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How Embracing Uncertainty Can Improve Your Life

Life is uncertain. We never know what will happen, and many things are unknowable. This can make us feel stressed or worried, since the unknown is associated with danger.

But as journalist Maggie Jackson argues in her new book, Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure , there are many benefits to allowing ourselves to be unsure about what’s happening or what will happen. Embracing uncertainty is tied to easier learning, better decision making, responding well in a crisis, improved mental health, and warmer social relationships—even during difficult social interactions, like crossing political divides. When we can let go of sureness, look beyond what we already know, stay curious, and listen to dissent, we can often come up with better solutions to the problems we encounter.

We spoke with Jackson about her book. Here is an edited version of that conversation.

fear of uncertainty essay

Jill Suttie: Most of us think of being uncertain as a weakness or even a flaw—for example, when it comes to leadership. But your book argues it’s a strength. How so?

Maggie Jackson: We have a very negative view of uncertainty. We largely see it as paralyzing. But actually uncertainty is, first of all, a kind of “good stress.” When we meet something new, ambiguous, or unexpected, we have a stress response , both physiological and neural, that allows the brain to be more receptive to new data. Our attention broadens and our working memory improves. It’s a kind of wakefulness that’s really important, giving us the opportunity to learn.

Secondly, uncertainty is not just a spur to better thinking, it’s also an opportunity to investigate, to open up the space between question and answer. Studies find that uncertainty is really important or helpful for negotiation or for arguing. For example, you can make better arguments when you are not completely closed-minded and certain. Being unsure is also related to deeper deliberation. The adaptive expert is someone who is able to recognize and utilize their uncertainty to investigate a crisis or a problem or a new situation.

Uncertainty does slow us down. But that slowing allows us to uncover mistakes, especially in social situations. It allows for more accuracy. It’s linked to better collaboration, more creative, inclusive, open-minded group thinking, and other benefits like that—basically through the airing of differences. Good conflict isn’t necessarily about the triumph of one side over the other or the victory of a dissenting opinion. Frequent, respectful dissent and disagreement, even if wrong , produce performance gains in groups, because the group is jolted into a kind of wakeful questioning and skeptical uncertainty.

This flies in the face of a lot of pressures today to all get on the same page—for example, by “hiring for fit” or emphasizing that “we are family.” As scientist Sam Sommers says , a lack of diversity leads to lazy information processing. In contrast, uncertainty sparked by disagreement helps us learn from, not hide from, difference.

JS: Is there research on how uncertainty affects personal well-being?

MJ: There’s a really interesting connection between curiosity and uncertainty and well-being. Highly curious people tend to share a quality that [researcher] Todd Kashdan calls stress tolerance, or a capacity to tolerate the stress of the unknown. It’s awkward to ask questions. It’s uncomfortable to stick your nose into the unknown. But people who are highly curious tend to be willing to withstand the discomfort that it takes to explore the unknown. Curious people who can tolerate the stress of uncertainty are more willing to express dissent at work and are actually more engaged at work.

And they tend to have more pleasurable moments in life and higher life satisfaction. When you’re open and curious to all of life, both the good and bad parts, you can thrive.

Secondly, clinical psychology researchers like Michel Dugas in Canada are treating patients with anxiety by bolstering their tolerance of uncertainty . In brief, uncertainty tolerance is a personality disposition that relates to how you view the unknown. People who are intolerant of uncertainty see uncertainty as a threat, while those who are more tolerant of uncertainty see it as a challenge.

Targeting tolerance for uncertainty is one of the more promising new treatments for many mental disorders, because the fear of the unknown is beginning to be seen as a root vulnerability factor for mental disorders. Such interventions jump off from exposure therapy and teach people practical ways to try new things, to work at the edge of the known. Some patients, for instance, try to delegate more at work. By doing so, they can learn that their predictions about uncertainty being a disaster are often wrong.

JS: What affects our willingness to be uncertain?

MJ: Uncertainty tolerance is both a personality trait and a state. In other words, it is both innate—people tend to dislike the unknown to varying degrees—and yet it also is situational. In the latter case, when people are tired, when they’re pressed to give an answer, when they’re suffering from information overload, those are all times when no matter where they lie on the spectrum of tolerating uncertainty, they tend to want an answer—any answer.

Some leading psychologists, including Nicholas Carleton, believe that our devices may be correlated with rising uncertainty intolerance. For example, one of Carleton’s studies suggests that increased adoption of cell phones and the internet over time is related to rising intolerance of uncertainty in young people. More work needs to be done on that. But anecdotally we live in a certainty-seeking culture, and this may be bolstering our fear of the unknown.

JS: What can we do to fight these pressures? MJ: We need to be more educated, both individually and more formally, about what uncertainty is. We’re operating with extremely outdated ideas of this mindset, shaped by hundreds of years of industrial and then technological pressures to be efficient. The pressure to know and to judge ourselves and others only by outcomes squeezes out the valuing of process—times when we might need a moment to reconsider a situation and inhabit the question rather than racing to an answer, any answer.

It’s important to be attuned to the signal that uncertainty gives when you confront something new, that it is time to update your understanding of the world. One recent study out of the University of Washington did qualitative interviews with doctors after they’d finished a clinical shift and asked them about the sticky moments in their day. And [the researchers] found that the physicians’ discomfort of uncertainty was correlated with a heightened monitoring of the situation and more of a tendency to look ahead to define and muster the resources needed. Through this study, we are reminded that the unease of uncertainty is actually a gift.

Picking up on uncertainty’s invitation to learn involves leaning into uncertainty. First, if you’re expecting life to be familiar, unchanging, you’re going to be missing out. Also, people who are stressed in highly unpredictable situations, who are leaning into the stress of uncertainty without being overwhelmed, are actually able to perform better. Some studies show that people who are taught that the stress of the unknown—the stress of making a presentation or a school exam—is equipping them to perform better, actually become more effective in these challenging situations. That’s a kind of uncertainty tolerance.

JS: How is allowing for uncertainty helpful in social situations—in particular across difference?

MJ: There’s a lot of work now on perspective taking, a cognitive form of empathy, where you try to imagine how someone else sees the world. It’s been linked to being willing to sit closer to someone whom you are threatened by, such as a convicted murderer or another outcast, maybe a drug user. And it’s linked to being willing to engage with them—and with others of their kind. In other words, there’s a spillover effect beyond the individual, to other members of the same group.

At the root of perspective taking is making yourself uncertain, loosening categorizations that come so easily to us—the labels we unconsciously place on others in an outgroup, which have so many implications for how we behave with one another. Perspective taking involves a leap of imagination. You cannot really know someone else’s perspective. It is an act of deliberate perplexity.

JS: Considering our current political climate, how do you see uncertainty being helpful for reducing polarization?

MJ: I went canvassing in Los Angeles with the Leadership Lab , the research arm of one of the largest LGBTQ+ [rights] organizations in the country. And they have gotten some attention for developing methods of conversation with opposing voters that lower bias against people who are transgender and gay. At the heart of their strategy is perspective taking, the willingness to imagine the “other” side’s perspective. Their 10-minute conversations can lower bias in opposition voters by about as much as Americans’ bias against gay people fell from 1998 to 2012.

What they did was throw away their scripts and their talking points and stop trying to feed the opponent scripted doses of information. Instead, they started listening and trading stories, both seeing their opponent as an individual, not as a label, and taking time to imagine the world through their eyes. These practices lowered bias on both sides—in the activist, too.

Perspective taking—deliberate perplexity—is a starting point for seeing one another with an open mind. When we can loosen our assumptions and see another’s perspective, we can begin to see in an opponent not set-in-stone wrong but potential—the potential to learn and change, as we can, too. Uncertainty ultimately offers a space for mutual learning. It moves us past labels and readies us to engage fully with the “other” side, with those who are most different from us.

So, uncertainty can tame polarization by helping us build bridges to the other side. But it also can dial back our divisions by helping us to combat the insularity of “our” side. Not-knowing sparked by respectful conflict jolts people away from lazy accord and onto what I call “uncommon ground,” where better collaboration can begin. 

In these ways, uncertainty allows us to better connect both with those we loathe and those with whom we overly agree. It allows us to more clearly see and most importantly learn from the remarkable diversity within our own and the “other” side, instead of seeing people as “just like us” or “just another one of them.” It allows us to move away from black-and-white thinking and see the complexity that is already there.

About the Author

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Jill Suttie

Jill Suttie, Psy.D. , is Greater Good ’s former book review editor and now serves as a staff writer and contributing editor for the magazine. She received her doctorate of psychology from the University of San Francisco in 1998 and was a psychologist in private practice before coming to Greater Good .

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fear of uncertainty essay

Experiments dating back to the 1960s show people have less of a reaction to viewing an unpleasant image or experiencing an electric shock when they know it’s coming than when they’re not expecting it. That’s because uncertainty, a long-known cause of anxiety , makes it difficult to prepare for events or to control them .

People vary in their desire to minimise uncertainty. Those who react by worrying focus on potential threats and risks such as “what if I don’t get the promotion?” or “what if I get sick?”. Worry can be useful when it leads to adaptive behaviours that reduce threat, but chronic worry may cause harmful levels of stress that can affect heart health and the functioning of the immune system, among other things.

Our bodies may display subtle reactions to uncertainty, which we may not notice. One experiment showed people who dislike uncertainty had increased blood pressure when anticipating threat. When our bodily reaction is a strong one, we tend to recognise and label it as anxiety, but when it’s more subtle, we often fail to see it despite its effect.

These internal reactions to uncertainty are normal, but they can lead us to act in impulsive ways that undermine our self-confidence, so it’s important to become aware of them.

Not all bad

Dislike of uncertainty is associated with a number of mental health issues including eating disorders, social anxiety, anxiety disorders and depression . And people who say they dislike it immensely report more of these disorders occurring at the same time.

But not everything about uncertainty is bad news; while it can make negative events worse, uncertainty also makes positive events more exciting.

In an experiment about the contribution of uncertainty to romantic attraction, a group of female university students were told that attractive males had seen their profile and may or may not have liked them. Meanwhile, a second group was told the attractive males had definitely liked them. The women who were not certain about whether they were liked were more attracted to the men than those certain about being liked.

fear of uncertainty essay

Difficulties arise when our responses to uncertainty are inflexible and rely on attempts to control it. The more we try to avoid the distress uncertainty brings, the less we’re able to develop the ability to effectively handle uncertain situations. And if we choose to focus on avoiding distress , we may not stretch ourselves by trying out new activities, for instance, or speaking to new people. This reaction can prevent us from having positive experiences that build our self-confidence.

Indeed, rigidity, which is the opposite of flexibility, underlies unhealthy responses to many psychological problems. We know this from psychological research in thinking styles and perfectionism. As life is never perfect, we need to be at ease with making mistakes, learning from them and lowering or changing our goals when they are thwarted. People who are flexible tend to be more willing to reflect on disappointments, access appropriate emotional support and be less self-critical.

Managing uncertainty

Many of us struggle with uncertainty, so here are a few things you can do to help manage it.

1) Decide whether an issue is important. Most people feel vulnerable when faced with a threat to their health, for instance, or a big event such as the sale of their house. But, sometimes a bodily reaction to uncertainty will be triggered in less obvious circumstances. Work, finances, competition, parenting and friendships all have potential to spark discomfort, tension and other negative feelings.

2) Take action when your uncertainty reaction has been triggered and recognise its effect on your body. If it’s causing anxiety, do a short meditation . This may not only be of immediate help but will also assist by making you mindful of how your body reacts to uncertainty. Ultimately, it might help you tolerate feelings of uncertainty rather than spend time on fruitless worry.

3) Recognise thought errors that try to pull you into worry. “ Catastrophising ”, for instance, is the tendency our minds have to exaggerate all the things that could go wrong. Once we recognise this human tendency, we can learn to challenge or even ignore our worries.

4) Don’t get taken for a ride by an uncertain situation or your reaction to it. Allow yourself to have negative feelings; they are normal after all. If you need to, talk to someone about your concerns and come back to your own ability to withstand disappointment.

fear of uncertainty essay

Sitting with uncertainty requires patience. In order to build patience, you may need to set a realistic time frame on when the current situation will be resolved and postpone thoughts about it until that time has elapsed. In the meantime, absorb yourself in an activity that you enjoy or that has the power to distract you.

5) If the uncertainty resolves and you do experience a major disappointment, open up to trusted others. Allow yourself to reflect on what this means to you. The more we open up and talk with others, the more emotions disperse (slowly but surely). The process of reflection and allowing feelings is different to indulging worries about uncertainty.

Being open to this process allows us to adjust our expectations and move our energy and goals to areas where our expectations can be met. If a promotion at work does not come through, for instance, you may choose to put time into a sport or music, which you may not previously had time to prioritise.

Uncertainty is a part of life and it can’t be avoided. The best way to deal with it is to learn techniques that help you live with it, without the accompanying worry.

If you would like to learn about whether reactions to uncertainty can be altered in school programs , or in one-session internet-delivered programs for adults, click here , or email [email protected]

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Fear of the unknown: are you more sensitive to uncertainty than others?

Our intolerance for uncertainty exists on a spectrum, but some people have higher – and more debilitating – levels of the trait

M uch of the anxiety in my life has emerged from the question what if. What if my headache has a more sinister origin? What if I go to a holiday party, and don’t know anyone ? What if I publish an article, and everyone hates it?

I want to be certain of what’s going to happen, and any uncertainty makes me squirm. In other words, I have an intolerance for uncertainty.

Each day, we face uncertainty around our health, what others think of us, our career, or what soup will be served at lunch. Yet some people recoil at these unknowns more than others. Since the early 1990s, psychologists have isolated intolerance for uncertainty, or IU, as a trait associated with different forms of anxiety, depression and substance use disorder. IU doesn’t directly cause all of those conditions, but having a higher intolerance for uncertainty is a common experience that cuts across them.

IU works in a similar way to, say, a food intolerance. When some people eat a small amount of dairy, their stomach is upset. Others can finish a bowl of mac and cheese and feel fine. With uncertainty it’s the same: some people are just more sensitive to it.

Here’s how to tell if your intolerance for uncertainty is high, and what you can do about it.

How the intolerance of uncertainty scale works

IU exists on a spectrum; it’s not that everyone is either totally intolerant of uncertainty or completely OK with it. Some may be mildly put out by uncertainty, while others have an average intolerance, said Naomi Koerner, an associate professor of psychology at Toronto Metropolitan University. “And some other people are highly bothered by the uncertainties of life.”

IU was defined as a specific trait in the 1990s by the researchers Mark Freeston, Michel Dugas and others at Laval University in Quebec. They were trying to understand the underpinnings of generalized anxiety disorder and excessive worry. Freeston said they developed the Intolerance for Uncertainty Scale on a hunch that there was a cognitive signature of those experiences.

The scale asked people how much they agreed with phrases such as: “I should be able to organize everything in advance,” “I always want to know what the future has in store for me,” and “Uncertainty makes life intolerable.”

How intolerance of uncertainty affects our mental health

Too much unknown leads to some stress for nearly everyone. “Most people score in the middle for IU based on self report,” said Jayne Morriss, a lecturer in the School of Psychology at University of Southampton.

Being intolerant of uncertainty can be helpful for survival, said Brady Nelson, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Stony Brook University. “It keeps us attentive and alert in uncertain and unfamiliar environments that could be associated with danger or threat,” he said. But when intolerance becomes very frequent, and a dominant part of how you interact with the world, it can lead to anxiety, worry and avoidance.

People who score highly on the scale are bothered by even minor cases of uncertainty. It makes them stressed, irritable or anxious, and they are motivated to avoid it at all costs, or control their environments to reduce uncertainty as much as possible.

According to Koerner, this can manifest in overplanning, not allowing spontaneity, repeated reassurance or information-seeking, and avoiding anything new or unfamiliar. Someone with high IU might make lists repeatedly, plan out conversations in their head, look at food menus before going to a restaurant or triple-check their driving routes. People with a higher intolerance can also react to events more impulsively, in order to resolve uncertainty as quickly as possible.

For people with high levels of the trait, uncertainty is not just unpleasant, Koerner said: “It is more like, ‘I cannot stand it, I cannot cope with it.’”

There are many kinds of uncertainty

Uncertainty is not just one thing. Sometimes you don’t know what’s going to happen, but you are aware you’re going to encounter uncertainty. In other situations, you might not expect the unknown at all. Uncertainty can take place in the external world, like an uncertain outcome, or inside of us, like feeling uncertain.

Researchers are teasing apart these differences now. Some people are more upset by prospective IU, or the anticipation of uncertainty. Others have higher inhibitory IU, meaning they freeze or can’t act when experiencing uncertainty.

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“Both types of individuals will tell you they dislike uncertainty, but the way they process and react to the uncertainty might differ a lot,” Nelson said. So far, research has mostly focused on how IU manifests in an individual, but there are probably systemic factors that make people more sensitive to uncertainty, like money scarcity, exposure to conflict or discrimination.

This intolerance might apply to positive outcomes too . For instance, a person with higher IU would rather have a planned birthday party than a surprise birthday party, even if the surprise party could be more fun. People with higher IU and generalized anxiety disorder symptoms have been shown to dampen their positive emotions and savor their experiences less, and to think that situations with potentially positive outcomes have more threats attached to them.

How to make peace with uncertainty

People with mental health conditions who are interested in building their tolerance of uncertainty can work with a therapist to directly strengthen that, rather than examining or analyzing the content of their worries, Nelson said.

In 2016, I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, a condition that is often paired with a high intolerance for uncertainty. In OCD treatment, which involved exposure therapy, I confronted my anxieties and learned how to better handle not knowing exactly what would happen. Instead of homing in on any one specific health anxiety, for example, I could instead confront my uncertainty of whether I’ll become ill one day.

Because IU is associated with many mental health conditions, treating it could help with any or all of them, Nelson hopes. “Rather than attempting to treat multiple distinct mental health conditions, it might be more effective to focus treatment on increasing tolerance of uncertainty, which might alleviate multiple co-occurring problems,” he said.

