A friend complained to me that she was troubled by doubt and wished she could overcome it. She envied the passionate lives of others — those who committed to relationships and causes. Why can’t I be like them? was her oft-time complaint. Why can’t I find meaning by loving Jeremy as my friend Wanda does, without noticing his mental and moral limitations? Why can’t I throw myself into protecting the walrus herds of the ice floes as my college roommate Encenita does, without troubling myself with the fear that my energy could be better spent caring for people rather than those tusky ice-slugs? “After all” and this was approximately at the crescendo of her aria contra dubitatem “Isn’t doubt itself something to be doubted? If everything can be doubted, shouldn’t a policy of avoiding commitment be doubted as well? And if so, does it not fare rather poorly under interrogation, depriving me as it does of love, passion, romance, enthusiasm and commitment?”
It’s hard not to sympathize with her predicament, but I believe she has made a mistake.
“I doubt that Jeremy is an interesting man.” is, once unwrapped
“I see things about Jeremy that are limiting.”
And if you see things about Jeremy that are limiting, you cannot upon pain of self-deception, be as interested in him as your friend who doesn’t see those limits.
So the wish to be free of doubt about Jeremy is really the wish that Jeremy be a less limited man, and worthy of your interest.
Similarly with the walrus example. Your friend does not see anything better than helping walruses. You do. Your doubt is not something separate, floating above the situation, ruining your walrus passion. It is another way of saying, you see problems where your friend sees none.
The world is full of projects and people asking us to lie to ourselves to achieve solidarity with them. They are no good and you know that, because you can see through their lies.
Doubt is not truly speaking the enemy and commitment is not truly speaking your friend.
Your goal is to find something that increases your power and freedom and then get it. Doubt is just a way of saying that you are, justifiably, worried that some thngs might not be worthy. You may well be correct. Commitment and passion will come, like it or not, once you discover something (or someone) that makes you powerful or free.