Posts Tagged With: Mysteries

Day 388: What was your intent?

I have (at least) two reasons for choosing today’s blog post title.

That is, I want to answer that question in my title — “What was your intent?” — regarding …. my choice of a title, today.

Okay!  Let’s start our engines, blog post riders! 1

Here’s some advice:

When somebody does or says something that you find confusing — when you do not know what to do (or say) in response to somebody else’s behavior — ask them this simple question, “What was your intent (in saying or doing such and such)?”

I have used this technique, and it can be quite effective.  Other people have told me they have found it effective, too.

In other words, I recommend asking that question.

Now, my wish might be that, at this point in our relationship — Me as Writer, You as Reader — that you might respond, “Yes, Ann!  We believe you!  We will do what you suggest!”

But that’s not realistic, is it?

So let me explain my recommendation, further:

As human beings, we tend to mind-read. Here’s the definition of mind reading, from this list of  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) distortions:

Mind reading.
Without individuals saying so, we know what they are thinking and why they act the way they do. For example, you assume that somebody is having a critical thought about you, you don’t check this out, and this affects your actions and feelings towards them.

So, asking “What was your intent?” is one way to apply the following “antidote“to a very human — but often unhelpful — thought process:

 Reality testing.  Ask people questions to find out if your thoughts and concerns are realistic or true. This is a particularly effective response to the distortion of mind-reading.

Speaking for myself, I tend to NOT ask this question — in many instances where it could help improve interpersonal communication.

Instead of asking

What was your intent?

… I project my own experience and make assumptions about what the other person meant when they said or did something.

For example, last night, my boyfriend, Michael, and I had a “discussion” (translation: we got mad at each other, briefly). And in the course of this discussion, we both were “mind reading”  — making assumptions about each other’s intentions.  And we figured that out, and we’re fine.

Here are clues that you — or somebody else — might be mind reading, too. If you have these thoughts:

I don’t understand why this person did or said this!  This makes no sense to me!  If I were in that situation, I would NEVER do that!

And then, in an attempt to make meaning of what seems inexplicable, you then think:

This person must be trying to hurt me!

This person must not care about me!

This person must be a _____! 2

This is all evidence that Mind Reading might be in the house.

So just stop doing that, people! It’s not good for you!  It’s not good for your relationships!!

As if changing, like that, could be THAT easy. (But wouldn’t that be nice?)

However, here’s something you CAN do, in this situation.  Ask the other person this question:

What was your intent (in speaking or acting that way)?

And then, have an open mind to what the other person replies.  (Which is easier said than done, especially if you’re angry.)

I also want to say this:  in abusive relationships, this would not be an effective antidote. That is, some people’s intentions might be to hurt you (even though they won’t admit it). Actually, in this case, it doesn’t matter what the other person’s intention is — if they are hurting you consistently, get out of the house!

Boy, I sure am giving a lot of advice today. I’m not very comfortable giving advice, usually.

But I did today.

What was my intent, in doing that?

I thought it might be helpful.

Okay, so what remains for me to do, before I end this blog post? In other words, it’s time for the …

The Tying-Up-Loose-Ends Portion of Today’s Blog Post

In my opening sentence, I said I had at least two reasons for writing about this topic today. I’m not sure whether I’ve explored different reasons.  Perhaps I have.

One thing I DO know: I promised fellow blogger Mark Bialczak, in the Comments Section of yesterday’s post, that I would explain this photo:

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which I included in Day 386: Clues.

Mark wrote:

And the what-was-it from yesterday’s post. Are you going to share the elusive message down the line, or was it just a brain-teaser like that little game the put on the table at Cracker’s Barrel restaurants where you try to leave just one golf tee standing?

I don’t want to mind read here, but we, as humans, do that.  I think Mark was asking:

What was your intent?

I responded to Mark, in the comments section, like so:

What elusive message is it, to which you refer, Mark? I’m not being coy, I’m just losing track of all the hints and clues I’ve been putting out there in blog posts lately. If you ask directly for me to clear something up, I will do it, most happily.

