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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

How to Work with Uncertainty

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Aug 15th 2011

questionThere are many times in life that seems to breathe of uncertainty. We don’t know if the relationship we’re in is the right one or maybe in-between careers, or unsure of the direction of the next creative project. The mind swirls in directions trying to figure it all out pouring stress and anxiety onto the fire of confusion. In these moments there is a fundamental question to ask yourself to cut through all the future-tripping or past-rehashing and get to the heart of the matter.

The question is: What would it be like to be okay with not knowing?

One thing that we’re absolutely certain of in this life is that nothing is permanent. Even this phase of not knowing will eventually pass. Struggling with it, trying to think our way out of it, often times only serves to keep us stuck.

I’d even take this one step further. What would it be like to be curious about the experience of not knowing? We all experience it at some point or another, it’s part of the human condition. What does it look like to be curious about not knowing or times of uncertainty? Good question.

The experience of not knowing is a collection of thoughts, bodily sensations and emotions. So here is a practice to get to the heart of not knowing.


  • Recognize you are in a state of not knowing. This will pop you out of the unconscious process.

  • Accept the reality that you are in a state of not knowing. Allow it to be as it is, without trying to analyze or figure it out.

  • Inquire into it. Get a sense for what this "not knowing" feels like physically. Is there heaviness to it, a constriction in the chest, or maybe a flurry of energy throughout the body? What emotion is behind the not knowing? Is it fear, anxiousness, shame, or maybe excitement? What thoughts or images are you noticing appearing and disappearing in your mind as you do this? Is it a pressured thought that something terrible will happen if you don’t know? Is it a memory from your childhood that speaks of danger around uncertainty? Is it an image of the future that looks bleak?

  • Non-identify with the actual feeling. This is what naturally happens as we do this process. We start to get some distance from it so we can begin to relate to the uncertainty instead of from it. With this distance we can gain perspective and get a sense that thing will be okay.


Try this mindfulness practice of RAIN out for yourself when things seem uncertain.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from. 


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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