Research Paper By Shuchi Sahai
(Transformational Coach, INDIA)
The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘intent’ as an ‘aim’ or ‘plan’. However, intent is also a tendency that may exist is one’s mind because of influences of the external environment and other people. A classic example of the latter is the weight-loss epidemic, which is spread mostly amongst women, sadly across approximately all cultures of the world and strata of nearly all societies. This mental domination re-enforces to individuals of almost all age-groups that they must look a certain way (skinny) to have social acceptance, be able to achieve their goals, be love-worthy and meet with professional success. Too many have, consequently, come to believe that somehow their looks alone will be sufficient to have a significantly smoother life than those who may be living in heavier bodies, as if their education, maturity, personality or outlook towards life will play no significant roles. Self-esteem of such afflicted ladies is low, which, in turn, bleeds into how they feel about themselves in other areas of their life. So if a woman does not manage to sculpt an ‘ideal’ body, usually with over-exercising and under-eating, she finds it difficult to revel in her own being, her personhood.
Another typical example is the modern definition of success. When the Industrial Revolution occurred, the purpose of life rapidly shifted from self-sustenance to wealth acquisition. It became no longer enough to ensure that needs of the family were sufficiently met; pursuit of material pleasures became something to be ceaselessly sought after and socially acceptable too. In today’s times, while young individuals are encouraged to follow their passions and dreams, the underlying said or unsaid condition is that they choose opportunities that ensure lucrativeness of their endeavours. People who may be highly talented and intelligent, but not making the money that ‘matches’ their calibre, are not given the respect and recognition they deserve. An unfortunate fallout of this set-up is that too many individuals build their lives on not their love and joy but the income they would be able to obtain from their jobs that ultimately lead to stress, dissatisfaction and diseases of great magnitudes.
From both of the above examples, it is plain to see how influences of our individual environments affect our beliefs, psychology, decisions and long-term quality of life. And while our powerlessness may seem inevitable, we are not doomed: we are not destined to keep repeating cycles of misery and misfortune. Here is where intent plays a significant role.
Recognising the right time to make an intention
The success of all endeavours depends upon the timing at which change is sought and timing itself depends upon the awareness of the individual to no longer wish to be encumbered by the cycle they have been functioning in so far. For example, four years ago, Asha (name changed for confidentiality), lost her father to illness. Three years later, her mother, with whom she shared a close bond, passed on from illness too. A few months after that, her pet bird, from which she had received years of undivided love, died in an accident. Within a month of that loss, her pet cat moved on from a sudden respiratory illness. Then her twenty-one year old son developed severe symptoms of asthma. Through it all, as she related recent experiences of her life to me, she bitterly cried over her loss and helplessness. In time it was revealed that her greatest source of loss and grief was her how her husband had been belittling and emotionally neglecting her for years. It was the hurt she relentlessly received from her husband that got her attention now, something she had found ways to not face too directly. However, over time she had lost confidence in herself and had lost her fervour to do things she had always loved. While she was relatively better looked after when her loved ones were still near and nourished her, she was able to cope with her marital bitterness. But when she could no longer access that support, her resolve to take charge in her marriage strengthened. All the grief and loss in her life pushed her pain over the edge, far enough for her to want to seek professional help and use it to make concrete changes in her life and bring herself back to health.
Sumita (also name changed) grew up in an orthodox community that favoured light-skinned individuals over their darker counterparts. Sumita was dark. And her family did not mince words in telling her that she did not evoke as much unconditional love from its members as her fair cousin could. She began at an age as early as eight to cook recipes that were difficult for even adults, and do crafts to make beautiful things for her father: she was ready to do anything to have his appreciation. Eventually he died when Sumita was only twenty-three years old. However, by then her tendency to please the men she loved had taken root and she found herself married to a demanding man who expected his every whim catered to but was indifferent to her needs. Given Sumita’s pattern, this was all familiar territory and she made no complaints. In catering to her husband’s every need, Sumita felt secure, right up till the time she had a child – a girl. Soon enough she began to expect her husband to shower their daughter with love and attention. But seeing her husband’s continued lack of interest in the child drew her attention on her own neglect that she experienced at the hands of both her father and her husband. Over time it became all too evident that her daughter was never going to receive her father’s attention in the way she deserved. So Sumita eventually divorced her husband, moved cities and came into coaching to help her rid herself from her pattern of pleasing men to get love, and regain a healthy sense of self.
In both of these examples, it is revealed that while an individual may find ways to have continued existence in unhelpful conditions, when life takes unexpected and extreme turns, it becomes imperative to look at what has been holding them back all along. This stage, in a way, can be easily likened to the ripened fruit. Another analogy, albeit a crude one, is that of ‘beating the iron while it is hot’.
It is critical for the coach to be intuitive about their work. While Asha grieved over her loved ones who had passed on, intermittent references to her husband’s behaviour revealed a much larger hurt and helplessness festering inside of her. The challenge here was her unwillingness to go into the deeper wounds that she had been repeatedly subjected to because she felt she could not change anything about her marriage anyway; her husband was who he was and there was nothing she could do about it. So with her, I continued to journey with her through her loss of her parents and pets but also validated her perfectly reasonable desire of her husband to show compassion and care to her. Over time, once her grieving had stabilised and she had developed trust in our relationship, she was able to allow her feelings towards her husband to be reviewed, and consequently finding her voice around it.
In Sumita’s case, it was always difficult for her to acknowledge that she did not receive the unconditional love she always wanted from her father; in her mind she would be dishonouring the memory of her father is she acknowledged her hurt. However, she developed her own instinct and voice around healthy parenting by giving her daughter the nurturance she wanted her ex-husband to give to their child. She was also able to allow herself to be appropriately nurtured, especially by a man. After four years of her separation from her ex-husband, she found someone who loved and nourished her in a way that was genuine and unconditional. Sumita received coaching on building confidence and a sense of comfort around this new dynamic with a man who did not require her to do things for him so that she could still feel relevant in the relationship.