For milder discomfort with uncertainty that doesn’t cause significant distress or disruption to your life, you can build your own tolerance to uncertainty a little bit each day. Seek out opportunities to safely play around the edges of your routines. “For example, if you always do things in the same order, do the same familiar things, but in a different order,” Freeston said. If you go on the same walk each morning, flip the route and do it in the reverse direction.

After experimenting with small exposures to uncertainty, challenge yourself to do other new things – nothing “big or scary, just things that are different and will initially feel uncomfortable”, Freeston said. “Over time, people can learn to tolerate uncertainty, and even accept and perhaps embrace the uncertainties in day-to-day life.”

Life will always be full of unknowns. When facing the uncertain, you might feel discomfort, but there’s also a chance to try to feel curious and open. “Ask yourself, ‘What can I learn here?’” Koerner said. When we can find a way to be excited or intrigued by the unknown, rather than afraid, uncertainty becomes much more palatable.

This article was amended on 10 April 2024 to clarify that Naomi Koerner is an associate professor of psychology at Toronto Metropolitan University. An earlier version incorrectly stated Koerner is a professor at Ryerson University.

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How to Strengthen the Mind to Deal With Uncertainty

7 questions to release the stress of not knowing..

Updated February 9, 2024 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader

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For years in my leadership classes, I preached the concept of embracing uncertainty. Although everyone agreed this was important, no one ever told me how they lifted the spirits of others in a conversation about not knowing what will happen in the future.

Until recently, most of us lived our lives either believing we had some sense of what would happen to us, our families, and our jobs if we focused on doing the right things, or we had moments, even days, paralyzed with the fear that the worst was going to happen when we felt the loss of control of our circumstances. We avoided the concept of embracing uncertainty. The idea that we should learn to love uncertainty felt like a strategic manipulation.

Then we were hit by the pandemic forcing us to face the truth about uncertainty. Numerous studies including this one from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found a greater number of self-reported reactions that had a negative effect during the pandemic. 1 I have experienced in my coaching clients an increase of intolerance for uncertainty in the past few years. It appears many people wake up wondering about how an increase in wars will affect them, if the election will negatively impact their lives, and what the next super virus will be that will come our way. Christopher Bader, a sociologist at Chapman University and an expert in Americans' fears, said, “When people are uncertain, we see their fears rise in all perspectives.” 2

If there is no way to avoid uncertainty, is there a way we can use this reality to learn and grow?

Shifting the mindset around uncertainty

When coaching, having people articulate and explore what they are unsure about can break down imagined fears and unsupported assumptions. The revelations that emerge help people face what else could occur in the future and discover what is in their control to focus on. Maggie Jackson, the author of Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure , says talking about what we are uncertain about reduces the murkiness and subsequent anxiety , leading to a mindset of strength and a path to progress. 3

“Life is inherently uncertain, and if you have difficulty dealing with that, you will have difficulty dealing with life,” said Michel Dugas, a professor of psychology at the University of Quebec in Outaouais and a leader in anxiety disorder research and the fundamental fear of uncertainty, in a New York Times exclusive interview with Maggie Jackson. 4

The question is then—if we learn to accept that life is uncertain, and even appreciate that each day could bring an unexpected surprise that could be seen as an opportunity, will we be more resilient and peaceful?

Our brains naturally want to protect us. The default mode for all humans is self-preservation over self-actualization. Shifting our mental models to look forward to the natural shifts of life is difficult to do on our own.

Walking through uncertainty together

We need to help each other walk through the darkness of uncertainty. No matter the relationship you have—as a coach, leader, parent, or friend—the questions we ask are critical to relieving stress and avoiding giving up when the fear of not knowing takes over.

Here are some questions you might ask someone when their uncertainty about the future is keeping them stuck in the present:

  • What can you do in this moment that feels important and meaningful?
  • If what you are fearing comes true, what is in your control to do?
  • When you look at the evidence you are believing in that is painting your picture of the future, what might you be leaving out?
  • When you look at what you are expecting or fearing will happen, what else is possible that you haven’t considered?
  • If someone you trusted were to argue with you about your assumptions, what might they say?
  • What can you do with the knowledge that life, people, and your own reactions to what happens, are unpredictable?
  • When you see yourself boldly moving forward with uncertainty, who are you being?

Let’s give the gift of embracing the unknown to each other. It’s a gift we can give many times and never gets old.

1 Kia J. Khorrami, Charles A. Manzler, Kayla A. Kreutzer, and Stephanie M. Gorka, “Neural and Self-report Measures of Sensitivity to Uncertainty as Predictors of COVID-Related Negative Affect” Psychiatric Research , 2022 Jan; 319: 111414.

2 Matt Richtel, What Are We So Afraid Of? Here’s the Expert to Ask, online interview with Christopher Bader, Jan. 19, 2024.

3 Maggie Jackson, Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure , Prometheus: Guilford, Connecticut. Nov 7, 2023

4 Quoted in article by Maggie Jackson. How to Thrive in an Uncertain World. New York Times Guest Essay , Jan. 13, 2024

Marcia Reynolds Psy.D.

Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D. , is the author of three leadership books, Coach the Person, Not the Problem, The Discomfort Zone, and Wander Woman . She is the president of Covisioning, teaching transformational coaching skills to coaches and leaders worldwide.

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97 Fear Essay Topics & Examples

🏆 best topics about fear & essay examples, 📌 good fear essay topics, ❓research questions about fear.

If you study psychology, you will probably have to write a fear essay at some point. The emotion is strong and can significantly affect any person, with effects potentially impairing his or her judgment and performance.

It can also result from a variety of sources, such as phobias or trauma, and manifest in many different conditions, taking the person by surprise. As such, it is essential to study the topic of how a person may deal with fear, with the most well-known one being courage.

However, there are many ideas on how the trait can be developed that can be used as fear essay hooks, but not all of them are viable. This article will help you write a powerful essay on the various topics associated with fear.

Fear is an emotion triggered by a perceived threat as a response that prepares the person to address it in an appropriate manner. As such, it is a reaction that helps people cope in the short term, but its effects when the person is constantly in a state of fear can be dangerous.

Examples include physical health deterioration due to the hormone production associated with the reaction and permanent mental health effects, such as PTSD.

As such, people who are affected by chronic fear should try to escape the state to avoid threats to their well-being. The first step towards doing so would be to discover and investigate the causes of the emotion.

Fear triggers in response to danger, whether real or perceived, and the nature of the reaction can provide you with ideas for fear essay titles. While it may be challenging to alleviate real conditions of real danger, not many people have to live in such situations.

Most chronic fear comes from various phobias, or persistent fear reactions to situations that may not warrant such a response. There are numerous variations, such as acrophobia, the fear of heights, and they are interesting topics for an investigation.

Between the many tall buildings designed by people and travel methods such as airplanes, a person with the condition may find it challenging to avoid stressful situations. However, they can generally avoid worrisome conditions with careful planning and the help of others.

Courage is a well-known quality that helps people overcome their fear, one that is described in many stories and images. However, it should be noted that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather a willingness to acknowledge it and confront the source.

The act involves a conscious effort of the will, and many people believe they do not have the capacity to do so. You should discuss the ways in which people can learn to be courageous and the methods that can be used to inspire them to try.

Here are some additional tips for enhancing your essay:

  • Focus on the positive implications of fear and courage, as they are responsible for many of humanity’s great successes, and provide fear essay examples. Our society is safe from many different dangers because people were afraid of them.
  • Make sure to cite scholarly sources wherever appropriate instead of trying to rely on common knowledge. Psychology is a science that has developed considerably since its inception and can offer a wealth of knowledge.
  • Follow standard essay formatting guidelines, such as the use of academic language, the separation of different essay parts with appropriate titles, and the use of an introduction and conclusion.

Get more fear essay theses and other useful paper samples at IvyPanda!

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  • Ghost’s Fear Believe you me that as one listens to all mysterious actions of the ghosts in the stories, he or she is forming the same picture in the mind.
  • Sociological Book “The Culture of Fear” by Barry Glassner The book “The Culture of Fear” presents many examples of the sources of fear in the United States. The peddlers of panic in the country inflate statistics to pursue their causes and goals.
  • My Monster: The Fear of Being Alone Thus, my monster is the fear of being alone, and it is similar to several literary characters at once: Grendel’s mother, the Demon Lover, and the fear of a couple from Once Upon a Time.
  • “Mediating Effect of the Fear of Missing Out” by Fontes-Perryman and Spina In particular, they were interested in the FOMO and CSMU’s potential mediating effect between OCD and SMF. Overall, the main strength of the argument is that the authors conducted two separate studies involving people from […]
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s Fear of Premature Burial For instance, in The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat the police arrive and stimulate a desire on the part of the narrator to confess his crime and undergo punishment from the state.
  • Gender Inequality, Violence Against Women, and Fear in The Sopranos Thus, the major research question will be “Does The Sopranos endorse or criticize VaW through the frequent depiction of the scenes of cruelty?” The hypothesis of the research paper will be “The portrayal of VaW […]
  • Why Are We Afraid of Death? However, it can be interesting to understand why the rest of the people are so afraid of death. People are afraid of the unknown.
  • The News Media Role in the Culture of Fear The reception of such news has the potential of eliciting fear among the public depending on one’s understanding or relation to the news spread by the media houses.
  • Substance Abuse in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas The protagonists constantly increase the dose of the hallucinogen, which leads to “a quantitative increase in the effects of the experience”.
  • The Movie “Color of Fear” The issue of racism is introduced by the film’s director right from the beginning. Therefore, by the end of the video the issue of race is already embedded in the mind of the viewer.
  • Fear of Missing Out and Scarcity in Social Media The study’s independent variables were “none”, “some”, and “all”, while the dependent variable was “the number of friends who agreed to attend the event”.
  • The Views on the Freedom from Fear in the Historical Perspective In this text, fear is considered in the classical sense, corresponding to the interpretation of psychology, that is, as a manifestation of acute anxiety for the inviolability of one’s life.
  • Fear of Immigrants and People of Color in the US The enhancement of strict immigration laws was due to the transfer of immigrants out of Europe to foreigners from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
  • Increasing Level of Fear of Crime and Its Cause Curiel and Bishop report that the rate of victimization, meaning the rate of actual crime taking place, is opposite to the rate of fear of crime.
  • How to Overcome Fear and Succeed: Informative Speech General purpose: To describe Specific purpose: To teach my listeners the method I use to speak confidently in public and learn new skills.
  • The Salem Witch Trials: A Time of Fear The outbreak began with the sudden and rather unusual illness of the daughter and niece of the local Reverend Samuel Parris.
  • Gagging Prevalence and Its Association With Dental Fear in 4-12 Year Old Children The Gagging Assessment Scale (GAS) is a questionnaire in which children answered questions about their feelings during a regular dental procedure, for example, tooth brushing.
  • Researching of Why Human Beings Fear Death From the religious perspective, some people know about their sins committed on earth in their life and are afraid of the punishment for those sins as opposed to people who believe in God and His […]
  • Fighting Fear: The Only Secret Behind Becoming Rich The aim of the proposed research is to determine how fear of risks may affect the decisions taken in accounting and finance and in turn the development of an entrepreneurial culture in people.
  • Effects of Community Policing Upon Fear of Crime The purpose of the article aimed at identifying the intervening factors in relation to how people perceive community policing and decrease of criminal threat and anxieties among citizens; therefore, the two researchers aimed to address […]
  • The Effects of Campus Shootings on Fear of Crime on Campus This study focuses on investigating the impacts of shootings on fear of crime on campus. First, there is a relationship between campus shootings and fear on crime.
  • “Childbirth Fear and Sleep Deprivation in Pregnant Women” by Hall To further show that the information used is current, the authors have used the APA style of referencing which demand the naming of the author as well as the year of publication of the article/book […]
  • Culture, Gaze and the Neural Processing of Fear Expressions The paper has a cross-cultural setting and this justifies the appeal to an earlier authoritative study that compared the cultural experience to the expression of basic emotions.
  • Theory of Fear as a Part of Public Policy As Machiavelli points out, fear is an integral part of the policy of a prince, in case it bites not his royal majesty, but the people of the state. And since that certainly means a […]
  • ”Courage to Teach” by Palmer: How to Deal With Fear The relationship between the teacher and the student is a very important element of the teaching process according to the author, meaning that the human condition must be considered in the process of teaching.
  • Fear and Environmental Change in Philadelphia The coincidence of the keywords of both articles is the evident proof of the similarity of the issues analyzed with the only difference concerning the territorial location of the problem.
  • Abnormal Psychology: Nature of Fear There is a group of disorders which share obvious symptoms and features of fear and anxiety and these are known as anxiety disorders.
  • Fear in News and Violence in Media In the proposed paper I intend to present the prevailing fear in American society and which has been produced by news media and the rise of a “problem frame” which is used to delineate this […]
  • Technophobes and Their Fear of Technology Technophobes assume that they will whether be laid off by the company or will have to commit to continuous learning, which to many people, is a big challenge on its own.
  • Patient’s Dental Fear: Managing Anxiety In order to find out the most effective ways to cope with the patient’s dental fear, one might consider those methods which will be applicable in accordance with the state of a client.
  • Educational Administration: Promise and Fear The particular case that Erica has to deal with is the case of Royal Collins, a fourth-grader who has problems in his family and often demonstrates misbehavior at school.
  • Fear from Media Reporting of Crimes The biggest question is whether it is the fact that there are criminals all around us, or it is in the head. The role of the media is quite profound in this.
  • Ku Klux Klan and Fear-Fueled Hatred The KKK was a violent response to the conflict’s aim of eliminating slavery of black people. The tone of the violent acts that the KKK members performed was vigilant supporters of white supremacy believed that […]
  • Psychological Science: Fear of Heights in Infants The article ‘Fear of Heights in Infants?’ by Adolph et al.shows that the conventional belief is a myth and provides an alternative explanation as to why infants avoid falling off the edge.
  • Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) and Social Media Usage The first hypothesis, for instance, is that the greater the number of social media platforms used regularly, the higher the level of FoMO a person will experience.
  • Definition of Dental Anxiety and Fear That way, studying the facts that contribute to the prevalence of anxiety in dental patients, the researchers should study the psychopathological profiles of anxious individuals.
  • Overcoming Fear of Failure Consequently, this essay evaluates the roles of research practitioners on how fear of failure generates and the significance of their research in the websites.
  • Fear in Behaviorist and Cognitive Perspectives Therefore, my fear is a result of the retrieval of what happened to me on the day I found that snake in my room.
  • Psychology of Fear: Amanda Ripley Views Another important element associated with disbelief is lack of information among the victims and those responding to the disaster. The immediate decision to vacate a disaster prone-area is dangerous and lacks in terms of deliberate […]
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Film Analysis The drugs presented in “Fear and loathing in Las Vegas” are of various types, cigarettes and alcohol are legal, grass is legal only in some countries, and the rest of the drugs are illegal everywhere […]
  • Dissecting the American Society: Baltimore, Fear and the Fight for Life Despite the fact that the citizens of Baltimore are also partially responsible for the moral decomposition of the city, the society and the prejudices that it produces also seem to have had a hand in […]
  • “Freedom from Fear” by David M. Kennedy Whereas the latter omission may be judged bitterly by critiques of this book, it is interesting to note that the era of the Great Depression has been dramatically discussed by the author to the best […]
  • Critical Analyses of the Climate of Fear Report From Southern Poverty Law Center Following the murder of Marcelo Lucero in the Suffolk County, the federal government initiated an investigation to establish the foundations of the practice and pattern of hate crimes against the undocumented immigrants.
  • Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard: Passage Analysis To a great extent, this feeling belittles a human being, and in the long term, this emotion can only lead to the bitterness of the individual who is a subject of pity.
  • Fear Appeals in Advertising Fear appeals work when advertisers present a moderate amount of fear and a solution to the problem is present in the advertisement. A thorough elaboration of fear may interfere with the communication of the intended […]
  • The world after college and fear All the jokes and laughter aside, O’ Brien still manages to remain relevant to the occasion and to his main audience.
  • Fear vs. Courage On the other hand, the goodies that ensue from being obedient form the basis of his courage to adhere to set rules and do the will of his authorities.
  • Summary of the Article “Should We Fear Derivatives?” It is necessary to become more attentive to the use of derivatives, to follow the development of derivatives, and to study the peculiarities of each derivative’s type in order to use them properly.
  • Hopes and Fears in Regard to the “Network Society” On the other hand, the importance of mass media and communication means has led to prevailing role of computers and other instant messaging devices over personal communication, and the resulting depersonalization of human relations.
  • The Culture of Fear The culture of fear is not new: it continues to breed with the sustaining efforts of the opportunistic politicians seeking votes from the public by playing on people’s emotions through mass media.
  • Embracing the Entire Globe: Globalization Is not to Be Feared! Despite the fact that globalization is designed to reunite people, restoring their economical, political and personal links with one another, there are certain suspicions that the effect of globalization can possibly harm the ethnicity and […]
  • The Pianist: When the Mercy Comes Where Angels Fear to Trod Among them, there is the film called The Pianist, a winner of the Palme d’Or on the Cannes Festival and the movie that has raised a great stir among the audience, them regarding the film […]
  • Fear and Trembling in Las Vegas In the book “Fear and Trembling in Las Vegas”, the author takes his readers through their experience in the chase of the American Dream.
  • Robert Frost’s Fear Poetry In Sheehy’s article, Lawrence Thompson notes that the ultimate problem of Frost biographer is to see if the biographer can be enough of a psychologist to get far enough back into the formative years of […]
  • Machiavelli’s Claim to Be Either Feared or Loved In describing a leader’s demonstration of his personal skills and knowledge for the attainment of the state’s good, Machiavelli focuses the importance of statesmanship.
  • Aerophobia or Fear of Flying The main aim of the careful explanation of the positive reasons of recovering from the condition is to enable the victim to have a feeling of absolute calmness as the session winds up and to […]
  • Phil Barker: What Is Fear? According to the author, there is some form of fear that is understandable and advantageous to an individual while there is also some fear that accounts for conflicts that result in war.
  • Fear and intolerance of aging – “Love in the time of cholera” by Gabriel Marquez This passage was chosen because it carries with it one of the most dominant themes of the narrative which is the fear and intolerance of aging.
  • The Movie Tarnished as a Threat: Did They Fear Egoism, Altruism or What Hid in Between? Thus, it is reasonable to suggest that the movie gives a good example of what such people’s traits as egoism and altruism can lead to, once they have been too exaggerated.
  • The Fears Within: What Do You See in the Mirror? Without thinking much of what she should take with her, or where the trip would take her, Cassie had bought the tickets and soon was flying away to the islands where the world would be […]
  • Fear associated with sexuality issues in society This essay has shown how sexuality particularly in Africa is an issue that has for a long time served to propagate the fear of different people.
  • Fear’s Psychological Aspects The controls and the fearful research participants were quicker in finding a target that was fear relevant, which the research group did not fear.
  • SARS: It’s as Bad as We Feared but Dared Not Say The cornerstone of the study is the article written by Jennifer Eagleton wherein she described not only the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong in 2003 but also the way the media dealt with the crisis […]
  • How Far Did the CCP Control China Through Fear?
  • Does Fear Make Our Lives Decisions for Us?
  • How Does Iago Inspire Fear and a Looming Sense of Tragedy Through His Soliloquies?
  • Can Fear Beat Hope?
  • How Does the Reporting of Criminal Offenses Create Fear?
  • Does Global Fear Predict Fear in BRICS Stock Markets?
  • How Far Was Fear of Communism the Main Reason for the Rise to Power of the Nazi Party?
  • Did Hitler Use Fear to Control?
  • How Does Spielberg Create Fear and Humour Within Jaws?
  • Does Imagination Overcome Fear in the Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe?
  • How Does Fear Affect Personal Behavioral Development?
  • Can Fear Cause Economic Collapse?
  • Does Fear Increase Search Effort in More Numerate People?
  • How Does Bram Stoker Use Gothic Conventions to Create an Atmosphere of Suspense and Fear for the Reader?
  • Does Monetary Policy Credibility Mitigate the Fear of Floating?
  • How Can Fear Arousal Be Used as a Method of Health Promotion?
  • Does More Unemployment Cause More Fear of Unemployment?
  • How Can One Overcome Fear of Public Speaking?
  • Does One Gender Incite Fear Over Another?
  • How Are Characters Affected by Fear in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?
  • Does Religiousness Buffer Against the Fear of Death and Dying in Late Adulthood?
  • How Does Culture Mold the Effects of Self-Efficacy and Fear of Failure on Entrepreneurship?
  • Does the Fear Gauge Predict Downside Risk More Accurately Than Econometric Models?
  • How Does Charles Dickens Build a Sense of Fear Throughout the Signalman?
  • Does the Media Affect People’s Fear of Crime?
  • How Does Fear Affect Our Society?
  • Why Do Males and Females Register Fear Differently?
  • How Can Fear Destroy an Individual?
  • Was the Cuban Missile Crisis the Result of Castro’s Fear of the U.S. Invasion?
  • How Does ‘Moral Panic’ Increase Our Fear of Crime?
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2024, February 24). 97 Fear Essay Topics & Examples.

