Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips

Licensed Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Diplomate in Group Psychology, Certified Group Therapist, Author, Radio Host and Media Consultant Covering a Wide Range of Psychological Topics

Post: Surviving and Succeeding in Face of Uncertainty: Six Strategies

Events like Covid-19, presidential elections and civil unrest assault us with the uncertainties of life.

Such events undermine our necessary denial that life is predictable, that children can be safe and that we can be in control.

We may feel anxious, vulnerable and afraid.  Feeling dysregulated, we fill in the future unknowns with expectations of more of the upsetting events or even more catastrophic possibilities, so that we will be ready.

Filled with fear, despair or anger – we want our lives back, we want our children to play, and we want to smile…

We need to find a way to survive and at times even succeed with life’s uncertainties.

Here are six strategies that may begin to answer that need. Some you may already use. Some you may want to consider.

Connection with Authentic Self

One of the best remedies in times of uncertainty is to stay connected to the best you know about yourself. Drawing upon your resilience, act in sink with your strong self – move from worrying to action plans then move on; remember what you do on a daily basis that makes you feel a sense of purpose- be it teaching, nursing, caregiving, mothering; reach back to remember other times in your life when you climbed unexpected mountains; remind yourself of you and take each day, hour and moment with compassion for trying your best.

Personal Certainty Anchors

  • In his book, Uncertainty, Jonathan Fields speaks of the importance of personal rituals as certainty anchors to offset the unpredictable and uncontrollable aspects of life.
  • The daily routine of reading the paper with your favorite cup of coffee, your daily meditation,the car pool conversation, your evening run, favorite TV show, iPod music, crossword puzzle, family meal, favorite toy, loving pet and nighttime ritual lower hyperarousal and stress in adults and children.
  • As such they offer comfort and soothing on the good days and can help re-set a sense of order on days that hold the unexpected challenges.

Emotional Bonds

  • A universal factor that mediates our experience of uncertainty is our connection with others.
  • Experts tell us that in the aftermath of unexpected catastrophe, it is connection with familiar networks of support (family, community, schools, pets) that re-instates a sense safety. The bond in such groups offers predictable support and validation.
  • Given the parent-child stress connection, we know that a parent’s own stress regulation and sense of constancy is a reliable resource that offsets the impact of the unexpected for a child.
  • One has only to see a parent walk into the unknown to find or help their child or a soldier step back into combat to save his buddy, to know that bonds of connection far outweigh fears of uncertainty.

Belief Systems

  • In the face of life’s uncertainties, man has for centuries turned to belief in a higher power to seek answers or seek solace.
  • After 9/11, the churches and houses of worship were overflowing. Faced with unfathomable loss and destruction, people sought the comfort of a higher power and a community of worshipers.
  • For believers, trust in a higher power is transformative in that it reduces fear and invites acceptance. They are certain in their faith.
  • It is what gives them the strength to take on each day. It is what gives them hope in the aftermath of loss.


  • Whether we realize it or not, all of us use trust to negotiate life in an uncertain world.
  • Trust in ourselves, in others, in science, in probability, in skills, in the power of thought and the advances of technology is central to our functioning.
  • On a daily basis we assume the best and trust that the train will come, the school bus driver knows how to drive, the plane will land, the food in the deli is safe to eat, the prescribed medication in correct, the cell phone will work and the plumber knows what to do.
  • Could we ever agree to surgery if each of us did not trust that “ our doctor” was the number one in his/her field?
  • Most have had their trust shaken and even betrayed; but our capacity to suspend fear and start to trust again–makes the future possible.

Uncertainty Re-defined

While we have suffered with unexpected catastrophes that for a time have shut us down, embracing uncertainty as a door to the unknown allows for the emergence of the creative thought and the unexpected insight. Being open to uncertainty has given us much of what we cherish.

Managing uncertainty is a part of what we do every day when we reach beyond fear,  step beyond the limits, and find an unexpected way to go forward.

Be sure to Listen to Dr. Pauline Boss, the psychologist who coined the term ” Ambiguous Loss” discusses building Resilience in face of Uncertainty on Psych Up Live.