By Published On: April 19, 2020Categories: Anxiety

When living in a life full of daily routines, it can be somewhat easy to forget that we actually are surrounded by risks every day. We become so normalized to our ways of living life, flowersthat we may not register simple things such as driving a car, walking down the street, eating food, contracting illness, walking down a flight of stairs, and so on.

Risk is much more normal than we often think

Going even further, the era of dating apps brings plenty of risks that are often not even consciously registered anymore. Not only is there risk of sexually transmitted infections, but simply the possibility of passing illnesses back and forth has always existed when people are physically close or in contact with each other. None of this is new, whether we’re in large crowds (which has more risks than only illness), or in a swimming pool with others.

No matter how we look at it, in order to live a life that involves adventure, satisfaction, and meeting basic necessities, every day we accept a certain level of risk as part of it — some risks higher than others.

In my practice, I specialize in working with various forms of anxiety. Part of this work can often involve helping people learn to cope with and live with uncertainty and unknown in life. In fact, one of my specialties is helping people overcome fear of flying (there are articles around the internet about my work with this, if you wish to learn more). This involves the feeling for many people of being trapped in a space where your sense of control over the environment is limited, leaving you to manage sitting with vulnerability, uncertainty, and unknown as you navigate this space.

drivingWhether it’s fear of flying, contracting illness, encountering danger, and more, there are some important parallels worth looking at when it comes to the idea of living with risk.

The vast middle ground between guarantee and catastrophe

First, here’s the thing — many people would love guarantees of safety in life. It would be a tremendous relief to know without a doubt that when you go outside that you will return home safely and still be here tomorrow. It would be life-changing to have this certainty in everything you do.

But, in reality, no matter how small the odds are of catastrophe with many things in life that we take for granted, to some degree there’s always going to be a base level of risk to almost anything in life. The hope in dealing with the presence of risks is that we can learn to internalize the vast middle ground between guarantee and catastrophe — understanding that in many cases catastrophe is exceedingly rare, and in others there may be more risk that we take more precaution against (such as wearing a seatbelt in a car). What becomes problematic for people in dealing with these situations psychologically and emotionally is when they try to control the environment (and the vulnerability) beyond what is possible.

Trying to control more than what is possible often backfires

There is a space (emotionally and literally) where active control remains possible (such as washing your hands to try to avoid illness, doing certain calming techniques in a plane, don’t speed in a car, etc.). But it’s important to understand that this reality of control only goes so far. We have limits as people to what we can actually control, and for many people when we cross into the space where control isn’t in our grasp, that’s when we become emotionally ungrounded.

airplane seatsWhen it comes to dealing with deeply vulnerable emotions, there comes a point where the emotional response can be so overwhelming that you can’t control your way out of it. It may feel like the only thing that will make you feel better is to get the control back. This is commonly seen with heavy turbulence in fear of flying. You can’t stop the turbulence, nor can you walk off the plane. You just have to ride along with it.

Becoming grounded in uncertainty

Of course, sitting with uncertainty and unknown is often much easier said than done. This can be a very difficult space to be in for many people. If you find it difficult to handle sitting with lack of control or vulnerability, or sitting with uncertainty or unknown, or dealing with varying levels of anxieties (panic, worry, overwhelm, etc.), then therapy would be a good place to go for help in these areas. Contact me to learn more about anxiety and panic and how I can help you.

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