Most of us have witnessed or felt the power of others' good or unkind intentions on us and ours on them. But have we stopped to consider the power of our intentions, kind or unkind, on ourselves?
The effect of our intentions on ourselves may be harder for us to see, but this effect is even more crucial to our wellbeing than the power of the intentions of other people. The person we spend the most time with is our self. What we wish for ourselves plays out in every moment of our lives, 24/7 awake and asleep. Our intentions towards ourselves change our outlook on life, directly influence the quality of our lives, and support our resilience when hard times come our way.
When asked, we may immediately say, "Oh, of course I wish myself well!" We believe we harbor good intentions. But if we take an in-depth look, we may be surprised to find that our intentions towards ourselves are not always so kind. How do we take an in-depth look? The method is simple but it takes practice. For several days, and even better, on a regular basis, we can choose to stop for a moment at various times during the day and listen to our internal stories about ourselves and our plans. What are we saying to ourselves? Learning how we talk about our lives, our choices and the ways we plan to use ourselves to achieve those choices can help us discern our intentions.
Starting when we wake up, what's the first story? Are we thinking about going to work, how we may be late, and responding to our sense of timing by deciding we should skip breakfast? This decision either can be based on a good intention, such as protecting ourselves from being fired, or from an unkind intention, such as viewing our bodies as if they don't deserve our care. One way to discover the difference is to see how often we repeat this morning pattern. Checking in for several days to pay attention to how we start each day, asking ourselves if we are considering what will give our bodies and spirits ease, can give us insight.
Perhaps when we arrive at work or attend a meeting of people we know, we encounter a difficult emotional situation among the people with whom we spend time. Do we choose to add to the turmoil for them and for us - perhaps taking sides and escalating the uproar? Or do we decide to consider how what we choose to do might affect our own sense of comfort and ability to work effectively, as well as those of our colleagues?
Many wonderful people I know are dedicated to helping others. It's a heartwarming way to engage with life and can be very satisfying and add to our wellbeing, but it also can lead to suffering. The crucial difference is found in how we include ourselves and our own wellbeing in our desire to help. Overwhelmed by the unending stories of difficulty and hardship this world has to offer, the dedicated helper may not realize that his intentions towards himself matter and may treat his wellbeing as if it should be disregarded. This can lead to frustration, burnout and stress, undermining our efforts while we undermine our health. We also might consider the effect of our modeling the intentions we hold towards ourselves while we interact with other people. If we model a disregard for ourselves, we are teaching, through our actions, this same disregard to the people we help. Is that truly a gift to anyone?
Through noticing what we think and do, we can discover what we wish for ourselves. As we do this, we will learn more about the kindness or unkindness of our intentions. Do we hold the underlying view that our wellbeing is coin to be spent, not something to safeguard and build? Our bodies and our spirits will read our intentions just like we read the intentions of other people towards us. Even if we are not consciously aware of what intentions we are practicing, we feel them and we are affected.
Our intentions towards ourselves are also significant when we are faced with a major challenge. A major challenge sets a new course in our lives. We may recover from a physical injury or illness or loss but our lives will never be exactly the same afterwards. Our great opportunity in the midst of the chaos that change brings is to build a new and deeper life. The life we do build will be profoundly shaped by our intentions towards ourselves. If we wish ourselves well, we will find ways to recover, adapt and build a fulfilling life. If we unconsciously wish ourselves ill, we may focus on our hardships and miss opportunities that will support our healing and bring us joy.
We can choose to start each day by actively wishing ourselves well and looking for ways, small and large, to express this wish throughout the day. Through trial and error and enough practice, good intentions toward ourselves can become a habit.
Article Source: psychologytoday.com