Consciousness vs Intention

Consciousness vs Intention

Dec 3, 2021

Recently I was revisiting a chapter in the book Brain Talk by Dr. David Schnarch when I came across a story of a woman dealing with a toxic dynamic with her mother.

In it, Schnarch says to the woman:

“Your mother may not be able to see herself, but she can see you.”

Something about this remark struck me as such a poignant way to understand how harmful behaviors we enact on others may not be in our conscious awareness, but that does not mean they are not intentional.

Understanding that we are pretty bad at taking honest inventory of our own unsavory behaviors and tendencies, and that at the same time we are constantly in a process of reading and creating maps of others (what Schnarch called “mind mapping”), it becomes easier to see how while we may not be able to see the full picture of what we are doing, we are still acting with intention.

We create maps of others and choose our behaviors to create an intended result.

More pro-socially, someone may smile at someone they love and pay them a compliment.

Their map of the person says “when I say these words to this person in this way, they are going to feel happy. My intention is to let this person know I appreciate them so this is what I will do.”

In an anti-social context, someone may smirk at someone and make a sarcastic comment.

Their map of the person says “this person will feel insecure and stupid when I say this. I want them to feel insecure and stupid so I can have the upper hand here, so this is what I’ll do.”

While these thoughts and choices may at times be more conscious, they most often are not. They are often patterned, unconscious behaviors learned at some point to meet certain needs or desires.

So while we may not be conscious of what we are doing, we are still acting with intention.

Understanding things like mind mapping and anti-social empathy is crucial for creating strong interpersonal boundaries to protect ourselves.

It’s also crucial to better understand our own behaviors and patterns that thwart our ability to create and maintain authentic connections with others.

When you realize that others make choices in how they relate to you to create a desired impact upon you, you are able to bring their impact and actions into your own conscious awareness, respond with your own conscious, grounded intention, and you thwart the ability of others to impact you negatively.

Instead of internalizing the way you are treated by others and believing it is because of some fault of yours, you see it for exactly what it is.