It's Not The Why, it's the How

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

Cause and Effect

Proponents of different psychology schools have, for a long time now, claimed the solutions to some mental issues lie in the reasons (or the causes) for those issues, and they are sometimes correct.


Trauma, for example, can be the cause of many pathological behaviours. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a perfect example of how an experience can and often does trigger undesirable processes. If you have been in a car accident, you are more likely to be afraid of riding in a car - this connection seems unavoidable - it appears to meet the most straightforward logic. However, and I say this whilst understanding the negative power of traumatic experiences, it is often more important to look at how we organise our behaviour as a result of those experiences.

In short, the HOW is just as important, or at times more important than the WHY.

The past cannot be changed, and knowing the cause of something can only tell us how it started, and though it can shed light on our reactions to that something, it cannot do much to help us correct the processes it has triggered. It is the process itself that must be altered.

Behavioural (analysis) sciences provide us with a straightforward yet useful formula to understand this idea: A+B+C = M - where the A stands for Antecedent, the B for Behaviour, the C for the Consequence, and the M for Modification. Yes, it is necessary to identify the Antecedent or whatever led to that behaviour is, but the formula is meaningless without understanding the behaviour and the Consequence.

Again, the cause is necessary to understand the actions that lead to a particular effect, but focusing solely on that cause is a mistake many make at the expense of their self-improvement.


Next time you find yourself reacting to some event (the cause or antecedent) adversely and feeling the negative effects (one of the many possible consequences) of that reaction, do your best to observe the process (the behaviour) you followed to arrive at that effect.

Remember that you may not be in control of most external circumstances, but you can always be mindful of your reactions to them.

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