Coping With Ambiguity

2 min read

Hi Everyone,

One of the things that has always been a struggle for me (even before the pandemic) was coping with ambiguity.  Coping with ambiguity means being able to cope with the unknown.  For me, it is also about all of the “what ifs,” anxiety, worries, and fears that come up when I don’t know how a situation is going to play out.  If you tend to get stuck in this type of thinking, there’s a skill I’ve written about previously called “cope ahead” that might be helpful!

This skill challenges us to push past the “what if” thinking and actually think that fear all the way through, focusing on how you would cope effectively if that fear came true.  In other words, instead of thinking to myself, “what if I have to leave my job, and we can’t afford our house anymore,” I often remind myself that we could sell our house if we couldn’t afford it anymore.  Instead of thinking things like, “what if I don’t get to see my family until the pandemic is over?”  I might think to myself, “If I don’t get to see my family for a long time, that would be really sad, and, we would still find ways to connect on the phone and zoom.”

The key to practicing this skill is to identify the fear and then imagine that it happens (including what you’d be thinking and feeling in that moment), and then imagine in detail what you would do to cope effectively with that fear coming true.  For example, if your fear is that you won’t be able to find a job after graduation, you would want to imagine yourself coping well with that in a way that is realistic.  It won’t be helpful to imagine yourself filling out applications at super-human speed or being totally happy and fine about the situation, because that isn’t realistic.  However, you might imagine yourself feeling disappointed but still able to keep moving forward, applying for a broader range of jobs, moving in with friends or family to save money while you job hunt, or cold calling places that you are interested in working for.


Dr. Carla