Letting go of our yearning for order and understanding

For those with tendency to procrastinate, one of the issues they encounter is that they rumination about having everything in order or having full understanding of everything.  In fact, it is tempting for us to strive from orderliness and understanding for what we encounter.  It is because this illusionary “full and ordered picture” settled our inner anxiety towards uncertainty.  One of my clients had difficulty to decide which is the most important points to be covered in a presentation in the board meeting.  He kept ruminating about whether to include or exclude a point and the possible consequences of his decision.  He felt very anxious because his boss did not give him structured and complete guidance on his preparation work.  This openness offered by his boss for his benefit of learning was perceived as a danger of making mistakes and being devalued.  As a result, he kept procrastinating for the completing the presentation materials. 

Another example is that people often tried to ruminate about the causes of a phenomenon or the intention of someone’s action in the surface.  This yearning for full understanding is also our natural tendency to compensate with all the unknowns given in our environment.  For some people, leaving something unknown is very uncomfortable.  They needed to make sense of everything to feel safe and in control.  A client of mine tended to guess the intention of each of her customer who visit her jewelry showroom.  She felt anxious if she cannot make sense of a particular customer’s behavior in her showroom.  For example, when one of her customers had tried out many jewelry items but reluctant to decide which one to buy.  She felt worried that this customer might not be genuine but try to steal her trade secrets.  She became ruminative for the rest of the day and cannot focus to complete her work.  It is understandable for this client to speculate the intention of this customer.  However, when she is obsessed in finding out the actual intention of this customer, she would keep on thinking and thinking.  This ruminative pattern, however, cannot help her to find the answer.  It is because we frequently cannot grasp the full picture of someone’s action or the real intention of someone. 

From the above examples, it is apparent that if we can let go of our yearning for orderliness and understanding, we can cultivate a peace of mind and flexibility in thinking.  In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), it is useful for us to learn to detach from our unhelpful rumination and focus on the useful ones.  It is also important for us to stop expecting the “not-in-order” thoughts or unknown about a situation or someone’s action to go away.  This helps us to let go of the yearning to have full understanding and complete order all the time.  In this way, our anxiety will reduce, and we become more peaceful to face our day-to-day issues.  If we reflect deeper, “not-in-order” and unknown are more common than orderliness and full understanding in our daily life.

Share with Friends!