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  • Fe Robinson

The power of uncertainty

It is an irony that so often clients come into psychotherapy hoping that I have the answers to their difficulties, when the only person who can really know the right way forward for them is them.  It's natural when in distress to look outside ourselves for resolutions, for the magic pill, for the golden bullet…we have metaphors for this very phenomenon because it is so universal!

I was trained therapeutically to hold the position that ‘I don’t know yet.’  It seems a pretty useful orientation for life too.  When we do not know, we are open to many possibilities.  When we don’t know we are curious and inquisitive, and new learning can emerge.  

Uncertainty can be very painful.  Oftentimes having an answer, any answer, may feel better than being in that liminal zone of the old having fallen away, and the new as yet not having taken shape.  This is however an illusion.  When you don’t know where you are going any path may do, but each decision we take has consequences, and those taken in haste and for fear are seldom the ones we smile at later on.

I like the metaphor for change of a trapeze artist needing to let go of one trapeze and fly through the air before they can reach the next.  That weightless feeling is akin to the unboundedness of the in-between times when we are unsure and not yet knowing. 

In a recent experience in Mexico, I found myself walking through a sensory tunnel which was absolutely pitch black.  It was at the excellent Xenses park, which plays with your senses in many ways.  This particular experience was one of textures, sounds and smells, walking through several ‘ecosystems’ - the beach, a mountain, a swamp, a jungle, a forest etc.  The not knowing was initially pretty terrifying for me, and I found it hard to perceive anything much as I attended to my inner panic.  It was only as I relaxed and developed a sense of safety (embodying the belief it was unlikely I was going to come to any harm in a tourist attraction) that I began to notice more and experience more.  It was quite an extraordinary experience all told, and one that has stayed with me.

Will dark tunnels ever be my preferred place to hang out?  No.  Fortunately Darlington is not filled with them! However, it was instructive of the power of recognising that I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter, because life will unfold anyway, regardless of my perception of my own control and influence.

In Buddhism the idea of surrender, of letting go is much mooted.  Personally I like to express it as ‘to let be.’  When you can let feelings, thoughts and experiences be what they are, and avoid making too much meaning of them too soon, then you can dance with the possibilities that are present, and witness the unfolding of life with you as an integral and connected part of it.  

Are you living life?  Or is life living you?  Or it is both?  I don’t know yet, but it seems when I am open to the potential of the interconnected unfolding of what is unfolding, then I intuit a great deal more than when I try to work it all out.

Psychotherapy, like life, is a deep, integrated practice.  I really don’t know what will happen, or how it will end, but I do trust my clients, and the process.  I know that the light is not just at the end of the tunnel.  It is there, inside, all the way through.

For psychotherapy that is enabling, intuitive and entirely tailored to you, get in touch.

woman stood at a fork in the path


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