The Milestone of Uncertainty.

June 18, 2023

The Milestone of Uncertainty.

May 29, 2023

On a recent hike, I overheard a friendly, light conversation. As it danced across a variety of topics, one conversant was the Learner—she was asking questions and reflecting on the other’s answers with interest and appreciation. The other was the Answerer.

She spoke with authority, which, as it turned out, was grounded by her professional experience as a life coach.

The conversation steered to the topic of young people navigating the transgender issue and identity, the Answerer emphatically stated that all the “new” identity options were creating unprecedented levels of uncertainty and confusion. And it was clear from the tone that this proposed uncertainty was seen as a negative; that all would be right—or at least better—if we could dispense with this uncertainty as quickly as possible in these young people to help them get on with a happy life.

Now I suppose it’s not unusual for a life coach (or, any professional problem solver) to regard uncertainty as a negative. I mean, let’s face it: Uncertainty doesn’t feel great. And if our goal is to develop greater clarity and move toward the taking of specific actions to create a life consistent with that clarity, uncertainty may seem to be the enemy.

Considering this, my mind—always in a subtle rebellion to everything, comparing and contrasting in an attempt to shake out the deeper operative principles at play and how they might harmonize to make sense of this paradox we call life—immediately fired off a “yes, but.” (I’m trying to reframe that hardwired response to “yes AND,” but it’s a process and I’m bearing with it.) Yes, and the first steps toward conscious freedom always require that we first step into that ditch of uncertainty.

Uncertainty, then, is not our enemy. It’s simply a growth stage we must pass through on our path to conscious freedom.

From whence does uncertainty arise? The first “rules” of life are instilled from parents and caretakers. It’s an authoritarian structure of sorts, because as children we have little real power except that which may be given to us (in amounts that can vary dramatically). As we grow, the authority transitions to our peers, our culture and the institutions we operate within—our bosses and the like.

Under all these authorities, there tends to be a “right” and “wrong,” or at least a clear expectation of what constitutes right and wrong. Going along with it, our choices are in fact quite limited. We may even say they aren’t choices at all, except to either accept or reject what is demanded of us. But we operate within that framework, so whether we accept or reject, we are still making our choices vis a vis that framework. So the rebel is still quite literally controlled by that which they are rebelling against. And we are operating from what we believe we are, and what we should or shouldn’t be. Truly, there is very little real conscious choice in such a state.

Real freedom, on the other hand, requires stepping out of such rigid structures; or more accurately, growing beyond them. How do we do this? We begin to make conscious choices as we remain fully accountable to the results of those choices. But the first step is often to dismantle our allegiance to the authority structures—including those of gender identity IMHO. Only after that can we rebuild our identity based on our newly realized values and growing internal character.

Of course there will be missteps. We will step into a ditch or two. But we will learn; part of learning who we are is learning who we are not. We don’t want to allow uncertainty to paralyze us, but uncertainty itself isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s the very evidence that we are growing! It will be our ever-present companion, then, because we are human, and we don’t yet know how all this is going to work out. It’s not something to try to get rid of or to “push against,” it’s something that must be managed.

Thinking back to that little conversation I overheard, it got me to wonder: In what areas am I locked into an emotionally-vested viewpoint that might be keeping me from seeing a bigger picture? What am I pushing against in my experience, casting as the “villain” in my story? And what might life feel like if I reframed this in a way that would drop the negative emotional stance?

Can I surround my discomfort—be it uncertainty or something else—with comfort? Can I learn to be comfortable with my own discomfort instead of rejecting it or attempting to power through it?

The perennial wisdom preserved in the words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet comes to mind: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” And with that awesome power given my own thinking mind, I might wonder: How is my current method of thinking helping me?

My mind objects again and I wonder; if I get too comfortable with my own discomfort, might I fail to move toward growth and a better life? That is, don’t I need emotional resistance to grow? I suspect I’ve never swallowed a bigger lie. After all, without my own negative emotional energy, I will still have all my preferences and I can still make choices in support of them. In fact, perhaps I will make better choices without the push against!

This is really another way of asking, “What could life feel like if I began to make positive choices based on what I want to move toward, rather than what I’d like to flee?”

Troy Stetina is a world-renown musician, author, teacher, composer and workshop presenter. He is also an MEA alum who lives in New Mexico with his wife, Alexis.

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