Uncertainty is the Key


One of my friends has had her obsessions flare up again (she is worried that her brother will die on his spring break trip), and she emailed me for prayer and advice.  I asked her, “Do you want tough love?”

Her response:  “Yes, okay, just hold on a second I have to prepare myself.”
A minute later: “I am ready.  Go.”

I wrote back:

I’m not going to reassure you about this because LIFE IS FULL OF UNCERTAINTY, and we have to learn to live with it.  I’m not saying this to be mean, but the truth of the matter is that he could slip on the Minnesota ice outside and hurt himself that way just as easily as a trip to California.  We DON’T KNOW.  We CAN’T know.  All we can do is make decisions based on the evidence available.  The evidence available suggests he will be fine.  Whether you worry about him or not won’t change anything except for how YOU cope with his spring break.

The best thing that you can do for yourself to keep from spiraling is to repeat to yourself, “I can’t know if he’ll be okay.  He might be.  He might NOT be.  Either way, he knows God, and I have to just live my life with uncertainty.”

want to reassure you.  But that would be just silly—who am I (who is any mere human) to reassure you of something like this?  Our lives ARE like a vapor!  We have no way of knowing.

The evidence available suggests that most healthy young people live till their 70s, so that’s what I’m going to plan for.


My friend thanked me for the tough love; I think I’m allowed to dole it out because she knows about how cognitive-behavioral therapy changed my life.  CBT is really just a giant act of tough love, isn’t it?  We’re put through torture so that we can barrel through the hell of daily life with OCD.  I know I am so glad to have gone through it myself, and that is why I am not willing to reassure someone of something we can’t know.

Life is full of uncertainty, and each obsessive-compulsive wants to eliminate it– which is just not possible.  Still, we go to great lengths to attempt this impossible feat.  Really, our rescue is in learning to embrace the uncertainty.

If it boggles your mind a little, that’s okay.  It still does mine too, and I’m a success story!

For those of you with OCD, is it hard for you to receive tough love from people?  For those of you who love an OC, is it hard for you to dole it out?

24 thoughts on “Uncertainty is the Key

    • Sounds great, Tina. I have had to do the same for myself. “Is it possible that I am going to hell? YES, it is POSSIBLE. But the evidence available suggests that I love Jesus and am going to heaven, so I have to live life in that light.” Sigh. Oh our minds.

    • Thanks Janet! I find myself having to use these steps with myself and others all the time! “Those things are POSSIBLE … but they are not LIKELY.” It’s crazy how much good it does just to vocally walk myself through this!

  1. I needed this post – I just joined SuperBetter, and my “epic win” is to embrace uncertainty. I’d been doubting this lately (hi, OCD!) and it was reassuring in a good way to read this. 😉

    Tough love is hard to receive, but so, so helpful and NEEDED. Tough love usually spurs me to a more realistic (rather than idealistic/catastrophic) view of things, and getting that kind of sobering wake-up actually makes me feel more hopeful.

    It’s also good to hear that it still boggles your mind after so much success; I am definitely boggled. Intellectually convinced of the necessity of embracing uncertainty, but still boggled.

    • I am so glad my post could be helpful! I sometimes find it very difficult not to reassure people– I think it is in my nature to do so! But I know that if I reassure them, they will only be asking the same question ten minutes later. Reassurance doesn’t let the person GET anywhere. It’s embracing uncertainty that does that!

      And yes, BOGGLED! 🙂

  2. I was just reading a book on OCD and about how the base of it is uncertainty. And normally, people are okay with uncertainty, but OCer’s aren’t. I am nervous, but excited to to ERP this summer. I hate the idea that I won’t be able to have certainty, but… uncertainty is the refugee of hope. Or something like that (:

  3. Pingback: The Problem with Seeking Reassurance | lightsallaround

  4. Pingback: Hope for the Hopeless Obsessive-Compulsive | lightsallaround

  5. Pingback: No Antidote | lightsallaround

  6. Pingback: An Uncertain Framework | Lights All Around

  7. Pingback: OCD: Unwelcome but not Unexpected | Lights All Around

  8. Pingback: HOCD Q&A with Hannah! | Jackie Lea Sommers

  9. Pingback: Question & Dancer: HOCD Edition | JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

  10. Pingback: HOCD: 4 Steps to Freedom | JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

  11. Pingback: 5 Months of OCD Questions | JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

  12. I know this post is really old but maybe I’m not too late. I’m really struggling with Religious OCD and started some ERP. I find my anxiety is not so bad with medication but I crave absolutely certainty. I am so afraid I committed the unpardonable sin by something I said. And what is so hard is that there are so many opinions out there on what the unpardonable sin even is. How do you embrace this uncertainty? What does an imaginary script look like embracing uncertainty.

    • Hi Tara, my ERP script is available on my site, but with where you’re at, I suspect it will be highly triggering. I suggest beginning with a book for guidance, like Freedom from OCD by Dr. Grayson or similar. There are a handful of suggestions posted in the post called “Self-directed ERP”! YOU CAN DO THIS. I didn’t think I would ever be okay having less than 100% certainty. But now I see it’s the only way to live!

      • Thank you so much for your kind response Jackie! I have Dr. Grayson’s book. It is a rich resource.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s