Everything Doesn’t Happen For a Reason (Maybe)

Everything doesn’t happen for a reason. This post

Everything happens for a reason. (Found on Google Images)

I was at the end of watching Jessica Fechtor‘s video for her well-praised new book about surviving a serious medical condition (Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home), and what were her final words? She believes that maybe everything doesn’t happen for a reason—a view I happen to share. Fechtor: “I think everything happens, and then other things happen. And what we do with what happens—that becomes the reason.”

Her story as obtained from the book blurb: “At 28, Jessica Fechtor was happily immersed in graduate school and her young marriage, and thinking about starting a family. Then one day, she went for a run and an aneurysm burst in her brain. She nearly died. She lost her sense of smell, the sight in her left eye, and was forced to the sidelines of the life she loved.”

See Fechtor below:

It’s not an idea, on the other hand, that these particular researchers can support:

…(T)he belief…tilts us toward the view that the world is a fundamentally fair place, where goodness is rewarded and badness punished. It can lead us to blame those who suffer from disease and who are victims of crimes, and it can motivate a reflexive bias in favor of the status quo — seeing poverty, inequality and oppression as reflecting the workings of a deep and meaningful plan.

…If there is such a thing as divine justice or karmic retribution, the world we live in is not the place to find it. Instead, the events of human life unfold in a fair and just manner only when individuals and society work hard to make this happen.

What if it’s only semantics that separates the “for-a-reason”-believers versus the others of us? Jeremy Sherman, Psychology Today:

Say ‘everything happens for a reason,’ and people nod knowingly even though some take it to mean everything happens because it was efficiently caused, and others take it to mean everything serves a purpose. Maybe we prefer to keep the concept ambiguous.  It makes for polite agreement even if it hides a major disagreement…

…Over arguments involving the Greater Reason, for example, that such things as genocide can occur. Nicholas Clairmont, Big Think:

I, personally, simply cannot imagine how it might be a good thing to tell myself, if I were to indulge in wish-thinking, that everything happens for a reason. The only conclusion is that whoever or whatever designs and plans those reasons is utterly cold, capricious, heartless and cruel…

Matthew Hutson lists Everything happens for a reason, in fact, as Number 7 in his 2012 The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking. In a previous post regarding his book, I ended with a quote from philosopher Paul Thagard (Psychology Today) about dealing with bad circumstances that I believe is appropriate to repeat here.

Fortunately, even without religious or New Age illusions, people have many psychological resources for coping with the difficulties of life. These include cognitive strategies for generating explanations and problem solutions, and emotional strategies for managing the fear, anxiety, and anger that naturally accompany setbacks and threats. Psychological research has identified many ways to build resilience in individuals and groups, such as developing problem solving skills and strong social networks. Life can be highly meaningful even if some things that happen are just accidents. Stuff happens and you deal with it.

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