Intent and Context Matter

 

A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar

Image via Wikipedia

 

Self-care is selfless, but doing things for yourself is not always self-care.

A reader commented, “I believe that if I’m NOT taking care of myself and feeling joy, then that IS self-centered….”  Too eloquent.  Love it.

Some of our confusion comes from the changing scenarios of self care.  The intent sometimes gets blurry.  The intent is hard to tease apart.  Sometimes what feels like taking care of ourselves is in fact, selfish.  For example, let’s say “hypothetically,” my husband, who is a palliative care specialist, chooses to work on twitter #hpm, play chess, or play guitar.  This is potentially positive and friendly to the self.  However, it depends on intent.  Sometimes we don’t know our own intent though.

There is also the context of what is happening.  Let’s say we were all fighting, and then my husband goes off to read Oscar Wilde.   Is this self-care or a way of abandoning and taking himself out of the present?  Self-care puts us into the present.  Whereas selfishness takes us out.

In another context, taking yourself out of the present is necessary to ultimately put yourself back in.  Doing this requires thought processes that can abstract and empathize (connect emotional content).

I rely a lot on intent! (Ahem!)

There is a mind disease called schizophrenia.  This disease is famous for hallucinations, hearing voices that other people don’t hear, seeing things that other people don’t see.  However the core symptom of schizophrenia is less famous.  It is the thought form, concrete and disconnected.

Concrete thinking is named well, unlike many other medical conditions.  (Think diabetes!  Who would know what that has anything to do with!?)  But concrete thinking is plain, hard, and flat like my sidewalk.  For example, if I asked what does the parable mean, “A bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush?”

  1. Concrete thinkers might say, “Birds make a mess so we don’t want a lot of them.”
  2. Further, if their thoughts are also not connected, they might say, “Birds migrate in the winter and the bush is wet.”
  3. Contrast this to connected thought that abstracts, being able to answer, “If I have an opportunity to take something good, it’s better to take it than gamble for what I might not be able to keep in the end.”

Different emotional illnesses have trouble abstracting, but fewer have disconnected thoughts like schizophrenia.

If you are in a relationship with someone who has trouble abstracting (traumatic brain injury) and/or connecting emotional content (ADHD for example,) you might misinterpret his or her behaviors as selfish.  Being able to empathize after all is part of most Disney fairy-tail romances.  What more do any of us want?  Right?

Wrong.  The capacity to empathize doesn’t matter much if the intent is missing.

Wrong.  The ability to abstract doesn’t connect if the intent to connect us is not there.  The knowledge does not matter.  It is the context.

In the film, A Beautiful Mind, Russel Crowe plays a character that suffers from schizophrenia.  The woman who loves him, struggles to understand the way he loves her back.  His disease steals his attention.  His disease takes his time.  He seems selfish.  Their love survives when she discovers his intent in context.  He stays present in the relationship, despite all his limited capacity to relate.  Further, agreeing to the treatments of his generation, limited that they are, he is doing selfless self-care.

At the end of the day, I’m a grateful piece of dirt who means well.  Saying that up front immediately lets you get very familiar with me.  (I could have said “grateful piece of sh–,” but that would have been selfish.  The s-bomb is just playing with the word to have fun!)  Part of why I believe in God is because I know He goes for the losers.  He goes for the piece of craps out there.  That’s what the beatitudes are about.  He pours it on. (Intent and context, baby!)  At the end of the day, we are neither angel nor beast.  We are just human to Him.

Self-Care Tip #78 – Keep self-care selfless.  Be a friend to yourself. 😉

Question:  What do you think?  Please tell me your thoughts.  Please tell me your story.

7 thoughts on “Intent and Context Matter

  1. Reminds me of the movie As Good As It Gets with Jack Nicholson.
    The interpretation of the meaning of intent at the time can be a guess clouded by emotion.
    I prefer to think if you as nice pre-carbon dust.

  2. Pingback: Your Heroic Self – Waiting For Normal « A Friend to Yourself

  3. Yes Intention (as opposed to ‘choice’, as we know it) is Free Will. Mind, like any other human faculty, is a tool to serve whatever purpose we choose…. and so we can quite literally choose another Source for our thoughts. And we do this by giving a different purpose to what we do, i.e. to express our true Self… to express the Love that we Are.

    So it really doesn’t matter what we do — playng the guitar, picking our nose, washing the dishes… every single thing can be a vehicle for Self expression if we choose to allow it to be.

    And as we sow, so do we reap. 🙂

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