Every behaviour has a positive intention
This month I am exploring the presupposition that behind every behaviour is a positive intention. It’s a presupposition that allows understanding of ourselves and others, and the suggestion of alternative behaviours when we don’t like the ones we are seeing.
The idea that every behaviour has a positive intention applies to both positive behaviours and those we may see as negative. I recently worked with someone who had smoked for most of his life and had decided it was time for that to change. He worked in a high pressure job where he had to make decisions quickly based on information presented to him. When faced with these situations, smoking a cigarette took the perfect amount of time for him to process the information and make the decision he needed to make. Smoking was serving a very important purpose.
Eating unhealthy foods, eating excessively, or eating when not hungry also have positive intentions behind them. People often eat to relieve boredom, for comfort or because it makes them feel good. Similarly, a child who suddenly finds themselves with a younger brother or sister taking up all of mum and dad’s time will often play up – a method used to try and make sure that they’re still loved.
Knowing that these behaviours have a positive intention behind then doesn’t necessarily condone them or make them ok. It does however, allow you to understand what’s happening. What’s more, it allows you to start thinking of alternatives, as different behaviours which meet the positive intention as well as or better than the original behaviour are very likely to be accepted and taken on. That means that once my client who smoked had other ways he could take time out to make those big decisions, smoking was no longer necessary. Similarly, a person who used to eat when bored no longer needs the food when spending their time doing things they enjoy, and a child who used to play up to get noticed no longer needs to do so when they know they’re loved because of the way their parents spend regular time with them and show them they love them. In each case, the old behaviours are no longer necessary as the positive intention has been met.