take steps towards change and hopefully if all of us take steps this change can make the changes that are NECESSARY at the macro level. As Margret Mead said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”
If you are looking for extra support during these tough times, we offer tele-therapy sessions here at LCAT and are happy to help!
YouTube page where she provides free information at The Sex Healer.
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