Learn to tolerate uncertainty

In my therapy office and on stage, I talk a lot about how we need to learn to tolerate uncertainty. This concept comes from Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in the treatment of anxiety. We always worry about future-related events. The common thread is our need to have as little uncertainty in life as possible. The problem is that we live in a world of uncertainty (now more so than ever!). We cannot be absolutely certain about the future. When we learn to tolerate the uncertainty, we worry less and we are better able to live more mindfully (in the here and now).

Learn to tolerate uncertaintyI spotted this cartoon on a friend’s timeline today. I thought it perfectly summarised a recent therapy session. Whatever our anxieties (this particular session related to health anxiety), we have no way of being certain about the future. If we spend too much time thinking about the “worst case scenario,” we run the risk of experiencing emotional distress as if that scenario were true.

I always recommend that we consider those worst case scenarios, but ask ourselves a second question, “Will I survive it?” The chances are you will be able to cope with it, despite the hardship.

Think about one of the most difficult experiences you’ve had in your life. If I had asked you the day before whether you would cope with the situation, you would probably have said no.  We underestimate our resilience and ability to cope with adversity.

Learn to tolerate uncertainty. If we worry too much about tomorrow, we cannot enjoy today.