Handling The Unknown

Most of us are logically aware that we don’t know what the future holds. We make our plans and put one foot in front of the other, hoping things will turn out relatively close to what we envisioned for our lives. But what about those bumps in the road-those things we didn’t see coming as we marched forward toward our goals?

An unexpected illness or some other twist of fate can throw us into a tailspin. What we had seen, planned and hoped for our future-or a loved one’s-has suddenly changed. The choreography for the dance you’ve been learning for years is different and you’re not quite sure where to put your feet anymore. Everyone around you is still moving in that same rhythm-but you feel out of step and unsure. In those moments there is an undeniable need to know how things will turn out. To know what’s going to happen. It’s like the urge to read the last page of a book, to see how it ends.

But there is no quick fix to satisfy that urge in real life. We have to sit with this unknown, “the unknowing” as I call it- and just be.

Letting things be as they are, with no expectation or control-can be excruciating. A friend’s younger sister recently cut her hair and is dressing more “masculine”. Her mother discovered she’d been wearing a binder occasionally and has panicked. “Do you want to be a boy? Are you transgender?” The mom asks repeatedly. Not out of anger or judgment, mind you, this young woman has identified as Queer for years and the family has been supportive and accepting. So, why the panic at this seemingly small piece of new information? Her mother was uncomfortable being in this “unknown” space. The perceived ambiguity of her daughter’s gender and sexuality was too much-the discomfort pushed her to needing to “know” exactly what was going on and what to expect. We believe that “knowing” is safe and means everything will be ok.

However, life is rarely that neat and clean-cut. Periods of being in the “unknowing” state will happen in everyone’s life. Fighting it means anxiety and feeling overwhelmed, like fighting an uphill battle with no end in sight. So, what’s the answer?

Hopefully you realize by now I don’t have “the answer”-but I do have some suggestions:

-Accept reality as it is: Accepting does not mean you like it or agree with it. It simply means you recognize what is happening and are not trying to make it be anything other than what it is —(Example: it’s raining-you accept it is raining and cannot change the weather. However, if it is unhealthy for you to be in the rain you can go inside-this is not changing the weather nor are you saying it is no longer raining simply because you are not getting rained on).

-Recognize that you will be ok, no matter what: Sometimes we have to change the scripts in our heads. When the future looks uncertain because it’s unfamiliar, remind yourself that you are strong and capable. Whatever the fear thoughts tell you, look at them for what they are-just fear, not facts. Humans are incredibly resilient creatures and there is no reason you would be any different.

-Breathe: When you’re faced with indecision and aren’t sure what to do, just breathe. Allow yourself time and determine if a decision absolutely has to be made right then and there-if not, wait. Too often we feel decisions have to be made immediately so we can start to predict the outcome of the situation. This is often not the case-if we just breathe and take our time, often the answers will come.

Are you struggling with the unknown? Has life thrown you a curveball and you’re not sure how to move forward? A licensed mental health professional may be able to help. Please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced counselors.


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