Words are powerful. Words we automatically think inside of our heads and words we say out loud.
Words we read and words we hear coming out of other people’s mouths.
A long time ago, as a younger therapist, I began to realize that the word “goals” could have some unintended negative consequences- especially for those who struggle with cognitive distortions ( basically most humans). In grad school, which was a VERY long time ago for me, we were taught that treatment plans must have all of these GOALS- especially when working with insurance companies-I could easily get sidetracked into a rant about this so I am breathing through it and moving on…Asking a client, “So what are your goals for working with me,” sometimes created such a panicky and paralyzing effect on the dear human who was brave enough to come in to my office, I just knew there had to be a different way to ask this question so that it would seem less overwhelming and actually empowering.
When I started using the word “intentions” instead ( both personally and professionally), I noticed a difference. A lightening. A feeling of decreased pressure ( from my own self and from my clients).
We can set our intentions for ourselves each and every day- we can verbalize them and we can write them down and we can focus energy on them and it can be a satisfying and empowering way to come back to yourself without the whole- Oh I must meet this Big Goal issue that can seem so overwhelming and, well, big.
Daily intentions- such as today I will focus on 3 things for which I am grateful or I will check in with my body today to see what it needs or I will do the laundry today or I will write a to-do list for the week, or I will eat vegetables today—- I could go on and on here. The point is that allowing ourselves to say, “It is my intention to walk outside today” creates a different sense of perspective and energy. We can have multiple intentions and keep coming back to them throughout the day and we can change them according to the unpredictability of life. And we are in charge of them. It’s a way to practice engaging with yourself in a gentler, small step by small step way that can create a sense of mastery and purpose. And Believe Me- when you lose the ability to use your left arm and left hand and you are left handed- you learn very fast from your PT and OT that it’s all about the very tiniest steps. You learn how to use your brain to tell your limbs to do the things that they have naturally been doing for 46 years on their own. And you practice doing the same tiny steps, such as squeezing putty, over and over and over again until you are ready for the next thing. And it is absolutely ok if you cuss and cry and laugh at yourself while you are baby stepping it out- whatever your thing is.
So one of my newer intentions, because as we have established- WORDS are POWERFUL- is to stop referring to my left arm as “ my bad arm.” It is my intention to make peace with this part of myself and to celebrate how much I can now use it- even though it’s still the bane of my existence and is a source of chronic discomfort ( once again, words are powerful and I discovered it makes me feel better to use the word discomfort instead of PAIN).
So I am currently in the process of trying out different words to consider describing my left arm to myself and to others- being a “chronic illness patient” requires LOTS of opportunities to say to health care providers and MRI techs, “Please be careful of my bad arm- can’t draw blood or put the IV there or let me be in charge of the blood pressure cuff- you can’t just grab at my bad arm, etc, etc.”
So I will be playing around with various adjectives that leave me feeling less triggered and that can provide me with a stronger sense of compassion and acceptance for my own ….insert new word here… arm.
So may we all give ourselves permission to be kind enough to set daily – sometimes hourly- flexible intentions that serve us well, each and every day, and/or each and every hour. AND may we be kind to ourselves when our intentions do not happen in the way we would like AND may we just keep coming back to them again and again and again with love.