The Psychology of Adaptation to Absurdity: Tactics of Make-Believe

By Rhoda L. Fisher; Seymour Fisher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
4
THE PROBLEMS OF UNCERTAINTY
AND INSIGNIFICANCE

UNCERTAINTY

The unpredictability of each person's trajectory represents still another potential source of life absurdity. It is true that practically anything can happen at any time, and there is really no dependable predictability for any given individual. Of course, there are reasonable probabilities that, within large populations, only certain proportions will experience specific changes, traumas, and disasters. However, the individual does not know from moment to moment what will happen next. The list of potential threats and destructive intrusions is endless: disease, loss of loved ones, injury, business cycles, neoplasm, spontaneous failure of a key physiological system, devastating earthquake--just to name a few. Each day, multitudes of persons abruptly experience the relentless uncontrollability of the world. The nature of our planet's structure and the social arrangements of its inhabitants introduce potential loss of control as a key theme.

There is widespread concern about this theme in all cultures, and it gets channeled into such diverse forms as existential anxiety, phobias, fictional and mythical images depicting life as chaotic, and a repertoire of religious countermeasures. Researchers have mirrored this concern by the frequency with which they have investigated the effects of feeling that things are unpredictable or out of control. Much has been written about this topic (e.g., Breznitz, 1983; Freud, 1959a, 1959b; Garber & Seligman, 1980; Lazarus, 1983; Lefcourt, 1982; Phares, 1976; Rotter, 1966), as it manifests itself in various guises (e.g., obsessive-compulsive behavior, posttraumatic syndrome, rigidity, openness to new experience, locus of control, learned helplessness). Of

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