The Certainty of Uncertainty
I have written recently on the nature of uncertainty (https://safetyrisk.net/radical-uncertainty/) and its relationship to risk. I have also written about a psychosis that accompanies the fear of uncertainty (https://safetyrisk.net/hoarding-as-a-psychosis-against-uncertainty/). The fear of uncertainty can drive a range of mental health challenges that emerge from various insecurities with wanting to have control and power of the environment.
One of the strategies people attempt in control of fear of uncertainty is to accumulate, the build up material distractions that create a sense of certainty. Buying things is a great distraction from reality just as substances like alcohol also serve as a distraction from the uncertainties of Covid19 .
I have found several thinkers most helpful in tackling the fears of uncertainty. Erich Fromm (The Revolution of Hope) defines faith as the certainty of uncertainty. Karl Jaspers work is also helpful in helping understand the psychology of uncertainty. Here are two of his works that I have found enlightening:
Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with all of the arguments of Fromm and Jaspers, the nature of existential dialectic does help in understanding why humans seek power and control in The Denial of Death (Becker). One thing is for sure, masking the question of uncertainty with materialism or distractions in substances never ends well.
We have all been alerted to the challenges of Covid 19 and mental health (https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/information-and-support/covid-19/). We also know that the foundations of mental health is not helped by individualist ideologies or behaviourist ideologies but rather is helped most by social connection. A tough ask when in lockdown and social distancing is the norm.
Jaspers was an ill person born with bronchiectasis, a disabling and incurable lung disease. For most of his life his outlook was uncertain. He often stated that it was futile to try and tame the unknowable and fight fallibility but rather one has to learn to live with fallibility and the unknowable. He also despaired at those who wanted to make humans into automatons and puppets that would rob humans of experience and the vitality of learning in risk. He found that those who tried to deny fallibility were indeed both delusional and lived a psychosis. He stated that ‘limit consciousness’ was the healthiest way to engage in life and with others. Limit consciousness is about empathy with life and being, and this generates sympathy with other fallible humans. Only the delusional ride roughshod over other’s mistakes as if they themselves are immutable. Such is the delusion of zero and the dehumanizing of BBS.
Jaspers used the metaphor of sleeplessness to define the problem. If we relate to sleeplessness as a pathology and treat it with sleeping pills, sleep hygiene, meditation or therapy we will eventually wake up. Although we sleep an enormous amount of time in our lives, we ultimately don’t know why, nor what happens during this time. Some of us dream and we have no idea where it comes from or why we do it. But such uncertainty doesn’t stop us from accepting the realities of sleep. Why then resist other uncertainties in fallibility? (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/)
How strange this safety industry that fixates on controls and absolutes in zero but so easily accepts the realities of the sleeping unconscious (https://safetyrisk.net/daydreaming-and-safety/). How strange this fixation with behaviors (https://safetyrisk.net/the-bs-of-bs/) and controls that puts its head in the sand about consciousness. How strange this materialist/behaviourst discourse that imagines that fallible people in a random world can be perfect. What a strange delusion all these believers that claim ‘all accidents are preventable’ (https://safetyrisk.net/human-error-is-unpreventable/ ) and ‘safety is a choice you make’ (https://safetyrisk.net/all-injuries-are-preventable-and-other-silly-safety-sayings/ ). What strange discourse that seeks to deny the certainty of uncertainty.