Paradoxical Intention

You can force a favourable sub-conscious behaviour to emerge — if you can trick yourself into really, truly wanting the unfavourable one to occur in its place.

You can force a favourable sub-conscious behaviour to emerge in yourself — if you can trick yourself into really, truly wanting the unfavourable one to occur in its place.

This, my friends, is paradoxical intention.

I first learned of this concept in Viktor Frankl’s bestselling book Man’s Search for Meaning, which I flew through on Audible a few months back. As a Holocaust book, it’s a not quite as horrifying as expected, although it’s still pretty damn scary.

Paradoxical intention is when you’re trying hard to (or not to) do something, and you end up exacerbating the problem.

The example Frankl used in his book is where one man would sweat profusely in some social situations due to a fear that he would sweat. Of course, telling himself “please don’t sweat…please don’t sweat” would only make it worse. Frankl advised him to let go and in fact welcome the sweating: the man was asked to enter social situations with the intention of sweating like he had never sweat before. He had to have the sincere attitude of “let me show you people how much sweat I’m truly capable of producing!”

The beauty of the story here is that the result was exactly as Frankl had predicted. Perspiration subsided, and the man’s four-year fear and anxiety around this issue did as well.

It makes me wonder in what ways I can apply this in my own life. What about you?

Be fierce,

Ashford