"97 Fear Essay Topics & Examples." IvyPanda , 24 Feb. 2024,

IvyPanda . (2024) '97 Fear Essay Topics & Examples'. 24 February.

IvyPanda . 2024. "97 Fear Essay Topics & Examples." February 24, 2024.

1. IvyPanda . "97 Fear Essay Topics & Examples." February 24, 2024.


IvyPanda . "97 Fear Essay Topics & Examples." February 24, 2024.

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The role of uncertainty in life

Learning to cope with uncertainty, tip 1: take action over the things you can control, tip 2: challenge your need for certainty, tip 3: learn to accept uncertainty, tip 4: focus on the present, tip 5: manage stress and anxiety, dealing with uncertainty.

Life is filled with uncertainty and worries about the future. While many things remain outside your control, your mindset is key to coping with difficult circumstances and confidently facing the unknown.

fear of uncertainty essay

Uncertainty is all around us, never more so than today. Whether it concerns a global pandemic, the economy, or your finances, health, and relationships, much of what lies ahead in life remains uncertain. Yet as human beings, we crave security. We want to feel safe and have a sense of control over our lives and well-being. Fear and uncertainty can leave you feeling stressed, anxious, and powerless over the direction of your life. It can drain you emotionally and trap you in a downward spiral of endless “what-ifs” and worst-case scenarios about what tomorrow may bring.

We’re all different in how much uncertainty we can tolerate in life. Some people seem to enjoy taking risks and living unpredictable lives, while others find the randomness of life deeply distressing. But all of us have a limit. If you feel overwhelmed by uncertainty and worry, it’s important to know that you’re not alone; many of us are in the same boat. It’s also important to realize that no matter how helpless and hopeless you feel, there are steps you can take to better deal with uncontrollable circumstances , alleviate your anxiety, and face the unknown with more confidence.

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While we may not wish to acknowledge it, uncertainty is a natural and unavoidable part of life. Very little about our lives is constant or totally certain, and while we have control over many things, we can’t control everything that happens to us. As the coronavirus pandemic demonstrated, life can change very quickly and very unpredictably. One day things may be just fine, the next you’ve suddenly become sick, lost your job, or found yourself struggling to put food on the table or provide for your family.

To cope with all this uncertainty, many of us use worrying as a tool for trying to predict the future and avoid nasty surprises. Worrying can make it seem like you have some control over uncertain circumstances. You may believe that it will help you find a solution to your problems or prepare you for the worst. Maybe if you just agonize over a problem long enough, just think through every possibility, or read every opinion online, you’ll find a solution and be able to control the outcome. Unfortunately, none of this works. Chronic worrying can’t give you more control over uncontrollable events; it just robs you of enjoyment in the present, saps your energy, and keeps you up at night. But there are healthier ways to cope with uncertainty—and that begins with adjusting your mindset.

[Read: How to Stop Worrying]

The following tips can help you to:

  • Focus on controlling those things that are under your control.
  • Challenge your need for certainty.
  • Learn to better tolerate, even embrace, the inevitable uncertainty of life.
  • Reduce your anxiety and stress levels.

Much about life is uncertain at the moment—and many things remain outside of your control. But while you can’t control the spread of a virus, the recovery of the economy, or whether you’ll have a pay check next week, you’re not totally powerless. Whatever your fears or personal circumstances, instead of worrying about the uncontrollable, try to refocus your mind on taking action over the aspects that are within your control.

For example, if you’ve lost your job or income during this difficult time, you still have control over how much energy you put into searching online for work, sending out resumes, or networking with your contacts . Similarly, if you’re worried about your health or a recent diagnosis, for example, you can still take action by lowering your stress levels, reaching out to loved ones for support, and managing your symptoms.

By focusing on the aspects of a problem that you can control in this way, you’ll switch from ineffective worrying and ruminating into active problem-solving. Of course, all circumstances are different and you may find that in some situations all you can control is your attitude and emotional response.

[Read: Coping with a Life-Threatening Illness or Serious Health Event]

Actively deal with your emotions

When circumstances are out of your control, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by fear and negative emotions. You may think that bottling up how you feel, trying to put on a brave face, or forcing yourself to be positive will provide the best outcome. But denying or suppressing your emotions will only increase stress and anxiety and make you more vulnerable to depression or burnout .

When you can do nothing else about a situation, you can still actively face up to your emotions —even the most negative and fearful ones. Allowing yourself to experience uncertainty in this way can help you reduce stress, better come to terms with your circumstances, and find a sense of peace as you deal with challenges.

While uncertainty and change are inescapable parts of life, we often adopt behaviors to try to cope with the discomfort they can bring. In addition to worrying through every possible scenario , you may:

Excessively seek reassurance from others . You repeatedly ask friends or loved ones if you’re making the right decision, endlessly research information online, or seek out expert advice in an effort to remove uncertainty from your life.

Micromanage people . You refuse to delegate tasks to others, either at work or home. You may even try to force people around you to change, to make their behavior more predictable for you.

Procrastinate . By not making decisions, you hope to avoid the uncertainty that inevitably follows. You’ll find ways to delay or postpone acting—or even avoid certain situations all together—in an attempt to prevent bad things from happening.

Repeatedly check things . You call or text your family, friends, or kids again and again to make sure they’re safe. You check and re-check emails, texts, or forms before sending, double-check lists to ensure you haven’t missed anything that could have repercussions on the predictability of the future.

How to challenge these behaviors

You can challenge the behaviors you’ve adopted to alleviate the discomfort of uncertainty by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are the advantages of certainty? What are the disadvantages? Life can change in a moment and it is filled with unexpected events and surprises—but that’s not always a bad thing. For every unpleasant surprise, such as a traffic accident or serious medical diagnosis , there are good things that happen out of the blue as well—a dream job offer, a surprise pay rise, or an unexpected phone call from an old friend. Opportunity often arises from the unexpected and having to face uncertainty in life can also help you learn to adapt, overcome challenges, and increase your resiliency . It can help you to grow as a person.
  • How much can you be absolutely certain about in life? Does anyone have a job for life, a guarantee of good health, or absolute certainty over what tomorrow will bring? Behaviors such as worrying, micromanaging, and procrastinating offer the illusion of having some control over a situation, but what do they change in reality? The truth is no matter how much you try to plan and prepare for every possible outcome, life will find a way of surprising you. All striving for certainty really does is fuel worry and anxiety.
  • Do you assume bad things will happen just because an outcome is uncertain? What is the likelihood they will? When you’re faced with uncertainty, it’s easy to overestimate the likelihood of something bad happening—and underestimate your ability to cope if it does. But given that the likelihood of something bad happening is low, even in these precarious times, is it possible to live with that small chance and focus instead on the more likely outcomes? Ask your friends and family how they cope with uncertainty in specific circumstances. Could you do the same?

By challenging your need for certainty, you can begin to let go of negative behaviors, reduce stress and worry, and free up time and energy for more practical purposes.

No matter how much you strive to eliminate doubt and volatility from your life, the truth is you already accept a lot of uncertainty every day. Each time you cross a street, get behind the wheel of a car, or eat takeout or restaurant food you’re accepting a level of uncertainty. You’re trusting that the traffic will stop, you won’t have an accident, and everything you’re eating is safe.

The chances of something bad happening in these circumstances is small, so you accept the risk and move on without requiring certainty. If you’re religious, you also likely accept some doubt and uncertainty as part of your faith.

When irrational fears and worries take hold, it can be hard to think logically and accurately weigh up the probability of something bad happening. To help you become more tolerant and accepting of uncertainty, the following steps can help:

Identify your uncertainty triggers . A lot of uncertainty tends to be self-generated, through excessive worrying or a pessimistic outlook, for example. However, some uncertainty can be generated by external sources, especially at times like this. Reading media stories that focus on worst-case scenarios, spending time on social media amid rumors and half-truths, or simply communicating with anxious friends can all fuel your own fears and uncertainties. That’s the reason why so many people start panic-buying when bad news breaks—they see others doing it and it feeds their own fears. By recognizing your triggers, you can take action to avoid or reduce your exposure to them.

Recognize when you feel the need for certainty . Notice when you start to feel anxious and fearful about a situation, begin to worry about what-ifs, or feel like a situation is far worse than it actually is. Look for the physical cues that you’re feeling anxious. You might notice the tension in your neck or shoulders, shortness of breath, the onset of a headache, or an empty feeling in your stomach. Take a moment to pause and recognize that you’re craving reassurance or a guarantee.

[Read: Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety Attacks]

Allow yourself to feel the uncertainty . Instead of engaging in futile efforts to gain control over the uncontrollable, let yourself experience the discomfort of uncertainty. Like all emotions, if you allow yourself to feel fear and uncertainty, they will eventually pass. Focus on the present moment and your breathing and allow yourself to simply feel and observe the uncertainty you’re experiencing. Take some slow, deep breaths or try a meditation to keep you anchored in the present.

Listen to HelpGuide’s Coping with Uncertainty meditation.

Let go . Respond to the what-ifs running through your head by acknowledging that you’re not a fortune teller; you don’t know what will happen. All you can do is let go and accept the uncertainty as part of life.

Shift your attention . Focus on solvable worries, taking action on those aspects of a problem that you can control, or simply go back to what you were doing. When your mind wanders back to worrying or the feelings of uncertainty return, refocus your mind on the present moment and your own breathing.

Accepting uncertainty doesn’t mean not having a plan

Accepting uncertainty doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan for some of life’s unforeseen circumstances. It’s always good to have some savings put by in case of unexpected expenses, keep a preparedness kit handy if you live in an area at risk for earthquakes or hurricanes, or have a plan if you or a loved one falls ill. But you can’t prepare for every possible scenario. Life is simply too random and unpredictable.

Uncertainty is often centered on worries about the future and all the bad things you can anticipate happening. It can leave you feeling hopeless and depressed about the days ahead, exaggerate the scope of the problems you face, and even paralyze you from taking action to overcome a problem.

One of the surest ways to avoid worrying about the future is to focus on the present. Instead of trying to predict what might happen, switch your attention to what’s happening right now. By being fully connected to the present, you can interrupt the negative assumptions and catastrophic predictions running through your mind.

You can learn to purposely focus your attention on the present through mindfulness . With regular practice, mindfulness can help change your preoccupation with future worries to a stronger appreciation of the present moment—as well as help calm your mind, ease stress, and boost your overall mood.

You can start a mindfulness practice by following an audio meditation or incorporating it into an exercise program, such as walking . Using mindfulness to stay focused on the present can take perseverance. Initially, you may find that your focus keeps wandering back to your future fears and worries—but keep at it. Each time you focus your attention back on the present, you’re strengthening a new mental habit that can help you break free of uncertainty.

Taking steps to reduce your overall stress and anxiety levels can help you interrupt the downward spiral of negative thoughts, find inner calm, and better cope with the uncertainty in your life.

Get moving . Exercise is a natural and effective stress-reliever and anti-anxiety treatment . Try adding a mindfulness element and focusing on how your body feels as you move. Pay attention to the sensation of your feet hitting the ground as you walk, run, or dance, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of the sun or wind on your skin.

Make time for relaxation . Choose a relaxation technique such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises and try to set aside time each day for regular practice.

Get plenty of sleep . Excessive worry and uncertainty can disturb your sleep—just as a lack of quality sleep can fuel anxiety and stress. Improving your daytime habits and taking time to relax and unwind before bed can help you to sleep better at night .

Eat a healthy diet . Eating healthy meals can help maintain your energy levels and prevent mood swings. Avoid sugary and processed foods and try to add more omega-3 fats—from salmon, walnuts, soybeans, and flaxseeds—to give your overall mood a boost.

More Information

  • Accepting Uncertainty - Part of a larger course on managing worry and anxiety. (Centre for Clinical Interventions)
  • 5 Steps to Living with Uncertainty During Coronavirus - Tips for coping with fear and uncertainty at this difficult time. (Psychology Today)
  • Grupe, D. W., & Nitschke, J. B. (2013). Uncertainty and Anticipation in Anxiety. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 14(7), 488–501. Link
  • Carleton, R. N., Mulvogue, M. K., Thibodeau, M. A., McCabe, R. E., Antony, M. M., & Asmundson, G. J. G. (2012). Increasingly certain about uncertainty: Intolerance of uncertainty across anxiety and depression. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 26(3), 468–479. Link
  • Grupe, D. W., & Nitschke, J. B. (2011). Uncertainty Is Associated with Biased Expectancies and Heightened Responses to Aversion. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 11(2), 413–424. Link
  • Aylett, E., Small, N., & Bower, P. (2018). Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in general practice – a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1), 559. Link

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October 13, 2015

The Power of Embracing Uncertainty

Author Jamie Holmes explains the value of not knowing

By Gareth Cook

Moments of confusion can be pretty memorable, and not in a good way. How is this thing supposed to work? What is the teacher’s point? Where am I, and how do I get to where I am going? But confusion is greatly underrated, argues the journalist Jamie Holmes in his new book, “ Nonsense .” Naturally, it is good to understand. Yet, Holmes writes, our discomfort with not knowing can lead us astray — to bad solutions, or to brilliant options never spotted. If we could learn to embrace uncertainty, we’d all be better off — and better prepared for modern life. Holmes answered questions from Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook .

Cook: How did you become interested in this unusual topic? Holmes: My childhood was full of jarring experiences—jarring in a good way—that felt at once bizarre, confusing, challenging, and enlightening. The social world of the south side of Chicago, where I started high school, was much more diverse than the one in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I finished high school. My father threw me into a German school in Berlin, with two weeks of language lessons, when I was eleven. I went to high school in Budapest for a bit when I was 15. I taught high school classes in Romania after college. So I think one puzzle that I’ve always found really intriguing is how someone’s worldview changes when it’s challenged by radically unusual experiences, and how difficult and rewarding those time periods can be. The psychologist Dean Simonton calls them “diversifying experiences.” So, in a sense, one major theme of the book—what happens when beliefs collide with unexpected or unclear situations—is very personal to me.

More directly, I was looking into the psychologist Roy Baumeister’s research on willpower, which got me interested, more broadly, in how the mind handles mental conflicts. That led to me to the work of psychologist Arie Kruglanksi, and in particular a book called “The Psychology of Closed Mindedness.” And I realized very quickly that here was this rich vein of research on ambiguity and uncertainty from a highly-respected researcher, published in top journals, that had received almost no popular attention simply because Kruglanski hadn’t gotten around to writing a popular book about it. He joked to me that now he wouldn’t have to.

