In the face of our uncertainty, we need to embrace our “not-knowing”
The recent worsening of the 5th wave of the pandemic in Hong Kong has increased the anxiety and fear of many people. As the situation is still not under controlled, we all need to face enormous uncertainty in our lives. Many people worry about the possibility of being infected and being sent to the quarantine camp. It is also worrying for many who are facing job loss or close down of ones’ business. For parents, it is also stressful for them to arrange activities for their children due to an earlier “summer holiday”. Many middle-aged adults worry about their elderly parents’ health risk in the face of the worsening spread of the COVID-19. In fact, the development of the 5th wave of the pandemic is still an unknown. How can we remain equanimous to face this challenge with all the uncertainty we need to face?
Part of our fear and anxiety are related to our misperception that we know what will happen to us in the future or we can control what will happen to us. This is a self-deception of our power over the nature and over all the different variables in our environment. To be able to remain equanimous, we need to face the reality that we do not know what will happen to us next and we have no complete control of our future. It is because there are indefinite numbers of variables influencing what will happen to us next. To some extent, we can still try to partly control our future by doing something or by better prepared in order to look for security and predictability. However, the truth is that we cannot avoid the uncertainty in our lives no matter how hard we try.
Apart from our desire for security and comfort, our need to be in control and to strive for predictability are related to the uncomfortable emotions we need to face in facing our uncertainty. We tend to avoid experiencing anxiety and fear because we feel uncomfortable when we face them. Paradoxically, the more we try to control in the face of the enormous uncertainty, we experience more fear and anxiety. It is because our never ending strategies to control are making us more fearful and anxious when we realise we are still unable to have the full control. On the contrary, if we let go of our desire to have the full control and do whatever we could do in a reasonable level, we learn how to face our anxiety and fear deep down. In fact, if we are able to accept and embrace our fear and anxiety in the face of the enormous uncertainty, our fear and anxiety may be dissolved gradually. There is no guarantee that we will have a happy ending, but we can suffer less and be able to face all the challenges with calmness and composure.
How can we learn to face our fear and anxiety with equanimity? We need to experience them with openness. That is, we need to change our attitude that fear and anxiety in the face of uncertainty are natural to some extent. Therefore, we are open and curious to observe and experience them. In an acceptable level, we may try to embrace them with groundedness. When we feel grounded, we feel we have an anchor as our base. To cultivate groundedness, we can increase our awareness of our planet earth by feeling our connection with it. We can learn to develop our awareness of the solidity of our body and its connection with the material world. For instance, while you are reading this article, you may ground yourself by feeling the sensation of your feet touching the floor and your buttock’s weight on the chair. We can learn to bring more awareness to our body to achieve groundedness by engaging in different kinds of exercises, such as yoga or meditation with our bodily sensations. When we are grounded, we are less likely to get caught in heightened emotions. It is less likely for us to react irrationally in the face of our fear or anxiety. In fact, we suffer less when we embrace our fear and anxiety when facing our enormous uncertainty.
It is beyond dispute that we are all facing enormous uncertainty in the 5th wave of the pandemic. We need to learn to ground ourselves so that we can embrace the fear and anxiety inside us. Please be reminded that you are not alone in facing fear and anxiety. We are in the same boat sailing under the wind and stormy waves.