Uncertainty is uncomfortable. Most of us are not okay with the unknown. For instance, sometimes simply saying the word makes us edgy. At other times, you find yourself literally having no idea what is next.
Imagine driving in a blizzard – scary right?! Every landmark, whether it be the painted lines on the road, mile markers, guard rails, fence lines, barrow ditches, everything that can possibly guide you is missing in a blizzard. Sometimes it’s so bad you can’t even see the tail lights on the car in front of you.
The wind is causing the snow to swirl and at moments your headlights almost seem to reduce what limited visibility you have – like you could see further and more clearly if you just turned them off. It’s terrifying! You have no idea what’s next.
And that’s what today’s episode is about. How do we get comfortable with uncertainty? Maybe you just lost your job or found yourself in a failed relationship. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one or finding yourself an “empty nester.” Or maybe you just hit a milestone birthday. As a result, any of these events can bring us to points of uncertainty about the future.
We all experience this. So much so, we often think we are unique in how severely it impacts us. In other words, you aren’t unique. To clarify, these emotions that you experience aren’t just real, they are powerful!
I heard Thom Winninger recently share something new, well new to me anyway. Tom is the author of Your True DNA and he addresses this topic in that book and on a YouTube video about a concept called liminal space. Often, this can be a painful space between two points of existence. It doesn’t have to be painful, but in our instant, microwave culture, we often make it painful! Or at least, we make it more painful than it needs to be.
Therefore, it might be good to start with a definition here. Merriam-Webster defines it as relating to or being an intermediate state, phase or condition. The root word is actually the Latin word limin. It means threshold. So this noun refers to the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced.
Crossing Into Something New
It was actually used to refer to the transverse beam in a door frame. So this becomes an important point. In many cultures, it’s a tradition for a groom to carry the bride across the threshold, the limin. The space between two points. The significance of this event is representative of leaving what you’ve known because you are crossing a space, into something new.
So here is another word that you are very familiar with that contains liminal. That word is subliminal which means below a threshold. Usually, when we use that word, as in the context of subliminal messaging, we are referring to a sensation or thought that is being triggered below the threshold of consciousness.
Below The Threshold Of Consciousness
I don’t know if you remember when advertisers were toying with subliminal messaging on movie screens. James Vicary’s infamous study at a theater in New Jersey in 1957 confirmed an astounding capability that our brains have to be influenced by a sensation triggered below the threshold of consciousness. By flashing a couple of different messages on the screen every five seconds, each displayed for only 1/3000th of a second at a time, consequently, the audience consumed 18.1% more Coca-Cola, and 57.8% more popcorn.
Or rather, that’s what James declared…and that’s what the media latched onto. Unfortunately, his results could never be duplicated and future studies never identified a meaningful difference in consumption habits when subjected to subliminal messaging. You heard it here first…or maybe you already knew that. Yeah, you are smart, so I’m sure you already knew his study was a hoax!
But you don’t need below the threshold of consciousness programming to get comfortable with uncertainty. Remember, this is part of the human experience. So, what you must resist is the idea or notion that being here is a bad thing. Uncomfortable does not equal bad, and because there is discomfort there is also an avenue for growth.
Liminal spaces are quite common in our lives. Think about the number of times you find yourself at thresholds. They occur more often than you realize. But this is also part of the problem. You don’t realize you are in liminal space, or a liminal moment because you tend to rush through it as quickly as possible.
Hang on to this definition of liminal space. Next week I’ll come back and share some practical tips when wrangling with uncertainty. Be encouraged. Get comfortable with not knowing what’s next. It happens often. Once we recognize that we are in liminal space, we can use the steps in the next episode to benefit from uncertainty.
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
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