Why Uncertainty Is Not a Problem to Be Solved

At the risk of stating the obvious, uncertainty is one of the only “certains” in life.

And often, it fuels the fire of anxiety, depression, and many of the other issues that are so common to the clients we see.

But what if we had a different way to frame uncertainty, so that clients might not fear the unknown quite so much?

In the video below, Kelly McGonigal, PhD puts a unique spin on how to work with uncertainty.

Check it out:

Now this is just a sample of the kind of conversations we have in our NEXT Level Practitioner Program. You can check out more of those conversations right here.

It’s been running for the past year, and we’ve had a lot of great feedback from our charter members.

While you can’t sign up today, soon we’ll be accepting new members again. We’ve only done this once since the program began.

But right now, we’d love to hear from you. How do you help clients navigate uncertainty, especially during a crisis?

Please let us know on the comment board below.

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26 Comments

  1. beautiful change in one’s own reactivity and changing the relationship with your belief system that is thoughts ,feelings ,starting with your own body sensations.

  2. Thank for sharing, it’s useful!

  3. Wendy Manto says:

    So perfectly put, Kelly!!

  4. Jackie says:

    Thank you for these 7 minutes of pure wisdom. Compassion, surrender and choice create a beautiful and soulful way to engage the constant unknowns in life. Thank you, Kelly, for the grace, empathy, courage and mercy you show struggling parents. I’m grateful to model your gifts.

    • Catherine says:

      Like Jackie said! Thank you, it was just what I needed to hear right now.

  5. Joanne Nemecek, LMSW says:

    I often talk with the clients about the illusion of having control and use the DBT illustration of a blanket that just lays there accepting whatever if falls on it. I like the idea of naming it and saying it is okay to be uncertain. I think that pointing out how uncertainty is always there and if we think we can control it, we are just playing mind games with ourselves/

  6. Varghese John says:

    The issue seems to be quite tricky. To resolve a situation after it has arrived.I am thinking of the choices we have to work with parents where they are fore armed to prevent such a situation from arising by being aware of the possibilities of the choices they make in rearing up their children.And from there to help them understand that they give it their best BUT then there will inevitably be several external factors too, outside of individual homes which can effect the outcome and that they accept this and be prepared mentally for what could be evolving ground realities.

    Yet when it comes to the crunch the approaches mentioned would be of immense value.All said and done it devolves to the acceptance of the fact that we human cannot control the outcome of most of the things we aspire to.And be mentally prepared and aware of the possible set-backs.And have plans B and C too in place.

  7. Rosemary Schmid says:

    Is there a vehicle for NICABM to counsel the people of the United States? There is so much wisdom and practical knowledge among your members. As a “lurker,” an ESL teacher who is not a member of your profession, I have been privileged to gain some basic knowledge in how to approach – or not approach! – issues that arise for my students. What I have seen is a loving and respectful approach to the goodness of each “client” while helping clients mend from whatever is keeping them from their fully human potential. Our national and individual uncertainty is damaging.

  8. Great, this is similar to how I work with clients in a primarily person centred way. I am a buddhist and of course do not directly tell my clients about it, but rather my belief system which is compatible with person centred philosophy supports me to support my clients. I feel I hopefully help my clients to connect with inner resources they may not be even aware of and to develop a stronger more healthy sense of self or self concept to build up resilience in life, developing greater healthy self belief. I think expressing acceptance and validating clients feelings/ emotions and thoughts is so important and helping clients to tolerate uncertainty and even suffering (eg, transforming painful emotions) in appropriate circumstances of course (sometimes we are tolerant of suffering to our detriment). I guess for example people who attempt to fix feelings excessively through drugs and alcohol are one example of intolerance. I liked the bit about choices and will perhaps try to put this more into practise. Cheers.

  9. corinne Radow says:

    Excellent perspective on a choice we have to work thru these tight emotional and perplexing overwhelming thoughts. The limbic system is poked and old traumatic events become intrusive thoughts. Contact vigilance to stay present. Sweaty hands. Heart racing. Losing weight. I am going to keep fighting for my place of peace. Grown kids. Married 35 yrs. Abusive emotionally gaslight ingredients. Very sad. Seems I’ll won’t be a winner anyway. So I have to survive and go. He seems like a sociopath. I always saw his manipulative tendencies. His lack of respect for his mom and sister. Now I see it was me too. I saw what I needed to see. Shit!

