February 1972

Psychotherapy as the Mitigation of Uncertainties

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1972;26(2):186-188. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1972.01750200090019

Whenever man becomes increasingly unsure that he can adequately anticipate and control his physical, social, or metapsychologic milieu, his anxieties mount and may engender deviant patterns of attempted mastery or retreat variously termed neurotic, sociopathic, or psychotic. More comprehensive insights into the Oedipus myths than those offered by Freud reveal that they epitomize not only superficial incest fears, but also more devastating uncertainties as to dependent, survival, and other relationships among parents and offspring, later "identity crises" in all concerned, the hubris of asymptotic human aspirations after unattainable "truths" and man's ultimate defiance of Fate itself. Animal experiments also demonstrate the devastating effects of stressful unpredictabilities. The clinical relevance of the Uncertainty Principle is that all therapy (Greek—therapeien, service) is effective only insofar as it increases the recipient's confidence as to his physical well-being, alleviates his concerns about his interpersonal securities and fosters comforting theophilosophic beliefs.