Uncertainty and mindfulness
02.03.2023 19:19

The war in Ukraine unleashed by Russia in 2022 has brought lots of grief, fear, and suffering upon the citizens of Ukraine. The habitual discourse of life regulated by the type of rationality that dominated in a given socio-cultural tradition has been replaced by the narrative of chaos full of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, mistrust, suspicion, and a sense of hopelessness.

Like the COVID-19 pandemic, the war has revealed that the changes are the only constant in life. In this type of narrative, there is room for a huge amount of uncertainty that drain individuals emotionally and trap into the endless worst-case scenarios of the future. Uncertainty is something that is difficult to tolerate. It can feel dangerous and often results in a deepening of anxiety and depression already strongly expressed as the consequences of the war. Bearing a set of negative beliefs about uncertainty and reacting negatively to uncertain and unpredictable situations, individuals fall into a vicious cycle of uncertainty fueled by their fear of uncertainty. Uncertainty takes us to the future that seems threatening or returns us to the world of primordial chaos.

However, the future is always uncertain. The unknown is quite often worse in our imagination. Thus, we have to learn to embrace the inconsistent nature of life opening ourselves to the new possibilities. One of the ways to cope with uncertainty and constant changes is to learn some important lessons from the Eastern philosophy that embraces uncertainty and acknowledges its beauty. The key to deal with uncertainty within the Eastern tradition is to be conscious, to be focused on the present moment, “here and now”. This can be achieved as a result of mindfulness – a certain mental state and therapeutic technique. The practice of mindfulness is most systematically conceptualized in Buddhist tradition. Our conscious attention is focused on the present moment and perceives the world without any judgement. This practice is aimed at cultivating attentiveness to the inner and outer worlds.

Mindfulness practice is associated with higher levels of life satisfaction, vitality, adequate self-esteem, empathy, autonomy, competence, optimism, and pleasant emotions. Studies have also shown significant negative correlations between mindfulness and depression, neuroticism, dissociation, cognitive reactivity, difficulties in emotion regulation, alexithymia, general psychological symptoms.

The practice of mindfulness makes it possible to face our fears and assess what is within our control and what is not. It purifies anxious mind and makes it more flexible. Mindfulness meditation is used as a method of personal growth so that an individual can develop a more positive attitude towards life in general. As an American psychiatrist Marlynn Wei put it, “Through our own resilience and awareness, we can discover the power, and sometimes even beauty, of uncertainty.”

Author: Tetiana Danylova, ORCID: 0000-0002-0297-9473

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