[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
January 1959

The Quest for Certainty

AMA Arch NeurPsych. 1959;81(1):69-84. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1959.02340130089015

We plan to explore with uncertainty some theoretic and practical implications of the idea of certainty. Much of what we have to say may of itself not be new. Nevertheless, some psychodynamic and psychotherapeutic problems may be differently and, perhaps, more successfully approached from this conceptual frame. Another dimension, overlapping many concepts of general currency, may be added to the therapist's armamentarium.

From the beginning of recorded history, man has demonstrated intolerance for the unknown. He has a tendency to search for realistic answers. When nature does not easily disclose her secrets, he may seek to satisfy himself by establishing even for the physical universe a law which he calls the uncertainty principle. Not being able to find realistic answers, they are sometimes projected. These neurotic projections, in the microcosm of interpersonal affairs, are often supported and rationalized in the haste to solve problems immediately. But tolerance for uncertainty is