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Happy New Year to all of our lovely Sparkling Hill guests and readers!

I am excited to start the new year with the first pillar of the three on which our relationships stand. I am going to spend a number of blog entries on this particular point.

The Pillar of Impersonality

There are three important philosophical aspects to this pillar. These are the difference between “inductive logic” and “deductive logic”; entropy; as well as mankind’s difficulties with discerning between two concepts, namely “sufficient causality” and “necessary causality”.
Although these phrases may be jawbreakers, they are important in understanding why wounds, catastrophes, betrayals and hurt are never personal in the first place.

Let’s start with the last two.

One of the biggest mistakes that humanity makes is that of attributing “sufficient causality” rather than “necessary causality” to the unfortunate things that happen in their lives. Or, to put it more simply, people tend to think that only one thing is the cause of something bad that happens (sufficient causality), when it is much more likely that there are many possible reasons for something bad to happen, or a combination of things, not just one thing (necesssary causality).
So, for the sake of simplicity, let’s call “sufficient causality” more-than-one-reason-for-bad-things-to-happen and “necessary causality” the one-and-one-only-reason-for-bad-things to happen.

“One and one only reason for things to happen” happens when only one event can cause a subsequent event, and no other event but that event. For instance: somebody who suffers from concussion can say and be 100% correct that their concussion was caused by a blow to their heads. No other thing in the universe causes concussion. A blow to the head is the one and one only reason for concussion. It is because of that jolt that the brain moves inside and bumps against the skull.

In human interaction, this “one and one only reason for things to happen happens really very rarely.

“More than one reason for things to happen” happens when more than one event can cause another event to happen.  For instance: somebody who suffers from lung cancer can say that their lung cancer is caused by them having smoked. They may be or may not be correct. This is because lung cancer can be caused by smoking, but also by secondhand smoking, air pollution, exposure to asbestos, inherited gene changes, or acquired gene changes. These factors: smoking, secondhand smoking, air pollution, exposure to carcinogens, and gene changes are all causing lung cancer, but not one of them are the one and only one reason for causing it.

This concept of the difference between “more than one reason” and “one and one only reason for things to happen” plays a major role in human relationships, and is almost always the reason that we should not take painful things that happen to us at the hands of others personally.
During the SHaRP Relationship program, much more is said about this, but let us just use one example.

One night Jane, an ER physician who works noon to nine shifts, comes home at 10:52 PM. John, her husband is a stay-at-home dad, taking care of their home and baby. He says to Jane: “It is nearly 11 o’clock! Where on earth have you been?”

Jane loses it: “Where do you think I have been? Watching movies? I worked for 11 hours straight, while you wiped countertops, fed the baby and played your video games!”

Jane’s response is because she believes that one and only one thing happened which caused John to say what he did and which immediately caused her to be so upset. To her, John is negative and critical, and therefore he said what he said. His remark can be only from a negative and critical place, where  he is critical and underappreciative of the hard work she puts in to finance the family.

If  this was true, then Jane can be forgiven for her knee-jerk response.

However, that is not true. John’s feelings that led to his statement may be negative and critical. But they may also be concerned and worried. Jane typically is home by about 9:30 PM, after her shift. If she was running late, she would usually have texted him that she had to stay longer.

In such an event, where John’s statement was caused by feelings of care and worry, Jane’s response is over-the-top and cruel.

Jane made the mistake of attributing “one and one only reason” for John’s statement. She believed that his comment could only come from critical and negative feelings. If she understood that there may be different feelings that could have caused him to say what he did, she would most likely have explored his cause of his comment by any variety of methods, such as saying “I feel really upset to hear that you seem critical of my long working hours on a day when I have been swamped, especially as you and I have agreed before we had the baby, that I would do these hours”. Had she done that, John would have been able to tell her his comment was caused by love and concern.

Indeed, with Jane’s retort, it is very likely that John now will make the mistake of interpreting the feelings behind what Jane said back to him in a “one-and-only-one-reason-for-things” framework. It is very likely that he may think she is mean, derogatory and demeaning about his job. As he also will assume that his understanding of what happened to make Jane say what she said is true, this in turn most likely will lead to a further breakdown in the communication between the two of them, and probably to the relationship at large.

This one example happens everyday to almost everybody. We do not check for other reasons than the one looking obvious to us when bad things happen to us, or people do bad things to us. Because we fail to understand that we become wounded for many, many reasons (most of which are not intended to hurt at all, and most of the time accidentally) we break off relationships, or slowly drift apart.

In this New Year, let’s make one resolution: if our loved one, or our boss, or anybody for that matter, says or does something that hurt us, we are to remember there are more than one reason for bad things to happen. Therefore we should clarify or explore what other reasons there may be for the painful thing that happened to us. We will be surprised to see how often that decreases the hurt considerably, if not completely take it away.

Dr. Strauss l Wellness Lead
Follow me on Twitter @DrPieterStrauss