In episode 119 of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz, I discuss the question of why, when we know reality is based on possibility, we still tend to reject uncertainty.
Listen as I explain why striving for certainty and predictability is actually fear-driven.
What’s the alternative?
You’ll have to check out the episode to hear all the details, but here’s a hint: if you’re in the Now, you’re automatically open to uncertainty, and possibility..!
Let me know what you think! Be sure to leave a comment!
Subscribe to The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz
Don’t miss a single Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz! Subscribe for free in iTunes / Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Spotify, RadioPublic, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Or, simply copy / paste the RSS link directly into the podcast app of your choice!
Please Rate and Review
If you enjoy The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz, please take a moment to rate and review the show in iTunes / Apple Podcasts or Podchaser. It only takes a few minutes, and adding your review is as easy as clicking this link.
Your rating and review helps raise the visibility of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz, especially on iTunes / Apple Podcasts, which is one of the biggest podcasting platforms today. More visibility for the show means more listeners… and that growth means the show reaches — and helps — more people like you.
Talk With Mel!
Help others when Mel helps you: Contact Mel and find out how you can be a caller on the show and ask Mel a question. He’ll put the Possibility Principle to work for you, and your conversation will be recorded for use in a future episode of the podcast so other listeners can benefit.
Transcript of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz #119
Hello everybody and welcome to The Possibility Podcast. I’m your host, Mel Schwartz. I practice psychotherapy, marriage counseling, and I am the author of the book, The Possibility Principle, the companion to this podcast. I hope to be your thought provocateur and I’ll be introducing you to new ways of thinking and a new game plan for life.
Hello everyone. I’m going to be bringing you another principle of uncommon sense today. This principle is around the myth of certainty. Reality appears thoroughly uncertain, so why don’t we embrace that uncertainty?
For nearly a hundred years, the new sciences, led by quantum physics, have been telling us that reality appears entirely uncertain. The problem is that we continue to be addicted to certainty and predictability. How is that possibly going to work out?
If you’re pursuing or seeking something that is unattainable, how frustrated do you think you’re going to get? And worse still, if we resist and fear what is unavoidable, we freeze ourselves in that fear. Remember, any philosophy for life that results in fear is a non-starter. This type of incongruity is a theme you’ll be noticing in these principles. Fear heads us down the wrong path.
The ability to determine the future, that’s the essence of determinism brought to us by the 17th century thinkers and philosophers Newton and Descartes. But in the early 20th century, the quantum physicist Heisenberg gave us the uncertainty principle which upended determinism. It appears that the fabric of reality is altogether uncertain. So science apparently has a mind of its own and it keeps on evolving.
Now wouldn’t it be great if we tried to do the same? What happens if we’re stuck in 17th century thinking?
You know, if life were an academic course, we’d be failing. Our addiction to certainty and predictability, it’s an invisible force in our lives as we try and try to predict the future. It’s natural to want some degree of assurance that the outcomes of our decisions and our actions will suit us. So we analyze the variables. For some people, we do it tirelessly, trying to make our very best decision.
The problem is that we’ve gone so far down the path of avoiding uncertainty that we become immobilized by our addiction to predictability. We’ve lost balance and we become servants to predictability. This paralysis freezes many of us. You know, those of you out there who struggle around decision making and succumb to analysis paralysis, you know exactly what I’m referring to. You freeze from the fear of making a mistake. We’ve become imprisoned by the shackles of predictability.
So you may be thinking, what’s wrong with trying to calculate the future? Nothing other than a matter of degree. You need to know what time the train leaves, your flight departs. You need to know what time to get to school to pick up your kids or when your doctor’s appointment is or your next meeting. And you can analyze a stock and try to make a well-informed investment. Or if you’re playing chess, you can try to calculate that future as best you can with your next move. But the addiction to trying to calculate our personal lives leaves us in a bind.
Think of it this way. Focusing on the future robs you of the ability to be truly present. Think about this. If you’re not present, how can you possibly actualize your life’s possibilities? Rather than thinking about the potential as a future event, you must actualize that potential in the moment you’re in. That’s all you have.
The irony here is that by being truly present, your future is more likely to unfold in the way you wish it to. So we call it the future because it’s unknown. When we need to know what’s unknowable, the result is fear, sometimes anxiety. So trying to calculate what is incalculable causes despair and anxiety. And this often induces that fear I spoke about a few moments ago. Am I making a mistake? That doesn’t work. Seeking certainty kind of causes us to live in a straitjacket, which binds us toward analyzing and predicting, but not free to engage in the flow of life. Be in the flow. You can’t if you’re calculating the future. You can’t be gripped by the fear of making mistakes and be in the flow of life.
I cannot exaggerate how big this conundrum is. Take a moment and reflect on this. What do you choose? To live in the fear of making mistakes or to get in the flow and navigate your life? Now, I do appreciate that you need to be mindful of potential risks when you venture into uncertainty and the possible consequences of your actions, but also contemplate the consequences of surrendering to fear. There’s a healthy balance you can achieve when you welcome uncertainty.
Modern physics describes reality as an unfolding energy of possibilities, not subject to certainty. Now, if you want to actualize your possibilities, you must loosen the noose of certainty that strangles you.
