I am the type of person who thrives in structure and certainty. I am definitely a Type A personality and I score high on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a J, which means that I like order, planning, and control. My need for structure, stability, perfectionism, and long-term planning has gotten me far in life. I know that these needs came from an unstable, unpredictable, and sometimes chaotic childhood. Although this part of my personality has served me well, it also hurts me on a regular basis. When I become too rigid or stuck on being "right," I am more stressed and I tend to come across to others as a know-it-all. I have a tendency to lecture and argue - whatever it takes to prove that I am right. This interpersonal pattern then negatively impacts my relationships and leaves me feeling alone.
I saw this pattern recently come up in my relationship with my partner. As I mentioned in a previous post, we were struggling with our relationship dynamics and I thought I knew how to fix it. I was so sure that with my years of psychology training, I knew better than my partner what we needed to do to make things better. He was willing to go along with my ideas for awhile. But the more we tried things my way, the more we struggled. It took me a long time to finally admit that I don't know how to fix us. It was both extremely vulnerable and liberating to say to him, "I don't know. Can we figure it out together?"
When I think about uncertainty, I get scared, panicky, sweaty, and nauseous. I want to run to the habits that will help me numb and avoid these uncomfortable feelings. I want to feel like I have both feet planted on the ground rather than free-falling into nothingness. But when I am able to admit to myself and to others that I am uncertain, ambivalent, stuck, helpless, or clueless, I also feel a sense of relief, openness, and authenticity. I don't have to know everything. The unknown can be scary and at the same time exciting and full of possibilities. I love how Dr. Brené Brown (a researcher on shame, courage, and vulnerability) defined faith in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: "Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty." When faced with uncertainty, I want to practice having more faith in God, in other people, in myself, and in the mystery of life. I want to take that leap of faith more often.
How do you deal with uncertainty?
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