Embracing Uncertainty
Susan Jeffers
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Buy *Embracing Uncertainty: Breakthrough Methods for Achieving Peace of Mind When Facing the Unknown* online

Embracing Uncertainty: Breakthrough Methods for Achieving Peace of Mind When Facing the Unknown
Susan Jeffers
St. Martin's Press
320 pages
March 2003
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Susan Jeffers, author of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, wants everyone to deal with general fears and ALL uncertainty by Embracing Uncertainty. If you accept the premise that everyone is more insecure and uncertain today than ever before, this book will have a wide audience, indeed. If uncertainty applies to ALL uncertainty, a sense of "no-control" including a "state of not-knowing what the future holds in any area of our lives ... or our world," this work sets out a most ambitious agenda and sweeping number of self-help solutions. If the target audience, referenced simply as those "control freaks" who let expectations take away their "peace of mind" is truly the intended one, then little practical application, specific purpose, or focus appears warranted at the outset.

Jeffers asserts only three "realities":

  1. The only certainty is that life is uncertain! Just SURRENDER to the fact that you can control NOTHING when it comes to the future. Accept this reality by repeating to yourself, "I have no control over the future."
  2. Once you surrender to the fact that you are unable to control the uncertainty or the outcomes of future events, you will, at last, "be able to breath a sigh of relief."
  3. A "deep" acceptance that life is uncertain opens the door to a powerful way of living.
Some questions are raised by these "realities". Don't most of us believe that life is inherently a fragile process? Don't we typically perceive it as any thing but certain? Don't most of us apply a set of subjective probabilities or "cost/risk" strategies to structure and try to understand what may or may not be predictable in our daily lives? We can worry about every thing including worry itself, but does thinking about the future naturally lead to fearing uncertainty regarding possible outcomes? Has fearing the future reached a global need for a change in our collective consciousness? Do we believe that shifts away from mass media, negative news, tragic events, and interpersonal "downers" need to move us towards personal "mindfulness", repeated self-affirmation, and cognitive restructuring to better maintain emotional "control"?

Jeffers later describes the need to follow our intuition or "gut" feelings more, which she assumes we don't or won't have any "control" over. What happens when we think, make a decision, but later can not recall the thought processes that brought us to an eventual decision-point? Don't we often justify our actions by reciting some version of "I was, after all, just guessing or playing a lucky hunch?" These perceived "spur-of-the-moment" decisions and post-decision rationalizations can seem like urges that turn out to be "good vibes" or "bad" disappointments. Jeffers wants us to add "maybe" X will happen or "maybe not," rather than "I hope, want, or wish X happens," or "I expect X should, ought or has to happen." Why? Because if the hoped-for or expected X doesn't happen, it generates more uncertainty, fear, and "pain" than a more objective "maybe" or "maybe not" set of consequences.

If you assume and always act like you know it all about everything including the future (pundits, beware!), you should humble yourself regularly with what Jeffers calls a greater focus on your Higher Self, the larger universal picture, or God. Recite to yourself, "I know NOTHING."

These general self-affirmations, suggestions, and prayers enable the user to disconnect their expectations from "objects", hopes and fears better left to a Higher Power. The author uses her life experiences (and interpretations) as well as reported experiences (and interpretations) by her heroes, but not published, social-psychological research evidence to support her claims and methods. She points to Victor Frankl's horrendous experience of concentration camp life during World War II that enabled his Spirit and "Soul-awakening" to survive. In the process, he became strengthened by inhumane conditions of imprisonment. Suffering is part of our lives, too. Thus we need to learn how to empower ourselves through curiosity, awe, wonder, and objective observation, and accept rather than deny pain, hardship, limitations, creativity, and mortality. We should become "heroes", too, that model and contribute to other's lives along the way.

Embracing Uncertainty offers an array of forty-two general self-affirming mental routines including instructions, examples, and author admonitions that can be heeded (or not) and applied daily (or not) to our collective lives. The more options we have, the more likely we may choose to use and reuse some of them on purpose. The work does not target over-controlled individuals like Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz and Sharon Begley's brain-based cognitive-behavioral treatment of obsessive-compulsive patients (The Mind and The Brain) or Dr. David and Carole Johnson's self-paced, cognitive-behavioral, skill-based interventions (Stop Smoking and Chewing Tobacco for LIFE CHANGES) for persons controlled and burdened by addictive tobacco habits.

Embracing Uncertainty offers another opportunity to understand ourselves better -- our strengths and weaknesses, our joyful and painful experiences. She encourages us to discover ways to grow stronger with the unpredictable ups and downs of living in a mass society. She prescribes accepting meaningful roles, emotional responsibilities, self-management and active voluntary participation. I certainly salute her for embracing these ideals and for bringing such a broad set of messages to us.

© 2004 by David L. Johnson, Ph.D. for Curled Up With a Good Book

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