Some of us are better at dealing with uncertainty, some of us need a bit more control. This can manifest in the most mundane things like checking the menu of a restaurant online before going there to eat. (Guilty!) I mean the menu will not change until you get there and you will not be able to order anything else other than the dishes on the menu. So, the control you think you may have doesn’t really exist. Why do we do it then?
The unknown can be scarier than the well-known routine even if it doesn’t serve us. Many of us stay in incompatible relationships much longer than necessary out of fear. Not knowing what the future holds if we are single or if we ever find another partner can get us into a downward thinking spiral. We assume a lot and we imagine all different scenarios without having enough data or information on the topic. And however unfounded these imaginary scenarios are, they feel very real to us.
I recently stumbled up on an interesting podcast where they quoted from a scientific research in regards to fear of uncertainty and the function of the human brain:
“In a recent neurological study, a Caltech researcher took images of people’s brains as they were forced to make increasingly uncertain bets. And, the less information the subjects had to go on, the more irrational and erratic their decisions became. As the uncertainty of the scenarios increased, the subjects’ brains shifted control over to the limbic system which is the place where emotions such as anxiety and fear are generated.” – Secular Buddhism Podcast (episode 31)
You might think that the less information we have, the more careful and rational we’re going to be in evaluating the validity of that information. But, oddly enough, this isn’t the case. When we face uncertain situations the limbic part of the brain takes over and that is why we experience that inexplicable fear. The rational part of the brain needs to gather as much information as possible to feel in control, hence you are looking up the menu on the website before visiting the restaurant. (Still guilty!)
Next time you are beating yourself up about trying to control a situation, instead of repeating the mantra “Let it go”, just remember how normal the reaction is and that there is nothing wrong with trying to gather data before making a decision.
Obviously, as with anything achieving balance is ideal; there are plenty of things out of our control, no matter the amount of information we have. But being well-informed on a subject, will increase the likelihood of you making a better decision, one not out of fear or other emotions.
Crucial tools to support you in finding this balance: Saying things out loud or journaling about them can help – when we write things down or talk about them, we gain clarity. It can be even more helpful if there is another person asking questions we may not ask from ourselves. Find the support you need to get the balance between control and letting go. Take a look at our Balance & Stability workbook for more support with regulating your emotions.