This is Part 2 of our 5-part series from my book Find Your Purpose Master Your Path. If you missed Part 1, Perception is Projection.
Otherwise read Part 2 below:
2: Cause and Effect
The second basic assumption is cause and effect. We’re all pretty comfortable with a cause and effect universe, right? When we see something happen or see a particular result, we assume that something or someone caused it, even if we can’t see that someone or something. But this basic assumption takes the dynamic of cause and effect a little further: If something in your life happens or you get a certain result, on some level you are the cause of it. Your life doesn’t happen to you, it happens through you. Cause and effect says for every act, there is a reaction. That’s basic physics. Realize that you are the creator. Realize that you are the creator of your experiences. And if you want a different result, you are the one who can – and must – cause it to be different. For many people, this is a radical way to see the world and their lives. On the one hand, it’s a great freedom to know that you really are in control, that you really are the cause – not the victim – of events in your life. At the same time, it can feel like a lot of responsibility. For some people, overwhelming and confusing: “How could I have possibly caused that?!?”
Yep, with cause and effect, you really need to grasp that, at the end of the day, there’s just you. You are responsible for getting your results. That doesn’t negate asking for support, taking a training, maybe getting someone to guide you. When you visit a medical doctor, you expect to get a certain level of treatment and help for whatever’s bothering you. If you go to an attorney, you expect to get a certain level of service and assistance with your legal issues. Some people might argue, “Then I’m not responsible in that situation. The medical doctor (or lawyer or expert) is supposed to steer me.” Getting assistance is one thing. But giving all of your power away and claiming you have no control over it whatsoever, that’s just not the truth of how things work.
Papa Bray said that, on a certain level, you are 100 percent responsible for the results that you get. You are the cause. This means you can’t go to a workshop, a lawyer, or a doctor, then blame these experts if you don’t get the results you wanted. But that’s a pretty common attitude in today’s world, isn’t it? “I didn’t get the results that I wanted. Whose fault is it? Let’s get some money from them!” That’s an unfortunate position to take because it perpetuates being at effect rather than being at cause.
Are there instances where someone is truly deserving of a settlement, or something happens that really shouldn’t have happened? Sure. But Papa Bray would say that even in those situations, at some level, you created the experience for a reason. The question isn’t about fault or blame. If it was up to me, fault and blame are words that I’d eradicate. It has nothing to do with fault or blame. It has to do with responsibility. Why did you create this event? And, here is the key: what is the learning that you need to get from it? Because once the event is over, as the old saying goes, “No use crying over spilt milk.” You have to learn from that experience – or spend a lifetime mopping up wet floors!
One of my students is a beautiful woman who became a model at age 15 and an actress in her 20’s. From early on, she went through a number of bad relationships with men, even a sexual assault and a marriage that included abuse and infidelity. Though she had an innate sense that she was “responsible” for these experiences, it was more from a sense of being guilty or “to blame” for them. “I knew that I was somehow attracting this bad stuff to me. But I thought it was because there was something wrong with me.” She went through some really dark times of bulimia and even self-cutting. After attending one of our workshops and understanding what cause and effect really means, she’s been able to break many of the patterns. “Now I understand that these experiences have learnings attached to them. I have the power to find the learnings, to change my response to a situation and to choose what situations I get into.” Though she tells me that she hasn’t yet found “the one,” she now has much more positive relationships with the men in her life.
I love that old joke that goes: “Doctor, every time I do this, it hurts.” And the doctor says, “Well, stop doing that, then.” At some level, you’ve got to come to the conclusion that, “Okay. If I keep bumping my head up against this wall, the wall’s not going to come down. In a battle between my skull and that wall, it looks like the wall will win every time.” Stop doing that then! You are the cause of your headaches, not the wall! Doing the same thing over and over again, thinking you’ll get a different response, is defined as insanity.
But if we don’t like something, the kneejerk reflex in our society is to blame something or someone else. “My life is ruined because my parents weren’t attentive.” “I’m not doing well at work because my boss is a jerk.” Rather than taking responsibility, we position ourselves as victims, the effects of someone or something else. We’ve set ourselves up as powerless.
One of my favorite examples of this: I teach in a rural area in Canada and the hotel’s training room is pretty rustic. One of the participants took it upon herself to go home and bring me a rug and a few fake plants for the funky stage. Very nice gesture and it warmed my heart. We got rolling on the session and, within the first half hour, some guy in the front raised his hand and said: “Is there anything you can do about the stage, because I’m getting no value out of this training because your stage is so ugly.” This guy had given his entire experience away to a rug and a few fake plants!
That example may seem extreme, but I’ve seen people blame the most obscure and insignificant things to avoid getting any results whatsoever out of a workshop, to make sure that they have no responsibility for their experience.
Rewards for Being at Effect
We live in a society that actually rewards being at effect in some contexts more than being at cause. When you are rewarded for being at effect, you perpetuate it. “Who do we blame? How can we get some money from them? And how do I make sure I maintain that state of being at effect? Because if I become cause and am responsible for my life, I will lose all the benefits of being at effect.” For example, someone may stay in an abusive relationship feeling victimized because she gets sympathy from friends because of it, or maybe even an invitation to be on Jerry Springer! This is what’s called secondary gain. Psychology talks about secondary gain a lot these days because people receive benefit from having a problem that outweighs getting rid of the problem. So they’re better off keeping their problems, and it’s easier to keep your problems if you don’t claim any responsibility for them.
The Power of Cause
Cause and effect is not an easy assumption to live but it is one that is truly empowering. It’s important in this context because we’re talking about your path. It’s not my path. I’ve got my path and I don’t need your path. And you don’t want my path. You want your path. You have to be 100 percent responsible for moving down your path. That’s it. If your path is uphill, you’ve got to find a way to get over that hill. If it’s downhill, you got to find a way to make sure you slow down enough so that you don’t crash and burn.
What if you do crash and burn? What if you fall on your path? I like the way Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra’s expressed it. He said that to curse the very act of falling down on the path may be to curse the very thing you needed to move to the next level. It’s counterproductive to beat yourself up for the down times, because that may be the thing that gets you up. You’ve got to get up, dust yourself off, and take responsibility but not blame. That’s important so let me repeat it: take responsibility, not blame. Cause and effect is not a complex existential inquiry into finding a reason why for everything. No. It’s a very simple and easy concept. It basically says that, at the end of the day, there’s only you looking back in the mirror.
I’ve NEVER heard anyone say, “I’m at the end of my life and I did everything my heart desired. If my gut said to go do it, I’d do it. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve experienced more love than I wanted. What a bummer. Man, I wish I had never lived so fully.” Nope, I’ve NEVER heard anyone say that. What I do hear when I meet people who haven’t done everything they’ve wanted to do: “I wish, I should have, I could have, I would have.” Cause and effect says get rid of the shoulda, coulda, wouldas, and just do it. We’re talking about becoming the person you want to be. Once you know who you want to be, you do have to just do it.
Self Work :
1. For a moment, feel the difference between accepting responsibility for something versus feeling that you are “to blame” for something. Which feeling makes you feel more energized to take action?
2. Think about situations where you felt you were the victim. Can you imagine how you might have been the cause of those situations? Is it possible those situations were there to teach you something? If so, what might that be?
3. Think about situations where you feel that you have no control. Maybe it’s the economy, the behavior of your boss, the weather. Where is your power in that situation?
Here is the link for Part 3 of the 5 Basic Assumptions: Creation.