When it comes to cause and effect we tend to be overly concerned with the effect others are having on us and rarely consider how we ourselves are influencing or causing results. A poorly prepared meal in a restaurant, harsh words from a loved one, road construction and unnecessary delays, missed deadlines, errors, these are personalized to the point of insanity while imagining that our own behaviours have a light and/or temporary influence on other people or processes “I said i was sorry, can’t you just get over it?”.
The truth is we have no idea how the relationships we cultivate or the emotions we generate today will influence tomorrow. Or ten years from tomorrow. In a related manner, the systems thinking principle behind this truth has recently come to light here in British Columbia with the arrival of tons of debris from the Japanese Tsunami. On a personal level we can think about this by imagining ourselves as both a spider and a web. As a spider we are moved by the smallest of breezes, the social and emotional climate, the comings and goings of others—the effects of which manifest in numerous ways. As a web, we are a gossamer thread touching everyone from the girl at the grocery store checkout counter, to our colleagues and loved ones to a switchboard operator thousands of miles away. And each touch point ripples outward in its own unexpected ways, touching off further effects or causes, some of which are obviously stronger than others.
Emotional contagion offers a great example of this ripple. At work or at home, the negative, sad, or joyful mood of others can rub off on us (or vice versa). Then later in the day, we “carry” that mood forward into our relationships at home, even continuing on with pertinent stories of misery or glee depending on the contamination- Indeed, this web stretches over vast distances as well. I once wrote a song, only to learn many years later that it had been taught to a group of people somewhere in the Gaza Strip! Cause and effect- the ripple, the web- can even, in true quantum fashion, fold back upon itself- returning to the source (us) in the form of what for many can only be thought of as Karma. “he really had it coming to him!” might be the words we utter when the great serpent comes around to bite its own tail. Or, in a more self pitying plea: “why does this always happen to me?”
So what does this all mean? You decide.