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What does it mean to "embrace uncertainty"?

Question: What do mental health struggles such as anxiety disorders, OCD, and eating disorders have in common?


Answer: All of these disorders thrive on the element of uncertainty.


"Is the stove off?" "Is my family safe?" "How many calories are in this food?" "What if I get fat?" "What if I get sick?" "What if everything goes wrong and it's all my fault?" The "what ifs" are endless.


That's where uncertainty comes in. All of these disordered thought patterns are less about the actual CONTENT of the fears (i.e., the fears themselves are not actually important), but more about the element of uncertainty and feeling uncomfortable with this uncertainty.


And the healing is more than just accepting or tolerating this uncertainty; it requires absolutely embracing it. It requires saying to ourselves "I WANT to be uncertain." "I WANT to be unsure about this situation." It requires entertaining all of the possible "what ifs", even the scary ones, and fully immersing ourselves in the discomfort.


This "embracing uncertainty" principle is the core of Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy for OCD and other related disorders. It involves purposely exposing ourselves to the feared situation (obsession), not engaging in a ritual or compulsion (response prevention) and sitting with the discomfort of "not knowing".

We're not going to sugarcoat this - it's hard work. But we'll do it together, one step at a time.