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Searching for Certainty

Moving Beyond Dysfunctional defaults

by Deah Curry, PhD


he new year has barely begun, and already the winds of fear are being whipped up with no less than eight political primaries and caucuses in January, and 33 in February. The search for certainty that normally accompanies the shift from endings to beginnings is starting to permeate individual, social, and cultural consciousness in a major way. Even if you are apolitical and waiting for the two parties to declare their nominees, it is impossible to escape the milieu of hyper-anxiety that is being generated.

But more important than who is running for president is how — on the individual, interpersonal, and psychospiritual levels — we respond to living in a climate of doubt and ambiguity when we are programmed to search for certainty. Moving beyond requires developing new ways to deal with living in a very uncertain world.

Three Common Response Modes

In my practice I see three general modes of response when people are searching for certainty and haven’t yet found it — being stuck, needy, or scattered. It matters very little what the specific quest is for. Most people fall into one of these three dysfunctional ways of handling the emotional distress that uncertainty provokes. Each one takes us away from our center and we must get back to our own core if we’re to live in empowered peace with ourselves.

When Roddy is uncertain he becomes emotionally paralyzed. It’s as if he shuts off all the intake valves that allow information to flow into his field of consciousness. He literally shuts down and can’t make decisions, or move forward on even the smallest tasks until he finds the level of certainty he feels he needs.

Roddy gets stuck in fearfulness, doubt, indecision, apathy, and discouragment. It’s hard for him to see that certainty itself is likely to be an illusion because everything changes all the time. Shutting down blocks him from getting information he needs to deal with changes.

Lack of certainty in relationships and about her own capabilities makes Naja a co-dependent emotional vampire. Her anxiety and doubt drive her to regress to the behaviors of her young child-self who craved protection and nurturing from others. She gives up her own adult power and tries to charm or manipulate others into making decisions for her. Naja gets needy — an unattractive quality and an ineffective way to get her needs met. It’s difficult for her to realize that the certainty she wants to feel can only be given to her by herself.

Skylar, who usually approaches life in a pragmatic manner, is distressed to feel intellectually incompetent when uncertain. Not knowing or not seeing clearly ruptures her self-trust. Skylar seeks pro-active solutions a little too frenetically, and gets thrown off track due to not being mindful and critical in mentally analyzing the possibilities that might secure certainty. This process simply perpetuates Skylar’s scatteredness, and prolongs the sense of uncertainty that must be overcome. Skylar fails to consider the merit of selecting one path and sticking with it as a way to create certainty.

A Fourth Way: Enjoying the Dance

Although their personal expressions of searching for certainty appear to be different, Roddy, Naja, and Skylar all make the mistake of running on reflex. We all tend to do it when we don’t know what to do. It’s our fall-back or default position. But it lacks creativity and that’s what we must learn to develop as the world we live in becomes more chaotic. We must learn to dance with the chaos of uncertainty.

Each of us has the potential to change the way we respond to the events in our lives. But first we must acknowledge our dysfunctional behaviors and allow change to enter. We do this by becoming more conscious and intentional about how we act. If we allow the tides of change to wash over us while remaining bystanders, we risk drowning in uncertainty. We must take action that brings real change, and have fun doing it.

When Roddy learned to focus on the here and now, he allowed the information surrounding him to permeate his shell of discouragement. Hope — a serious tool in the struggle against the apathy that overwhelmed him — became part of his life strategy. By acting on possiblities surrounding him instead of staying stuck in them, he started having more fun, stepping away from the wall he’d gripped so tightly and moving out onto the dance floor of life.

We’ve all had people like Naja in our lives who can’t seem to make up their minds without outside validation. When she learned through meditation to center herself in her own power and stop giving it away, Naja discovered that being alone in quiet allows her own natural consciousness to surface and show her the next steps on her path. Now she enjoys herself, by herself. The quiet dance of meditation gives access her own inner resources and moves in harmony with her deepest desires.

Skylar was caught in a different trap — that of trying to think her way out of problems without being grounded in clear, concrete, critical thought. Now, rather than considering too many of the infinite possiblities offered to her, she first determines what choices enhance her ability to function and those which throw her off her chosen path. As a result, she finds that although life is full of contradictions they come together in divine paradox, meeting up on the other side of the circle of the cosmic dance.

These new ways of searching for certainty involve acting with conscious intent. We must all learn to pro-actively respond to life’s challenges, rather than reflexively reacting to them.

It’s foolish to say that the world around us doesn’t affect us – it does every moment of our lives. But when we can learn to move in conscious harmony with those changes and dance in the chaos that is life in all its manifestations, we become interdependent and better able to dance our way to enlightenment.

With 17 years experience as a psychotherapist, I have many therapeutic coaching approaches that can help you identify how you run on reflex in your search for certainty. Together we can get you dancing towards emotional health and vitality. For information, appointments, and Kirkland WA office location, send email to DrDeah@ deahcurry.net or call 425-814-9083. Details about my work are available at: www.InnerJourneyWork.com, www.DeahCurry.net, and www.EmotionalFirstAid-Coaching .com.

 

 


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