Certainty and Uncertainty

Movement and change are vital to life.

Did you know that our eyes need to move in order to gather information? Perception scientist Beau Lotto describes the process on how humans see in the Jordan Harbinger Show podcast episode entitled Why You See Differently When You Deviate (2019).

He talks about how there is “a massive hole in your retina, so to speak, which is actually, where your receptors are being covered by the fibers that are going back into your brain.” Despite this hole, our brains fill in the blanks.

He then goes on to explain how fast, jerky eye movements are called “saccades” (suh-KODS). Your eyes make hundreds of thousands of saccades a day that enable you to see! If our eyes stop moving, we stop seeing–quite literally. The science is much more complex than we can get into here, but the point is that we need movement to be able to perceive things. Individuals who can’t see are able to develop their other senses to support the compensation of lack of sight, which also involves significant movement, growth, and change. So what the saccades demonstrate is that your brain is only ever interested in movement and relationships. It’s not interested in absolutes.

When we are stuck we stop seeing.

Approaching anything from a place of absolute certainty is another way we can stay stuck. Our sense of certainty effectively solidifies our biases.

When we make room for uncertainty, we also create space for possibility! We allow room for another narrative, and we deliberately choose to expand our perception.

Even science is less absolute than we’d sometimes like to think. In her Harvard talk, Uncertainty and The Power of Possibility, Dr. Ellen Langer tells a story of something that happened at a horse show. A man told her he was getting a hot dog for his horse. Dr. Langer thought this was odd, because “horses are herbivores, they don’t eat meat!” However, the man bought the hot dog, and the horse ate it. This challenged her Harvard/Yale-educated thinking. She realized, “everything I thought I knew was probably wrong, at least some of the time.”

Her point? Even in science there is room for possibility.

Only when we learn to let go of our strongly held sense of certainty can we be open to new possibilities.


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Post-Secondary Peer Support Training Curriculum Copyright © 2022 by Jenn Cusick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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