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Cook: You write about our “need for closure.” Where does this come from, and why is it something that we should know about ourselves? Holmes: Our need for closure is our natural preference for definite answers over confusion and ambiguity. The need-for-closure scale was developed by Kruglanski in the early 1990s, although forerunners of the concept appeared after World War II as psychologists struggled to understand Nazism. Every person has their own baseline level of need for closure. (Curious readers can test theirs, by the way, at my website .) It likely evolved via natural selection. If we didn’t have some capacity to shut down thinking, we’d deliberate forever. There must be some mechanism pushing us toward resolution, Kruglanski saw. We have to eliminate ambiguity.  

What I find really fascinating is how our need for closure is affected by the situation we’re in. So, our need for closure rises when we have to act rather than just observe, and when we’re rushed, or bored, or tired. Any stress, really, can make our discomfort with ambiguity increase. And that matters, because a high need for closure negatively influences some of our most critical decisions: how we deal with perceived threats, who we decide to trust, whether we admit we’re wrong, whether we stereotype, and even how creative we are. So much of the book focuses on the dangers of a high need for closure, strategies for lowering it, and ways to learn from ambiguity rather than dismiss it.

Cook: Can you give a more specific example? What kind of strategies do you recommend? Holmes: In hiring, for instance, a high need for closure leads people to put far too much weight on their first impression. It’s called the urgency effect. In making any big decision, to counteract that, it’s not enough just to know that we should take our time. We all know that important decisions shouldn’t be rushed. The problem is that we don’t keep that advice in mind when it matters. In experiments, psychologists lower people’s need for closure by telling them, right before participants are about to make various judgments—of a job candidate, say—that they’ll have to defend their decisions later on, or that they’ll be accountable in some way for them, or that their judgments have serious consequences. So one strategy is to formalize these kinds of reminders. Before making important decisions, write down not just the pros and cons but what the consequences could be. Also, think about how much pressure you’re under. Are you tired or feeling rushed? If your need for closure is particularly high that day, it’s even more important to be deliberate.

Both fiction and multicultural experiences, maybe surprisingly, also help. Reading short stories, as opposed to essays, have been shown to reduce our need for closure, particularly for habitual readers. Because fiction, in a non-threatening way, invites us inside the heads of characters, the logic is, it makes us more open to thinking about other ideas, other places and other lives, and new possibilities. One fantastic experiment published in 2012 showed, similarly, that merely having subjects write about a time they’d lived abroad, or friends they’d met from different cultures, or diverse musical or culinary experiences, also lowered their need for closure. The same paper showed that similar interventions led to less discriminatory (simulated) hiring and a lower tendency to stereotype. Reading fiction, by the way, also makes us more empathetic. So, as a bonus, the things that lower our need for closure not only help us make better decisions in daily life. They also make us nicer.

Cook: Why is there so much interest in ambiguity now? Holmes: One area where there is more and more interest in ambiguity is among entrepreneurs and businesspeople, simply because the future in many business sectors is highly ambiguous. Earlier this year, Thomas Friedman had an op-ed about disorder in the business world where he highlighted just how disruptive the business models of Uber, Facebook, Alibaba, and Airbnb are. Uber is the biggest taxi company in the world, he pointed out, yet has no cars. Facebook doesn’t create media, Alibaba has no inventory, and Airbnb doesn’t own the real estate it uses. So the communication platforms we’re using are revolutionizing a range of industries. It’s not in the book, but businesspeople have an acronym, VUCA, or volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. It’s a VUCA world, and as the economist Noreena Hertz put it, one of today’s fundamental challenges is coping with disorder.

Gareth Cook is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who edits Scientific American 's Mind Matters online news column.

The Fear of Uncertainty Essay Example: Depicted in Literature

Imagine your heartbeat fastens though you don’t know why and you begin to feel fear.  Then grim reality hits you and you hear a sound approaching you step by step until it hits you can’t see or feel what’s there but you know it sees you. Uncertainty is a persuasive emotion that can overtake a person’s thoughts/emotions when not understanding why and turn them into fear affecting someone mentally, physically, and making scenarios seem worse than they are. 

‘House Taken Over’ 

Sometimes when someone doesn’t understand what’s occurring someone can take it out of proportion. In the story ‘House Taken Over’ by Julio Cortázar, it tells a story about two siblings, a boy and his sister ‘Irene’ who live alone in a mansion, and they later leave a side of the house due to the eruption of sounds heard by the brother. Later on, the boy hears the sound seem to get louder and approaches them by the second, and they finally decide to give in to the sound and abandon the whole home and walk away. “I took Irene around the wrist (I remember she was crying) and that was how we went into the street before we left I felt terrible; I locked the front door up tight and tossed the key and thought it wouldn’t do to have some poor devil decide to go in and rob the house and with the house taken over” (Cortázar 42).

The kids decided to leave the house as well as their belongings due to the uncertainty of having someone or something rooming around the house and approaching them step by step as the characters can only hear the muffled and footsteps of the unknown being. The thought of not being able to imagine what was in their home was too powerful for them to handle, they caved in and gave up everything to the darkness and decided to run away.

‘Where Is Here?’ 

Other times someone may be affected mentally by someone who they don’t know and their thoughts and how they interact with them. In ‘Where Is Here?’ By Joyce Carol Oates, it tells a story about a family on a normal day get a knock at the door which is not normal for them to receive and it's the original owner of the house who asked them if he could check the house out for old times sake, and they agree. Later on in the passage, they essentially learn everything about the original owner and his life in the house but the family wants him to leave and try to tell him to leave with looks and excuses, but he fails to notice until the father tells him the tour is over and kicks him out.

The father still mad hurts the wife by pulling his arm away from her which gives her a bruise, and she cries in the end due to feeling bad for the original owner. “Without seeming to know what he did the father violently jerked his arm and thrust her away” (Oates pg 76). The father let his anger caused by his lack of knowledge of the original owner get to him and cause him to change from his usual self and create thoughts of anger and hurt those close to him.

‘The Fall of the House of Usher’

Finally, a person can be affected physically which can cause them the most pain by causing them to become weak and physically/mentally sick. In ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ it tells a story about a narrator who received a message from a longtime friend who he hasn’t spoken to in a long while but decides to visit him and when he gets there he can tell that his friend Usher is both mentally/physically sick, and he tells the narrator that he knows his time is almost up. Later on in the story, the narrator learns more about his friend who tells him that he has a sister though she later dies, and they bury her into a tomb and lock her up and during the end, Usher tells the narrator he’s seen shadows move in his house almost like a person jumping around.

He explains to the narrator that he’s heard sounds from his supposedly dead sister's tomb for days who came back and ends up causing Usher to suffer from fear and dies from it afterward his home comes down and the narrator is the only one to survive. “I now tell you that I heard her first feeble movements in the hollow coffin. I heard them-many, many days ago-yet I dared not-I dared not speak!” (Poe pg 29). Usher let the thought of dying due to fear get to him which caused his body and health to deteriorate as well as cause his loved ones to suffer and become as sick as he became. He didn’t listen to his thoughts or common sense which caused his downfall from grace and led to his untimely death.

In conclusion, Uncertainty is multiple subjects such as thoughts, emotions, and feelings which can cause multiple reactions in anyone and everyone. It has the power to change people’s mentality and bodies from healthy to sick or sick to healthy. Uncertainty can cause the downfall of a person but some people have the power to take the uncertainty and change it to knowledge and grow as a person. In the end, fear doesn’t create uncertainty but uncertainty creates fear in people.

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Bloody Disgusting!

Facing Fear During Times of Uncertainty – Guest Essay by Filmmaker Mike Flanagan

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We are living in strange, scary days.

And I’m scared. I’m scared of what the COVID-19 pandemic is doing – and could yet do – to our world. To my country, my state, my city. My friends, my family, my parents. My wife. My kids. I’m scared of what could happen to people I know, and to people I don’t know. I’m alarmed by a lot of the information I am learning; I’m scared of how much we still don’t know.

I watch the news every day. I want to be as informed as possible. I read the online newspapers; I browse social media. Twitter is the only platform I still use; I quit Facebook and Instagram before this all started, and even Twitter is frankly a little more than I can handle sometimes. Sometimes I have to just hit stop on the whole thing, shut off the internet, turn off the news and stare at the clouds out the window. Sometimes it’s too much.

In those moments I look for various escapes, like so many of us do. When I’m overwhelmed, or when I’m bored, when I want to fall asleep, when I want to be transported someplace else, or sometimes just as a little reward for making it through a demanding day of childcare, I watch television. Movies. Read books. And in these strange, scary days, I find myself gravitating more and more toward… well, horror.

Right now I’m watching WAR OF THE WORLDS on EPIX, which is so far a particularly bleak, realistic take on the classic source material. I’ve watched Richard Stanley’s COLOR OUT OF SPACE twice now, twice choosing to experience a story about a family succumbing to a horrific contamination that literally dropped on them from the sky. My parents, themselves self-isolating a few miles away, are eagerly catching up on THE WALKING DEAD , itself a portrait of the violent struggles of those who have yet to succumb to a global pandemic that animates the dead.

And we aren’t alone. During this time of incredible anxiety, tragedy and uncertainty, people are signing up for SHUDDER – the fantastic streaming service exclusively featuring horror content – in record numbers. My Twitter feed is littered with people asking for horror movie recommendations. People have also flocked to watch Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film CONTAGION (which is absolutely a horror film, I would argue).

CONTAGION is a particularly interesting example to me; why are people flocking to a story that is basically just a slightly worse version of what they’re seeing on the evening news? It’s eerie how similar that film is to the reality we are inhabiting right now. Why seek that out?

All of this has gotten me once again thinking about the nature, benefits, and importance of the horror genre.

When I was a kid, I hated horror. Hated it. I was a very, very scared kid. When friends would put on scary movies, I would hide. I’d make excuses to skip sleepovers. If I was stuck somewhere where something scary was on television, I’d hide behind the couch. Or my fingers. I’d look away, a few feet to the right of the television, monitoring the screen peripherally while I waited for the scary moment to pass.

Horror films evoke big emotions. Primal emotions, at that. It is a genre that is designed to create a sense of dread in the viewer. Or a sense of shock. To trigger that ancient fight or flight response. To cause anxiety. To create stress. To hold our faces toward the dark, to dangle us over the abyss.

Why do we seek this out? Why do we “enjoy” these feelings in the context of our entertainment, while we view the same emotions as downright unbearable and unhealthy in our day to day lives?

As I found myself more and more frightened as a kid, I finally turned away from horror films in favor of horror literature. Specifically, I gravitated toward R.L. Stine, and then Christopher Pike, and then Stephen King (who would prove to be the most profound creative influence of my life).

Horror books would be easier to manage than horror films, I thought. After all, I could always close the book. And it would be more in my control, because instead of being forced to see things in a movie or on television, this would all exist in my imagination. That would be less frightening, I figured.

I was wrong about the second part but correct about the first part. Yes, I could close the book. But I found that doing so didn’t eliminate those feelings of anxiety, stress, dread, or fear… in fact, it made them worse. The experience was unfinished if I closed the book. The outcome of the moment was unknown. Unknown, it turns out, is the bedrock of what horror and fear are all about – and faced with the unknown, my imagination, which I thought would protect me and be gentler than reality somehow, turned out to be worse than what lay in store on the page, nearly every time.

“Just make it through this little bit,” I’d tell myself. “Just this scary part. Just make it through this.”

It would take me many years to realize just what I was doing as I consumed horror fiction in my youth. “Just this little bit” became “just this page.” That eventually became “just this chapter” and soon the story was over and I was back in the real world, which was already taking on that illusory sheen of being “safe” and “ordinary”… which is, frankly, the greatest trick the world ever pulled, isn’t it.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but horror was working on me in one of its most important and profound ways: it was making me braver. Just a little bit, just an inch at a time, but it was happening alright. It was teaching me how to be brave in short bursts, in controlled increments.

It was, I’d later realize, similar to physical exercise… but of exercise in courage. Exercise of character.

By high school I found myself drawn intensely toward the films that had terrified me in my childhood. All of those movies I’d skipped, all of those films whose covers were too scary for me in the video store, all of those titles that my friends had talked about for years – I was ravenously consuming them now. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET . THE THING . THE FLY . THE EXORCIST . NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD . Man, was this exciting. It was a whole new world for me, and I ran toward it with everything I had.

As the years went on, the genre had done its job so well that it became almost impossible to scare me. This genre that had so frightened me as a child, that had so traumatized me, was now completely woven into the fabric of my life. It actually began to define me. And today, I owe it everything… horror is my career. Horror is my livelihood.

I have built my entire life upon Horror.

Horror is universal. It is one of the first experiences that each and every human being on this planet will have, hardwired into us by 200,000 years of evolution. Among the very first powerful emotions any of us will have is a healthy fear of the dark. We learn that fear before we learn how to speak.

And here is a genre that is misunderstood, dismissed by some who do not realize what an amazing function it is performing. Horror allows us to explore that darkness – in ourselves, in our world, in anxiety, in possibility, the worst-case scenarios, the unthinkable, the impossible, the inevitable, the avoidable, the tragic, the nightmares within and without – and it allows us to explore them safely.

In exploring that imaginary darkness, in staring into a representation of those various abysses, it makes us just a little more prepared to stare into the real ones when they appear. It is exercise for the mind, catharsis in its most extreme, and a fascinating contradiction – in depicting violence, insanity, and evil, this genre encourages empathy, courage and understanding.

We put our trust in the genre as we engage with it. We invite it to put us through the wringer – we embrace the anxiety, dread, stress, and shock of it. We stand at the edge of the cliff. Our heart rate increases, our breath quickens and we swim in the dark waters of our most primal, powerful feelings… and then the lights come on, the credits roll, or the book closes and we are returned, safe and sound, back into the real world.

That, I think, is why we flock to horror in times like these. That is why I found myself watching CONTAGION – because it was a version of the horrors of real life right now, but with closing credits. With an ending. The genre gives us tiny little bursts of bravery, tiny morsels of courage that can accumulate over time to help us deal just a little better with the horrors of the real world… and it also gives us the most profound gift: an ending. A reprieve. A conclusion.

Because the world isn’t safe, or ordinary, is it. No, the world has teeth. The world is a hungry place; a dark place. And the world has its own brand of horror – what we put on screen, or in a book, is just a pale shadow of the real deal. In the same way that the little morsels of courage we find in the genre are pale imitations of the real deal.

REAL courage, real bravery, can be found in the eyes of the first responders. Of the doctors and nurses in our hospitals, right now, who literally stand at the edge of a very real cliff, reaching out to pull others to safety. They know real horror, and they know real courage.

I wonder where that strength comes from. I wonder, like many of us do, if I could ever find it, if put to a real test. I don’t know the answer. And that… scares me.

We live in a scary world, but we are capable of great courage. Great bravery in the face of the darkness. Whatever in our lives helps us develop those muscles, whatever gives us exercise in courage, empathy, and yes, kindness… I am grateful that those things exist. I am humbled to see their results, visible in our world every day.

And I’m glad to have found, in my own life, something that helps sew small moments of courage into the fabric of my life, however small those moments are in the grand scheme of things.

Because let’s face it – the nastiest, most terrifying, most vicious, most disturbing thing we could ever dream of in the horror genre doesn’t hold a candle to the horrors of the real world. The real world, as we are periodically reminded, is home to real horrors. Our shadow puppets are pathetic little imitations, it turns out.

I am amazed to be reminded to what extent the real world is home to real courage. To real bravery. And to real heroes. And anything that can move us just a millimeter toward their kind of courage, in the face of such horrors… well, that’s a fine thing.

Just make it through this little bit. Just make it through today. Just a little bit at a time.

I wish each of you health, safety and kindness in these strange, scary days.

And to those on the front lines – in hospitals, laboratories, supermarkets, nursing homes, delivery trucks, and so many other places – thank you for your lessons in true courage.

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‘heathers’ – 1980s satire is sharper than ever 35 years later.

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“ When I was just a little girl I asked my mother, what will I be? Will I be pretty? Will I be rich? Here’s what she said to me: Qué será, será. Whatever will be, will be ”

The opening of Michael Lehmann’s Heathers begins with a dreamy cover of a familiar song. Angelic voices ask a mother to predict the future only to be met with an infuriating response: “whatever will be, will be.” Her answer is most likely intended to present a life of limitless possibility, but as the introduction to a film devoid of competent parents, it feels like a noncommittal platitude. Heathers is filled with teenagers looking for guidance only to be let down by one adult after another. Gen Xers and elder millennials may have glamorized the outlandish fashion and creative slang while drooling over a smoking hot killer couple, but the violent film now packs an ominous punch. 35 years later , those who enjoyed Heathers in its original run may have more in common with the story’s parents than its teens. That’s right, Lehmann’s Heathers is now old enough to worry about its kids. 

Veronica Sawyer ( Winona Ryder ) is the newest member of Westerberg High’s most popular clique. Heather Chandler ( Kim Walker ), sits atop this extreme social hierarchy ruling her minions and classmates alike with callous cruelty and massive shoulder pads. When Veronica begins dating a mysterious new student nicknamed J.D. ( Christian Slater ), they bond over hatred for her horrendous “friends.” After a vicious fight, a prank designed to knock Heather off her high horse goes terribly wrong and the icy mean girl winds up dead on her bedroom floor. Veronica and J.D. frantically stage a suicide, unwittingly making Heather more popular than ever. But who will step in to fill her patent leather shoes? With an ill-conceived plan to reset the social order, has Veronica created an even more dangerous monster? 

