The Utility and Fun of Not Knowing

Sometimes you just don't know

There are so many things you don’t really know. But hey, that makes life more of an adventure!

“God”, “Love”, “Spirituality”, “Enlightenment” – Do you really know what these words mean? I sure don’t.

“Food”, “Toy”, “Chair”, “Sky” – Maybe you know what these mean? I sure don’t.

Now, for any of the words above I could tell you what they approximately mean to¬†me, right now, or what I think other people usually mean when they say them. But I don’t really know what they mean. Every word means something different to everyone else, and, at least for me, even personal definitions can change by the day, even the moment. Even just the mood you’re in can determine what meaning you attribute to things. Think of all the countless poems about roses. We don’t even know what things will mean to us the next instant. So, can you see how fruitless it is to try and pin down the meaning of any word? Think of all the words that have multiple meanings in the dictionary.¬†The word “set” has 119 different definitions!

But I’m not here to talk about words – I’m here to talk about not knowing.

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Fear List

Since I found out a lack of calmness is usually due to fear, I set about today making a list of every fear-based thought that popped into my head, no matter how small. After maybe two hours or so I already have 32! Surprisingly I felt more calm just doing this, as it allowed me to get on paper things jumping around nervously inside my head. Sort of like a todo list. I don’t know how I’ll handle these yet, but I’m beginning to see some themes, such as fears about my character turning bad, about doing unnecessary things, about making mistakes that will come back to haunt me, about unknowns that could possibly cause me harm if I remain in the dark, about how much I really know vs. what I just think I know. These come out as silly things, like: “That I will get serious again.” or “That singing a song will get it stuck in my head.” or even one fear about how if not getting on a scary theme park ride in my dream last night will come back to haunt me. Just got one more – “Should I post this?” lol. “Is that really what I’m afraid of?” “If I post it now, will it be just for the sake of appearances?” ūüėź “Am I missing anything?” Ok I think I’m good now. “Am I?”

Outside Yourself is Inside your Self

Whatever you are looking for outside yourself in another person or activity is also a part of you.

For example, if you’re looking for peace, there is a peaceful part of you. The problem is the part of you who’s looking for peace and the part who’s peaceful aren’t synced up – they have some disagreements that keep them from staying together. Work these out and you can have what you’re looking for.¬†If you’re having trouble, just ask yourself “What is the peaceful (or any other) part of me doing right now?” and you’ll probably get a metaphoric image (in your imagination) showing you. Then try staging a conversation between the part of you who wants something and the part of you who IS that something. See what happens and try to work through it.

Desperation for Certainty

There is a power inside of you that wants to achieve ultimate certainty about everything, in such a way that it will get angry at any evidence that might run counter to its predictions and expectations. This is why if something you thought would take a short time actually takes a long time, you get angry. Watch out though, this force inside you doesn’t really care if the info is false or not – he wants knowledge purely for the feeling of power that it gives. Make sure you question yourself or it might rampage into your actions, causing you to do harmful things to yourself and others, proudly.

And if you get scared at this prospect, don’t worry. Your desperation is not bigger than your capacity to handle the truth and adjust your actions accordingly.

Quick Exercise: Relief from Uncertainty

I decided to add this to help anyone struggling with uncertainty right in this moment. Hopefully this will resolve the panic that can often come at times like this.

  1. Take out a piece of paper or open a document. Write at the top “Things I’m uncertain of”
  2. Write a list of all the things you’re uncertain of, until you feel they’re all out.
  3. Look over your list and recognize that many, if not all, of these you might not be able to be certain of until they happen. Also notice that if you were certain about these things, it might bring a lot of relief. A sense of direction. This puts you in a pretty bad situation, huh.
  4. Now, for each item in the list, write what you would do¬†if the worst case scenario happened. Try to put yourself in the situation and really imagine it. Don’t worry, it hasn’t happened yet, you’re just imagining it. You’re preparing for the worst.
  5. Keep adding things to either list until you feel a sense of stability again. If you’re still having trouble, ask yourself WHY, and write down the answer. Keep asking yourself “why?” until you feel that stability, and the desperation relaxes.

Further Reading

Mark Ivar Myhre has a great e-book and set of meditations called “How to Reduce Fear, Escape Anxiety, and End Panic” – if you’re having trouble with any of these, check it out.

Related Articles

The Utility and Fun of Not Knowing
Overcome Fear of Repeating your Mistakes
Find your Curiosity and Move Past Failure
My Interview with Worry
Fear List
Becoming at Peace with Your Own Path

If you want a general method for relief during times of intensity, check out the Expressive way to relieve it