Really struggling with uncertainty

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    I am really struggling with uncertainty.  Specifically career uncertainty.  I recently finished a grueling doctorate program.  One in which I often thought about dropping out of.  At the end of my very long program I now have no clue what I am going to do.  I am wrapping up an internship this month, after which I will be unemployed.  I am really scared about not having anything fulltime lined up.

    I do not think I am going to even use the degree I went to school for.  The uncertainty I am feeling is crushing.  Compounding matters is the fact that a little over a year ago I turned down an offer to join the office I currently have an internship with.  At the time the offer was made I had an absolute sick feeling in my stomach.  Something did not feel right about the opportunity, to the point in which it made me feel physically sick.  I felt fine when I turned it down and several times over the past year I felt like I dodged a bullet by turning down the offer.  However, now over a year later and with no clue what I am going to do for a fulltime job, I am filled with regret and second-guessing.

    Nights and mornings are particularly difficult.  I wake up in the middle of the night with a sense of dread and hopelessness.  This morning was especially bad.  My partner is INCREDIBLE, but she lives half way around the world.  I know I am not the only facing uncertainty and that many other people are facing greater difficulties in life.  But I am having such a hard time being positive.  Hopelessness sets in and is difficult to shrug off.

    Not sure what I expect from posting this to the blog.  I visit TinyBuddha frequently for hope and inspiration, so I thought I would try participating in the forum.  If nothing else, thanks for listening.


    Dear Richard:

    I appreciate you replying to another member. I will be able to read and reply to you further tomorrow morning, in about 15 hours from now.



    Hi Richard

    In my own confrontation with the problem of certainty I discovered more often then not it involved the ego desire to control life.

    I learned that there is a difference between being certain and acting with certainty and that we often confuse the two. What I mean is that we can act confidently even in the face of not knowing, and even find pleasure in that.   To act confidently in the face of no knowing how thing will turn out. This is not a arrogant confidence, but a humble confidence, eyes open and flexible. A adaptable confidence in the face of uncertainty.

    You are ‘still here’, and this is a indication that you have handled everything that has happened to you, much of which I suspect was unexpected, some of which un-wanted and mourned, and some perhaps where you were pleasantly surprised. Thus, is life. If history is the best predictor of the future, you will continue to handle the uncertainty that is life. You may even find certainty overrated. All things in balance.  – fear is to courage as doubt/uncertainty is to faith… is it a matter of trust? In yourself, in others, in life, in love…?

    The Life of Pi has interesting things to say about Doubt and uncertainty.

    “Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.. If you live in doubt you won’t get anywhere because you don’t move in any direction”


    “We must put our confidence in truth.  But that does not mean sitting back and waiting for the truth (certainty) to shine from above, as one might sit back and wait for the day to break. It means following with devoted obedience the truth we have seen as true, with the entire confidence that G_d (Life) will correct, clear, and redirect our vision, to the perception of a freer and deeper truth.

    Go with the truth you have, and let it carry you into collision with the life, and then you will learn something.” And maybe even find yourself happy.


    Hi Peter,

    Thank you for your reply.  It means a lot to me.  I have already read it a couple of times and read it to my partner.  The quotes you provided are quite profound.

    I have told my dad and my partner that I feel embarrassed by how I am feeling and handling my uncertainty.  The quote you provided from the Life of Pi helped put my thoughts of embarrassment in perspective.

    Yesterday I began re-reading a book called Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers.  It seemed to help a little with the uncertainty I am feeling.  Last night was another rough night.  I seem to only be able to sleep for a couple hours at a time and when I wake up my heart is racing, and I begin ruminating.  However, last night I tried to do something each time I woke up and could not immediately fall back asleep, such as listening to some guided sleep meditations and reading a little bit of Embracing Uncertainty.  This morning I forced myself to get dressed and I went outside in freezing temps for about a 30 minute walk.  I was quite emotional on the walk and almost cried.  At least I am trying to do stuff to help or at least hopefully help lessen my rumination on and struggles with uncertainty.

    Thank you again for your supportive words.



    Dear Richard:

    You shared that you recently finished a very long grueling doctorate program, wrapping up an internship this month, expecting to be unemployed next month, having “no clue” what to do  next. You feel “very scared… I wake up in the middle of the night with a sense of dread and hopelessness… Last night was another rough night. I seem to only be able to sleep for a couple hours at a time and when I wake up my heart is racing, and I begin ruminating”.

    My thoughts and suggestions this morning: it seems to me that you’ve been scared for a long time, all through the very long doctorate program, including the time over a year ago, when you were offered a job at the office where you are currently doing your internship.

    Ongoing fear = anxiety. The symptoms of your anxiety: feeling physically sick (a year ago), insomnia, heart racing, ruminating.

