As I write this blog, COVID 19 rages across Canada, the hospital where I work has created a field hospital, and physicians in Ontario may soon be faced with excruciating life or death decisions. I often ask myself, how did we get here?
For years I have encouraged clients to embrace anxiety and live with uncertainty. I am often asked - how do I do this and what does this look like?
One of my areas of expertise as a clinical psychologist is working with clients who have symptoms of OCD and anxiety. For years I have encouraged clients to embrace anxiety and live with uncertainty. I am often asked - how do I do this and what does this look like? These are excellent questions. Jonathan Grayson, a world-renowned OCD psychologist, describes in his book how we actually live with uncertainty every day. His example has always resonated with me. Every day we assume we know about the health and well-being of our loved ones, even when they are in unknown places (remember those days!). However, we live with that uncertainty and assume they are fine until we connect with them again. However, those who live with OCD are often striving for uncertainty in ways that don’t exist. We want to ensure that: we will never be contaminated; we will never cause harm to our loved ones; we will never act inappropriately towards others and we will always do the right thing.
During treatment for OCD, we work on this idea. We talk about the importance of allowing some uncertainty to exist as the cost of needing certainty in all areas of our life is often too high. We also think about our values and what is important to us in life. We can either choose to do our rituals, which are time-consuming and provide us feelings of certainty
or we can live outside of our comfort zone and embrace what is important to us.
We are being asked to live our lives without knowing how things are going to turn out and without being able to plan for the future in a meaningful way. I now ask myself - how do I do this? How do I embrace uncertainty and what does that look like?
I would argue that the current state of the world has forced us all to embrace uncertainty. We are being asked to live our lives without knowing how things are going to turn out and without being able to plan for the future in a meaningful way. I now ask myself - how do I do this? How do I embrace uncertainty and what does that look like?
I think it requires us all to be mindful of the challenges we are facing, let go of our need for certainty as much as we can and relax our expectations regarding normalcy. The ability to plan life out in a fairly normalized way requires some expectation of what the day-to-day routine will look like. However, that has been taken away from us. Therefore, we must allow ourselves to live a life in which we purposely ask less of ourselves than usual. Be compassionate towards what you might be feeling even if it is unexpected some days and those emotions are not what you would have hoped for (frustration, sadness). Remember that you are doing the best you can - as a parent, as an employee/employer, and as a person.
So I once again raise this question - what does embracing uncertainty look like? Is it a passive process? I would argue it is actually an active process that you should feel empowered by. By embracing uncertainty, you are saying that “I am ready, l can take it, I can roll with it”. Uncertainty is all around us, no matter what.
We are living in a time of astounding global uncertainty. Embrace it. If not now, then when?
Forward Thinking Psychological Services invites you to join us for a 12-Week OCD Group Workshop: Standing Up to OCD.