In their book, Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents, psychologist Reid Wilson and clinical social worker and psychotherapist Lynn Lyons discuss anxiety and its effects on children and parents.
In one section of the book, the authors talk about how uncertainty effects those who struggle with anxiety.
They discuss how people, both young and old, who struggle with worry often avoid situations or activities that involve uncertainty.
This could be something like an interview for a new job or the first day of class in elementary school.
When we feel that a situation is uncertain, we often begin to worry that the worst of the worst might happen.
When we allow uncertainty and worry to dominate our thinking, we may begin to try to manage by being in control.
We try to do everything in our power to stay away from situations that involve uncertainty or try to be so prepared for these types of events that we don’t have to worry about what the outcome will be.
In the example I gave earlier of the job interview, this might mean doing an enormous amount of research on the company you are interviewing for as well as the person who is interviewing you.
You might obsess over what you wear or be sure to avoid certain things on your resume that you may see as inappropriate for the company.
This behavior on the surface seems somewhat normal for a job interview. It is good that you want to seem fit for the job and please your new supervisors.
However, this situation when combined with obsessive worrying shows how anxiety can make us control freaks.
We think that if we do everything in our power to be prepared, we will surely get the outcome that we desire.
We feel that we are in control of the situation.
In reality, nothing is ever really certain. You cannot be sure that you will get hired for the job or that the first day of class will go well.
We use this illusion of certainty to manage and cope with our worries, but, as we see in our example, they are fleeting.
This type of coping can even lead to problems in our interpersonal relationships.
We may think that a date with our partner will go the way we plan, but it is possible that the food at the restaurant may be burnt or the service may be under par.
We may then become frustrated even to the point where we are affecting our partner.
Frustration, by definition, occurs when things don’t go the way we want or expect them to.
When we set certain expectations or have a feeling of certainty, then we can become easily frustrated when things do not go our way.
This is why we should embrace uncertainty. The idea that we are in control is a delusion.
We should, then, come to expect uncertainty and even make it our ally. Doing so will minimize our amount of day-to-day frustration, improve our relationships, and help manage our worry.