Heathers debuted near the end of an era. John Hughes ruled ’80s teen cinema with instant classics like Sixteen Candles , The Breakfast Club , and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off while the Brat Pack dominated headlines with devil-may-care antics and sexy vibes. The decade also saw the rise of the slasher; a formulaic subgenre in which students are picked off one by one. Heathers combines these two trends in a biting satire that challenges the feel-good conclusions of Hughes and his ilk. Rather than a relatable loser who wins a date with the handsome jock or a loveable misfit who stands up to a soulless principal, Lehmann’s film exists in a world of extremes. The popular kids are vapid monsters, the geeks are barely human, the outcasts are psychopaths, and the adults are laughably incompetent. Veronica and a select few of her classmates feel like human beings, but the rest are outsized archetypes designed to push the teen comedy genre to its outer limits. 

fear of uncertainty essay

Mean girls have existed in fiction ever since Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters tried to steal her man, but modern iterations arguably date back to Rizzo (Stockard Channing, Grease ) and Chris Hargenson (Nancy Allen, Carrie ). It might destroy Heather Chandler to know that she isn’t the first, but this iconic mean girl may be the most extreme. She knows exactly what her classmates think of her and uses her power to make others suffer. She reminds Veronica, “They all want me as a friend or a fuck. I’m worshiped at Westerburg and I’m only a junior.” With an icy glare and barely concealed rage, she stomps the halls playing cruel pranks and demanding her friends submit to her will. We see a brief glimpse of humanity at a frat party when she’s coerced into a sexual act, but she immediately squanders this good will by promising to destroy Veronica at school on Monday. However, the film does not revolve around Heather’s redemption and it doesn’t revel in her ruination. Lehmann is more concerned with how Veronica uses her own popularity than the way she dispatches her best friend/enemy. In her book Unlikeable Female Characters: The Women Pop Culture Wants You to Hate , Anna Bogutskaya describes Heather Chandler as an evolution in female characterization and it’s refreshing to see a woman play such an unapologetic villain. 

Heather Chandler may die in the film’s first act, but her legacy can still be felt in both film and TV. Shannen Doherty would go on to specialize in catty characters both onscreen and off while Walker’s performance inspired the 2004 comedy Mean Girls (directed by Mark Waters, brother of Heathers screenwriter Daniel Waters). Early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawson’s Creek , Gossip Girl , and Pretty Little Liars all feature at least one glamorous bitch and mean girls can currently be seen battling on HBO’s Euphoria . Tina Fey’s Regina George (Rachel McAdams) sparked an important dialogue about female bullying and modern iterations add humanity to this contemptible character. With a rageful spit at her reflection in the mirror, Walker’s Heather hints at a deep well of pain beneath her unthinkable cruelty and we’ve been examining the motivations of her followers ever since.

But Heather Chandler is not the film’s major antagonist. While the blond junior roams the cafeteria insulting her classmates with an inane lunchtime poll, a true psychopath watches from the corner. J.D. lives with his construction magnate father and has spent his teenage years bouncing around from school to school. At first, Veronica is impressed with his frank morality and compassion for Heather’s victims, but this righteous altruism hides an inner darkness. The cafeteria scene ends with J.D. pulling a gun on two jocks and shooting them with blanks. This “prank” earns him a light suspension and a bad boy reputation, but it’s an uncomfortable precursor to our violent reality. He’s a prototypical school shooter obsessed with death, likely in response to his own traumatic past. 

fear of uncertainty essay

It’s impossible to talk about J.D. without mentioning the Columbine High School Massacre of 1999. Just over ten years later, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold would murder one teacher and twelve of their fellow classmates while failing to ignite a bomb that would decimate the building. Rumors swirled in the immediate aftermath about trench coat-wearing outcasts targeting popular students, but these theories have been largely disproven. However, uncomfortable parallels persist. Harris convinced a fellow student to join him in murder with tactics similar to the manipulation J.D. uses on Veronica. The cinematic character also fails in a plan to blow up the school and the stories of all three young men end in suicide. There is no evidence to suggest the Columbine killers were inspired by Slater’s performance but these similarities lend  an uncomfortable element of prophecy to an already dark film. 

In the past 35 years, we’ve become acutely aware of the adolescent potential for destruction. Unfortunately the adults of Heathers have their heads in the sand. We watch darkly humorous faculty meetings in which teachers discuss what they believe to be suicides and openly weigh the value of one student over the next. The only grownup who seems to care is Ms. Fleming ( Penelope Milford ) the guidance counselor and even she is woefully out of touch. Using dated hippie language, she stages an event where she pressures her students to hold hands and emote. Unfortunately she’s more interested in helping herself. Hoping to capitalize on her own empathy, she invites TV cameras to film her students grieving for their friends. She treats the decision to stay alive like she would the choice between colleges and asks Veronia about her own suspected suicide attempt with the same banality Heather brings to the lunchtime polls. This self-involved counselor is only interested in recording the answer, not actually connecting with the students she’s supposed to be guiding. 

fear of uncertainty essay

We also see a shocking lack of support from the film’s parents. J.D. and his father have fallen into a bizarre role-reversal with J.D. adopting the persona of a ’50s-era sitcom dad and his father that of an obedient son. Like Ms. Fleming’s performance, these practiced exchanges are meant to project the illusion of love while maintaining emotional distance between parent and child. Veronica’s own folks display similar detachment in vapid conversations repeated nearly word for word. They go through the motions of communication without actually saying anything of substance. When Veronica tries to talk about the deaths of her friends, her mother cuts her off with a cold, “you’ll live.” The next time Mrs. Sawyer ( Jennifer Rhodes ) sees her daughter, she’s hanging from the ceiling. Fortunately Veronica has staged this suicide to deceive J.D., but it’s only in perceived death that we see genuine empathy from her mother. 

Another parent is not so lucky. J.D. has concocted an elaborate scene to murder jocks Kurt ( Lance Fenton ) and Ram ( Patrick Labyorteaux ) in the guise of a joint suicide between clandestined lovers and the world now believes his ruse. At the crowded funeral, a grief-stricken father stands next to a coffin wailing, “I love my dead gay son” while J.D. wonders from the pews if he would have this same compassion if his son was alive. It’s a brutal moment of truth in an outlandish film. Perhaps better parenting could have prevented Kurt from becoming the kind of bully J.D. would target. We now have a better understanding about the emotional support teenagers need, but the students in Heathers have been thrown to the wolves.  

At the same funeral, Veronica sees a little girl crying in the front row. She not only witnesses the collateral damage she’s caused, but realizes that future generations are watching her behavior. She is showing young girls that social change is only possible through violence and others are copying this deadly trend. Despite the popular song Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It!) by Big Fun, two other students attempt to take their own lives. Her teen angst has a growing body count and murdering her bullies has only turned them into martyrs. 

fear of uncertainty essay

Heathers delivers a somewhat happy ending by black comedy standards. After watching J.D. blow himself up, Veronica saunters back into school with a newfound freedom. She confronts Heather Duke (Doherty), the school’s reigning mean girl queen, and takes the symbolic red scrunchie out of her hair. Veronica declares herself the new sheriff in town and immediately begins her rule by making a friend. She approaches a severely bullied student and makes a date to watch videos on the night of the prom, using her popularity to lift someone else up. She’s learned on her own that taking out one Heather opens the door for someone else to step into the vacuum. The only way to combat toxic cruelty is to normalize acts of generosity. Rather than destroying her enemies, she will lead the school with kindness.

Heathers concludes with another rendition of “Que Sera, Sera.” In a more modern cover, a soloist delivers an informal answer hinting at a brighter future. We still don’t know what the future holds, but we don’t have to adhere to the social hierarchy we’ve inherited. We each have the power to decide what “will be” if we’re brave enough to separate ourselves from the popular crowd. The generation who watched Heathers as children are now raising their own teens and kids. One can only hope we’ve learned the lessons of this sharp satire. The future’s not ours to see, but if we guide our children with honesty and compassion, maybe we’ll raise a generation of Veronicas instead. 

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How to Deal With the Fear of Failure

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

fear of uncertainty essay

Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in eating behaviors, stress management, and health behavior change.

fear of uncertainty essay

Verywell / Jiaqi Zhou

Characteristics of the Fear of Failure

  • Identifying

Causes of the Fear of Failure

Treatment for fear of failure, coping with fear of failure.

The fear of failure, also known as atychiphobia , is an irrational and persistent fear of failing. This fear can stem from a number of sources. Sometimes it might emerge in response to a specific situation. In other cases, it might be related to another mental health condition such as anxiety or depression .

The fear of failure may also be related to being a perfectionist . Because perfectionists have such high expectations for how they expect things to turn out, they may experience a nagging fear that they won't live up to those often unrealistically high standards.

This article discusses the signs of a fear of failure and what causes this fear. It also explores treatments that can help and how to prevent this fear from holding you back.

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A fear of failure can produce emotional and behavioral symptoms. Some of the common signs of this fear include:

  • Feeling a loss of control
  • Helplessness
  • Powerlessness

In addition to emotional and behavioral symptoms, people with a fear of failure may also experience physical symptoms including rapid heart rate, chest tightness, trembling, dizziness, lightheadedness, sweating, and digestive problems.

Identifying the Fear of Failure

The fear of failure may affect people in a variety of ways, which means that it's not always easy to identify. Some of the ways that people may experience the fear of failure include:

  • Believing that you don't have the skills or knowledge to achieve something
  • Feeling like you won't be able to achieve your goals
  • Procrastinating to the point that it affects your performance or ability to finish on time
  • Telling people that you will probably fail so that expectations remain low
  • Underestimating your own abilities to avoid feeling let down
  • Worrying that imperfections or shortcomings will make other people think less of you
  • Worrying that you will disappoint others if you fail

In some cases, the fear of failure may cause people to avoid trying altogether. Because they are so afraid that they will try and not succeed, they simply decide not to try at all in order to prevent potential pain, embarrassment, or disappointment.


While fear of failure is not listed as a distinct condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) , it is possible that you might be diagnosed with a specific phobia if your symptoms meet certain diagnostic criteria. In order to be diagnosed with a specific phobia, your symptoms must:

  • Involve excessive and unreasonable fear
  • Involve an immediate anxiety response
  • Be marked by avoidance or extreme distress 
  • Limit your ability to function normally
  • Last as least six months and not be due to another condition

A fear of failure can have a wide variety of causes. Some potential causes include:

Critical Upbringing

People who grow up in households that are highly critical or unsupportive may be more likely to experience a fear of failure. Because they felt that they could never live up to their family's expectations during childhood, they may continue to fear making mistakes as adults. 

Definitions of Failure

People often have different definitions of what failure means. For some people, it means not achieving something exactly as they planned. This can create a set of expectations that is very difficult to live up to.

Anxiety is also influenced by genetic factors. If members of your family also have anxiety conditions, you might be more likely to develop fears and anxieties yourself.


Fear of failure sometimes stems from perfectionism. When people have extremely high standards, it often seems like nothing lives up to their expectations. This includes their own performance and achievements. Because they fear not reaching the high standards they've set, they may experience an intense fear of failing.

People who experienced a difficult or even traumatic failure may also be very afraid of repeating that experience in the future.

Having a panic attack during a presentation or being ridiculed for your performance, for example, could contribute to feelings of fear. Negative consequences resulting from failure, such as losing a job or not getting into a college, can also be risk factors that contribute to the fear of failure.

While everyone may be afraid of failing from time to time, it becomes more serious when it inhibits your ability to pursue your goals and achieve the things you want to accomplish in life.

Impact of the Fear of Failure

A fear of failure can take a toll on a person’s belief in their abilities and their motivation to pursue their goals. 

  • Low self-esteem : People who fear failure may also engage in negative self-talk or have low self-confidence that makes it difficult to pursue goals. 
  • Poor motivation : When people fear failure, they may also experience a lack of motivation that makes it difficult to get started on projects and work toward goals. When something seems too challenging or involves learning new skills, people may simply give up or refuse to get involved.
  • Self-sabotage : It isn't uncommon for people who fear failure to engage in acts of self-handicapping that undermine their own chances of success. Research has found, for example, that students who fear failing often engage in self-handicapping behaviors that actually limit academic success and perpetuate failure.   
  • Shame : The fear of failure often stems from a fear of experiencing shame or embarrassment. Failing can trigger feelings worthlessness , so avoiding trying in the first place can sometimes serve as a way to protect the self from disappointment, regret, and sadness.

Treatment for the fear of failure depends on a variety of factors including how you experience this fear and the impact that it has on your life. In many cases, people can use self-help strategies to cope with these feelings. 

If your fear of failure is impeding your ability to function normally, it is important to talk to a professional. Treatment options for a fear of failure might include:


Psychotherapy can help you address the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that contribute to a fear of failure. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that helps people identify and change negative thought patterns that contribute to feelings of fear. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) may also be helpful.


Medications may be prescribed to help you manage feelings of anxiety or depression that might be linked to your fear. Selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant that are commonly prescribed to treat mood conditions and anxiety. Anti-anxiety medications, such as Xanax (alprazolam) and Ativan (lorazepam), may also be prescribed.

In many cases, a combination of these two treatment options with lifestyle changes may be the most effective

There are also a number of strategies that you can use to help reduce feelings of fear about failure. Some of these include:

Consider the Outcomes

Sometimes thinking about the worst possible outcome—and then coming up with a plan for how you’ll deal with it—can help reduce anxiety when you are pursuing your goals. 

Focus on the Things You Can Control

Instead of worrying about aspects of the situation that you have no power over, focus your energy on things that you can control. 

When you are facing a challenge that might trigger your fear of failing, work on developing alternative plans just in case your initial efforts don’t go as planned. Having a plan B (or plan C) can help you feel less anxious and more secure.

Redefine Failure

Changing how you think about failure may also help reduce your feelings of fear. Failure is part of life and can be an important opportunity to learn and acquire new skills.

It can certainly be disappointing, but it is important to maintain a healthy perspective toward the potential benefits of failing from time to time. Remember that success is often reached through a series of progressive failures that lead to new information, skills, and strategies.

Use Positive Thinking

Avoid negative self-talk that can undermine your confidence and create feelings of anxiety. Instead, work on thinking more like an optimist to keep your motivation high.

Visualization May Backfire

While visualization is often touted as a tool for success, research actually shows that this motivational strategy can backfire with people who have a high fear of failure. One study found that people with a strong fear of failing experienced strong negative moods after they engaged in an activity that involved visualizing success.

A Word From Verywell

The fear of failure is something that everyone experiences from time to time, but this can become much more problematic when such feelings become persistent. Practice self-compassion and work on taking small steps toward building your confidence and managing your fears.

American Psychiatric Association.  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , 5th ed . Washington, DC; 2013.

Meier SM, Deckert J. Genetics of anxiety disorders . Curr Psychiatry Rep . 2019;21(3):16. doi:10.1007/s11920-019-1002-7

Kelly JD 4th. Your best life: Perfectionism--the bane of happiness . Clin Orthop Relat Res . 2015;473(10):3108-11. doi:10.1007/s11999-015-4279-9

Bartels JM, Herman WE.  Fear of failure, self-handicapping, and negative emotions in response to failure ; 2011.

Hjeltnes A, Binder PE, Moltu C, Dundas I. Facing the fear of failure: An explorative qualitative study of client experiences in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program for university students with academic evaluation anxiety . Int J Qual Stud Health Well-being . 2015;10:27990. doi:10.3402/qhw.v10.27990

Langens TA. Tantalizing fantasies: positive imagery induces negative mood in individuals high in fear of failure . Imagination, Cognition and Personality . 2002;21(4):281-292. doi:10.2190/HGH6-3RM6-2VCG-YCQH

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

The Sentinel Effect: Orchestrating Social Harmony through Deterrence Dynamics

This essay about the efficacy of general deterrence explores its role as a guardian against societal disorder. It examines how fear of punishment influences human behavior and societal norms, encompassing both criminal justice and regulatory compliance. While emphasizing the importance of a balanced approach to deterrence, it acknowledges critiques regarding its potential for inequity and diminishing returns over time. Ultimately, it advocates for a nuanced understanding of deterrence dynamics, emphasizing the cultivation of a culture of compliance and responsibility for a safer and more just society.

How it works

In the intricate tapestry of societal governance, the concept of deterrence stands as a sentinel, guarding against the encroachment of lawlessness and disorder. This guardian, known as general deterrence, wields the formidable power of fear, instilling in the hearts of individuals a cautious reverence for the consequences of transgression. Yet, like any vigilant custodian, its effectiveness is as complex as the myriad threads of human behavior and societal structure it seeks to influence.

At its essence, the theory of general deterrence operates on the principle of preemptive restraint, wherein the specter of punishment serves as a potent deterrent against prospective wrongdoing.

This principle finds expression not only within the corridors of criminal justice but also in the vast expanse of public policy and regulatory compliance. It is a symphony of fear and consequence, harmonized to dissuade individuals from straying beyond the boundaries of societal norms.

Central to the efficacy of general deterrence is the delicate balance between the severity and certainty of punishment. Like the scales of justice, this equilibrium weighs heavily upon the minds of potential offenders, influencing their calculus of risk and reward. Empirical studies illuminate the nuanced interplay between perceived risk and behavioral choices, underscoring the importance of credible threats of punishment in shaping societal conduct.

However, the canvas of deterrence is not devoid of shadows. Critics raise poignant concerns regarding its unintended consequences, particularly within the realm of criminal justice. The specter of racial and socioeconomic disparities looms large, casting doubt upon the equitable application of deterrence-based policies. Moreover, the phenomenon of diminishing returns threatens to erode the efficacy of deterrence over time, as individuals acclimate to the perceived inevitability of punishment or seek alternative avenues for illicit gain.

Beyond the confines of punitive measures, the ethos of deterrence finds expression in the domain of regulatory compliance. Government agencies, akin to vigilant sentinels, wield the cudgel of penalties to enforce adherence to laws and regulations. Yet, the efficacy of this regulatory deterrence is contingent upon a delicate dance between coercion and cooperation, as stakeholders navigate the labyrinthine landscape of compliance and accountability.

Amidst the cacophony of voices, one resounding truth emerges: the efficacy of deterrence lies not solely in the severity of punishment but in the cultivation of a culture of compliance and responsibility. It is a journey towards social harmony, where fear of consequence is tempered by opportunities for redemption and rehabilitation. As societies evolve, so too must our approach to deterrence, embracing the nuances of human behavior and the imperatives of justice.

In the grand tapestry of human endeavor, the sentinel effect of deterrence stands as a testament to our collective aspirations for a safer and more just world. It is a beacon of hope amidst the tumult of uncertainty, guiding us towards a future where the threat of punishment is tempered by the promise of redemption. Let us, therefore, embark upon this journey with humility and resolve, mindful of the challenges that lie ahead and steadfast in our commitment to a more equitable and compassionate society.


