First, what did you learn from this exercise? (Note: This post is an extension of the previous two posts)
Chances are you discovered that most of life’s struggles can be attributed to factors in all three arenas. That is to be expected – as people, our lives do not sub-divide neatly. People are a dynamic unity of body, soul, mind, will, spirit, social context, and environmental influences. This means “cause” will rarely be as easy to identify as we would like.
Second, what are we looking for when we assess causation or contributive causes?
We want to know the place or places where we can catch the most traction in the process of change. The purpose of discussing causation is not to debate theories, but to identify how we can be most effective in our efforts to change. There are always many good and healthy things we could do which would positively impact our struggle, but we want to know which is most likely to provide the most benefit for the longest tenure because it is addressing the core of the problem.
Third, if cause can be unclear or overlapping, does that hinder our ability to make progress?
Yes and no. Consider an example pertaining to the brain but outside the field of mental illness – migraine headaches. Scientists and doctors do not know the changes or damage that happens at the cellular level which cause migraine headaches.
No one doubts that migraines are a biological problem with strong environmental influences. It also means doctors are alleviating symptoms more than working towards a cure until greater scientific advances can be made. Progress (i.e., pain relief through medicine and strategic decisions like avoiding allergens) can be made even if enough information does not exist to eliminate the problem. Even when the cause is unclear for a mental illness, similar forms of progress can be made.
Fourth, does identifying the cause always lead to a solution?
While identifying cause is a wise first step, no, it does not guarantee a solution; at least not to the degree that we often would like.
Often identifying the cause will point us in the direction to see near total redemption (alleviation of the struggle and opportunity to be used of God to bless others with what we learned in the experience). We use the information we derive from understanding causation to identity the most relevant truths, medications, insights, and life practices. We then experience and are able to more fully appreciate the health we longed for in our time of struggle.
Other times, struggles may still persist or return, even when we implement the truths, medicines, insights, and life practices that lessen their impact. For instance, events related to one’s post-traumatic stress may still produce an elevated sense of unrest even after those events are processed in a healthy way.
Does this mean we should just give up because what we want is not guaranteed in full? No, but it does mean that we need to understand the nature of redemption and how it relates to our various struggles better. That is the subject of the next question.