Intrapersonal Goals: What is Intrapersonal Communication?

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Care is a fickle love; dolling it out to others as drizzled honey over slices of toast yet stickying your hands in the process. Take a sharpie and dash a line on the back of your hand if these statements apply to you: I find it easy to care for others; I derive pleasure from performing a service for another; giving a gift to a dear relationship is a profound joy; doing a task a friend asked if I might be able to help them with makes me feel good. The interaction of drawing forth goodness and applying it to people we find worthy, or we want to be worthy of receiving good, is a fairly simple process: there is a subject (I, we, etc.) who takes an amount of good from a source (which can be the self or otherwise) to transfer to another subject (they, them, etc.). What happens if both subjects in this interaction are yourself, though?

One of the most common strife afflicting people at any stage of life is the inability to believe one worthy of good. To wait for one day throughout the week to give oneself a simple, light treat. To punish oneself with excessive or unbalanced diet and fitness regiments in order to attain a form one thinks one ought to appear as. To refuse offers of help or refuse to ask for help on tasks that one doesn’t find pleasant or are cloyingly difficult to achieve. There can be many causes for this type of behavior; however, for today I would appreciate the help in considering not the cause but the potential outcomes in treating oneself with the same dignity and wonder as they treat others.

Develop intrapersonal goals

Living through this pandemic, something I have realized personally is I have severely lessened my inclination to look people in the eye. Walking down the street, walking into a shop, talking with friends face-to-face, it is no longer natural for me to keep my head and eyeline fixated on this other subject. In becoming conscious of this behavior, I strove to correct it by setting for myself goals in cognizance; however, I was careful throughout my goal-establishing not to invoke my previous behaviors as some form of problem, challenge, or weakness.

In my experience, this mindset and attitude – to recognize something that feels off about yourself or that you dislike and to try to fix it – can often lead one along the path of self-resentment. This feels like a highly capitalist relationship – through decades of interaction that if there’s something undesirable it is implicitly ‘bad’ – and unnecessary. There are numbers of studies that I find fascinating – like William Cohen’s Filth – that take the concepts of ugly, dirty, or incapable, and repurpose these perceptions to be anticapitalist and antifascist in being able to accept and celebrate the ‘undesirable.’

An antique map of Japan by Abraham Ortelius, 1590

Ultimately, though, in developing the goal for yourself – whether it is a cultural, social, or emotional development – what we are fixated on after the fact is actually how you communicate within your head about said goal. Nobody asked me to pick my eyes up, and as such it is and will remain an entirely intrapersonal goal – a goal shared with myself and myself only. In developing this goal, we are highly aware and attuned to how we speak about ourself in the process: “Come on you idiot, pick your head up,” might be a phrase I would utter in my head to encourage myself, but the stake is lost – the only one who hears it is myself, the only one affected by such cruel language is myself. This is why in contending with intrapersonal goal development one of the most crucial components is looking at intrapersonal communication.

Sometimes the philosophic voices themselves have become vague and trivial or have in some other way reminded me of dreams. Furthermore their doctrine supports the resemblance, for one said in the first month of communication, “We are often but created forms”, and another, that spirits do not tell a man what is true but create such conditions, such a crisis of fate, that the man is compelled to listen to his Daimon.

W.B. Yeats, A Vision

Expand your intrapersonal capacity for understanding

All types of behaviors can lead to the development of internally focused cruelty and all types of internally focused cruelty can be found bleeding through to our standard interactions, relationship-building, and friendships. In my ever-driven effort to make this world a more caring place, it is not enough to encourage consideration when individuals continue to treat their self cruelly.

Childhood relationships between friends, environments, and parents often are what develop various expectations of one’s unworthiness – the consistent bullying and lack of support system in a school environment, a key friendship broken over a family move, or a parent’s inability to be emotionally available for you. What these core ruptures establish is the seeds from which we generate instability, insecurity, anxiousness, and cruelty.

 I don’t think we are likely to be transformed by art if we try to determine that encounter in advance. Part of the vulnerability necessary for transformation is the recognition that I am, to a great extent, a mystery to myself. 

Garth Greenwell, Making Meaning

I frame intrapersonal communication and goals as an ‘expansion’ because, really, even in our best of times, I can confidently say no one is removed from the anxieties, traumas, and abuses they have suffered. Instead, because the temporality of our suffering is conditional, as complex and powerful individuals we can carry the multitude of both suffering and joy. Continuing with my personal example, I can maintain being a socially-anxious creature at large AND find pockets, niches, or social scenarios in which my anxiety is not present. Much of where this begins is how I speak to myself and consider myself in those moments. Developing my ability to match someone’s gaze is both a practice and a proof in this domain.

Delight in robust internal adventures

It’s no longer eternity that’s discovered here but the confusion of anachronic trails. This sky of today, constituted presently with relative eyes, this pure thought whose history never ceases to be taken up again, these two systems, of the universe and of knowledge, put us simultaneously in almost immediate communication with circumstances whose dates are dispersed in a thousand conceivable ways.

Michael Serres, Geometry

Undoubtedly, a few hundred words, even a thousand, will not convince oneself to completely reconsider their approach to their intrapersonal goal-setting, development, and communication-styles. That being said, I hope that this perspective is of some use to those who are noticing that, especially as many of us return to more social-circumstances with potential for newness or strangers, we have lost some of our comfort in communication styles and this lack of comfort is revealing some unfortunate anxiousness or even cruel internal tendencies.

So let’s improve our critical consciousness together! If you are looking for a more personalized path toward one particular emotional development or other, I do have a publicly available lesson format for emotional growth I’ve termed ‘Espials.’ One that would go particularly well with this communicative effort would be my lesson on fear. Let me know your thoughts!

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