Hypersensitive to uncertainty

The “Anti-extradiction Bill” protest in Hong Kong in the past three months is still unresolved due to the lack of genuine listening by the HKSAR government and the condemned police management of protesting scenes.  Many Hongkongers worry about the future of Hong Kong, especially on the issues of judicial independence and police enforcement.  People in Hong Kong also worry about the possibility of economy downturn in the next few years.  Is there any concept in psychology that can explain why some Hongkongers are more worrying than the others?  Research suggested lots of factors contributing to worry and anxiety, among these factors, “intolerance of uncertainty” is a construct that can partly answer the above question.

Research showed that people with lower tolerance of uncertainty could remember more words related to uncertainty than those with higher tolerance of uncertainty in a word memory test.  When facing ambiguous situations, people with lower tolerance of uncertainty would interpret the situations as more threatening. People with lower tolerance of uncertainty may also catastrophize the outcome of an uncertain situation.  They are likely hypersensitive to uncertainties. This cognitive characteristic may increase bodily reactions of anxiety due to their negative interpretation.  This may lead to their escape from the uncertain situations and increase in worry and rumination.

Uncertainties are inevitable in our daily life.  They are as common as the condition of road traffic, not to mention the political environment of Hong Kong currently.  When facing inevitable uncertainties, we can try to improve our tolerance. First, we can try to comprehend the situations in details so that our catastrophizing thoughts can be reduced.  Second, we can assess our ability to handle the current situations objectively and try to equip ourselves with more resources. Last but not least, we should learn to accept that uncertainties are unpreventable and understand that it is not extremely threatening even we are uncertain of the outcome.  Currently, let us be united and strong in facing all the uncertainties in this critical era of Hong Kong.

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