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Cause and Effect: Which Happens First?

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Nothing we do is caused by what happens outside of us — William Glasser, MD

How do you feel today?

Good? Tired? Stressed? Satisfied? Angry? Upset? Excited? Bored?

How come you feel that way? If you were to explain to someone else the reasons you feel this way, would you say, “Because I choose to feel this way?” If you did that would be surprising.

Mostly when we explain our feelings and our present state of well being we point to something outside of ourselves as the cause for our pleasure or displeasure.

I’m so happy because I did well on my exam.

I’m furious that my boss doesn’t believe me.

This Thanksgiving is going to be perfect because my out of town family is coming here for the celebration. 

None of these circumstances or situations are inherently good or bad, pleasurable or displeasing. It is our belief, opinion and meaning making that makes them so.

For instance if you have ambivalent feelings toward your family, or feel criticized and uncomfortable around certain members of your family, you might be less than pleased to know they will be joining you for a holiday. 

What happens in the world are simply the facts as we presently understand them. Declaring them good and pleasurable or bad and displeasurable is something that happens inside each of us. And this declaration depends on how close or disparate we perceive the world compared to how we want it to be.

It’s like the baseball umpire says: It ain’t a ball or a strike until  I  call it a ball or a strike. 

The effect the world has on our Mental Health & Happiness is based on the meaning and value we place on the information and experiences  we receive in the world. We are the cause and we decide the effect.

If you don’t like what is happening in your life, one way you can change it  is to change how you are describing and making meaning of the experience.

canstockphoto22485059Too much unhappiness and misery? Change the value and meaning you place on the “facts.” You can change it to neutral, positive or negative.

This is not easily done and takes work and practice. But the results will definitely improve your present mood and your Mental Health & Happiness.

Try this:

Describe today’s weather? Are your descriptors factual or neutral, such as Today it is raining and the temperature is 58 degrees

Or is your description more opinionated:

Today is a miserable, raw and cold day

Or is your description positive:

I’m so glad it’s raining today so I get to stay inside and read all day long.

Now try this:

Change the description you made and see if you can describe today’s weather in a neutral or factual way, a positive way and a negative way.

Choose another situation in your life and see if you can do the same thing; describe it neutrally, positively and negatively.

The cause of your displeasure or unhappiness is only inside of you and how you define and describe your world. For improved effect that includes improved Mental Health & Happiness change your descriptors of your world from negative to neutral or positive. 

*Take Charge of Your Life: How to Get What You Need With Choice Theory Psychology, p. 5, Dr. William Glasser, M.D.