Change—even good change—can be hard. All agreed? No, not sure? Click here to read about how Change is nutrition for anxiety. Click here to read about: The Blob of Anxiety.
Lack of Predictability is closely tied to Change. A large part of why change is difficult is related to the unknown of what the change may mean. We like to be able to know what to expect in the world around us and often try to predict
that which is not predictable.
As I write this article, the news media is rapidly trying to predict who the next president will be, even though we have 2 full years before the next election. Forecasters pore over weather maps, trying to predict the exact amount of snow or rain, even though it may not end up snowing or raining at all. And we all attempt to look into our futures and predict or control how happy, successful, or connected we might be, even though we won’t be able to know these realities until we arrive at those future points in time.
And even then,
even when we have achieved preset goals or measures of success or happiness,
even when our previous predictions come true,
we may not be able to fully recognize or enjoy these achieved goals because we’re often already looking ahead. Trying to predict or control the next unpredictable future.
This is not to say that predictability is something to avoid. Being able to predict what is coming gives us a sense of comfort, order, and security. And soothes are greatest fear:
that something bad or unwanted may happen.
And that the things we want to happen may not happen.
We need predictability in our lives, to some degree, in order to survive.
The challenge arises when we try to avoid the ultimate reality:
bad things do happen.
People die. Relationships end. Dreams fail. And our attempts at trying to predict, prevent, or secure their course may prove fruitless.
Gosh, this is starting to sound pretty doom-and-gloomy!
But, wait! Before I lose you. Here’s the other side of the bad-things-do-happen coin:
Good things do happen!
Yes, good things.
Great things. Wonderful things. Amazing things.
If we always cling to what is familiar and safe, resisting change so that we can avoid the unknown of what the change could possibly mean, we not only prevent ourselves from experiencing the possible bad things, we also prevent ourselves from experiencing the potentially amazing things.
Here’s the kinda scary news: Sometimes, in order to make space and welcome in those potentially amazing things, we have to be willing to step
out of our safe, familiar, comfortable zone of predictability and
into the ambiguous, nebulous, vulnerable zone of the unknown.
Stepping into the unknown, making space for the unknown is not easy and may welcome in some of our worst possible fears. Ugh.
But, those things. Oh, those AMAZING things.
Those POSSIBLE things.
Await us. Await YOU.
If you are experiencing a rise in anxiety because you are facing an unknown or lack of predictability, know this is normal and expected.
Consider how you might make space for the unknown territory within your world.
Ask yourself: Would knowing change anything? And is the energy I’m expending trying to predict the future energy I could better use elsewhere?
Ask yourself: Is this unknown something I can learn to tolerate as I await what is coming?
Consider what it might be like to replace the need for predictability with curiosity.
Consider what it might be like to replace the need for predictability with hope.
Not the kind of hope that means everything will work out the way we want it to. And not the kind of hope that means bad things won’t happen.
Hope that whatever does happen, it will be okay. You will be okay.
In the meantime, as you try to make space to invite more hope in AND space to tolerate the unknowns of the future, check out Lori Deschene’s tips for dealing with uncertainty by clicking on her name.
Note: A later nutrition or trigger for anxiety that we will explore is trauma. It is important to note that the ways we respond to trauma are different from the ways we might respond to other life experiences. And the aftermath of trauma may require less risk-taking and more predictability and order as our bodies and spirits tackle the difficult task of healing. It is OK to protect yourself more, and risk less after experiencing a trauma. Heck, it’s ok to protect yourself more and risk less even if you haven’t experienced a trauma--who am I to tell you what's OK and not OK?! But, again, if you never risk, you may also “protect” yourself from those wonderful “things” mentioned earlier. More on trauma to come.