Coming to terms with the unknown

A Dutch experiment gave subjects a series of 20 jolts of electricity. The group was divided between those who knew they were getting 20 strong shocks and those who were told they would receive 17 mild shocks and 3 intense jolts. The second group wasn't told which shock was coming when.

The researchers found the group that did not know what was coming had a higher level of anxiety - even though they received fewer hits than the other group. The group facing uncertainty sweated more and their hearts beat faster.

Oddly enough, the anticipation of the unknown creates more stress for us than knowing something bad is going to happen to us. We prefer knowing the bad news is a sure thing over suspecting there may be bad news to come.

It’s hard to come to terms with the unknown. When we know what we are facing, we can go ahead and grieve and move forward. But when we don’t know whether to grieve or not, or how much to grieve, we are stuck in the land of uncertainty.

Stephen Goforth