• Barbara Murphy-Shannon

Why You Should Surrender to Not Knowing and Move On.

Updated: Feb 26

There is a French expression, “C’est La Vie” pronounced ‘say-la’VEE’ with the stress on the third word. It means ‘such is life’ or ‘that’s life’. When things don’t go according to plan, some people complain non-stop, while others accept the fact that disappointments are part of life and get on with it.


Let’s take the example of your partner leaving you or you didn’t get the job. You can spend ages trying to figure out why.


You can waste nights lying awake. Anxious. You drink, you over-eat, you get depressed not understanding. The answers to all these questions are


“you don’t know”.


And you probably never will.


Don’t let your mind get on this recurring track. All these questions you literally don’t know the answer to.


Imagine the relief and freedom of surrendering to not knowing.


— C’est La Vie


I’m not saying you shouldn’t reflect on a situation that didn’t go your way, but the past is the past. You can’t change it.


The very nature and structure of life is uncertainty, so it is pointless wasting time trying to find certainty in uncertainty.


As Tony Robbins states, “many of us get stuck in the past because of our need for certainty. Certainty is one of the six basic human needs and is fundamentally about survival. We all need to feel certain that we can avoid pain and, ideally, find some comfort in our lives. Learning to let go of the past also means stepping into the unknown future. It means having the courage to let go of what is familiar – even if it’s negative – and being vulnerable enough to embrace and learn from what’s ahead”.


Trust that the circumstances of your life are aligning for your benefit.


Even if it doesn’t feel that way.


Imagine you go on this amazing date and feel you had a true connection. You're excited for what should be your next date. But you never hear from them again. The communication stops. No calls, no texts…nothing. This sounds awfully cruel, completely robbing you of your right to find out why you have been dumped so that you can get some closure and move on.


What happens when you can’t make sense to what has happen. We may stress all day because you can’t stop thinking of something unfair that happened to you? This human tendency to obsess, trying to work things out in one's mind, is common.


The need for closure doesn’t just apply to relationships. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, status or a way of life are other examples of painful endings. Letting go of something that was once important can be difficult, and many people seek closure in doing so.


And can you really expect other people to give you closure?


The social psychologist Arie Kruglanski coined the phrase “need for closure” in the 1990s, referring to a framework for decision making that aims to find “an answer on a given topic that will alleviate confusion and ambiguity”.


“When we seek closure, we are looking for answers as to the cause of a certain loss in order to resolve the painful feelings it has created. In doing this, we appear to form a mental puzzle of what’s happened – examining each piece and its relationship to the overall puzzle. Closure is achieved when we are satisfied that the puzzle has been assembled to our satisfaction, that the answers have been reached and it is therefore possible to move on.”


If you're like most people, you've had the experience of obsessing over something stressful that happened in your life. It may have been something someone said that hit you in the gut, it may have been a situation where you wish you had the perfect comeback, or it may be a problem that replays itself in your mind over and over with no acceptable solution in sight. Then your thoughts turn more negative and brooding, that's known as rumination.


This can send you down the never ending rabbit hole (hello Alice).


Does playing these mental gymnastics ever change the situation or have they just prolonged the pain and suffering? Does thinking about it non-stop do any good?


Probably not.


What would happen if you took the attitude of— C’est La Vie


I didn’t get the promotion. “C’est La Vie”.


My team lost the big game. “C’est La Vie”.


He never called me back. "C'est La Vie".


You can also say, “that’s the way the cookie crumbles” or “how the ball bounces” but “C’est La Vie — it has a certain je ne sais quoi."


Research indicates that certain types of personalities are different in the ways they approach closure. One study found that people who prefer order and predictability – having a more rigid way of thinking and a low tolerance for ambiguity – struggle when they are unable to find the answers to help them move on. In contrast, people who are more open minded, creative and comfortable with ambiguity are better able to cope with not achieving closure.


Psychologists have also found that people who are consistently able to find closure usually have value systems that can easily incorporate answers to validate their world view. A religious or spiritual ideology, for example, explains many questions as “God’s will” or “trust the Universe”, with no further explanation necessary.


Losing your job. It sucks at the time, but in six or twelve months, things may change such that you realize that it was actually a blessing.


Sometimes things happen for a reason.


You can’t change what happens by the very nature of the fact that — it happened.


Ultimately, closure is a complicated cognitive process and the key is learning to live with the ambiguity when it cannot be understood. Sometimes, things go wrong and although it does not feel fair…. accept that you don’t know “why”, and the burden will be lifted.


C’est La Vie!



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