We need the ability to tolerate disturbance without attempting premature resolution. Complexity, uncertainty, mystery, paradox, conflict, crisis and diversity can all generate such disturbance—yet all can also bring wisdom because they open us to fuller reality. So learn to co-exist comfortably with them so they can give their gifts.
Related: 2 Appreciative Thinking, 32 Integrity and Authenticity, 37 Multi-Modal Intelligence, 53 Safety First, Then Challenge, 60 Systems Thinking, 69 Wise Use of Uncertainty, 70 Working Through Feelings
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This is an edited version of the video on this page.
Capacitance is a term I picked up from a psychiatrist in Seattle, Charles Johnson. Capacitance is the ability to hold dissonance, the ability to contain difficult things, the ability to tolerate things that are uncomfortable without trying to get rid of them, without trying to deny them or resolve them, to just be there with them.
One of the things we have difficulty just being there with is complexity. It’s like too much, too complex, we can’t look at it anymore. We think we need to simplify it in order to hold it. Somebody who has a high level of capacitance doesn’t need to oversimplify something even when they come to conclusions about it or simplify parts of it. When they do that, they do it knowing that the situation is more complex than they’re seeing or saying. There’s always “more to it than that!”
So they hold their models lightly and acknowledge that complexity is virtually infinite. They will sit with the fact that that’s true and work humbly with whatever pieces of the complexity they need to work with while admitting that there’s a dense fabric of interconnectedness, elements and causes or whatever involved in this situation. And they are going to work within that knowledge.
Uncertainty is very similar. We can’t tell what’s going to happen for sure. Rather than acting as if things are certain, that they are stable and we know what’s going on, we acknowledge that we know things conditionally and temporarily. There are also a lot of uncertainties that bridge over into Mystery, into what can’t be known. There are some essential qualities to the way life and reality are put together which do not lend themselves to getting nailed down solidly. It doesn’t mean we can’t function as if we know certain things. You can pick up the spoon and be sure it’s going to your mouth 99.999% of the time; but 0.001% of the time it won’t, and knowing that can be very disturbing. Most things are much less certain than the ability to get your spoon from the plate to your mouth.
So having a collegial friendly relationship with uncertainty and recognizing that certainty is an emotion. Unfortunately, certainty is not necessarily tied to the factual truth of whatever you are certain of. You can be very certain of something that is totally false. So you need to maintain a sense of humble conditionality, an ability to be certain of some things conditionally and ready to shift if you get a good reason to do so.