There is going to be uncertainty during the course of our life span, but how we go about dealing with uncertainty is what really matters. Life uncertainties present differently during our life cycle. A teenager faced with the uncertainty of how they scored on a final exam in school is very much different from that of a senior citizen who is uncertain about what Medicare Part D prescription plan will be best for them during the next year.
Regardless of one’s age, uncertainty brings about projection. Whether older or younger, one likes to be in control, and when someone does not know what they are dealing with, or lack information, the tendency is to engage in projective thinking. It is natural to project outcomes, but why do people project catastrophic outcomes? More often than not these catastrophic outcomes do not happen. Whatever the projection happens to be more often than not it simply does not become real. Thinking is not neutral because thoughts can produce stress. Therefore, simply engaging in negative thinking causes one to be mentally preoccupied begetting more stress.
In my interacting with older adults I often encounter someone telling me about their problems. I need to listen carefully to understand the nature of the problem and discern whether the person who is telling me their story is prone to excessive and unhealthy projection. After all, we are free-thinkers and we have a choice to project a positive outcome instead of a negative outcome.
In the next edition of Gary’s Guidance, I will address how to curb fear by taming projections.
Gary Kozick, LCSW