An Intolerance of Uncertainty is Linked to Anxiety and Depression. Here’s How to Get Better at Tolerating It by K. Wong
I find some of what follows applicable to religious thought not just to mental health (anxiety, depression).
Many Christians, those of other faiths, and even many atheists, act completely certain about topics such as religion, salvation, the after-life, or if a deity (or deities) exist.
This following page reminds me a little bit of Pete Enns’ work on the topic of certainty in Christianity:
The Sin of Certainty by Pete Enns
“The controversial evangelical Bible scholar and author of The Bible Tells Me So explains how Christians mistake “certainty” and “correct belief” for faith when what God really desires is trust and intimacy.”
I’ve become more comfortable with uncertainty over the last few years and find myself rather put-off by people who claim to understand everything perfectly, who act as though they understand why everything happens, to claim to know definitely that a God does not exist, and so forth.
Being at that level of certainty can make a person arrogant or closed-off to considering other views, or to considering that maybe their opinions or understanding of some topic or another may be incorrect.
If you’ve ever taken a philosophy class, you’ve probably heard of the Socratic paradox: “The only thing I know is that I know nothing.”
It advocates for the benefits of uncertainty, a point of view that happens to be backed by modern psychological science, too. Namely, uncertainty “improves our decisions, promotes empathy, and boosts creativity,” says Jamie Holmes, a Future Tense Fellow at New America and author of the book, Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing.
Likewise, a 2014 study suggests that uncertainty can also be motivating. A little uncertainty is good for you.
And yet ambiguity is frustrating. As humans, we’re wired for cognitive closure, a desire for firm answers and “an aversion toward ambiguity,” as social psychologist Arie Kruglanski put it.
Uncertainty can create cognitive dissonance, the discomfort of holding two contradictory thoughts, opinions, or beliefs.
Ironically, though, not being able to deal with uncertainty can be equally distressing. An intolerance of uncertainty is linked to anxiety and depression. So how do you get better at tolerating it? Start with the following tips. (Maybe they’ll work! Maybe they won’t. Who can be certain?)
First, test your tolerance.
Find out how bad (or good!) you are at handling uncertainty in the first place. This Science of Us uncertainty quiz is based on Kruglanski’s Need for (Cognitive) Closure Scale (NFCS).
….But, then again, “at times uncertainty is too large — people don’t think they stand a chance and give up,” Fishbach added. In other words, you may not want to overwhelm yourself with too much uncertainty because you may just shut down completely. A great way to embrace uncertainty, a little at a time, is through novelty. Put simply, try new things.