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The Sentinel Effect: Orchestrating Social Harmony through Deterrence Dynamics. (2024, May 12). Retrieved from

"The Sentinel Effect: Orchestrating Social Harmony through Deterrence Dynamics." , 12 May 2024, (2024). The Sentinel Effect: Orchestrating Social Harmony through Deterrence Dynamics . [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 12 May. 2024]

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"The Sentinel Effect: Orchestrating Social Harmony through Deterrence Dynamics," , 12-May-2024. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 12-May-2024] (2024). The Sentinel Effect: Orchestrating Social Harmony through Deterrence Dynamics . [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 12-May-2024]

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fear of uncertainty essay

Grade 9 essay on bravery in Macbeth

fear of uncertainty essay

Here’s a grade 9 essay on the theme of bravery in which I argue bravery is associated with loyalty and cowardice disloyalty.

It includes some useful historical context which you can weave into your essays.

If you are sitting the AQA English Literature paper tomorrow, good luck.

I hope this essay proves helpful.

Macbeth (2015) | MUBI

Bravery and fear in Macbeth

Bravery and its antithesis, cowardice, are key themes in the play. Shakespeare portrays Macbeth at first as a brave and loyal warrior, but then as a coward. Macbeth murders his king in the manner of a coward as a result of his hamartia, which is his ‘vaulting ambition’. Although at first, Macbeth’s conscience naturally prevents him from committing regicide, Lady Macbeth is able to manipulate her husband through falsely suggesting it is only a lack of courage which prevents him from fulfilling his destiny of kingship as the witches foretell. Further, Shakespeare subtly associates bravery with loyalty and cowardice with disloyalty. And whereas bravery leads to honour and success, cowardice and treachery, although they may lead to power in the short term, ultimately, lead to ruin. Namely they lead to the ruin of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth who both suffer from the tragic flaw of ambition.

Our first introduction of Macbeth comes through one of Duncan’s captains recounting his heroic and brave deeds on the field of battle. In this exchange between Duncan, his son, Malcolom, and the Captain, the association between bravery and loyalty is firmly established. Malcolm addresses the Captain as ‘brave friend’, and the Captain likewise bestows the epithet of ‘brave’ on Macbeth, ‘But all’s too weak:/ For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name)’. These are men who have fought for their king and won him victory, so they are presented as loyal and valiant. Macbeth is ‘Valour’s minion’. Valour is personified or presented as a deity and Macbeth is Valour's favourite. Further, no words (‘But all’s too weak’) can capture how courageous he is on the battlefield. The recount of Macbeth’s heroic deeds before the introduction of Macbeth and the bombast used to capture Macbeth’s impressive feats on the battlefield unseaming and then decapitating the ‘merciless Macdonald’ depict Macbeth as a brave warrior of legendary renown. Shakespeare through personification of Valour, hyperbole and bombast firmly establishes Macbeth as brave. This presentation then makes Macbeth’s murder of Duncan and his downfall all the more dramatic. Macbeth’s character arc takes him from the most loyal and brave of all the king’s soldiers to the most villainous traitor and a ‘butcher’: a cruel, murderous tyrant. 

When the witches then prophesize Macbeth will become king, it is ironic that his mind goes to contemplating the murder of Duncan. Because while it may be implied, ultimately the Weird Sisters words are equivocal. They do not advise Macbeth to murder Duncan or even suggest that is the natural progression or course to secure kingship. It appears the notion of murdering Duncan leaps to Macbeth’s mind after the Third Witch cries ‘All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter’, because Banquo asks ‘Good sir, why do you start and seem to fear/ Things that do sound so fair?’ Banquo's words imply Macbeth’s facial expression is anguished, and he does not understand why, which suggests the notion of murdering Duncan does not come to his mind and neither does he suspect Macbeth thinks of murdering Duncan.

However, it is evident in Macbeth’s aside later in which Shakespeare provides us access into Macbeth’s private thoughts that the ‘horrid image’ is the murder of Duncan. This brings Macbeth’s loyalty immediately into doubt, especially as he keeps these thoughts hidden. Macbeth’s own thoughts and ruminations directly contradict the public presentation of him as loyal. And although Macbeth is horrified by his own thoughts as his ‘seated heart knocks at [his] ribs’, Shakespeare foreshadows how Macbeth’s ambition may prove too strong: his loyalty and conscience will be defeated by his ‘vaulting ambition’. Shakespeare also suggests that while one can typically trust a valiant kinsman who proves their worth on the battlefield, it is not always the case that those who show ‘valour’ will be loyal. 

Shakespeare also foreshadows Macbeth will kill Duncan and become a traitor through his structuring of the play: we see Macbeth immediately replace the Thane of Cawdor after the witches' prophecies, and his betrayal is further hinted at through Duncan’s lament. Duncan laments that you cannot trust someone by their appearance. The Thane of Cawdor was ‘a gentleman whom [he] built an absolute trust’ he says, and this lament, in light of Macbeth’s aside previously, hints that Macbeth will also ironically betray Duncan. Duncan once more will suffer from his own trusting nature. 

Shakespeare presents Macbeth as worthy to succeed The Thane of Cawdor for his valour on the battlefield, but perhaps inwardly undeserving for his evil ruminations which he fails to suppress and then later shares in a letter with Lady Macbeth. Macbeth’s private thoughts are inconsistent with his public image. As Shakespeare wrote Macbeth after the gunpowder plot, an assassination attempt on King James I, Shakespeare is perhaps suggesting to the king and the public at large that they should be wary of judging people at face value. Shakespeare lived in a time that was rife with treason with discontent Catholics eager to supplant James with a Catholic monarch, returning England to Catholicism. King James I like Duncan must be careful with whom he builds trust. 

Indeed Macbeth is a play which can be read as an allegorical story in which regicide disrupts the natural order of being and leads to ruin. When Macbeth later tries to embolden himself to murder Duncan, his conscience prevents him from going through with the evil ‘deed’. While it might be tempting to interpret Macbeth as lacking courage as Lady Macbeth suggests, it is not a lack of courage but his sense of loyalty and his conscience which prevent him from regicide. Macbeth in his own private ruminations notes Duncan arrives at his castle in ‘double trust’, as his ‘kinsman’ and ‘host’. And that he should protect Duncan, ‘not bear the knife [himself]’. Macbeth’s soliloquy makes it clear that Macbeth is aware that his actions are doubly treacherous. As he plans to murder Duncan in his sleep, in which he should feel safe under Macbeth’s protection, in the castle he has bestowed upon Macbeth, Macbeth’s murder is not just evil but also the way of a coward. 

This is why in the next scene in response to Lady Macbeth’s accusation that he is afraid to be the same in action as he is in desire he replies tersely, ‘I dare do all that may become a man/ he who dares do more is none’. The implication in Macbeth’s reply is clear: it is not manly to kill a man while they sleep–let alone one’s own king. To kill Duncan in his sleep requires some courage of will, but it is not the bravery or the valour which defines Macbeth in the opening. It is instead an act of cowardice which would make him less of a man or not a man anyone would respect. It is brave to grapple and kill on the battlefield, but it is cowardice to murder someone who is unguarded in ‘double trust’ while they are asleep.

After Macbeth murders Duncan in his sleep, he then ironically suffers from sleeplessness. And the motif of sleeplessness reminds us that a guilty conscience is one which cannot rest or sleep easily. Shakespeare signposts clearly the spiritual and psychological consequences of regicide. Spiritually Macbeth is damned to hell as he hints when he feels he can not utter the word ‘amen’ after murdering Duncan. Psychologically his mind is ‘full of scorpions’, a metaphor suggesting he is constantly fearful and paranoid. And his conscience won't let him sleep. This is foreshadowed shortly after murdering Duncan when he hallucinates a voice crying, ‘Sleep no more. Macbeth has murdered sleep.’ It is reasonable to assume a lack of sleep then exacerbates Macbeth’s paranoia and causes him to become more and more villainous.

We later see Lady Macbeth afflicted with a fretful waking hallucination and glimpse into her tortured dreams. She too is punished for her treachery and cowardice through her fretful sleep. There is further irony also in the scene with Lady Macbeth’s hallucination because she cannot wash a spot (blood) clean from her hands. ‘Out, damned spot!’ she cries. It is implied that in this moment Lady Macbeth is reimagining the blood on her hands from murdering Duncan, and her frenzied cries remind us of Macbeth’s lament and hyperbolic cry ‘Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?’ The subtext in the scene observing Lady Macbeth’s night terror is that she was naive to suggest to Macbeth ‘A little water clears us of this deed’. It won’t. The guilt produced by this act of cowardice will torture the mind with waking hallucinations.

Shakespeare makes a clear distinction between the bravery needed to hack one’s enemy to pieces on the battlefield, and the barbarism of slaying one’s own kinsman. While Macbeth appears to feel no remorse for the murder of his enemies such as the ‘merciless Macdonald’ whom he kills savagely, he is utterly racked with guilt and haunted by murdering his king. Whereas his savagery on the battlefield received plaudits and titles, the murder of Duncan brandishes Macbeth as an evil traitor. A traitor for committing an act so abhorrent that it can only be hinted at through the innuendo of ‘deed’. Eventually Macbeth dies a traitor and becomes a foil to Macduff and ironically Macduff slaying Macbeth mirrors Macbeth slaying Macdonald. The play starts and ends with a loyal and brave warrior defeating a disloyal and villainous warrior.

Further, Shakespeare suggests the great chain of being is restored: Malcolm, Duncan’s rightful heir to the throne according to the principle of primogeniture, the established form of succession in the Jacobean era, succeeds Macbeth. Once again, a king who has the divine right to rule sits on the throne and it is suggested he will restore harmony to Scotland. This would have appeased King James, Shakespeare’s patron, who was both king of Scotland and England, who wanted to rule without conflict. Malcolm who appears far more temperate and peaceful, certainly more than the ‘butcher’ Macbeth, and more akin to King James, inherits the throne. And this would have sat well with King James, the play ending with a traitor and a coward laid low, and a rightful heir taking the crown.

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It’s Weird Times to Be a Happy Mother

Some reasons why i’ll rarely admit this in public..

I recently published a book about caregiving that is, in part, a rigorously researched explanation of why I love motherhood, despite living in a country that gives parents so little support. One might imagine that constructing and then promoting my arguments as to why caring for others can be meaningful and emotionally enriching, even when it’s challenging, may have led me to feel comfortable saying I like being a mom in casual social settings. It hasn’t. When I am with friends or acquaintances, or connecting with others online, the admission gets stuck in my throat, where it remains with all the other things that are better left unsaid.

It’s a feeling that traces all the way back to the time when my first son was born. I became a mom in 2012, which I unscientifically suspect was right around the time negative messages about motherhood became more common than positive ones. Or at least it certainly felt like this, in the liberal, largely coastal circles I inhabited online and in real life. To voice any delight about my relationship with my son felt a mix of tone-deaf, out of style, and potentially alienating to others.

Over a decade into motherhood, I now see that there are concentric circles to my hesitation to voice positive feelings, layers of potential relational, political, and personal harm I would fear I would unleash if I came clean. I worry about making others who struggle with motherhood feel bad; I worry about undermining the fight to get mothers and other caregivers more systemic support; I worry about turning back the clock on feminism; and I worry about outing myself as sentimental, and therefore intellectually unserious and uncool. Making it all the harder is that this fear doesn’t feel like a product of my tendency to second-guess things, but rather pretty realistic.

When You Care: The Unexpected Magic of Caring for Others

By Elissa Straus. Simon & Schuster.

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The relational piece is the most immediate. When a close friend admits to me that she is struggling with motherhood, the feeling tends to come coated with a heavy dose of physical and emotional exhaustion, shame, maybe even regret. For so long, motherhood was locked up in easy metaphors of goodliness and saintliness. To deviate from this one-note portrayal and refuse to meet unrealistic expectations, to not want to be endlessly giving and enthusiastic about it, was, in this formula, to be a bad person. Ambivalence about either one’s children, or about how motherhood changes the way one can experience the world, was not seen as a healthy part of a huge life undertaking, but a sign that one was not dedicated enough. Even though we have let go of these simplified and unrealistic definitions of a “good mom,” particularly in online discourse, those old-fashioned notions can still get under the skin for those having a hard time. To be in that state, and to hear that I am loving motherhood—a matter of personal disposition as much as it is luck in having children with milder temperaments—might, very understandably, only make things worse.

On a more public level, I fear that me, or anyone, saying I like motherhood, even though it can be tough, has the potential to undermine political efforts to get necessary and overdue support for parents from the government and workplaces. In our current system, moms are suffering because they are moms, which makes managing a job or affording a (not terribly indulgent!) life pretty difficult. For those in the laptop class, they may have scheduling flexibility at work, but that tends to come with an expectation to always be available. Or, for those who work onsite, there is often little flexibility and, too often, very little advance notice of weekly schedules, giving moms a tight 24 hours to figure out caregiving support for the week. We lack universal paid leave, we lack universal and affordable child care and elder care—a one-two punch for all those sandwich-generation parents out there. To say you are having a good time can feel like you are dismissing all the unnecessary suffering that moms experience in the United States because of a lack of societal support. Inversely, to complain about being emotionally spent has become a message of solidarity, a protest chant against everything that makes life so impossible for moms.

Cutting deeper than the threat to pro-mom activism is the threat to feminism. So much of late-20 th -century feminism—though, as I learned when researching my book, mostly white feminism—was about allowing women to have other identities outside of motherhood. To insist on motherhood as a path to meaning, purpose, let alone joy, can feel like I am doing the bidding of conservative forces in our culture, who don’t just advocate for embracing motherhood, but a return to a patriarchal domestic structure in which Dad is on top. What I’d like to do is see what embracing care could look like outside the patriarchy, to look inside the homes women like Betty Friedan encouraged us to escape, and see what is worth appreciating there. With the erosion of reproductive rights and the new popularity of tradwives on social media, pointing out all that is worth celebrating in motherhood can feel dangerous, for people with my politics. And yet, if we don’t do it, what vision of feminism are we promoting for the next generation? Another one in which care is sidelined, marginalized—left to underpaid working-class women, mostly women of color, while wealthier, mostly white women leave the home and do the big, important stuff? I don’t want that either—and yet, still, how to express this?

This disquiet lingers even in solitude, particularly when I am reading smart writing by a smart woman in which motherhood is presented as something that limits or subtracts. It’s not that I have a problem with them feeling that way, or writing about it. I don’t expect anyone to feel the same as I do about this relationship or any of my other relationships, including my relationship with my parents or my husband. The problem isn’t that I feel unseen, so much as I often detect an unspoken assessment that intelligence and motherhood are incompatible. Or, as is the case in many fictional portraits of maternal ambivalence, a feeling that being honest about one’s desires and seeking them out can’t happen in the context of caring for one’s kids. To like motherhood makes me dumb and repressed, I temporarily conclude, cheeks on fire even though nobody is watching.

Because, even when I believe loving motherhood makes me tragically unhip, or when I hesitate to discuss my experience with it with others, my affection for it never wavers. This is the point in the essay when I tell you why. I, like so many women, went into motherhood with a defensive posture. I had no ambivalence about becoming a mom, and am fortunate enough to have a pretty easy time connecting with my children. My big fear was not exactly the act of parenting itself, but how becoming a parent would stop me from living an otherwise interesting and meaningful life.

As it happened, my relationship with my kids has been as philosophically, spiritually, or intellectually vital as anything else I’ve done, leading to the kind of realizations we’ve long wanted to seek elsewhere, away from the home, away from the family. Through them, I’ve cultivated a healthy relationship with uncertainty, with attention, with  feeling closer to the source of life, whatever it is, with all its wonder and fragility—all moments of revelation that came by way of a mix of stress, rupture, wholeness, and ease. If I had let motherhood stay small, confined to the sidelines, then those stressful moments would have felt like forces holding me back on my way to an interesting and meaningful life. But by letting motherhood become big, those challenges—and yes, my kids annoy me sometimes, and yes, I appreciate working and other time I spend away from them—became part of a larger narrative arc.

I really do want to be able to say all this in the company of others—and not just in writing but during unscripted, person-to-person exchanges. While I am so glad moms feel liberated to talk about the hard parts of parenting, I worry that only talking about the hard parts make it so the experience of taking care of our children is kept small, devalued, something not worthy of our curiosity, nor our collective investment. I often long for a whole new language, a whole new vocabulary and even context for discussing motherhood, but I haven’t figured it out yet. Whereas once, we diminished motherhood by easy praise, we now often diminish it with easy complaint. Is there a way to think more expansively and holistically in our conversations about motherhood? To be open to the ways in which the good and the bad are not oppositional, but essential, inevitable parts of a rich, friction-filled experience we may not always like but can love and grow from? I’m still working on it.

comscore beacon

How I Learned to Love My Granddaughter Without Fear

fear of uncertainty essay

T he phone call from my daughter in North Carolina came at six o’clock in the morning, unusually early for her. “I’m pregnant,” Maggie announced, her voice bubbling with delight.

From 1,600 miles away I put down my mug of smoky dark-roast coffee and gave a shout. Her news was the last thing I would have expected as I sat in my rented house in Albuquerque, watching roadrunners skitter over the xeriscaping in the front yard, stabbing at the dried mealworms I’d just put out for them. 

Maggie and her husband, Jimmy, together for 11 years and married for eight, had been on the fence about having children. Four years into their marriage, they decided to try for a baby. But after years passed, they both assumed and then accepted it wasn’t going to happen.

Read More: What My Family Taught Me About Loneliness

I’d looked on with a mixture of curiosity and a small bit of envy as friends welcomed one grandchild after another. My oldest son, Liam, in his early 40s, was at the time unattached. I’d resigned myself to the possibility of never knowing that particular brand of joy, although I also couldn’t imagine what it would be like to actually be someone’s grandmother.

