What the Heck is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle? (The No-Assumptions Model)

Have you ever wondered what the heck David Grand was talking about when he referred to the “Uncertainty Principle” in the level one training?! Here’s an excellent read by trainer, Christine Ranck, on the concept, including how it applies to us psychotherapists. Enjoy!  ~ Melanie Young


By Christine Ranck, PhD, LCSW


We are used to looking at the world in a simple way…believing that something is there, or it is not there, whether we are looking at it or not.  All our experience tells us that the physical world is solid, real, and completely independent of us.  To observe the world “objectively” means to see it as it would appear to an observer who has no prejudices about what s/he observes.

But the new science, Quantum Physics, says that this is simply not accurate; that it is not possible to observe reality without changing it; that we can never eliminate ourselves from the picture.

Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle states that as we penetrate deeper and deeper into the subatomic realm, we’ll ultimately reach a “realm of uncertainty, where either one part, or another part of what we’re measuring becomes fuzzy and blurred. And there is no way to re-focus or re-clarify that part without simultaneously blurring a different part of the picture.

It’s sort of like trying to adjust a movie that is slightly out of focus. But as we try to focus the lens, we discover (astonishingly) that when one part of the picture is clear, another part of the picture becomes fuzzy and unrecognizable.

In fact you may have noticed, while watching a movie showing a big party scene on the screen, that as soon as the camera focuses in on a character in the foreground of the scene, the people and activities in the background get out of focus and fuzzy. But if the camera then focuses on someone in the background, those in the foreground get fuzzy or disappear. Normally you can see the whole picture clearly until the camera zeroes in (with a specific way of looking at the scene). It is this focus that causes the distortions in the scene, and causes aspects of the scene to be “unseeable.”

Also, in our everyday experience, it is possible to observe a traveling car, and easily determine exactly where the car is located, and exactly how fast it is moving (using the proper math formula of course!).

But at the subatomic level, according to the Uncertainty Principle, it is impossible to measure both the location and the speed of a moving particle at the same time. And the more precisely one of these properties is measured, the less we know about the other one!

If we precisely measure the location of the particle, then it’s impossible to know anything about its speed. And if we precisely determine the speed, it is impossible to tell exactly where it is!

Every attempt to observe (focus in on) the electron alters the electron, and leaves its measurements in a bizarre state of ambiguity. This is how Heisenberg’s discovery became known as the “uncertainty principle.”

The Uncertainty Principle states that at the subatomic level, we cannot observe something without changing it.  There is no such thing as an independent observer who can stand on the sidelines watching nature run its course without influencing it.  This also means that we can never see things the way they “really are” but only the way we choose to see them. What we observe in the external world is completely enmeshed in our own perceptions.


“Reality” is what we take to be true.

What we take to be true is what we believe.

What we believe is based upon our perceptions.

What we perceive depends upon what we look for.

What we look for depends upon what we think.

What we think depends upon what we perceive.

What we perceive determines what we believe.

What we believe determines what we take to be true.

What we take to be true is our reality.


So if we make an assumption about a client in treatment, and then focus, suggest, direct, or intervene in a particular way, that focus will essentially wipe out access to any other information! Our observation changes the outcome. The more we think we know about a certain thing, the more we DON’T know about another thing. Our intervention (with its inherent prejudices) can be disastrous for the treatment. Employing the Uncertainty Principle (the No Assumptions Model) makes room for the client’s “real” truth to emerge on its own.


Christine Ranck, PhD, LCSW, is an EMDR and Brainspotting therapist and psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City. Learn more about her practice here.

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