Facing Uncertainty

“Never underestimate the importance of what we are doing.  Never hesitate to tell the truth.  And never, ever give in or give up.” Bella Abzug speaking to a group of activists

Living presents us with many challenges.  Even the rare few who seem to skate through life by virtue of being gifted with remarkable talent and/or being kissed by good fortune will likely face the inevitable emotional and/or physical pain associated with the changes that life hands us.

Each of us is tasked with finding the path best suited to the dynamic interplay of: strengths, weaknesses, range of abilities, sensitivities, developmental experiences and the changing contexts (family, culture) within which we live. The seemingly random obstacles we encounter for moving our journeys forward in wished-for directions can be influenced, and at times managed, by the perspective we adopt.  Often I hear people introduce themselves as if they are a label or category that is defining.  Knowing that you are a psychologist, economist, mechanic, Christian, Moslem or schizophrenic does not tell who you are.  Is that label more important than knowing that you are a father, brother, son, friend and strive to support the environment.  Even knowing all of the above, it is really no more than what a snapshot shows you at a particular time.  Wanting to stay the same is a losing battle, much like trying to keep a string of beautiful sunny days from eventually yielding into becoming a rain storm.   Or the oft used example – once you put your foot in the river, that river will never be available to be stepped into in the same way.  Like the river, our experiences change us.  I believe that it is good for us and keeps us open to possibilities.

My many years of work to facilitate growth and offer alternatives to others in their failed attempts to alleviate pain and to live more fully has taught me that there are no theories or techniques that are consistently successful.  Some work much better than others, yet all are dependent on the specific individual, and the timing – where that person is at a particular time in his or her life.  It is somewhat confounding to recognize that what did not work 11 months ago might work now when the timing is right.

Paramount to me is the mandate to think critically, while not denying what you need to accept, yet never forsaking the possible.  When I was studying psychology, much was directed at studying what was abnormal to the neglect of ever really establishing acceptable guidelines for what is the ideal mentally normal person.  The best description I heard of back then was: ‘Being mentally healthy is best construed as the ability of the individual to tolerate ambiguity.’  Life is unpredictable and absolute truth remains elusive in the “sciences” that look at humans and their relationships.

Being social animals, we need physical and emotional contact with others.  Last night in our Hearing Voices group, Tim, a co-facilitator talking about himself said, “People are the best medicine.”  I really like that.


“If you come to help me, you are wasting your time.  But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”  Lila Watson, an Australian aboriginal activist.