How Causation Goes in a Circle
Most of us were trained at some point to understand that causation goes in a linear pattern. It’s like what happens when we play pool, and hit the cue ball so it hits the 5 ball, which in turn hits the 2 ball, which then hits the 7 ball and it falls into the pocket. There was a linear pattern of cause with the final effect of the 7 ball going into the pocket. That works quite well in the physical world,
But when we come to the family, causation is seldom, if ever, linear. It’s always circular. The reason is simple. We are dealing with other people, who have their own ideas, feelings and free will, all of which enter into the equation. Someone has said that linear thinking is like kicking a can–the results are fairly predictable. Circular thinking is like kicking a dog. The dog has the capacity to act and react on its own, and the result will be very unpredictable.
Relationships in a family are always interactive and circular. For example, Donna has been frustrated with her husband Fred for years. She has tried everything to get him to come out of his shell and be more sociable. Noting has worked as she has been stuck in linear thinking. She believed that if she gave Fred a shove in the right direction, and if he didn’t move, she was to shove harder.
What she got instead was the reality of one of my favorite sayings—”Trying harder only gets you more of the same!” What she didn’t realize was that every time she gave a shove to Fred, he resisted and shoved back. The harder she shoved, the more he resisted. When Donna realized this, she stopped shoving. And what happened is what usually happened–Fred started moving in a more sociable direction on his own.
Fred’s resistance wasn’t just a reaction to Donna. There were a number of other factors that played into the circular pattern. His hermit attitude went back to a chaotic childhood, when the best thing to do was to “lie low.” He just included that as a part of why he resisted Donna’s pressure. HIs personality bent was also a factor, and there were probably other factors at play in his resistance to opening up to other people.
Question: What situation do you see in your family that might, by using circular causation instead of linear causation, help you to understand what is happening?