Fixing the Underlying Conditions First

I cannot believe this is the first Sunday of August. Despite all the craziness of 2022, this means the year is more than halfway over. Soon it will be Halloween, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. If you are just as amazed as me, join the club.

As I think about all those events from mass shootings in Buffalo and LA to the assassination of the former Japanese Prime Minister to the ongoing opioid crisis, I cannot help but wonder why we haven’t done what this blog title says: Fixing the underlying conditions first. Any good doctor will tell you it is no good treating the symptoms alone; you have to treat the real cause of the diseases. Example: coughing; taking cough medications might make you feel better, but the real reason for the cough is bronchitis, or based on the experiences of the last 2 years, COVID-19.

In therapy, psychologists and other clinical psychiatrists apply the same principles of dealing with the underlying conditions first. A man or woman who gets counseling to help get over a divorce doesn’t deal with just the immediate issue but throughout the sessions – however long they take – address much deeper issues. Worse, if they were the ones who ended with multiple affairs or other indiscretions, that’s when they really have to dig deep. They might talk about things that happened to them when a young child when his or her parents divorced, or were poor or rich and never understood how to handle money, and everything in between. Only then can they move forward to have healthy relationships.

The problem with our impatient, “Instant” society in the 2010s and beyond, is that we want solutions NOW. The fact that one social media platform is called “Instagram” ought to be a major clue. I remember when “One Hour Photo” was considered fast. We are practicing a form of reductionism in society that will never work. Reductionism attempts to take complex ideas or problems and then try to explain them with simpler or more fundamental level. It might look good on paper and even sound good as 140-word Tweets, but it will never work.

Simple solutions rarely solve complex problems.

Last year, when I was working in Korea Town, LA, I saw this sign on a bus bench. “30,348 people died last year because of gun violence.” Let me ask you the reader this: What is the key word in that sentence?” Now, if you are Left or Democratic-Progressive, you might say: “gun”. Not even close. The word is “violence.” A gun is just a tool. It’s a dangerous tool, but so are chainsaws, table-saws, drills, Bleach, Tide Pods, insecticides, and over half the items in a DIY store. The real issue is that 30,348 people died because someone did not know how to deal with their anger.

What causes anger? This is where the modern attempts to use reductionist reasoning fails.

Look at the section for “Angry” in the bottom left. The words in the center are the short-hand ways of expressing a negative emotion. Some might have defined those as a “secondary” emotion. As you move to the outer edge, you get a refinement of what that emotion is.

Anyone who ever went to therapy for anger management (I certainly have) will tell you that anger is a symptom for a deeper issue. The counselor will always ask about triggers – what causes you to become angry and then devise good coping mechanisms to resolve those issues.

You get angry when someone cuts in front of you in line or traffic – that really means it violates your sense of fairness and perhaps even ego. “Why should he get the benefits when I have to wait?”

Anger can also arise based on unrealized or unrealistic expectations. That’s not on the chart, but it exists. If you have ever been stood up on a date, or if someone broke a promise, that’s a cause for anger too.

And when anger leads to violence, it just means that the person has chosen to deal with his anger through harm. He or she has not chosen to deal with the anger in a constructive manner. He would rather express that anger through a short term solution than a long term solution. The man has not identified the triggers – the circumstances or people – that cause his anger. He was never equipped in ways to address his anger in a productive manner.

Earlier in June 2022, a man traveled from Las Vegas to Laguna Niguel, California and shot up a church before he was eventually subdued and arrested. The reason? He was mainland Chinese; his victims were Taiwanese. Because mainland China’s position towards Taiwan was that Taiwan was just another rebellious province, in this man’s mind, he was justified in harming his nation’s enemies. Never mind the fact that from Las Vegas to Laguna Niguel is a 6 hour drive. Never mind the fact that he was not in China or Taiwan. He just had to express his wounded national pride in this horrific manner. This is pure evil regardless of where you stand on the China-Taiwan issue.

I use the example of “Anger” so you can see that a reductionist approach might not work. You can apply the same analysis – to go beyond the surface level emotions, to go beyond the so-called easy solutions, or the “if only” wishes, to really, really get to the bottom of matter. And when you get there, you might find that there are still multiple complex causes.

Throughout the ages, Christianity has often taught that the real root cause of human misbehavior from abuse to wars is sin. Sin is more than just breaking the Ten Commandments. Sin is an attitude of rebellion. Sin is a corrupting influence; just as one weed can ruin a garden, one small sin can destroy everything we have. Sin is simple to explain and nearly impossible to root out like those weeds.

But unlike anger management therapy which can take months or even years, dealing with sin can be solved if you can say A B C D.

Admit you are a sinner.
Believe in Jesus Christ and his completed work on the cross.
Confess Him as Lord.
Don’t delay.

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