Life is uncertain.
Any illusion we may have of being in control, or of things being solid and stable is rapidly dissolving. Governments are toppling, climate change is devastating the planet, children are mass murdering, and disease is ravaging beings.
On a smaller personal scale, we experience uncertainty as traffic jams when we are running late, or some major life-altering loss of a loved one or a terminal diagnosis. Consequently we can live on an emotional rollercoaster of feeling optimistic one moment and blue and despairing the next.
The unknown scares us because we are afraid of not being in control and of not being able to cope with whatever arises.
So we try to control what is essentially uncontrollable. Shantideva, the 8th century Indian Buddhist philosopher said we can’t cover the whole world with leather, but if we cover our feet with leather then it is as if we’ve covered the world. His point is that we can’t control external phenomena, but if we control our own minds then it is as if we’ve controlled the external world.
Each one of us has undoubtedly dealt with trauma that may have shaken us to our core. Adjusting to life after trauma is not easy. While some people flounder and feel like giving up, others resolutely and determinedly keep going.
The difference between these two responses is resilience.
Resilience is the ability to adapt to danger, loss, abuse, trauma, a health crisis, and other difficult life experiences. We experience the raw painful emotions and feelings, but they don’t topple our lives. Resilient people acknowledge their feelings and emotions but don’t let them hinder their decisions and life.
We grow tough by having a responsive mindset and by being able to take care of one’s own inner needs and external demands. Being adaptable largely depends on the way we view and interact with the world, our own coping skills, and having a good support system in place.
With the awareness that life is unpredictable, and that we can’t control external conditions, we tackle uncertainty by preparing ourselves to be strong.
Our thinking, feelings and actions are the things within our control. The wisest approach to dealing with trauma head on is to focus energy and attention on creating a metaphorical, emotional, mental, and physical tool kit to help you confidently negotiate life’s upheavals.
You can learn to develop emotional resilience.
Also impartially validate your emotions, “I’m feeling angry; it is okay to feel angry, and I’m angry because I was wrongly accused.” Validating feelings reduces stored unprocessed emotion and better prepares you to deal with new arising ones. Try and reduce self-judgment of your experience even if you aren’t coping as well as you’d like, as that will lessen emotion, which will help you recover more quickly after the incident.
Mental and emotional flexibility encourage you to process the experience in different ways rather than with just one routine coping strategy. It requires mindful presence to notice what’s happening and then to try a different but appropriate strategy.
In addition to fears, it is important to know your values, as it will encourage you to persevere when you’d rather give up. In difficult times, be with people who share similar morals and on whom you can rely and also support.
Humour is another important stress reliever. Research shows that laughter reduces the uncertainty of stressful situations and helps with better tolerating stress.
Challenges will certainly arise but know and trust that you will survive, learn, and grow from them.
May you cope well with life’s uncertainty.