Does It Matter What People’s Intentions Are?

other people's intentions

I see so many people driving themselves crazy trying to figure out what other people’s intentions are.  Too much time and efforts are spent on interpreting someone’s actions, behaviours or what they observed about that person.  Does he mean this when he said or did that particular thing?

So often, we get preoccupied to the level of obsession when analysing the intentions of others.  Our brains go around and around in a loop, trying to pin down what “the truth” is.

We invest power into a specific story – centered around an intention – backed by the track record of how they had behaved in the past, how other people we know had behaved in the past, and how we ourselves had behaved in the past.  And we conclude based on how we think this person must be thinking or intending when they do or say this thing.

Why do we place so much importance on needing to know what someone’s intention is?

We do this to gain the illusion of control.  We think, if we know what their intention is, then we won’t get caught offguard, unprepared.  We’ve been told, “Know thy enemy.”  It protects us from unexpected attacks such as backstabbing and acts of betrayal.

But thy enemy’s intention is as fluid as the ever-shifting nature of reality.  There is no one single version of reality.  Even if you can reliably pin down what a person’s intention is, it is only true for this moment and in this version of reality.  As reality shifts, that person’s intention could shift along with it.  Thus, to attempt to isolate one truth is just a waste of time.  It drains you and, really, what would be the point?

Unless your agenda is to prove to yourself and others that you are right.  Because you will succeed in proving yourself right, if you insist that it is.  By continuously judging it to be so, you are investing more power into fixing that reality into place and preventing any other possibilities to show up.

A Reflection of Self

Even if you manage to prove that someone’s behaviours are motivated by bad intentions, ultimately that is only a reflection of your own relationship with yourself.  If it feels to you as though someone has bad intentions towards you, you can only feel this because some part of you is mistreating yourself.  Not that we would consciously mistreat ourselves but it’s something that plays out from a hidden, unconscious part in your psyche.

I’m not advocating that we condone these kinds of behaviours.  Rather, it is futile to go all crazy trying to analyse what their intention is.  Bad behaviours are bad behaviours; you will be wise to protect yourself from personal violations and keeping healthy boundaries.  But stop with the crazy-making going-in-circles non-stop-analysing about “what does this mean?”

At the heart of this type of mental activity is an urge to rate ourselves against our self-judgements: to see whether what we secretly believe about ourselves is true.  You think, “If that person treats me badly, then I am right about me being shit.”

So it points you to where your power has been misplaced.  Beyond this or that person sapping your energy, you are investing your power in how you judge yourself.  Take your power back from it and you may dissolve whatever issue you are having with another.

Guilt-Driven Projections

The obsessive drive to figure out what other people’s intentions can also stem from our own sense of guilt.  If we perceive ourselves to have done something wrong or feel bad about our own shortcomings, we would naturally create a story around other people’s intentions towards us that seems like the logical outcome of what we believe about ourselves.

All those mad attempts at pinning down the absolute truth about someone’s agenda are really just to disguise the desperate plea to not let whatever you feel bad about yourself be true.  This is often uncomfortable and usually you would express anger at others to cover up your discomfort.

But what you’re doing is simply entrenching yourself in this version of reality.  The more you react to this situation as if the story you’ve created is true, the more it becomes true.  When you stop giving it energy, then the situation can begin to transform.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter that much what someone’s intention is.  It may be a good thing to acknowledge what their intention is at this moment, but to continue to agonise over it is to perpetuate this reality and close the door to you moving to a different, more favourable reality.