And yet, here I was, trying to wrap my head around the idea. I walked through the house, my brindle Boxer dogging my footsteps as I did a quick inventory of room after room. In the next couple of days, I began packing up my belongings and arranging for housing with dear friends back home. 

During one of our phone calls, my daughter had asked, “What do you want your grandmother name to be?”

“I have absolutely no idea,” I confessed. 

Meanwhile, I worked to tamp down a rising anxiety. My second child, Cooper, had been born 40 years ago with a heart defect. When he was 4 days old, he had closed-heart surgery to repair a coarctation of the aorta. What we didn’t know — what no one could have known then, with limited ability to see inside an infant’s heart — was there were other, more deadly defects hidden within, two holes in the wall separating the atria. When he was 6 weeks old, he died quietly at home in my arms as I held and rocked him, unaware he was slipping away from me.

Read More: I Got Divorced. But My Family Is Still Whole

When Cooper died, Liam was 2 1/2. To say I became an overly anxious mother would be an understatement. I monitored every bump and bruise, each sniffle and fever. Nightmares of childhood cancer and other life-threatening illnesses pushed their way into everyday activities. After all, I now knew that the worst was possible. 

Then I became pregnant again. After Maggie was born, I slept with her on my stomach most nights, and when she finally transitioned to a crib, I’d go into her room in the morning, half-expecting to find she’d died.

The grip on my heart gradually released, though, as my healthy children grew into their wonderful selves with nothing more than the usual list of childhood maladies and injuries. And now here was my baby having a baby. My emotions roiled with wonder and excitement, but all of it was overshadowed by a deep, resonating dread.

My daughter sent me the first ultrasound photos of “Little Bean,” a nickname they’d given in the earliest days when a pregnancy app indicated the developing clump of cells was the size of a vanilla bean.

I peered at the mottled, blurry image of my grandchild at 8 weeks gestation. “What am I seeing?” I asked.

“Here,” she texted and sent a second photo, this one with a red arrow pointing to a small darkish blob with a hazy dot in it like a dandelion tuft. “The brighter spot is the heart,” she wrote.

fear of uncertainty essay

I peered at the picture, trying to imagine the fuzzy image as a beating heart. Something in me broke open, then just as quickly slammed shut. 

Some years before, during my tenure at the domestic-violence and rape crisis agency, a co-worker had asked if I’d mind holding her newborn while she attended a short meeting. I happily took her baby boy in my arms, cooing and grinning at him, and brought him into my office. Sinking into the chair, the first thing I did was check to make sure he was breathing, as easily as one might check to make sure his socks were still on. Hot tears of sorrow and anger spilled down my cheeks at my automatic reaction to holding an infant. 

This is how trauma lives in the body, tentacled through our sense memory. So much of the terrible night my son died remains a blur. What I have recalled all too well is the cold stillness, the weight of his tiny form, and the shock of him being so utterly gone.

Little Bean turned out to be a girl and with the given name June. All ultrasounds and other tests revealed her to be developing as she should. But I couldn’t shake the sense of dread.

“So much could go wrong,” I worried aloud to a friend.

“And so much could go right,” was her loving response.

Read More: We Didn't Have Much Money. My Daughter Still Deserved Joy

Maggie was induced early one morning, and labor progressed slowly over the course of the day. At 9:37 that night I witnessed the moment my daughter pushed her baby girl into the world, a 7 ½-lb. miracle with downy dark hair and an adorable button nose. My son-in-law said I should do the honors — the obstetrician handed me the scissors, and I cut the cord, severing June from the warm, liquid world of her mother’s womb, and officially welcoming her Earthside.

But after her first breath, the newborn cry, that plaintive, sharp wail all parents wait for, didn’t come. The nurses took June from my daughter’s arms and continued to rub and stimulate her as she blinked in the glare of the bright room, but her blood oxygen levels remained concerningly low.

“We’re going to take her to the nursery,” one of the nurses said. My son-in-law followed. My daughter, unable to leave the bed because of the epidural, looked at me from across the room.

A chest X-ray confirmed a suspected pneumothorax, a condition in which air leaks into the space between the lung and the chest. Because we live in a small town with a small hospital, June would need to be transported to an NICU an hour and a half away. Watching my daughter and son-in-law say a tearful goodbye to their newborn was one of the most wrenching scenes I’ve ever witnessed. The next morning my daughter was discharged, and I drove her to see her baby girl at the hospital where my son-in-law already was.

The neonatal specialist assured them that the small hole in her lung would likely heal on its own, and three days later they brought June home. “Just forget this happened,” the doctor said. All signs pointed to complete health.

But I was in a tailspin that I couldn’t seem to pull out of. 

Those first weeks I’d come to their house on Friday, taking charge of June at midnight after my daughter nursed her, and giving her the 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. bottles, watching her mouth as she suckled, stroking her soft skin. Did I feel like her grandmother? I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to feel. Friends had described a dizzying happiness at being “in the best club ever.”

What I felt too much of was terror, deathly afraid of the small bundle I held, continually monitoring her rosebud lips for signs of a bluish tint, watching to make sure her chest was rising and falling, panicking when it seemed too long between breaths. The urge to tumble helplessly in love with my granddaughter was in full battle with the freshly resurfaced memories of the night my son died. I kept my fears to myself, not wanting to foist my unease on my already traumatized daughter and son-in-law, who were struggling to return to the normalcy of welcoming this new baby into their lives after her scary start. 

One afternoon, talking on the phone with a friend while driving in town, I heard myself say, “The doctors assured them the hole in her heart would heal.” There was a stunned silence as I realized what I’d said. “I mean her lung,” I said and hung up, pulling into a grocery-store parking lot where I sat with my face in my hands, weeping. In that moment, I knew I had a choice — release the dark grief or risk missing one of the most light-filled times of my life. 

“That was that baby,” I told myself. “This baby doesn’t have any holes in her heart. This baby is fine.” I offered myself a mantra to try. “That was then, this is now.” Whenever the old trepidation would rise, I’d repeat the words, reminding myself of the distance in years and reality between the death of my son and the life of this sweet, healthy baby girl. Gradually, my heart unwound.

One afternoon, while my daughter napped in the next room, I snuggled little June close and rocked her. I leaned down to listen to the sound of her quiet breathing, this time not from fear but wonder. She looked up at me with deep blue eyes rimmed with dark lashes and stared as if memorizing my face. Unable to look away, I let her hold me in the power of her wide-open gaze.

“The brighter spot is the heart,” my daughter had written to me all those months ago, and now baby June and I sat basking in the light of a love big enough to hold it all — yesterday’s grief, today’s joy, and all the beautiful and uncertain tomorrows. 

Outside, a soft breeze blew, and a shard of sunlight shot through the trees. I kissed my granddaughter’s forehead and began to sing.

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Guest Essay

How Iran and Israel Are Unnatural Adversaries

People hold up a photograph of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

By Karim Sadjadpour

Mr. Sadjadpour is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“History is littered,” the British writer and politician Enoch Powell said, “with the wars which everybody knew would never happen.”

A full-blown conflict between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Israel once seemed implausible. But last month, the long-running shadow war between the two nations burst into the open in a series of unprecedented drone and missile strikes, raising the specter of a fight that would contain enough advanced technology, paramilitary forces and mutual acrimony to incinerate large parts of the Middle East, collapse the global economy and entangle the United States and other major powers.

Now the two sides appear to have hit pause, but for how long? As long as Iran is ruled by an Islamist government that puts its revolutionary ideology before the national interest, the two countries will never know peace, and the Middle East will never know meaningful stability.

Iran and Israel are not natural adversaries. In contrast to other modern conflicts — between Israel and Palestine, Russia and Ukraine, China and Taiwan — Iran and Israel have no bilateral land or resource disputes. Their national strengths — Iran is an energy titan and Israel is a tech innovator — are more complementary than competitive. The nations also have a historical affinity dating back over 2,500 years, when the Persian King Cyrus the Great freed the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity. Iran was the second Muslim nation, after Turkey, to recognize Israel after its founding in 1948.

Their modern animosity is best understood through the lens of ideology, not geopolitics. It began with the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the dogmatic Shiite cleric who led the 1979 revolution that transformed Iran from a U.S.-allied monarchy into an anti-American theocracy. Khomeini’s 1970 treatise “ Islamic Government ,” which became the basis of the constitution that governs the Islamic Republic, is laced with tirades and threats against “wretched” and “satanic” Jews. Then, as now, antisemitism often lurked below the surface of anti-imperialism.

“We must protest and make the people aware that the Jews and their foreign backers are opposed to the very foundations of Islam and wish to establish Jewish domination throughout the world,” Khomeini wrote. “Since they are a cunning and resourceful group of people, I fear that — God forbid — they may one day achieve their goal and that the apathy shown by some of us may allow a Jew to rule over us one day.”

In the same manifesto, Khomeini casually advocates what in modern parlance is best understood as ethnic cleansing. “Islam,” he wrote, “has rooted out numerous groups that were a source of corruption and harm to human society.” He went on to cite the case of a “troublesome” Jewish tribe in Medina that he said was “eliminated” by the Prophet Muhammad.

Very few of the Iranian revolutionaries and Western progressives who backed Khomeini in 1979 — some of whom compared him with Mohandas K. Gandhi — had bothered to scrutinize his vision for Iran. Once in power, he built his newfound theocracy on three ideological pillars: death to America, death to Israel and the subjugation of women.

Over four decades later, the worldview of Iran’s current rulers has evolved little. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Khomeini’s 85-year-old successor and now one of the world’s longest-serving dictators, denounces Zionism in virtually every speech and was one of the few world leaders to publicly praise Hamas’s “epic” Oct. 7 attack on Israel. “We will support and assist any nation or any group anywhere,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in 2020, “who opposes and fights the Zionist regime.”

As Ayatollah Khamenei’s words make plain, the Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the few governments in the world more dedicated to abolishing another nation than advancing its own. “Death to Israel” is the regime’s rallying cry — not “Long live Iran.”

Ayatollah Khamenei’s regime has backed this language with action. Iran has spent tens of billions of dollars arming, training and financing proxy militias in five failing nations: Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, Iraq and Yemen. Together these groups constitute its so-called Axis of Resistance against America and Israel. These groups are elbow-deep in corruption and repression in their own societies, including illicit drug dealing and piracy , while pledging that they seek justice for Palestinians.

Hostility toward Israel is a useful tool for predominantly Shiite, Persian Iran to vie for leadership in the predominantly Sunni, Arab Middle East. But it should not be confused with concern for the well-being of Palestinians. In contrast to American, European and Arab governments that fund Palestinian human welfare initiatives, Iran has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into arming and financing Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Iran’s goal is not to build a Palestine but to demolish Israel.

And yet as much as the Islamic Republic is committed to its ideology, it is even more committed to staying in power. As the German American philosopher Hannah Arendt once put it, “The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative on the day after the revolution.” As its careful response to Israel’s recent military strikes on Iran showed, when faced with the possibility of full-blown war or existential economic pressure, Tehran tactically retreats.

After decades of living under an economically failing, socially repressive police state, Iran’s people long ago recognized that the greatest obstacle between themselves and a normal life is their own leadership, not America or Israel. In a 2021 public opinion poll conducted from Europe, only around one-fifth of Iranians approved of their government’s support of Hamas and “Death to Israel” slogan. Few nations have Iran’s combination of natural resource wealth, human capital, geographic size and ancient history. This enormous gap between Iran’s potential and its citizens’ reality is one reason the country has experienced numerous mass uprisings over the past two decades.

Iran’s Axis of Resistance has empowered right-wing Israeli politicians far more than Palestinians over the past two decades. The threat of a Holocaust-denying Iranian regime with regional and nuclear ambitions has stoked Israeli anxieties, diverted attention from Palestinian suffering and facilitated normalization agreements between Israel and Arab governments equally fearful of Iran. Indeed, Iran and its proxies were such a useful adversary that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu helped prop up Hamas’s rule in Gaza until the deadly attacks of Oct. 7.

“The dream of Israeli leaders,” a retired Israeli general, Amos Yadlin, told me recently, “is to one day restore normal relations with an Iranian government.”

The dream of Iran’s Islamist leaders, on the other hand, is to end Israel’s existence. Israel’s conflict with Iran has been a war of necessity, but Iran’s conflict with Israel has been a war of choice. It won’t be over until Iran has leaders who put Iranians’ interests over Israel’s destruction.

Karim Sadjadpour is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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Money blog: Major free childcare change kicks in today as parents of younger children can now apply

From today, eligible parents of children from nine-months-old in England can register for 15 free hours of childcare per week. Read this and the rest of our Weekend Money features, and leave a comment, and we'll be back with rolling personal finance and consumer news on Monday.

Sunday 12 May 2024 11:59, UK

Weekend Money

  • Free childcare applications open for new age band
  • 'Loud budgeting': The money-saving trend that has nothing to do with giving up your daily coffee
  • What is most in-demand period property?
  • £12m tea advert, downsizing, £320 tasting menus and job interview mistakes: What readers have said this week
  • Where has huge week for UK economy left us?

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Ask a question or make a comment

From Sunday, eligible working parents of children from nine-months-old in England will be able to register for access to up to 15 free hours of government-funded childcare per week.

This will then be granted from September. 

Check if you're eligible  here  - or read on for our explainer on free childcare across the UK.

Three and four year olds

In England, all parents of children aged three and four in England can claim 15 hours of free childcare per week, for 1,140 hours (38 weeks) a year, at an approved provider.

This is a universal offer open to all.

It can be extended to 30 hours where both parents (or the sole parent) are in work, earn the weekly minimum equivalent of 16 hours at the national minimum or living wage, and have an income of less than £100,000 per year.

Two year olds

Previously, only parents in receipt of certain benefits were eligible for 15 hours of free childcare.

But, as of last month, this was extended to working parents.

This is not a universal offer, however.

A working parent must earn more than £8,670 but less than £100,000 per year. For couples, the rule applies to both parents.

Nine months old

In September, this same 15-hour offer will be extended to working parents of children aged from nine months. From 12 May, those whose children will be at least nine months old on 31 August can apply to received the 15 hours of care from September.

From September 2025

The final change to the childcare offer in England will be rolled out in September 2025, when eligible working parents of all children under the age of five will be able to claim 30 hours of free childcare a week.

In some areas of Wales, the Flying Start early years programme offers 12.5 hours of free childcare for 39 weeks, for eligible children aged two to three. The scheme is based on your postcode area, though it is currently being expanded.

All three and four-year-olds are entitled to free early education of 10 hours per week in approved settings during term time under the Welsh government's childcare offer.

Some children of this age are entitled to up to 30 hours per week of free early education and childcare over 48 weeks of the year. The hours can be split - but at least 10 need to be used on early education.

To qualify for this, each parent must earn less than £100,000 per year, be employed and earn at least the equivalent of working 16 hours a week at the national minimum wage, or be enrolled on an undergraduate, postgraduate or further education course that is at least 10 weeks in length.

All three and four-year-olds living in Scotland are entitled to at least 1,140 hours per year of free childcare, with no work or earnings requirements for parents. 

This is usually taken as 30 hours per week over term time (38 weeks), though each provider will have their own approach.

Some households can claim free childcare for two-year-olds. To be eligible you have to be claiming certain benefits such as Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance or Universal Credit, or have a child that is in the care of their local council or living with you under a guardianship order or kinship care order.

Northern Ireland

There is no scheme for free childcare in Northern Ireland. Some other limited support is available.

Working parents can access support from UK-wide schemes such as tax credits, Universal Credit, childcare vouchers and tax-free childcare.

Aside from this, all parents of children aged three or four can apply for at least 12.5 hours a week of funded pre-school education during term time. But over 90% of three-year-olds have a funded pre-school place - and of course this is different to childcare.

What other help could I be eligible for?

Tax-free childcare  - Working parents in the UK can claim up to £500 every three months (up to £2,000 a year) for each of their children to help with childcare costs. 

If the child is disabled, the amount goes up to £1,000 every three months (up to £4,000 a year).

To claim the benefit, parents will need to open a tax-free childcare account online. For every 80p paid into the account, the government will top it up by 20p.

The scheme is available until the September after the child turns 11.

Universal credit  - Working families on universal credit can claim back up to 85% of their monthly childcare costs, as long as the care is paid for upfront. The most you can claim per month is £951 for one child or £1,630 for two or more children.

Tax credits -  People claiming working tax credit can get up to 70% of what they pay for childcare if their costs are no more than £175 per week for one child or £300 per work for multiple children.

By Jess Sharp , Money team 

Money saving trends are constantly popping up on social media - but one in particular has been gaining huge amounts of attention.

Created accidentally by a comedian, loud budgeting is breaking down the taboo of speaking about money.

The idea is based on being firmer/more vocal about your financial boundaries in social situations and setting out what you are happy to spend your money on, instead of "Keeping up with the Joneses". 

On TikTok alone, videos published under the hashtag #loudbudgeting have garnered more than 30 million views - and that figure is continuing to climb. 

We spoke to Lukas Battle - the 26-year-old who unintentionally created the trend as part of a comedy sketch. 

Based in New York, he came up with the term in a skit about the "quiet luxury" hype, which had spread online in 2023 inspired by shows like Succession. 

The term was used for humble bragging about your wealth with expensive items that were subtle in their design - for example, Gwyneth Paltrow's  £3,900 moss green wool coat from The Row, which she wore during her ski resort trial...

"I was never a big fan of the quiet luxury trend, so I just kind of switched the words and wrote 'loud budgeting is in'. I'm tired of spending money and I don't want to pretend to be rich," Lukas said. 

"That's how it started and then the TikTok comments were just obsessed with that original idea." 

This was the first time he mentioned it...

Lukas explained that it wasn't about "being poor" but about not being afraid of sharing your financial limits and "what's profitable for you personally". 

"It's not 'skip a coffee a day and you'll become a millionaire'."

While talking money has been seen as rude or taboo, he said it's something his generation is more comfortable doing. 

"I've seen more debate around the topic and I think people are really intrigued and attracted by the idea," he said. 

