An Insider's Guide to the
Perceptual Revolution
Interest and Opposition
Logical Impossibility
Empowering Delusions?
 
Intent and Identity

  Within the psyche, Intent imparts both continuity and change.  It is responsible for the sense of cohesion that allows each of us to believe that certain feelings and ideas represent "the real me."  Everything that we strive to be, all of the value that we assign to our most deeply held goals and principles, and even the most trivial details that distinguish us from other people, are sustained by Intent. 

The self unfolds through a cyclical pattern of conception, preservation and dissolution.  This is a trinity of mythological proportions; it bears on every facet of our development.  First we imagine and clarify our possibilities.  At this point, we must navigate a fine line between control and abandon, structure and chaos, permanence and change.    Next, we settle on a pattern of ideas and feelings that we want to become more "real."  At this stage, we focus the sustaining aspect of Intent, drawing the new pattern into the matrix of the self-image by believing that it is important.  The idea of importance is like a message broadcast throughout the psyche, which says "hey, pay attention to this pattern over here."  The more attention a trait in yourself receives, the more cohesive or "real" it becomes (this includes others’ regard, not just the attention borne of self-reflection).   

Finally, at our command, Intent withdraws from internal structures where it is no longer needed, rejoining the collective power source so that it may be used for new endeavors.  Interestingly enough, the human brain develops through a similar process.  In highly active areas of the brain, a substance called myelin coats our nerve synapses, protecting the patterns that form.  When these interconnections go unused for long enough, however, the myelin sheath surrounding them dissolves.  Thought patterns in the unused region become more muddled as time passes; eventually, all that remains is a vestige of their original complexity.    Belief summons the creative power that allows us to reshape patterns of Intent, and we reshape identity when we change how we view ourselves.  A change in self-image is always preceded by a conscious choice to allow a different set of characteristics to become a part of the self-image. 

The Intent of alienation

  The more we compare ourselves to others, the more separate from them we seem to become.  Judging bolsters a belief that we are ultimately alienated from one other, regardless of who is supposed to be better or worse.  What most sustains this vicious cycle is the idea that everyone has a certain level of inherent worth, and that we are qualified to assess a person’s value.  At the risk of stating the obvious, this mindset deadens us to self-examination. 

  Intent invariably reflects the will of the person projecting it; when we judge, therefore, we generate Intent which preserves feelings of separateness from our fellow human beings.  Intent borne of judgment can be highly resilient in the face of attempts to redefine it, especially mental patterns that have developed over a long period of time. 

  To judge is essentially to tell the universe, "give me a reality in which people are on separate planes of existence."  People are made up of so many aggregates that we can never truly define anyone’s "level," so whenever we regard personal worth as a definable quantity, we actually reinforce our own alienation.  Every person alive has untold depths.  No matter how much people appear to progress or worsen, some level of their being is exploring the opposite possibility.  There is not--nor will there ever be--a linear scale that we can conceptualize, explain, and use to rank people’s value.  Personal change does not move in a straight line.  There is also the fact that "better" and "worse" are two of the most ephemeral notions in existence; there will never be total consensus on exactly what they mean.  People use immense quantities of creative power when they view themselves, or others, from a standpoint of irreconcilable conflict and separateness.  Judgments that we direct outward always have a counterpart in ourselves.  What we judge reflects an aspect of our own potential for identity that we place outside of the conscious self image, causing them to reside in the realm of

the Shadow.  In a sense, the self-images that we construct—whether they focus on our own or others’ personalities—mirror our understanding of consciousness: realization that "this is a way that people can be" and fear that "this is a way that I could be."  This realization is critical to understanding how Intent relates to human identity. 

Unresolved projections

  Not everyone has the time or the initiative to wait for the benefits of long-term self-examination.  There is another approach which can be quite effective for focusing Intent—the "quick-fix" road to unity discussed in Chapter I.  The downside to achieving this type of focused self-concept is that we must suppress many competing internal processes to reach it.  This compromises one’s clarity and emotional purity at the same time as it provides extra focus.  Narrowing the scope of the self-image can consolidate a certain amount of energy, but it does not address the issue of why those energies were scattered to begin with.  Conflicts are buried deeper in the psyche, which we can sometimes observe when they come through in our conscious ideas and motivations.  Even if their effect on the core self is minimal, these self-aspects use up available creative power in the very act of existing.  Deeply buried self-aspects are less draining than those which are conscious enough to be enlivened by the core self-s vital energy.  An individual self-aspect has a negligible impact on one’s creative power, but all of these aspects together pose an immense cumulative drain. 

  Suppressed identity fragments sap our creative power regardless of whether we are aware of them.  Trying to negate part of oneself with guilt, anxiety or aggression cannot resolve the Intent which binds that fragment’s existence in a stable form.  To truly resolve complex and deep-set fragments of ourselves, we need to

integrate them into a unitive self-image.  Trying to push our demons away and replace them with something new is like turning the stereo louder so that you can't hear the loud arguments of the neighbors who live next door.  The underlying buzz of conflict remains, the only difference is that we are using more of our vital energy to block it out. 

  The restrictive identity images that we uphold maintain a quasi-sentient existence, at the expense of our energy and will, until we learn to untie the knots of misguided Intent that created them.  Judgmental perspectives are rooted in feelings such as contempt, blame, and resentment on the "superior" side, and self-pity, shame, and self-loathing on the "inferior" side.  These feelings are extremely draining to our vital energy.  Until a person resolves the patterns of Intent underlying judgmental perspectives, he or she will continually use valuable creative power sustaining them.  When a pattern of judgment exceeds a certain critical mass, engaging it depletes the creative power needed for us to grow out of that very pattern.  This type of vicious cycle has ensnared humankind since time immemorial.  Far more exhausting than judging others, however, is self-directed judgment.  This is distinguished from

self-critique by feelings of scorn, anxiety or despair that lead us to use all of our Intent reinforcing unfulfilling behaviors and limiting beliefs about our identity.  An internalized conflict will draw on our creative potential until we find a way to integrate its discordant elements into a more integral self-image. 

