I decided to revisit Wayne Dyer’s book, The Power of Intention after a friend made some enthusiastic comments to me about it. I told her that I didn’t share her enthusiasm, but I couldn’t remember why I had misgivings about the book.
The existence of intention as an invisible field of energy in the universe is, of course, not capable of being proved or disproved using conventional scientific methods. That is itself not a reason for rejecting such beliefs. If someone tells me that they feel empowered by the belief that they are serving God, I am inclined to feel happy for them. I certainly have no basis on which to claim that belief is wrong – even if I wanted to.
However, it is reasonable to question whether a person’s beliefs about intention are consistent with other beliefs that they hold.
Wayne Dyer acknowledges that his belief that intention is an all-pervasive universal force is not consistent with his belief that individuals have free will. He refers to this as a paradox and suggests that you can live with it, just as you live with the “paradox” that “you’re a body with beginnings and ends, with boundaries, and a definition in time and space, you’re also an invisible, formless, unlimited, thinking and feeling being”.
Is there a paradox involved in thinking of yourself as an entity with particular bodily characteristics, whilst also thinking of yourself as an entity which manifests a range of qualities such as kindness, boldness and wisdom? I don’t think so.
Moreover, it is difficult to see why a prior commitment to live with paradox would be necessary if intention is the all-pervasive universal force that Wayne Dyer claims it to be. Would such a force require us to disrespect the intellectual resources that it has bestowed upon us by making a prior commitment to live with inconsistencies in our belief systems? If we are seeking serve something more important than our own personal interests would Intention not be able to find a way to make itself known to us? Is it necessary to acknowledge the existence of a paradox, or mystery, before one’s intuitions can even begin to suggest that the sense of purpose one feels might be linked to a supernatural source?
The author claims that Intention has seven faces. His discussion of the first six of those intentional frames may be useful to people interested in developing a stronger sense of purpose:
- Creativity: “Creative energy is a part of you …”. My interpretation is that being creative is a fundamental characteristic of humans. It makes sense to have an intention to use our creative energy to produce better outcomes in all that we do.
- Kindness: “Kindness extended, received, or observed beneficially impacts the physical health and feelings of everyone involved”.
- Love: “This face of intention … wishes only for us to flourish and grow, and become all that we are capable of becoming”. An intention to help others to flourish and grow makes sense if we want to experience the benefits of living in loving families and communities.
- Beauty: “By choosing to hang on to one’s corner of freedom even in the worst situations, we can process our world with the energy of appreciation and beauty and create an opportunity to transcend our circumstances”. That statement was inspired by the example and views of Viktor Frankl.
- Expansion: “The elemental nature of life is to increase and seek more and more expression”. I think that means that an intention to achieve personal growth can always be achieved through greater expression of creativity, kindness, love and appreciation of beauty.
- Abundance: “there are no limits to our potential as people, as collective entities, and as individuals”. I don’t pretend to be a fan of “The Secret” or even “The Power of Positive Thinking”. It is my understanding of economics that suggests to me that the world offers abundance, provided that individuals are free to use their resources as they choose to take advantage of the opportunities available. A realistic optimist could be expected to have the intention to seek out opportunities and make good use of his or her personal resources.
According to Wayne Dyer, the seventh face of intention is receptivity. He explains: “The receptive face of intention means to me that all of nature is waiting to be called into action. We only need to recognize and receive. … By being receptive, I’m in harmony with the power of intention of the universal creative force”.
I can understand why people are attracted to the idea that whatever seems wrong in their lives is the result of being out of alignment with Intention. It offers the promise of a remedy for all ills. As the author writes:
“Act as if anything you desire is already here. Believe that all you seek, you’ve already received, that it exists in spirit, and know you shall have your desires filled”.
I know that this kind of positive thinking can sometimes be helpful. The problem is not so much that we are likely to act as though we can fly by flapping our arms, or live without food – although some do – it is in knowing how to deal with the negative thoughts that intrude when positive thinking fails to produce the outcomes we hope for. Wayne Dyer suggests:
“Even when nothing seems to indicate that you’re accomplishing what you desire in your life, refuse to entertain doubt. Remember, the trolley strap of intention is waiting for you to float up and be carried along”.
Visual imagery can help to remind us of commitments that we have made to ourselves. The message is clear enough. If you don’t achieve the outcome you hope for, you have not been trying hard enough to align yourself to Intention. Keep your thinking under constant surveillance. If that makes you feel unhappy, try even harder to align yourself to Intention. If you think you are going crazy, try even harder to align yourself to Intention.
I now remember why I had misgivings about the book.
It seems to me that the important ingredient missing from Wayne Dyer’s book is self- acceptance. In order to transcend something it is necessary to accept it. It is difficult to see how anyone can sustain intentions consistent with creativity, kindness, love, beauty, personal growth and abundance if they reject the sensations and emotions they experience. Rather than seeking to call nature into action to serve our intentions, we should be seeking to live in harmony with the natural world, including our natural selves.