"Look for reasons, not causes": Lessons for Living, by Dr Neil Thompson

Life is never without its challenge, but there is always the opportunity to learn and grow from those demands made on us. Dr Neil Thompson offers advice to tackle these problems and help social workers and care professionals to realise their potential.

13/06/21

"Look for reasons, not causes": Lessons for Living, by Dr Neil Thompson

People commonly talk about what causes a particular behaviour or reaction.

However, as it is people we are talking about, it makes more sense to talk about reasons, rather than causes.

Human beings exist in a social context that is very powerful in its wide range of influences and we are, of course, subject to certain biological forces and constraints.

But none of this removes human ‘agency’, to use the technical term, the ability to make choices.

If we are looking for causes not reasons, we can be neglecting some key aspects of how a situation arose or how it is likely to unfold.

For example, if I chose to make a complaint about a person or organization treating me disrespectfully, it may be said that being offended ‘caused me to do so’.

However, the reason I did so may have more to do with wanting to ensure other people do not have to endure such a bad experience than my feelings of being offended.

Of course, it would be naïve not to recognize that we do not have complete control over our circumstances, but it would also be very unwise to assume that we have no control over what happens to us, that we are just passive victims of circumstance.

To make sense of a complex situation, we need to understand both the influences on choices and the reasons for the choices actually made.

Dr Neil Thompson is an independent writer, educator and adviser.

His website is www.NeilThompson.info.

Connect with him online via @drneilthompson.

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