  10. Karen Woodhouse says:

    Wonderful- thank you

  11. Diane Green says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! This short little video, Kelly and Ruth speaks volumes! Coming at uncertainly this way changes the entire landscape.

  12. Ina Bates says:

    Ina says: This will be especially helpful to a client I am seeing on Monday. Thank you.

  13. Ina Bates says:

    Ina says: This is particularly pertinent to a client I will be seeing on Monday. Thank you for this insight.

  14. Ina Bates says:

    Ina- This speaks directly to what one of my clients is working on right now. I will be seeing him Monday and will be able to share the concept of choosing in his current situation. Thank you.

  15. meeta says:

    Interesting talk. True uncertainty is a not a problem to be solved. However in my view parental response to the suffering of their children cannot all be clubbed under the label of control – there is something in between. Such labels tend to diminish the role of parents. Most parents want to see their children safe, well , happy and able to live life. In my view there is nothing wrong with that. The path that sometimes children take or are driven to take, will not take them there. Usually Parents are the ones who know their child best, and can often provide the holding and guidance a adult child may need. In the absence of this, suffering is prolonged and the child feels un-anchored. In individual centred therapy it is important to help children connect to those who have given them unconditional love and care – at the right stage in therapy. Human connection is vital to well being. If one is not anchored to family, not anchored to religious or spiritual beliefs, not anchored to a social cause…….they are free floating clouds that will feel lost someday. There are plenty of free floating clouds around because somewhere the balance between individuals and parts to which they belong is lost.

  16. This was amazing stuff! I really enjoyed the perspective. I am all about choices and looking at possibilities instead of problems. This is a really great way to look at control and view uncertainty more as a choice rather than a problem. Wonderful insight. Thank you so much for sharing.

  17. Susan D. Gorman says:

    Thank you for this excellent and timely video that leads us to choices and surrender – turning outcomes over to a Higher Power who is wiser than we are and who sees the “big picture” of every situation that we encounter that is beyond our control. Seeing with new eyes of choice and surrender has the potential for solutions beyond our imaginations.

    Susan D. Gorman, M.A., SEP

  18. Karin Berman says:

    Thank you for sharing Kelly’s perspective and clear insight. What I’m taking with me is the reminder to ask “what choice do I have?” – and the awareness that in suffering, we are not the sole causes or solutions..

  19. Patricia saad says:

    Dear Kelly is so powerful and restful those words full of Buddha wisdom. Thank you So much.yogui patricia

  20. Mandy says:

    Hi, thank you. This is so useful for coaches. There are, I suspect, some practitioners who try very hard to be the whole solution, even when they are skirting other disciplines, that they may not be entirely qualified to employ. The stretch to fix things and not accept natural limitations, by being everything to their client, is not constructive to the coaching relationship. They may try to throw everything they can metaphorically grab, in an arms race to effectiveness. In my opinion this may be more than a simple exercise of hubris, it shows a lack of perspective, which could lead to a disservice to the client. By refusing to step back and redirect their client to constructively reframing the unknown, it may generate a false result, where the client feels the need to reward their coach for being so caring towards them. This may leave the client unsatisfied, confused and distressed.

    . It may be enticing to attempt over-nurturing, thereby assuming an ill judged responsibility. Although full of good intentions, this is inconsistent with good outcomes, especially when a referral to a clinician may be required as more facts are divulged along the way. It is okay and desirable to not ‘be’ the answer as a coach, because a good coach is the witness, not the role taker in the journey of their client.

  21. Thank you for this video’s content and delivery. Wanting to have control over what happens in one’s
    life is a common struggle. It is not what happens in our lives, it is about learning the skills to effectively live with our reactions to our feeling about what happened.

  22. Love Kelly McGonigal and her work.
    I find helping my patients breathe or cool down the swirling worry about lack of control is an important first step. It’s extremely useful to then address their concerns from a calmer perspective. Helping them step outside the swirl gives perspective. Establishing anchors and connection to actual support and even just energy in universe. Reaffirming trust in themselves. A compassionate supportive approach really works. Also assisting them to see that there’s always new experiences and even crises that ultimately empower us.
    Thank you for this and all your work!

  23. Wanderful info. Thank you!

  24. Beth says:

    Thank you for sharing this clip about “uncertainty”. It offered some clear and conscience information to ponder; both professesionally as a therapist and personally.. Very interesting. Thanks again.

  25. Thank you. Clear and simple but powerful.

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