Let’s think about the word uncertain. Why does that word evoke a negative feeling? Ordinarily, the word uncertain creates a negative image, like your medical prognosis is uncertain or her future looks uncertain. Why do we equate uncertain with negative? This bias against what’s uncertain reveals a tremendous obstacle in being able to live well. Given that life is uncertain, if we don’t change our relationship with the unknown, we will swim upstream in perpetual fear.
Think of it this way. If your current circumstances don’t really suit you, the idea of uncertainty should release you from the imprisonment of certainty. If you’re in a conflicted or negative relationship, then uncertainty should be welcomed. It might change the current reality. If you dislike your job or feel undercompensated, the certainty of that situation should be depressing. In that case, you’d think you’d welcome in some uncertainty that would come with the possibility of change. The negative connotation around uncertainty is rooted in our addictive, pathological need for certainty.
On the other hand, the word possibilities evokes positive feelings. We all aspire to summon possibilities into our lives. Possibilities after all are the essence of hopefulness. Here’s the impasse. Visualizing new possibilities into your life requires welcoming uncertainty. If you remain stuck in the certain, how can you bring newness into your life? Whether that future is positive or not, certainty precludes possibility. The script is already written. Certainty forecloses on what’s possible. It’s like a mathematical equation. You become part of the formula of certainty.
How will demanding certainty impact your hope for future possibilities, the ability to bring newness into your life? What if you learn to welcome some uncertainty rather than avoid it? To experience the flow of your life and actualize possibilities, you need to embrace uncertainty. So re-envision uncertainty as your ally and you can actualize your possibilities. If you notice distress or fear around uncertainty, observe your reaction and release it. Employ the paradox. If you welcome in uncertainty, you’re not trying to hold back the future, but you’re navigating the flow of your life. You’re not without power. You’re not without mastery. You can navigate the flow of your life, but you have to get into that flow. But being bound up and a straightjacket of certainty, it dooms you to being a character in the novel, the plot already written.
Welcome some uncertainty, embrace possibilities, and your life can be navigated in the path and direction that you want.
Let’s take a look at the belief that it’s hard to change. Why do we experience personal change as such a heavy lift? Think it has something to do with our relationship with certainty? Think about this paradox. I want to change, but I cling to what’s familiar, what’s predictable, and what’s certain. When you become an indentured servant to the familiar, change would appear elusive, wouldn’t it? So perhaps we shouldn’t say change is hard, but rather that we struggle with change because we fear the unfamiliar. If our worldview, our old worldview is static and inert, then change would be the exception. And that’s why we have a commonly accepted belief that it’s hard to change. And a worldview that welcomes uncertainty, we’d no longer imagine change as the exception.
In fact, this new picture of reality coming to us from science would describe a reality where everything is in flow, nothing is fixed or static, and that would of course include us, humans. Wouldn’t it be great to release your fear of the unknown and get into that flow? If you embrace uncertainty, you shift into flow. Think of uncertainty as the wind in your sails, empowering you toward the changes that you seek in your life. Resisting uncertainty creates fear and anxiety. It cannot work out. We cannot predict the future with predictability, but being addicted to predictability, well, that will guarantee a lot of dysfunction in our lives. Certainly it’s not what we want.
So embrace some uncertainty and bring possibilities into your life. I’m not talking about being reckless. I’m not talking about being a daredevil here. The way to come out of our familiar zone is by welcoming discomfort. Instead of speaking about a comfort zone, it’s more accurate to call it the familiar zone. It may not be comfortable, but it is familiar. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or anger, or fear, those feelings are familiar, but they’re not comfortable. Growth lies outside the confines of your familiar zone. So as challenged or as miserable as you may feel in your familiar zone, you may be still resisting discomfort, which is what’s required to break free. That’s why we feel frustrated and stuck like we’re a character in Groundhog’s Day. Change seems elusive and far-fetched when you’re imprisoned in the confines of the familiar.
So here’s the paradox. You may want to change, but fear becomes the guardrail that keeps you stuck. But fear of what? Fear of what lies out there in the realm of the uncertain. When you think about making the leap forward, you may stall out because it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Now, here’s the way out. If thinking about the change you’re seeking makes you uncomfortable, take that discomfort and turn it into your ally. If the idea of change frightens you, embrace that fear and make it your ticket to freedom. See the fear as your ally. Welcome it in. Growth always lies outside of your familiar zone. Embrace it. Invite it. Turn fear and discomfort into your ally, just as you might embrace the strenuousness of working out. Do the same with distress and it will evaporate. That’s the paradox.
When I am working with a client and trying to guide them as to how they can achieve the changes they’re looking to make, and on occasion they may say, I haven’t done it. It made me uncomfortable. I may smile and say, well, that’s good. A sign of discomfort means that’s exactly where you need to go. Embrace the discomfort, embrace uncertainty, and life will be an altogether different kind of experience for you.
Well, until next time, embrace that uncertainty. Look forward to speaking with you again next week. Bye for now.
I hope you enjoyed this episode of The Possibility Podcast. I welcome your feedback on this and any episode. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment in the show notes for this episode at melschwartz.com. If you like what you’re hearing, please take a moment to rate and review the show at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Your reviews really help boost the visibility for the show, and it’s a great way for you to show your support. Finally, please make sure to subscribe to the Possibility Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts, and that way you’ll never miss an episode. Thanks again, and please remember to always welcome uncertainty into your life and embrace new possibilities.