Fear in a time of uncertainty

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


The last few weeks have brought profound changes to life-as-we-know-it worldwide as we scramble to deal with (and hopefully lessen) the effects of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like many, my area is now under a "stay at home" order from our state government.

All non-essential businesses are closed, including schools. Many are suddenly forced to find ways to work at home, while others are suddenly out of a job (at least for now).

Those who are still working face new challenges in ways to do their jobs safely.

Grocery store shelves are bare in some essential categories.

Hospitals are feeling the strain of a rush of new patients, limited protective gear for caregivers, and new difficulties in keeping both caregivers and patients safe in the presence of this new virus.

People we know are getting sick, and some of those are dying.

A worldwide recession is blossoming rapidly.

Not only are all of these things turning our personal and collective worlds upside down in the short term, there is also no indication of how long these changes will last, how severe they will become, or what to expect next.

That's a huge amount of uncertainty for all of us to be facing right now, and uncertainty tends to lead straight to fear.

In fact, fear has always seemed to me to be the inescapable outcome of uncertainty. It's just too easy to imagine all of the possible worst case scenarios and terrorize myself with all the bad things that might possibly be heading my way.

I came across a quote a couple of weeks ago that has forced me to re-think this:

“If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness, and creativity.” ~Eckhart Tolle

Whoa! While this runs counter to the way I've always thought of the inevitability of fear in the face of uncertainty, my mind immediately provided examples of the truth of what Tolle has to say.

When I'm doing creative work (which is inherently full of uncertainty), my acceptance of the uncertainty involved certainly does lead to greater aliveness in my work and in my life.

I've been intentionally trying to apply this to the rest of my life in this time of uncertainty. Rather than resisting and fighting all of the uncertainty that surrounds me, I've been trying to accept it and relax into it.

I've not been entirely successful. (Fear is a powerful challenger that doesn't let go easily.) But to the degree that I have been able to do this, I keep finding fear giving way to the increased "aliveness, alertness, and creativity" that Tolle refers to.

In those moments, I am able to see this time as a chance for a reset (albeit a potentially painful one) and my creative instincts fire up as I begin re-imagining life full of new possibilities instead of only worst case scenarios.

What would it mean for you to approach the current uncertainty with acceptance instead of only rejecting it as unacceptable?

Where might this shake-up of "normal" create opportunities to reset your normal into one that would be more satisfying or rewarding?

How might it feel to engage in those kinds of possibilities for increased "aliveness, alertness, and creativity" at least for a little bit each day?


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