wires-computer-circuit_200299724-001.jpgSomething is said to be overdetermined when it is caused (determined) by multiple simultaneous sources, any one of which might be enough grounds to create the given result. Overdetermination is a concept covered by Sigmund Freud in “Interpretation of Dreams.”

In other words, the situation is complex and potentially has many interacting root causes. I often hear people attribute simple causation with seemingly sublime confidence that I find astounding. Some people see a simple black and white world. I believe in some absolutes, but I see myriad shades of gray between the blacks and the whites and abundant complexity. I am fond of the concept because the world I see in my mind is an overdetermined world.

The concept of overdetermination can be useful to keep in mind when you think you have found THE root cause, THE solution. Maybe. But there may be more. So it is important to think for a moment what the consequences might be if there were more factors at play, what the potential outcomes might be if you started out prepared to deal with just one factor and suddenly found yourself in the swamp dealing not just with alligators but also snakes and even lions, tigers, and bears! Sometimes the fastest way out of a complex situation is the quickest way back in.

Could the situation be overdetermined?