The gems of uncertainty: The major fear that trains us

In this article, we will explore the opportunities that come with one of the most unbearable mind stages of the human being. Facing the unknown can train us and lead to new perceptions, opportunities, capabilities, the practice of core values, and the recognition of inner principles.

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Teresa Lopez

People & Ops


June 9, 2023

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Crisis are great opportunities to unveil our fears, especially those that usually remain hidden or unconscious. The stoic philosopher Epictetus reflected on how man reveals himself through the circumstances. We can learn a lot from observing our response to the challenges that the unknown brings.

Our brain wants us to feel secure, and we unconsciously could better choose an apparent failure or quitting than uncertainty if we cannot manage the stressful feelings that come with it.

The Real Adversary: Our Resistance

What you resist, persists – Carl Jung

Let's start with the fact that life on this planet uses contrast as an experience at all levels. Over a lifetime, we will always find opposites. Everything is being tested.

It is not crises or uncertainty that generate suffering. They trigger our instinctive fear, but the resistance to what is going on feeds the pain.

If there is great resistance to a crisis, we will exhaust ourselves flailing or drown in our emotions of rejection, struggle, and denial. And in crises, there is no time or energy to waste.

We usually suffer by categorizing the experience as "bad." Thus, by simply resisting it. Remember that the brain wants to protect us from the unknown. And a crisis turns everything upside down. Our conservation system will invite us to act compulsively and reactively: to flee, fight, or be paralyzed.

There are other options, however:

Victory in Surrender: Acceptance is Key

Fear is the non-acceptance of uncertainty. If we accept that uncertainty, it becomes an adventure. – Rumi

Why is it so difficult for us to accept uncertainty? It attacks our sense of security in terms of "control".

Accepting the situation and uncertainty does not take away our control, it only weakens our ego and makes us let go of the need to manipulate what is happening. It allows us to see.

Fear puts us on alert, and that is its true function. However, if we stay in the fear zone, emotional overload can lead us to make unwise decisions, react emotionally, and lose track of reality.

Acceptance unties us from the situationallows the system to loosen the reactive defense mechanisms, and puts a healthy distance between what is happening and our ability to manage it. It takes us from the victim role and returns the power of discernment and genuine self-confidence.

The captain takes the helm. We open the door to other functions of our system and a different state of being. The cerebral neocortex and our most awakened consciousness sit on their throne, and their operations begin to seek "solutions." Our energy, resources, and abilities resurface when the FOCUS (attention) changes when we accept that we don't know.

At that moment, we can start appreciating nuances in what's happening that we couldn't perceive from another mental state. As Albert Einstein said, "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."

This happens when we change the need to control what's happening outside to master concentrate on mastering our response. We focus on creating and contributing.

Pain as Valuable Information

There is no coming to consciousness without pain – Carl Jung

It's not about being insensitive. Accepting the situation and uncertainty means accepting the pain and discomfort that come with it.

Instead of fighting against what's happening, we can learn from what we're feeling; pain is an experience: it gives us information. The path, strategy, or perception that we would like to avoid or transform.

Accepting the pain and its information makes us freer and more powerful.

We have two options: stay fixated on fighting against the undesired or direct our gaze towards what we desire and build it. We need to develop a new way of seeing the situation and realize that we now have new power that we hadn't recognized before.

The Othes Around: Crisis can Strengthen Teams

It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed. – Charles Darwin

Uncertainty forces us to use creativity, as we have said above, in the form of improvisation or visionary ideas. Another great force is collaboration. In crises, not just the strongest survive, but those who multiply themselves via partnership.

Crises are an excellent opportunity to find new ways and become more interdependent and sociable. Either because we recognize the limited scope of our developing abilities or simply because in crises we need to act quickly and unite forces to move forward in a certain amount of time.

On the other hand, the more information we have, the more decision-making capacity we have up to a certain point. Looking from different perspectives generally leads to a more complete and objective analysis. This is very important to avoid moving compulsively.

More than ever, in crises, we are never alone when we are building something bigger than ourselves. Overcoming the challenge strengthens the team.

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Valuing what we have

The jewel that we find, we stop and take it because we see it; but what we do not see we tread upon and never think of it – William Shakespeare

We don't have to lose something to value it. But a scare now and then can be a good reminder of what is essential in our lives. Uncertainty sometimes brings us to this zone.

If we are committed to a project, in a crisis we will realize that we are willing to keep working to move it forward and still want it in our lives.

We realize that nothing is secure and nothing should be taken for granted. Suppose we are talking about a team project. In that case, we will recognize (or reaffirm) that we are not just looking out for our own interests but for a common achievement, a collective progress propelled by a force that can gain more significant momentum in a crisis moment.

Attitude Builds Aptitude

You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength – Marcus Aurelius

Viktor Frank, a survivor of several Nazi concentration camps, author, psychiatrist, and existentialist philosopher, concluded that the attitude towards what we experience could save our lives in extreme difficulty and suffering.

We can go crazy if we think there is only one solution in cases of uncertainty. Identifying which alternatives align with our logic, values, and intuition is the challenge. Attitude is critical to accessing that knowledge. Pessimism closes doors; defeatism leaves us helpless.

Attitude is nourished by hope and honest reasons why we want to continue putting effort into something. A good attitude in a crisis is an excellent exercise in strength. It's funny how Elon Musk decided to continue betting on SpaceX and Tesla instead of sacrificing one of the two companies so that the other would survive with a much greater chance of success. Perhaps the choice did not seem logical at first, but it was surely backed by a very proactive attitude, the strength to move forward, and great intuition.

In summary

Sometimes circumstances put a mirror in front of us, and we can either break the mirror or become aware of how we react, how we are, and what we have learned. It is also an opportunity to take on the challenge, unite forces and perspectives, and ask ourselves what we value and to what extent we are willing to be creative in our responses and actions.

Uncertainty seems to leave us without the power of action or decision. But only apparently. It is a void. A void that needs to be embraced for answers to emerge, perhaps small gems, and for the show to go on.

About the Author

People and Ops. I love encouraging people, teams, and innovative projects to reach their full potential and shine.

Teresa Lopez avatar
Teresa Lopez
Teresa Lopez

People & Ops

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