Tolerance to uncertainty: The experience of Ukrainians4 min read
The modern world is very unpredictable. Most people live with a certain amount of confidence in the future. When there is stability, familiarity, even routine, there is an opportunity to plan, think in patterns and act according to algorithms. If there is no such confidence, anxiety and fear arise. To avoid unnecessary anxiety, it is worth developing a tolerance to uncertainty and change.
Tolerance to uncertainty is a personality trait that allows us to withstand crisis manifestations associated with the uncertainty of the semantic foundations of one’s own existence, which arise during the transition to a new identity. The concept of “uncertainty tolerance” was first proposed by Edward Frenkel-Brunswick in 1949. According to him, tolerance to uncertainty is a personal trait that determines an individual’s attitude to ambiguous, disturbing situations, regardless of the emotional sign of this uncertainty.
In foreign studies, the study of uncertainty tolerance is connected with the concept of an uncertain stimulus and a description of the causes of an uncertain situation. Psychologist Albert Bandura singled out three characteristics of an uncertain situation – novelty, difficulty, and indecision.
It is during the transitional periods of a person’s life that the uncertainty of life in society increases. Uncertainty about plans for the future, unemployment, job search, inability to get a decent education – these factors prevent people from living fully. A person needs internal strength to overcome life’s difficulties and problems.
The war in Ukraine is forcing us to be in a constant state of uncertainty. We are not sure about tomorrow, the next hour or minute. How do we find the opportunity to live and work in conditions of war, missile attacks, and constant blackouts? What helps to adapt to life in constant uncertainty?
People differ in their ability to be tolerant of uncertain life situations and their ability to adapt to them. Understanding that a person is not able to control everything makes them stronger. It is worth realizing that there are events that we are not able to control. For example, the war in Ukraine. Ukrainians find themselves in critical conditions, and we have no other choice but to react quickly, radically changing our own usual lives. Our lives have become different, our priorities and values have changed. For Ukrainians, family values and relationships with relatives and loved ones are now at the forefront. The cruel crimes of the enemy leave deep wounds in our hearts: people lose their loved ones, lose their homes, lose their jobs.
The enemy attacks infrastructure facilities, as a result of which we have constant power outages, and inconsistent access to the internet and landlines which complicates and delays the processes of communication, educational activities and other spheres of life. In such conditions, it is difficult to plan one’s actions and set goals. But despite the difficulties and circumstances in which people live, Ukrainians continue to work, study, communicate, laugh, adapt, and not give up. We have learned to identify the things that are important to us and prioritize them, to quickly make choices and to respond to surrounding changes.
Tolerance to uncertainty, in my opinion, is an important personality trait. It helps to control one’s emotional state, develop flexibility of thinking and increases adaptability under any conditions.
In order to develop these traits, we have: allowed ourselves to adapt, rather than rush to solve urgent issues; learned to accept that uncertainty is temporary, and that there is not always a perfect way to solve a problem; made plans for a period in the future that we can control; confronted our current feelings of anxiety, and not been afraid to confront our negative emotions and feelings; looked for a community with shared interests so we can connect with others; done something relaxing to rest, or tried something new to practice familiarising ourselves with the unknown.
Thus, tolerance to uncertainty is a relevant personality trait today. Uncertainty is an integral part of our lives, where we are constantly forced to confront new challenges and overcome them. In today’s world, everything changes very quickly, and our body and psyche must adapt to it in the most comfortable way. As we can see from the example of Ukrainians, the psyche of a person is very flexible and adaptable. Even in crisis situations, we can learn to control our own condition, find life support and accumulate strength to make important decisions. It is also important to remember that tolerance to uncertainty is not only about new, unpredictable situations, but also the willingness to accept any person or event with dignity. It is about respect for the freedom of another person, their views, thoughts, behaviour, acceptance of different cultures of our world and a way of expressing human individuality.
This article was originally published on 22 February 2023 by Ecosprinter, the online magazine of the Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG).