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Finding the cause within

Magnify glass and maze in man's head

“The cause of everything that happens to you is in you; you should therefore look within yourself to find the cause.”

My reading of this maxim by Ostad Elahi triggered a number of thoughts that I would like to share by way of this article. A hearty thanks to e-ostadelahi.com for the opportunity to share with their readers.

We tend to spend a lot of time blaming “the world” for our misfortunes. On the other hand, we consider anything good to be the fruit of our own doing. But as always, giving it a little thought can make us realise that reality is a lot more complex.

I believe two ideas are important when trying to find the cause within:

  • Everything that happens to us has a cause and we should try and find out what it is instead of relying only on appearances like we usually do.
  • We occupy a central position in our lives, and therefore we play a major part in the causes of whatever happens to us.

Let’s break this down.

Things we bring about ourselves

We are the authors of our lives. We end up forgetting this and too often let those around us direct our lives and even dictate what we should think. “I” is by essence and constitution an actor; it has power of decision and control. There is no denying this effect of our free will unless we consider ourselves animals. We can in fact control our thoughts, which in turn nourish our psychology and our actions and structure our daily lives. We entertain negative thoughts about ourselves and others and these thoughts negatively shape our psychological profile. One might argue that these negative thoughts are the product of the permanent flood of negative information conveyed by society and the media, and thus be tempted by radical choices such as retreating from society to live like hermits. But following that line of reasoning would be forgetting rather glibly that we are the ones creating the negative thoughts we have about ourselves and others. Whether we live amidst society or as hermits, we are the cause of our own thoughts, and such negative thoughts will either reinforce the negative impact of the outside world (in the first case) or pollute the solitude of the person running away from that world (in the second case). We are, potentially, the primary pollutants of our minds and hearts.

It is through our own will and our own power that we can forge ourselves a positive psychological profile. “Thinking positively” is part of a healthy lifestyle that nourishes and cleanses our perception of ourselves and, in turn, our perception of others. Fighting the negative thoughts that naturally surface in our minds and trying to replace them with positive thoughts purifies the atmosphere inside us. A positive place is created. With willpower and perseverance it develops. It becomes a bubble that provides support and refuge, and constitutes a weapon to ward off the attacks of negative thoughts.

It is like an airport where passengers (thoughts) land and take off continuously. Nowadays, security measures (actions directed by our will) to help eradicate the risks of terrorist (negative thoughts) attacks (psychological destabilization) are numerous, strict and repetitive. Our objective is thus to organize a security system to fight off negative thoughts and make our air space (psychology) healthy and pleasant—much like an airport with an excellent reputation, where employees (oneself) and travellers (others) thrive and are happy.

Things that are brought about by our families and friends

Our families and friends are our best laboratory. They are often the cause of a lot of challenges and negative thoughts. Family relations create situations and relations that can lead to tensions and judgments that are the stuff of the most sordid family stories. Social barriers being inexistent in a family environment, passions and impulses can unleash themselves. When confronted to certain situations that trigger a conflict (an inappropriate remark, an angering attitude, an action that deprives me of a particular right), I have the choice between letting my emotions and impulses get the better of me and entering the fight or avoiding confrontation by taking a step back to think and understand why I was brought into such a situation. Looking within for the cause of everything means that I should at least consider that I might also be the source of what another person is saying to me, doing to me, or thinking of me. Taking a step back allows me to get a bigger picture and to broaden my perceptional field of understanding to a much larger extent than if I merely focus on the author of what I perceive as an aggression. The idea is to dissociate the author from the action committed: I try and depersonalize the bad action or negative words and understand why I am confronted to this unpleasant experience. I then naturally focus on myself and consider that this attack may itself be a reaction to something that originated in me. The thing for me to do then is to send out vibes, thoughts and actions that will either neutralize the negative effects of people’s behaviour toward me, or protect me like a sort of invisible shield against the effects that could trigger impulsive or emotional reactions in me. By creating a zone of non-reactivity, I create a place where I can think more clearly to understand and analyse the situation and try and find why I am in this situation. From this place I can examine how I might have contributed to the causal chain of reactions, or even how I might have been the direct cause of this attack.

Things that are brought about by others (at work and in the world at large)

It’s easy to make others bear the responsibility for what happens to us when it so visibly seems to come from them. If my boss criticizes me, it’s because he doesn’t understand anything I do. If I lose my job, it’s because my boss doesn’t like me. I’m unemployed, I’m getting a divorce, my child runs away from home… whatever it is, I will immediately try to find the reasons for it in others. It’s a way to protect oneself from others. Beside the fact that this attitude is delusional, or at best a deviated interpretation, it doesn’t help in solving the problem we are confronted with or understanding why it is happening to us. Seeing things that way might make an inextricable situation even more inextricable. Looking at myself first to then look at others, however, makes me responsible, and part of being responsible is also to accept the elements of causality that question the way I see myself. Beginning with a self-analysis to understand why I am confronted with a particular challenge does not exclude a subsequent analysis of external causes. But it does enable me to become aware of my share of responsibility, so that I may at least avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future. An experience I have often had while driving for example is the following. I pass a car without paying attention to a motorcyclist who 50 meters farther on, at the red light, starts insulting me violently. If I respond with the same tone to defend myself, the heat will rise and the insults will become lowly. If I say I am sorry realising the legitimate scare I must have given him, his aggressive tone might subside and the story be over. Even if, occasionally, my gentle reaction provokes greater aggressiveness on his behalf, I still feel great for having kept my own aggressive impulses under control.

We are constantly in a reactive state to thoughts or actions, but whether they stem from us or from others, we are always the target. Even if I believed that life was mere chance, but even more so if I am convinced that I co-create my destiny, I cannot deny the power of this “I”. As soon as I say “I”, “I” becomes the reason for its actions, whether consciously or unconsciously. If “I” is the reason for everything that happens to me, the good amount of compassion and indulgence I have for this “I” should help prevent me from blaming others for everything that annoys me.

Whenever something “good” happens to us, we seem to be quite capable of using our minds (our reason) to find the cause within and give ourselves the credit. A sound mind should be just as good at finding the cause within for everything “bad” that happen to us.

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  1. MaryS May 07, 2013 2:40 am 1

    Great article. Recently, I was put in a situation where I felt that a person was abusing our friendship. I was angry and upset with him and complained to everyone about how everything we as friends have gone through has been HIS fault. I spoke to a friend of mine and this wise friend said the following wise words, “you are equally responsible as well. Look at what you have done in this friendship too.” Interestingly enough, I realized how my actions had allowed this person to “abuse” this friendship. I took my pride aside and spoke to the person about how I felt about this friendship. To my surprise, he had no idea and I was so shocked with my own actions and complains. I had been so negative about him, and here he was…no idea what he had done or what was even going on in my head. The lesson I took from this challenge was that we all need to stop blaming faults on others and see how our actions are causing most of our troubles.

  2. RSHP May 08, 2013 8:33 pm 2

    Thank you for this article. However I would like to ask what you mean by sending out vibes, thoughts and actions that will neutralize the negative effects of people’s behaviour toward us? How can we send out those vibes and thoughts? Could you state an example please?

    1. Lisa Jan 13, 2017 5:19 am 2.1

      I think by being nice to the person who we think is bothering us. We could also try to think positively about this person. This is all hard work at first, but if we look at the divine in every human being it becomes easier to understand. Of course we ourselves should also find out in what way we may have done something wrong and upset the person in question.

  3. Anonymous May 12, 2013 10:59 pm 3

    Thanks for this great article. It talks exactly about me. I’ve never been mature enough to accept responsibility for my emotions, negative thoughts and aggregations or over reactions toward my close family members. My pride is so strong that it doesn’t let me step back and listen to criticisms and takes control of my emotions and makes the conflict worse.
    Just recently as I was seeing the first flames of a conflict I reminded myself to be quiet but attentive. This enabled me to manage my emotions before they became out of control. After almost every incident, when I was able to manage my emotions, I was able to see both sides of the scenario and be grateful to see my share or weakness that triggered the conflict. This attitude has helped me improve the quality of my relationships.

  4. A. May 15, 2013 6:38 am 4

    Even though our first reaction is to blame others for what happens to us, over the years we come to realize that the situations we live through are shaped, moulded onto our flaws, our weaknesses. When we realize this, we have better control over our emotions.

    But to really believe and realize that what happens to us originates in ourselves, we must see for ourselves a clear causal link, live through experiences that affect us. I will briefly describe one such experience where a negative emotion I felt allowed me to establish that link

    About fifteen years ago I had a very embarrassing flaw : jealousy, but jealousy of the worst kind – I mean the kind where you are willing to forego something so that the person toward whom you are jealous would also not benefit from it

    Now, everytime I experienced this negative emotion, shortly afterwards some very unpleasent things happened to me, even when I was doing my best to conceal the emotion and fight against it by doing the opposite of what this emotion would lead me to do. For example, I would make some mistakes, or missteps in accomplishing certain tasks, and the people whom I envied would be the ones reprimanding me.

