This is going to be a hard one for me to write because I doubt that there are many people in my community (of acupuncturists) that agree with what I am about to say. Here I go:
I don’t believe in a root cause.
There. I said it.
A root cause is defined as: the basic cause of something. In my arena, it means the basic cause of your health issue or Burnout. Here’s the thing that niggles at me when people talk about root causes: I don’t believe it’s ever truly 1 thing.
Even if you get a cold, in order for that bacteria or virus to temporarily win over your immune system and make you feel like crap, there had to be some weakening of your immune system in the first place. Either you’re eating like shit, or you’re not sleeping enough, or you went from sweltering heat to freezing cold air conditioning one too many times – your body had to be, on some level, predisposed to getting sick. So, while the bacteria or virus is the ‘cause’ of the cold or flu symptoms, that doesn’t mean that it is the root cause of the cold. We get cold bugs daily that don’t make us sick, so what gives?
That’s an extremely simple example just to get your brain cranking. Every day in my office I treat symptoms of fatigue, chronic stress, burn out and emotional exhaustion.
It would be a magical day in the heavens if each patient that I saw had 1 root cause that we could uncover, fix, and then send them on their merry way.
In my experience, that’s just not how shit happens. There are way too many factors in our modern lives that contribute to our overall sense of wellbeing (or lack thereof) to maintain our focus on a ‘root cause’. It’s too simplistic and it is, frankly, rude to our patients. I believe that it belittles the factors that patients think are important in favor of putting the power in the practitioner to have the all-seeing eye and decipher the center of all issues.
Say someone has chronic stress: we could say the root cause is their job. But… there are 12 other people doing the same exact job as chronic stress patient (CSP) and none of them have chronic stress, so what’s going on?
CSP might have had a difficult childhood and is, therefore, maladapted to stress. This also leads to poor choices in self-care, which in turn make dealing with stress even more difficult. In addition, maybe they experienced a car crash that left them with PTSD and had parents that only served them Chef Boyardee and Kraft mac and cheese as children. Maybe they had high antibiotic use growing up and have poor gut health that they have no clue about – bloating’s normal right?
Where, in this story, do we find a root cause? Do we treat the childhood trauma? The PTSD? The food choices? The gut health? The self-care plan? Do we just focus on positive thinking and meditation and hope the rest irons itself out (you all know that’s not what I’d do ;))?
The only solution, I believe, in this situation, is to treat what we see.
This is an amazing tool that I learned because of my years in Chinese medicine. Treat what you see today. Eventually, layers will reveal themselves and lead to the next thing and the next and the next. I believe that we are such a giant mix of experiences, habits, and emotions that it is impossible to pinpoint one root cause that will untangle all of our issues. I also believe that whichever piece we are ready to heal will make itself seen in the right time.
When this method is applied to burnout, it makes everything so much easier. Instead of having a plan that I created that you must follow, we follow your body, your symptoms, your mood, your current abilities.
I’ve talked before about how I’m not a fan of health gurus and this is really why. It’s not possible to have the answers for everyone, especially not in a chart format and it’s not possible to know, before you even meet people, that the root cause is their gut, or their emotions, or whatever thing it is that you focus on.
It’s always a mixed bag.
Book a 20-minute session right now, so we can figure out where YOU should start untangling your exhaustion and overwhelm.