Having conducted a number of crisis negotiations over my 15 years as a police negotiator, I have found that a lot of what people say is their immediate issue, actually isn't. There is usually some underlying issue.
In times of crisis, our brain will go to the most recent event that comes to mind. This is usually the straw that broke the camel’s back and there are always greater reasons at play. The secret is to know how to extract that critical piece to solve your problem.
When we are under stress, it's the small immediate things that set us off. We find ourselves getting angry, yelling at a loved one, or doing silly things that we later regret. Until we acknowledge and deal with the underlying issue, we will never be able to move forward.
To use an analogy, these issues are like a thorn sitting under the skin. The thorn will fester and eventually burst through the skin or worse still, poison our blood. We need to extract the thorn to stop the festering process.
Similarly, if we don't deal with the underlying issue that is in our head, it will come out in the way that we behave adversely or will poison our 'mind'.
So how do we find the underlying reason for our issue? I have found that by continually asking 'so what’ is a way to find the cause. Start with what you think is the immediate issue and ask yourself "so what does this mean", "so what was the cause of this issue", or "so what is the reason for feeling this way".
Then ask yourself, "Therefore I need to find out what happened before that". By working your way backwards like this you may well find the underlying cause of what is troubling you, or maybe what is happening to a loved one. Until you open the wound, the thorn won’t come out and will hurt you.