    You wrote: “My partner is INCREDIBLE, but she lives half way around the world... I began re-reading a book called Embracing Uncertainty”- your partner cannot physically embrace you. As humans we are born to be physically embraced every once in a while so to calm our fears.  Mentally embracing anything- however useful- cannot substitute our need to be physically embraced.

    When was the last time you were embraced/ held, I wonder (?)

    “I have told my dad and my partner that I feel  embarrassed by how I am feeling”- if you peel off the shame that is attached to your anxiety, you will feel better. You study and work hard, you endured anxiety and distress for so long.. you are dedicated to your partner, I imagine- no valid reason for you to feel ashamed. You are human, and a human being cannot meet the great challenges of life being alone for too long. What do you think?




    It sounds like your struggle with uncertainty my be moving into the director of depression (it did for me) so I’m glad your taking steps. Well done.

    I like listing to the sound of waves to help me to sleep when such anxieties arise. It also help when I stop worrying about not sleeping.  I would get in a state were I was worrying about worrying, feeling bad about feeling bad… really unhelpful but in hind site funny? (I can say that now, but not at the time) I still do that, worry about worry, wishing if only this or that…, but am quick to notice and instead of beating my self up, acknowledge the feelings, and do something. Getting a glass of water is often enough to ‘reset’.

    Other helpful advise I was given. Uncertainty is linked to Fear and more often then not a Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. (F.E.A.R) That is why when you shine a light on fear (be present in the moment) it disappears.

    I was also told about the Rule of Charity which goes: If there are many possible explanations for a experience you have, and its not possible to determine which possibility is the more likely, or your not going to invest time to determine which is most likely, then choose the better story.  I have avoided a lot of worry, hurt feelings and the waste of time of ‘being offended’ with being kind to others as well as myself. (Not wishful thinking, but a honest check to see if we need to do something about what we think/feel happened or is happening or we are upset about what we imagine happened or might happen. – note the latter tends to move us into the past or future, seldom the present moment)

    Lastly, That we work for that which no work is required. The calm and grace you seek is already within, the only requirement is to say Yes. Just as it takes a healthy ego to let of of ego, control, fear…. we have to work to get to saying yes to life as it is which allovers us to engage it with intention, without forcing it) And so we return home.

    We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time. – TS Elliot

    If that resonates in anyway you may enjoy  ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho

    Anyway I wish you the best. There is a time for all things, be kind to yourself.


    Hi Anita,

    Thank you for your post.

    I definitely am experiencing anxiety.  Anxiety is something I have struggled with most of my life.  It has been particularly acute as of late with the looming uncertainty, specifically job uncertainty I am experiencing.

    You asked when was the last time I was embraced or held…it has been a really, really long time since I was last hugged or had any physical encounter with anyone.  This is primarily due to the pandemic.  Your question was perfectly timed…I recently was telling my partner that I could really use a big hug.  I am not someone who is particularly physically affectionate.  When I see my parents I more or less lean in for a hug but I do not usually really hug them.  But now with how I am feeling I think I could use a big warm hug.  Actually, about 5 years ago I was about ready to quit my doctoral program.  I felt completely lost and was so anxiety and depression ridden that I was barely sleeping.  My dad gave me a hug during that time and I wrapped both my arms around him and hugged him back.  He actually thanked me later for giving him a “real” hug for a change.

    I have been considering buying a weighted blanket because they are supposed to help with anxiety and sort of simulate a hug.  But I do not want to spend the money right now because of my employment uncertainty.  I have a giant pillow.  I am not sure how much it weighs, but the past few nights I have been laying it on top of me when I go to sleep.  I have slept a little better the past 3 nights.  Not sure if it is because of my pseudo-weighted blanket/pillow or if it is because of a combination of things I am doing or at least trying to do, such as meditate, journal, read TinyBuddha.

    I agree with what you say about peeling off the shame I am feeling.  It is something I really struggle with.  Even with my dad and my partner telling me I have nothing, NOTHING to be embarrassed about.  Still it is hard.  Yesterday I worked up the courage to tell one of my mentors and current boss (soon to be former boss) that I struggle with anxiety and depression and have for most of my life.  She was very supportive of me sharing.  I am trying hard to be ok with who I am and the feelings I feel.  It is an ongoing project.

    Thank you again for your post.



    Hi Peter,

    You are spot on…my uncertainty has definitely moved in the direction of and resulted in depression, as well as anxiety.  I have struggled with both for most of my life.

    I have received professional help for both and recently saw my doctor to share with him what I am feeling.

    Your description of some of your sleep difficulties mirrors mine.  I actually bought a sleep sound machine several years ago.  Lately I have been listening to ocean waves as I try to sleep.  Lately I have been falling asleep on my couch with the tv on.  The tv seems to help distract me from worrying.  I wake up at some point in the night and I go to my bed.  The past few nights I have slept a little better, which is good.

