A Flexible or Certain Approach to Facing the Unknown

Marie Trout
4 min readApr 3, 2020

While browsing social media yesterday, I read a statement about our current predicament. It can be summed up as follows:

“I don’t care if three million people die in the US, I just want to get on with it. Social distancing kills the economy.”

People who make such statements often start sentences with things like:

  • “They should just…”
  • “I have never….”
  • “I always said…”
  • “It is so easy to see why….”
  • “They just overcomplicate things by….”
  • “Mark my words, this is just because…”

Strong statements often appeal to us when we don’t know what to do.

Strong statements allow us to cover up our feelings of vulnerability.

Strong statements no matter their cause can lead to war, murder, and even genocide.

When we feel a ball of uncertainty coming toward us, it can feel comforting, short term at least, to bat that ball away from us hard and fast with strong statements and easy-to-grasp solutions.

The trouble is that when we hit uncertainty away with our attempted one-sided explanations, the next ball of fear and worry will be thrown at us soon enough. And each time, we will have to hit harder with new explanations. Each time, the explanations can become a little more one-sided, a little more extreme, and a little more far-fetched.

But we dig in our heels. We can’t let that uncertainty get to us now and undo all the times we have already swung that bat of certitude and dodged the existential worry balls coming at us.

Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance. We hold on ever-tighter to “truths” on which we build our beliefs about the world. Even if those “truths” are shattered by facts and research. Then we shoot the messengers and call into question the fact finders and the researchers. We will do anything to hold on to our world view. It feels as if our lives, or at least our self-respect, depends on it.

Defending our certitudes becomes how we deal with situations around us even when the world changes constantly.

Marie Trout

Author “The Blues — Why it Still Hurts so Good,” artist manager. PhD Wisdom Studies. Contributor: The Daily Beast, The Bern Report, Classic Rock Blues Magazine.