Critical thinking – managing uncertainty (and anxiety) 03.08.21

Critical thinking – managing uncertainty (and anxiety) 03.08.21

Recently I have been anxious and uncertain about how I am going to bring BOW together. I feel happy about CTS which plays to my writing strengths and research interests).

When I did my doctorate (84,000 words!) in 2003 it was about a research subject that I knew a lot about, and I had been writing health research papers for several years. This degree is a new world that I have been struggling to navigate. Initially it felt like a liminal space, which is neither before or after starting, and left me anxious and slightly disorientated, perhaps like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. It has taken me a lot of effort to get a modicum of understanding about visual culture, but my CTS tutor is encouraging me that I am ‘on track.’

Like others I have been working from home for a year because of health problems, retired (then went back) and had a heart attack and developed diabetes (4 months ago). I am naturally an anxious person which normally manifests itself in talking too much especially in groups: I can put my foot in it and say some stupid things. Paradoxically since my heart attack I have become more determined and just want to get on with the degree and do my best now that I am recovering and have more energy.

The other compounding issue is that I am much more on my own in doing the work than perhaps with other modules. I think that that has everything to do with me and not my tutor. I corresponded with another student (Rob Townsend) about this issue who suggested that this is what it is like – you have to find your own way. I think that is wise advise, which is why I am going to press on.

One of the things that I learnt from a book called ‘How to survive a PhD’ is the concept of “the progressive reduction of uncertainty.” I broke my doctorate into phases and celebrated when they were done. I have started doing that again recently and am going to stop complaining about where I am; the more you complete the less there is to do – simple, really.

One of my professional roles is to appraise and support GPs, many of whom are struggling as a result of excessive workload and Covid issues. We can all suffer or get things out of perspective which affects morale and progress. I have had some CBT training and have started to use this to plan the degree work alongside my work and other interests. I look at what is real, what I feel, what is myth or wrong and what is the truth of the problem that I have written down. Sometimes I shred the things on the list that I cannot do anything about. That has given me drive to ‘get on with it’ – it’s back to that concept of “the progressive reduction of uncertainty.”

The other issue is academic and personal isolation. I like being on my own, but have led several successful groups. When I engaged with OCA groups, such as CAHOOTs, it has been inspirational and I have learnt a lot from others. I will do more of that.

Doing this degree is not a technical activity but a huge personal commitment of my self, mind, body and spirit. It matters that I produce something authentic and ‘truthful’ although whether my work is successful or gets traction is outside of my control. There, I have said it. It matters to me.

And now I’m a fan of Foucault.