    I like the idea that often Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.  I agree, but struggle with truly internalizing and realizing that point.  I have been doing some cognitive behavioral exercises when I write down my thoughts.  The exercises are designed to help me challenge my thinking and recognized distortions.  The exercises seem to help a bit.

    I actually read The Alchemist a few years ago and recently recommended it to a friend.  GREAT BOOK!  I might re-read.

    Thank you again Peter for your posts and suggestions.  I greatly appreciate them.



    Dear Richard:

    “Really struggling with uncertainty” is the title of your thread, “The uncertainty I am feeling is crushing”,  you wrote.

    Uncertainty demands us to make choices of significance. Your excessive struggle with uncertainty, seems to me, is the result of your excessive fear of making the wrong choices= choices that will later prove wrong. This fear had led to you being “filled with regret and second-guessing”, exhausted and sleepless, feeling anxious, hopeless and depressed.

    In your mind, making choices that will later prove wrong is too scary. You wrote: “I felt like I dodged a bullet” when you turned down an offer- your excessive fear about making that choice was comparable to  the fear when faced with a loaded gun pointing at you.

    “I know.. that many other people are facing greater difficulties in life”- the difficulty you are facing is your internal excessive fear of choosing wrong, which is greater than the difficulty that an external, real-life situation requires.

    “Anxiety is something I have struggled with most of my life. It has been particularly acute as of late”- the excessive fear started before recently, probably in childhood, as is most often the case.

    “I am not someone who is particularly physically affectionate. When I see my parents I more or less lean in for a hug but I do not usually really hug them… about 5 years ago I was about ready to quit my doctoral program. I felt completely lost and was so anxiety and depression ridden.. My dad gave me a hug during that time and I wrapped both my arms around him and hugged him back. He actually thanked me later for giving him a ‘real’ hug for a change”-

    – you normally give your parents a perfunctory hug, motivated by duty, not a “real hug”. It took a whole lot of anxiety for you to give your father a real hug, one that was motivated by your real, strong need for comfort. I am guessing that somehow (and it is not uncommon) your parents gave you the message, when you were a child, that choosing wrong leads to terrible consequences, and/ or they shamed you/ rejected you for needing comfort, and/ or they weren’t there when you needed comfort.

    In regard to the excessive fear of making the wrong choices, a fear beginning in childhood, here are two possibilities as to how this can happen: (1) A parent tells the child again and again about how his/her wrong choices led to terrible consequences, going on and on about how he/she suffers for having made those choices. The child naturally feels intense empathy for the suffering parent, and his/her experience becomes the child’s own experience because of that empathy, (2) A child is excessively punished for making certain choices- choices that are not necessarily wrong- punished not necessarily physically as in a beating;  a look of intense disapproval/accusation/shaming, or comparing a child unfavorably to another- these are punishments enough for a young child, especially when they happen repeatedly.

    You mentioned “Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real”- evidence perhaps that you are incapable of making the right choices, and/ or that your need for comfort is shameful?

    I am bringing these things up because although what you are already doing (taking a walk outside, reading certain books, doing CBT exercises, listening to a sound machine at night, etc.) are very helpful, gaining insight into how things came about-in the long run- is necessary for healing.



    Dear Richard,

    From what I am hearing even during your doctorate you were not certain of it. Can I ask you what do you like to do? Don’t think about money, it’s just a tool that we use to help us gain experiences, help accomplish dreams and the like. If you could do anything in the world without thinking in terms of money what would it be? I would love to see you find your WHY, meaning why would you do that? And anytime you start to have doubt, obstacles, remember your why. Those obstacles are there just to make the journey more fun, so you become more sure in yourself, more confident, more adventurous.

    In our society we tend to think so linearly, go to school get a job in that field. Now what is your field? I want you to think outside the box here. Don’t go and do the same things others are doing, be creative with this, get specific with your goals. Brainstorm some ideas. I get feeling uncertain and scared and anxiety, I started a blog myself last year at the height of my own depression and the beginning of the pandemic. It changed me, and the progress I got to make just by writing changed me. Helped me find answers and release pains and traumas. It required me to work and look inside myself and lots of tears and fears. I hope this helps or gives you some guidance so you don’t stay stuck in that uncertainty cycle.  Be well my friend.



    Hi Richard,

    I think you have articulated very well what you are going through and the ways you are supporting yourself. Thank you for your vulnerability and for sharing your struggles. I recommend looking into the process healing method by Dr. Garry Flint of Vernon, British Columbia. It is a self-technique you can use for addressing your own anxiety, depression, etc. We each have within us all we need to address our challenges and struggles. That is what real healing is, igniting the body’s own ability to care for itself. Wishing you all the best on this part of your journey and know you are not alone.




    Dear Richard:

    How are you?


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