Posts Tagged ‘certainty’

I’ve been thinking again about the addictive nature of certainty, and how tough a habit it is to break. Our Commander Brain tends to require certainty in order to feel it knows who “I am” and has the control “I need” to keep structure and predictability in our lives. That’s why it’s so important to first learn how to break the addiction to certainty, so we may be able to learn HOW to learn more about what we don’t yet know.

To break this addiction, I once spent possibly a whole year practicing being uncertain. Each time I felt I had a solid ground to stand on, to start building a new “what I know” foundation, I deliberately went searching out alternate ways to think and feel, pulling the rug back from underneath my feet. I wanted to stop allowing the habit of trying to find one solid place to stand firm forevermore. I wanted to get used to walking a path of personal growth and lifetime discovery. There will always be core values that will guide and comfort me, but these are gifts I carry in my heart, not anchors that hold me down.

Allowing myself to be trapped in the comfortable chains of certainty endangers that freedom to learn and grow.  I have to thank an article I read today for describing these dangers:

Certainty is the most dangerous emotion a human being can feel in politics and religion. Certainty stops all outside thought or reason. It closes the door and is a metaphorical spit in the face of anyone who disagrees. Changing one’s mind is the essence of critical thinking. As Thomas Jefferson himself said, “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.”

Fox News tried to tear my family apart: How they failed to incite my father, by Edwin Lyngar on Salon.com

We are blessed with a bright and beautiful world, and equally bright and beautiful minds with which to enjoy it. Let us practice freedom and skill in our minds, that we may live our lives with skillful freedom.

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I’ve got a quote that I’ve kept by my desk, in part as a reminder of something, and in part because I keep thinking I’ll have a thought about it I could share.  It goes,

“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”
– Eugene Ionesco

It reminds me of how important it is to let yourself ask the questions that come to mind, ESPECIALLY the ones you’re resisting asking.  The idea is that asking alone opens a door that a simple straight answer might close — since just one simple straight answer is rarely the whole story.
Keeping a mind open to questioning is vital for a dynamic life, since the info available to us keeps changing daily.  As soon as we hook on the need for a definite answer (rather than a “workable for now” answer), we stop asking.  We run the risk of not seeing or even not being willing to consider new info when it comes by.
Reminds me of another quote –

“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning”
-Erich Fromm

It can feel dizzying sometimes, not being certain.  But I’ve found when I try to be “as sure as can be” rather than “positive”, my balance gets thrown off far less when I find out I’ve been very very wrong…

Which of course reminds me of yet another quote.

Losing an illusion
makes you wiser
than finding a truth

– Ludwig Borne

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