"It's just focusing your spending and time on things you enjoy and cutting out the things you might feel pressured to spend your money on."  

He has incorporated loud budgeting into his own life, telling his friends "it's free to go outside" and opting for cheaper dinner alternatives.

"Having the terminology and knowing it's a trend helps people understand it and there's no awkward conversation around it," he said. 

The trend has been a big hit with so-called American "finfluencers", or "financial influencers", but people in the UK have started practising it as well. 

Mia Westrap has taken up loud budgeting by embarking on a no-buy year and sharing her finances with her 11.3k TikTok followers. 

Earning roughly £2,100 a month, she spends around £1,200 on essentials, like rent, petrol and car insurance, but limits what else she can purchase. 

Clothes, fizzy drinks, beauty treatments, makeup, dinners out and train tickets are just some things on her "red list". 

The 26-year-old PHD student first came across the idea back in 2017, but decided to take up the challenge this year after realising she was living "pay check to pay check". 

She said her "biggest fear" in the beginning was that her friends wouldn't understand what she was doing, but she found loud budgeting helped. 

"I'm still trying my best to just go along with what everyone wants to do but I just won't spend money while we do it and my friends don't mind that, we don't make a big deal out of it," she said. 

So far, she has been able to save £1,700, and she said talking openly about her money has been "really helpful". 

"There's no way I could have got this far if I wasn't baring my soul to the internet about the money I have spent. It has been a really motivating factor."

Financial expert John Webb said loud budgeting has the ability to help many "feel empowered" and create a "more realistic" relationship with money.

"This is helping to normalise having open and honest conversations about finances," the consumer affair manager at Experien said. 

"It can also reduce the anxiety some might have by keeping their financial worries to themselves." 

However, he warned it's important to be cautious and to take the reality of life into consideration. 

"It could cause troubles within friendship groups if they're not on the same page as you or have different financial goals," he said.

"This challenge isn't meant to stop you from having fun, but it is designed to help people become more conscious and intentional when it comes to money, and reduce the stigma around talking about it." 

Rightmove's keyword tool shows Victorian-era houses are the most commonly searched period properties, with people drawn to their ornate designs and features.

Georgian and Edwardian-style are second and third respectively, followed by Tudor properties. Regency ranked in fifth place.

Rightmove property expert Tim Bannister said: "Home hunters continue to be captivated by the character and charm of properties that we see in period dramas.

"Victorian homes remain particularly popular, characterised by their historic charm, solid construction, and spacious interiors. You'll often find Victorian houses in some of the most desirable locations which include convenient access to schools and transport links."

Throughout the week Money blog readers have shared their thoughts on the stories we've been covering, with the most correspondence coming in on...

  • A hotly contested debate on the best brand of tea
  • Downsizing homes
  • The cost of Michelin-starred food

Job interview mistakes

On Wednesday we reported on a new £12m ad from PG Tips in response to it falling behind rivals such as Twinings, Yorkshire Tea and Tetley....

We had lots of comments like this...

How on earth was the PG Tips advert so expensive? I prefer Tetley tea, PG Tips is never strong enough flavour for me. Shellyleppard
The reason for the sales drop with PG Tips could be because they increased the price and reduced the quantity of bags from 240 to 180 - it's obvious. Royston

And then this question which we've tried to answer below...

Why have PG Tips changed from Pyramid shape tea bags, to a square? Sam

Last year PG Tips said it was changing to a square bag that left more room for leaves to infuse, as the bags wouldn't fold over themselves.

We reported on data showing how downsizing could save you money for retirement - more than £400,000, in some regions, by swapping four beds for two.

Some of our readers shared their experiences...

We are downsizing and moving South so it's costing us £100k extra for a smaller place, all money from retirement fund. AlanNorth
Interesting read about downsizing for retirement. We recently did this to have the means to retire early at 52. However, we bought a house in the south of France for the price of a flat in our town in West Sussex. Now living the dream! OliSarah

How much should we pay for food?

Executive chef at London's two-Michelin-starred Ikoyi, Jeremy Chan, raised eyebrows when he suggested to the Money blog that Britons don't pay enough for restaurant food.

Ikoyi, the 35th best restaurant in the world, charges £320 for its tasting menu. 

"I don't think people pay enough money for food, I think we charge too little, [but] we want to always be accessible to as many people as possible, we're always trying our best to do that," he said, in a piece about his restaurant's tie up with Uber Eats... 

We had this in... 

Are they serious? That is two weeks' worth of food shopping for me, if the rich can afford this "tasting menu" then they need to be taxed even more by the government, it's just crazy! Steve T
If the rate of pay is proportionate to the vastly overpriced costs of the double Michelin star menu, I would gladly peel quail eggs for four-hour stints over continuing to be abused as a UK supply teacher. AndrewWard
Does this two-star Michelin star chef live in the real world? Who gives a toss if he stands and peels his quails eggs for four hours, and he can get the best turbot from the fishmonger fresh on a daily basis? It doesn't justify the outrageous price he is charging for his tasting menu. Topaztraveller
Chefs do make me laugh, a steak is just a steak, they don't make the meat! They just cook it like the rest of us, but we eat out because we can't be bothered cooking! StevieGrah

Finally, many of you reacted to this feature on common mistakes in job interviews...

Those 10 biggest mistakes people make in interviews is the dumbest thing I've ever read. They expect all that and they'll be offering a £25k a year job. Why wouldn't I want to know about benefits and basic sick pay? And also a limp handshake? How's that relevant to how you work? Jre90

Others brought their own tips...

Whenever I go for an interview I stick to three points: 1. Be yourself 2. Own the interview 3. Wear the clothes that match the job you are applying Kevin James Blakey

Two big economic moments dominated the news agenda in Money this week - interest rates and GDP.

As expected, the Bank of England held the base rate at 5.25% on Wednesday - but a shift in language was instructive about what may happen next.

Bank governor Andrew Bailey opened the door to a summer cut to 5%, telling reporters that an easing of rates at the next Monetary Policy Committee meeting on 20 June was neither ruled out nor a fait accompli.

More surprisingly, he suggested that rate cuts, when they start, could go deeper "than currently priced into market rates".

He refused to be drawn on what that path might look like - but markets had thought rates could bottom out at 4.5% or 4.75% this year, and potentially 3.5% or 4% next.

"To make sure that inflation stays around the 2% target - that inflation will neither be too high nor too low - it's likely that we will need to cut Bank rate over the coming quarters and make monetary policy somewhat less restrictive over the forecast period," Mr Bailey said.

You can read economics editor Ed Conway's analysis of the Bank's decision here ...

On Friday we discovered the UK is no longer in recession.

Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.6% between January and March, the Office for National Statistics said.

This followed two consecutive quarters of the economy shrinking.

The data was more positive than anticipated.

"Britain is not just out of recession," wrote Conway. "It is out of recession with a bang."

The UK has seen its fastest growth since the tailend of the pandemic - and Conway picked out three other reasons for optimism.

1/ An economic growth rate of 0.6% is near enough to what economists used to call "trend growth". It's the kind of number that signifies the economy growing at more or less "normal" rates.

2/ 0.6% means the UK is, alongside Canada, the fastest-growing economy in the G7 (we've yet to hear from Japan, but economists expect its economy to contract in the first quarter).

3/ Third, it's not just gross domestic product that's up. So too is gross domestic product per head - the number you get when you divide our national income by every person in the country. After seven years without any growth, GDP per head rose by 0.4% in the first quarter.

GDP per head is a more accurate yardstick for the "feelgood factor", said Conway - perhaps meaning people will finally start to feel better off.

For more on where Friday's figures leaves us, listen to an Ian King Business Podcast special...

The Money blog is your place for consumer news, economic analysis and everything you need to know about the cost of living - bookmark .

It runs with live updates every weekday - while on Saturdays we scale back and offer you a selection of weekend reads.

Check them out this morning and we'll be back on Monday with rolling news and features.

The Money team is Emily Mee, Bhvishya Patel, Jess Sharp, Katie Williams, Brad Young and Ollie Cooper, with sub-editing by Isobel Souster. The blog is edited by Jimmy Rice.

If you've missed any of the features we've been running in Money this year, or want to check back on something you've previously seen in the blog, this archive of our most popular articles may help...

Loaves of bread have been recalled from shelves in Japan after they were found to contain the remains of a rat.

Production of the bread in Tokyo has been halted after parts of a "small animal" were found by at least two people.

Pasco Shikishima Corp, which produces the bread, said 104,000 packages have been recalled as it apologised and promised compensation.

A company representative told Sky News's US partner network, NBC News, that a "small black rat" was found in the bread. No customers were reported to have fallen ill as a result of ingesting the contaminated bread.

"We deeply apologise for the serious inconvenience and trouble this has caused to our customers, suppliers, and other concerned parties," the spokesman said.

Pasco added in a separate statement that "we will do our utmost to strengthen our quality controls so that this will never happen again. We ask for your understanding and your co-operation."

Japanese media reports said at least two people who bought the bread in the Gunma prefecture, north-west of Tokyo, complained to the company about finding a rodent in the bread.

Record levels of shoplifting appear to be declining as fewer shopkeepers reported thefts last year, new figures show. 

A survey by the Office for National Statistics shows 26% of retailers experienced customer theft in 2023, down from a record high of 28% in 2022.

This comes despite a number of reports suggesting shoplifting is becoming more frequent. 

A  separate ONS finding , which used police crime data, showed reports of shoplifting were at their highest level in 20 years in 2023, with law enforcements logging 430,000 instances of the crime.

Let's get you up to speed on the biggest business news of the past 24 hours. 

A privately owned used-car platform is circling Cazoo Group, its stricken US-listed rival, which is on the brink of administration.

Sky News has learnt that is a leading contender to acquire Cazoo's marketplace operation, which would include its brand and intellectual property assets.

The process to auction the used-car platform's constituent parts comes after it spent tens of millions of pounds on sponsorship deals in football, snooker and darts in a rapid attempt to gain market share.

The owner of British Airways has reported a sharp rise in profits amid soaring demand for trips and a fall in the cost of fuel.

International Airlines Group said its operating profit for the first three months of the year was €68m (£58.5m) - above expectations and up from €9m (£7.7m) during the same period in 2023.

The company, which also owns Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling, said earnings had soared thanks to strong demand, particularly over the Easter holidays.

The prospect of a strike across Tata Steel's UK operations has gained further traction after a key union secured support for industrial action.

Community, which has more than 3,000 members, said 85% voted in favour of fighting the India-owned company's plans for up to 2,800 job losses, the majority of them at the country's biggest steelworks in Port Talbot, South Wales.

Tata confirmed last month it was to press ahead with the closure of the blast furnaces at the plant, replacing them with electric arc furnaces to reduce emissions and costs.

In doing so, the company rejected an alternative plan put forward by the Community, GMB and Unite unions that, they said, would raise productivity and protect jobs across the supply chain.

Be the first to get Breaking News

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fear of uncertainty essay

What to know about the crisis of violence, politics and hunger engulfing Haiti

A woman carrying two bags of rice walks past burning tires

A long-simmering crisis over Haiti’s ability to govern itself, particularly after a series of natural disasters and an increasingly dire humanitarian emergency, has come to a head in the Caribbean nation, as its de facto president remains stranded in Puerto Rico and its people starve and live in fear of rampant violence. 

The chaos engulfing the country has been bubbling for more than a year, only for it to spill over on the global stage on Monday night, as Haiti’s unpopular prime minister, Ariel Henry, agreed to resign once a transitional government is brokered by other Caribbean nations and parties, including the U.S.

But the very idea of a transitional government brokered not by Haitians but by outsiders is one of the main reasons Haiti, a nation of 11 million, is on the brink, according to humanitarian workers and residents who have called for Haitian-led solutions. 

“What we’re seeing in Haiti has been building since the 2010 earthquake,” said Greg Beckett, an associate professor of anthropology at Western University in Canada. 

Haitians take shelter in the Delmas 4 Olympic Boxing Arena

What is happening in Haiti and why?

In the power vacuum that followed the assassination of democratically elected President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, Henry, who was prime minister under Moïse, assumed power, with the support of several nations, including the U.S. 

When Haiti failed to hold elections multiple times — Henry said it was due to logistical problems or violence — protests rang out against him. By the time Henry announced last year that elections would be postponed again, to 2025, armed groups that were already active in Port-au-Prince, the capital, dialed up the violence.

Even before Moïse’s assassination, these militias and armed groups existed alongside politicians who used them to do their bidding, including everything from intimidating the opposition to collecting votes . With the dwindling of the country’s elected officials, though, many of these rebel forces have engaged in excessively violent acts, and have taken control of at least 80% of the capital, according to a United Nations estimate. 

Those groups, which include paramilitary and former police officers who pose as community leaders, have been responsible for the increase in killings, kidnappings and rapes since Moïse’s death, according to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program at Uppsala University in Sweden. According to a report from the U.N . released in January, more than 8,400 people were killed, injured or kidnapped in 2023, an increase of 122% increase from 2022.

“January and February have been the most violent months in the recent crisis, with thousands of people killed, or injured, or raped,” Beckett said.

Image: Ariel Henry

Armed groups who had been calling for Henry’s resignation have already attacked airports, police stations, sea ports, the Central Bank and the country’s national soccer stadium. The situation reached critical mass earlier this month when the country’s two main prisons were raided , leading to the escape of about 4,000 prisoners. The beleaguered government called a 72-hour state of emergency, including a night-time curfew — but its authority had evaporated by then.

Aside from human-made catastrophes, Haiti still has not fully recovered from the devastating earthquake in 2010 that killed about 220,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless, many of them living in poorly built and exposed housing. More earthquakes, hurricanes and floods have followed, exacerbating efforts to rebuild infrastructure and a sense of national unity.

Since the earthquake, “there have been groups in Haiti trying to control that reconstruction process and the funding, the billions of dollars coming into the country to rebuild it,” said Beckett, who specializes in the Caribbean, particularly Haiti. 

Beckett said that control initially came from politicians and subsequently from armed groups supported by those politicians. Political “parties that controlled the government used the government for corruption to steal that money. We’re seeing the fallout from that.”

Haiti Experiences Surge Of Gang Violence

Many armed groups have formed in recent years claiming to be community groups carrying out essential work in underprivileged neighborhoods, but they have instead been accused of violence, even murder . One of the two main groups, G-9, is led by a former elite police officer, Jimmy Chérizier — also known as “Barbecue” — who has become the public face of the unrest and claimed credit for various attacks on public institutions. He has openly called for Henry to step down and called his campaign an “armed revolution.”

But caught in the crossfire are the residents of Haiti. In just one week, 15,000 people have been displaced from Port-au-Prince, according to a U.N. estimate. But people have been trying to flee the capital for well over a year, with one woman telling NBC News that she is currently hiding in a church with her three children and another family with eight children. The U.N. said about 160,000 people have left Port-au-Prince because of the swell of violence in the last several months. 

Deep poverty and famine are also a serious danger. Gangs have cut off access to the country’s largest port, Autorité Portuaire Nationale, and food could soon become scarce.

Haiti's uncertain future

A new transitional government may dismay the Haitians and their supporters who call for Haitian-led solutions to the crisis. 

But the creation of such a government would come after years of democratic disruption and the crumbling of Haiti’s political leadership. The country hasn’t held an election in eight years. 

Haitian advocates and scholars like Jemima Pierre, a professor at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, say foreign intervention, including from the U.S., is partially to blame for Haiti’s turmoil. The U.S. has routinely sent thousands of troops to Haiti , intervened in its government and supported unpopular leaders like Henry.

“What you have over the last 20 years is the consistent dismantling of the Haitian state,” Pierre said. “What intervention means for Haiti, what it has always meant, is death and destruction.”

Image: Workers unload humanitarian aid from a U.S. helicopter at Les Cayes airport in Haiti, Aug. 18, 2021.

In fact, the country’s situation was so dire that Henry was forced to travel abroad in the hope of securing a U.N. peacekeeping deal. He went to Kenya, which agreed to send 1,000 troops to coordinate an East African and U.N.-backed alliance to help restore order in Haiti, but the plan is now on hold . Kenya agreed last October to send a U.N.-sanctioned security force to Haiti, but Kenya’s courts decided it was unconstitutional. The result has been Haiti fending for itself. 

“A force like Kenya, they don’t speak Kreyòl, they don’t speak French,” Pierre said. “The Kenyan police are known for human rights abuses . So what does it tell us as Haitians that the only thing that you see that we deserve are not schools, not reparations for the cholera the U.N. brought , but more military with the mandate to use all kinds of force on our population? That is unacceptable.”  

Henry was forced to announce his planned resignation from Puerto Rico, as threats of violence — and armed groups taking over the airports — have prevented him from returning to his country.  

An elderly woman runs in front of the damaged police station building with tires burning in front of it

Now that Henry is to stand down, it is far from clear what the armed groups will do or demand next, aside from the right to govern. 

“It’s the Haitian people who know what they’re going through. It’s the Haitian people who are going to take destiny into their own hands. Haitian people will choose who will govern them,” Chérizier said recently, according to The Associated Press .

Haitians and their supporters have put forth their own solutions over the years, holding that foreign intervention routinely ignores the voices and desires of Haitians. 

In 2021, both Haitian and non-Haitian church leaders, women’s rights groups, lawyers, humanitarian workers, the Voodoo Sector and more created the Commission to Search for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis . The commission has proposed the “ Montana Accord ,” outlining a two-year interim government with oversight committees tasked with restoring order, eradicating corruption and establishing fair elections. 

For more from NBC BLK, sign up for our weekly newsletter .

CORRECTION (March 15, 2024, 9:58 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated which university Jemima Pierre is affiliated with. She is a professor at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, not the University of California, Los Angeles, (or Columbia University, as an earlier correction misstated).

fear of uncertainty essay

Patrick Smith is a London-based editor and reporter for NBC News Digital.

fear of uncertainty essay

Char Adams is a reporter for NBC BLK who writes about race.


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