The Intention Method is essentially a process of self-exploration. The method is one whereby you can explore the state of your psyche, and the exploration starts with your intention.
You are in charge. The exploration is yours. The facilitator understands the method and the technical process of setting up the exploration, but the exploration belongs always to the client.
The facilitator also has an understanding of the underlying dynamics of traumatisation, and from this understanding, experience and knowledge, is there to help you make sense of what happens in the exploration in those moments when you, yourself, are not quite sure. But the discoveries that make sense to you are the important ones. Our first position as a facilitator is that you are the one who knows what is really true… not necessarily always in your conscious mind of course, and that is the purpose of the exploration, to find out what really is true about yourself and your life’s experiences.
The best therapeutic work is a process that you are in charge of, that you make your own sense of, in which the therapist/facilitator is there to assist, with progression of the exploration and, if necessary some understanding and explanation, which then is useful only if it makes sense to you.
Traumatisation is an event/experience where, as a primary element you were not in charge. That is in effect what trauma is: a situation in which your identity, wants, needs, integrity are ignored; someone else holds all the power, and you are helpless. That defines a trauma. This means that in the work to resolve trauma you must have authority over what happens, how far you go and the meaning the exploration has for you. And this then defines the task of the ‘therapist’: to assist, but not to assume authority; to be there, but not to assume power.
In many ways this is different from the historical process of therapy, where the traumatised person is often required to relinquish authority to an expert… putting themselves in the hands of another who is seen as an authority on the topic of you. Even in many therapies where this is not the professional position, most of us are actually looking to be rescued, and many a therapist subtly agrees to this role.
In our work the ‘therapist’ is only an authority on a body of theory that makes sense of what we know so far about trauma, and has some technical skills and understanding of a process that seems to work. But the ‘therapist’ is not an expert on you and your psyche.
The work starts with your intention. This is a statement/sentence/question in the form of words and/or marks/drawing… This is the starting point, and only you know what this is. It is good to understand that each piece of work/exploration that you do is a step. You cannot complete the whole integration/resolution of trauma in one go… it is, and must be, a step by step process… each step defined by your intention for that session, what you actually want for yourself and your life, what you want to know about yourself, to see, to do, to experience, to feel.
Considering your intention
So what you can do is consider before your session what your intention might be at this moment in your life. The more we consider what it is that we want, the more the work becomes clear and useful. Each exploration process is a step that is preceded by what has gone before, by the previous intention, and is also in itself a step towards what comes next, your next intention. Your intention for any session forms the starting point for this step, the result of which will begin the formation of your next intention for your next exploration. Each exploration should help you become a bit clearer as to who you really are underneath whatever confusion you have about yourself, and the specifics of your intention will determine what you get out of your exploration.
The ‘specifics’ of the intention
When I say “the specifics of your intention”, this is to say that an intention that is long and involved, uses many elements in the form of words, punctuation, symbols and marks, that tries to cover all topics, all possibilities and everything that you want will, in the process of the exploration work, also result in a long and involved process, often showing many things that may or may not seem to have connection, and where the energy often becomes diffused, confusing and even chaotic. For the person who sets such an intention this then reflects in its way the state of their psyche in that moment as set out in the intention. An intention that is diffuse and vague results in a process that reflects this. An intention that distracts from specifics results in a process that distracts from what is really important.
The length of the intention
A long intention, with many elements, will also likely be overwhelming for the person, giving many threads of information that seem to have no coherent connection. Of course it is the case that our background may in itself have a myriad of threads that seem disconnected, arbitrary and chaotic, and it may be very helpful to see this as a first step, but to try and work with everything at once is itself a road to helplessness and re-triggered trauma. Too much information is likely to increase our sense of helplessness.
Better to keep your intentions short, specific and pertinent to where you actually are.
There is information from the world of science that we can actually only hold about four bits of information at a time:
“I forget how I wanted to begin this story. That’s probably because my mind, just like everyone else’s, can only remember a few things at a time. Researchers have often debated the maximum amount of items we can store in our conscious mind, in what’s called our working memory, and a new study puts the limit at three or four.” (https://www.livescience.com/2493-mind-limit-4.html)
We have a convention in our thinking as IoPT practitioners that in the setting of an intention there is a median of about 5 or 6 elements. We can work with more, perhaps up to 10 or so, but we also find that less than 5 definitely shows a strong focus… in fact we could even say that perhaps the less elements the clearer the message.
For example, the question “Who am I?” is a fundamental existential question that encapsulates the fact that early trauma, what we call the Trauma of Identity, seriously disturbs our ability to know who we really are. Our trauma of identity is exactly that, a situation in which at an extremely early age, often pre-birth, we are forced to give up on our identity in order to have some connection with our mother without whom we cannot actually live. It is our utter dependence at this early time of life that forces this split in ourselves, whereby we lose our essential self, our identity, in order to survive. And so what we have to assume and become is what our mother, and later our father, see us as, their attributions of who we are, and our survival at that helpless time is completely dependent on our becoming their idea of who we are, their allowance of us to be ourselves, or not.
To set such an intention (4 elements including the ‘?’) is a profound question, and will result I am sure in a profound process. The simplicity and specificity of such an intention will result in a powerful, and simple, answer through the process.
In a way the whole of our journey of resolving our trauma is in answer to this question, and all intentions no matter how long or short, how specific or not, are in the end about this topic. If trauma splits us from our identity, from knowing who I am, then the resolution of trauma must be a journey towards knowing who I am… and this journey will take many paths, diversions, long cuts and shortcuts, highways and byways, but you can start by making a commitment to yourself, spending time thinking about your intention, not just doing an exploration because you should or you must or you can, but giving yourself the care and condition to make each process count… spend time considering your next intention, think ahead, dwell on it, dream about it, make it central to your daily life… what then will be my next intention?