  There are many of empowering integral resolution in the most limited parts of ourselves.  Many formalized paths to this ideal begin with taking a more critical look at our own emotions (always a daunting prospect).  Just reflecting on old, deep feelings within ourselves can nudge us toward the integration which opens the door for greater inner peace. 

Freeing misdirected intent

  Every time we resolve dualistic aspects of the self-image, we incrementally increase the amount of Intent available for our conscious use.  Intent that had been locked in the feedback-loop dynamic returns to its original form: a state of pure possibility.

Repressed self-aspects have elements that were once developing knowledge, but at some point they became caught in regressive patterns of belief.  Their inability to surmount this cycle results from lacking the vital energy of sentience.  Recall that this energy is most abundant in the conscious sphere, which gives the core self its fantastic power to enact change.  If fragments become too estranged from the core self, they all but lose their ability to progress beyond their present state.  Like a child who keeps repeating the same grade, they will remain bound by ignorance until they make the requisite cognitive leap.  This catharsis is impossible if they are barred from the same power of growth that we experience consciously. 

Personal demons only evolve once we have chosen to own them as part of our total consciousness.  This, and only this, can impart the growth potential of the core self to the estranged self-image.  Admitting that "this is me, possessed of all my goodness and possibilities, not an external force that wants to hurt me" imbues a personal demon with the core self’s dramatic ability for realization.  The alternative, of course, is to keep running away from our demons.  This leaves them in the customary half-sentient state, depriving them of the means to evolve and ensuring that they will persist in sowing conflict in the psyche.   

One could argue that human development has followed this pattern for a reason: even when old habits of thought and behavior feel like a burden, their persistence reminds us that there are some lessons which we haven’t learned completely.  Trying to erase earlier models of yourself and replace them with new ideals is a disastrous approach, because it trades unresolved issues for pat certainties.  Without the personal mythology that develops from these life lessons, our values and beliefs cease to have a context.  We can only establish a frame of reference for self-growth thorough the concept of progressing, which means being wrong sometimes; to paraphrase Gary Zukav, it’s only through the absence of what we value most in life that we learn to appreciate presence. 

Repression is a way of unconsciously Intending an absence of consciousness, so we end up knowing less of ourselves than we once did.    Repressed identity fragments do not '"go away" for good; they continue to exist at an unconscious level, even though something new has taken their place in the conscious sphere. Trying to eradicate unwanted aspects of the self-image leaves people with the impression that they have vanquished their personal demons.  What has really occurred is that they have pushed the unwanted fragments further down in the psyche.  The old saying "out of sight, out of mind" captures the sublime self-deception at work here.  We avoid confronting the most challenging aspects of who we are by putting them in a dungeon.  What we do not realize is that no matter how hard we starve them of affection, our demons do not cease to exist.  By sentencing these parts of ourselves to a state of exile, we increase our own inner conflict; pushing them further down only ensures that we will need to devote more time and energy to reconcile our conscious identity with what we have rejected.

  There are many potential benefits of freeing misdirected creative power.  It cultivates a sense of integral will in oneself that lends strength in making decisions and moving toward goals.  It can also increase one’s overall vitality, so that life takes on a greater sense of passion and intensity—a natural consequence of accessing more of our creative power. The true benefits, however, run much deeper.

Self-awareness naturally begets a clearer grasp of the nuances of Intent.  Dispelling internal conflict leads us to a greater state of focus, clarity, and emotional balance; developing our command over Intent naturally follows.    When a person's awareness becomes less fixated on constricting self-images and ideas—those which revolve around fear, worthlessness, or overpowering others—there is more available for embodying higher qualities such as inspiration, joy, and good will.  These changes happen so gradually that people don’t always notice until the difference is well established in their ordinary consciousness.  Personal growth is not usually marked my sudden, dramatic improvements; it is far more common for people to look back on who they had been and realize that they have become "a different person" in a given respect.

Partial unbinding

  We don't always need to break Intent down and start from scratch to make it more aligned with our ideals.  A more "economical" approach is to keep much of the original content while making minor, but pivotal, adjustments.  Many wasteful or destructive patterns of thought and behaviour started out as good intentions, but got distorted somewhere in the follow-through.  Reviewing the internal processes by which we formed these patterns can point the way to self-adjustments that have a profound beneficial impact. 

Sometimes, aspects of identity need to be broken down and rebuilt. This may be the only way to allow for a desired level of personal growth, or you may just find that you have outgrown an old pattern without much conscious effort.  Making minor changes to the psyche requires a comparatively modest expenditure of energy; in these circumstances, you will get a lot farther by leaving productive elements of yourself intact than by trying to reinvent the wheel.  A small-scale and incremental approach to personal growth has the benefit of being more comfortable and grounded. Another selling point is that it offsets despair and hopelessness, by warding off excessive fixation on negative observations.  Just as you expose the shortcomings of specific choices that you have made in the past, you can also affirm that you have done some things right. This means choosing to preserve resolutions and insights that have proved their value over time.  That being said, unearned feelings of confidence and equanimity easily become a crutch that can keep you from realizing your full possibilities.


Next: Communicating Intent

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© 1999, 2003 by Lucius R. Ringwald.  All rights reserved.