    After a few years, during which I had to learn to try to control a number of other negative emotions I would experience in these situations (namely pride/humiliation), I finally made the hypothesis that my jealousy was maybe the cause of what I was experiencing. This was quickly confirmed by the following experience: I was able to predict, following a jealousy attack, that I was going to, again, make a mistake during the accomplishment of certain tasks and that the people toward whom I felt jealousy were going to give me a dressing-down within 24 hours of experiencing such jealousy. To this date, I still remember the feeling of elation, of surprise, that I felt after my prediction came true. It was truly an epiphany. The suffering from the humiliation had disappeared and had been replaced by a deep sense of joy, as if a whole new world had opened up in front of my eyes, and that without any need for visions or miracles (so typical of classical spirituality). I had realized, through my personal spiritual practice, that events were not the result of chance. It was incredible. Reading that in a book does not come close to becoming aware of this reality through personal experience.

  5. MaryS May 17, 2013 7:51 pm 5

    “The thing for me to do then is to send out vibes, thoughts and actions that will either neutralize the negative effects of people’s behaviour toward me, or protect me like a sort of invisible shield against the effects that could trigger impulsive or emotional reactions in me.”

    I feel like this has to do with self-fulfilling prophecy. The way I perceive reality is the way the reality is to me. So in other words, what I see is what I will get, how I perceive is how reality is for me. The statement in the article made me think of autosuggestion, but not just any type of autosuggestion. You speak to yourself based on the divine principles you have come to learn and face. Malak Jan has emphasized autosuggestion. It helps us suppress harmful animalistic impulses. For instance, the comment “Anonymous” wrote above was about pride. This person after the article was able to suppress the feelings he/she got by using autosuggestion. So in other words, the statement is telling me that it is up to me to change my false perception and see the world based on a spiritual outlook using autosuggestion.

  6. pam May 18, 2013 10:32 pm 6

    Great article! I take this as a recipe for inner peace: being like a solid tree with strong roots into the ground, so that nothing that happens to you can shake you.

    I am not the author, but I gather that a good example of “sending out vibes, thoughts and actions that will neutralize the negative effects of people’s behaviour toward us” is the example that “A.” gave in his/her post (let’s say A. is a male). When A. had his final jealousy experience in which he predicted the reprimanding reaction of his jealous thoughts, he felt joy. In the prior reprimandings he would feel humiliation/pride. But this time, his thoughts were different. He thought of the reprimanding session as “a reaction to something that originated within” himself. When these thoughts emanated from his mind (thoughts that the cause was himself), he neutralized the negative effects of the person’s reprimanding behavior, and felt joy/astonishment instead of humiliation. I’m not sure that answers your question, but it’s what came to my mind.

    I have felt such joy at realizing that I have a character fault that is being constantly tested. It makes me feel less of a victim. For instance, I am working on pride. Now I see that the reason that material accomplishments keep being taken away from me is that I keep gloating when I receive them. But once those accomplishments lose all value to me (my pride is tamed), I am sure they will stop being taken away from me in these constant tests of character.

  7. Juneone Nov 03, 2013 3:08 pm 7

    I woke up this morning feeling so desperate and a bit hopeless. So much in my environment has been overwhelming me lately. I am usually a rather calm and collected, and happy person, and can’t believe that I am in a such a soup of negativity, which is causing me to be so emotionally out of control. So this article was much needed.

    As I am reading it, I realize that the way I am handling my current ‘scenario’, which I think could even be objectively seen as harsh and negative, is filled with pride. It is hard to admit my lack of understanding, but on some level my imperious self is guiding me to hold onto all of the negative reactions as a defense mechanism. It is trying to convince me that if I were to visibly express anything different, then my environment would have effectively brainwashed me, and I would have ‘sold out’, having ignored the exploitation that is so obvious. But I am reading this and realizing that this reaction is coming about because of my material fixation. If I were to find a way to “see clearly” here, then I would see the potential benefit of learning about myself, of learning about staying true to myself, and about fearing no one but Him. When I get to that place, even theoretically, I see calm within reach. And I can understand that this kind of work doesn’t have anything to do with showing that I am going out of my way to please people that have obvious selfish and abusive intentions…it means that I am seeing where I am weak and need to be stronger, seeing how this experience can strengthen my dignity and willpower, and if I can get that out of it, how can it be negative?

  8. tom Nov 17, 2017 3:01 pm 8

    How do we reconcile these two principles:

    1. The Efficient is behind everything
    2. The cause of everything that happens to you is in you; you should therefore look within yourself to find the cause

    This question reminds me a bit of the debate on free will versus predetermination! The way I see it, the Efficient uses the material world as scenarios to teach you about yourself, but ultimately your behavior/choices influence the type of scenarios you are given.

    What do you think? Does anyone have thoughts on this?

    Practically speaking, I have run into this confusion when I am trying to see the Efficient in what is happening to me. I have come up with the idea that He is setting up a scenario for me to learn something about my behavior. Is this correct?

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