Imagine an alien waking up inside a human body. The human body has not eaten and thus the alien experiences hunger. How would the alien react? It would feel a pain inside the stomach and would not know how to cure it. Maybe the alien would panic and believe it was going to die. Maybe it would try useless solutions such as massaging its stomach. Maybe it would try harmful solutions such as cutting out the stomach. Yet in reality there was a very simple solution: eat. This example demonstrates the importance of knowing the true source of our problems.
Most of us know that the pangs of hunger are not a tragedy, they are simply a sign that we need to eat. What about other feelings? Many of us feel depressed when we have not had enough sleep, or have had too much alcohol. In this state of depression we might think that all kinds of terrible things are wrong with our life. We may run around trying to fix them, just as the alien might cut out its stomach. Yet all that we really need to do is sleep.
Always go to the heart of the matter. If a friend or spouse is yelling at you, don’t just react in like fashion. Think about why she is yelling. Maybe she is just feeling insecure and needs some reassurance. The symptoms of a problem are not always a good reflection of the cause, and often they are much worse. So when things seem bad, don’t panic, and don’t treat the symptoms. Instead, look for the true cause of the problem, and the right course of action should be clear.