In other words, I was asking:

What was your intent?

Mark wrote back:

OK, you put the shot of your one-socked foot on the floor with a kitty in the corner and asked what it meant. I’d love to know what you were going for with that one, Ann.

In other words …. Oh, you know.  He was asking: What was my intent in posting that photo?

This was my response:

I am going to attempt to answer your question in the blog I write today (Day 388). Thanks, as always.

Notice the stall — what some people might call “procrastination.”  That is, I didn’t answer his question when I first read it, last night. Instead, I waited until this morning. I waited until right now — this moment — to answer.

Sometimes, it’s difficult for me to answer that question: What was your intent?  Sometimes my intentions are complicated. Sometimes, I have multiple intentions. Sometimes, my intentions are both conscious and subconscious.

Confused?  You’re not alone.

But I will do my best, right now, in explaining what my intentions were, in posting that photo:

  1. I wanted to show another “mystery”3 — that is, when I sleep with socks on my feet, one of those socks often comes off during the night.
  2. I wanted to let people know that I am so engrossed in writing this blog, every day, that I can go downstairs to write, unaware that I have one sock on and one sock off.
  3. It’s so friggin’ cold out, here, that I soon realize that I have one sock off, as one foot starts to freeze.
  4. I am having this experience, frequently, as evidenced by the fact that the sock in this photo is brown, while the sock I mentioned in the previous blog post — Day  385: Wicked Pisser — was …. (drum roll): PURPLE!

Confused? Too Much Information?  It’s Mark’s fault!! (Hint: this would be a reference to another cognitive distortion:  Blaming.)

If it’s anybody’s fault, it’s my fault, because my intentions are often complicated. But, really, it’s nobody’s fault.

Maybe, to be clear and simple,  I should ask myself my own question, one more time. This time, I’ll ask it — not just about that photo or those particular blog posts — but about my writing this blog, in general.

What was (or is) your intent?

Simply and honestly?

To heal.

Okay!  That concludes our blog post for today.

Thanks to Michael, Mark, people who have questioned their own or other people’s intents, and to you — of course!! — for reading today.


  1.  Apparently I’m still using car metaphors.  By the way, if you read this blog regularly, the other driver who was involved in my minor fender bender still has not filed a claim (as far as I know).  I have theories about why that might be. If she were here, I could ask her, “What is your intent?” But she isn’t. So I’ll just have to guess.

  2. This would be the cognitive distortion of Name Calling — which we do to ourselves and to others, too, especially when we’re upset. I sometimes use the word “jerk” (to myself), when I’m mad at somebody.  Sometimes I use stronger language (to myself).   Here’s what I think we’re often saying, when we call somebody a “jerk” or “a _______”: “This person is NOT who I thought s/he was. Maybe they’re not a good match for me. Maybe I shouldn’t be with them.” And, dear readers, sometimes that is true. But often, it’s not. Confused? You’re not alone.

  3. Mysteries have been a theme of my recent blog posts. What has been my intent, in doing this?  Arrrghh!  Will these questions never end?

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Day 229: Unsolved Mysteries

I’ve never seen the show “Unsolved Mysteries,” but what better way to start off this identically-named blog post, than this:

(If there is a better way, I have no idea what it is.)

I like to think about mysteries, as I’ve mentioned before.  Skilled detectives — who pay attention in the moment and who use all their resources to solve puzzles and sometimes even right wrongs —  have definitely been heroes of mine, throughout my life.

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For this blog post, I would like to share a personal, recently experienced mystery.

THE SPECKLED SHIRT

by Ann Koplow

On our penultimate day in Scotland, my son and I were in our hotel room, when I heard him cry …

What’s this??

I looked over,  to see him standing by his open and yet unpacked suitcase,  holding up one of his favorite shirts. Safe in the assumption that my son knew what a shirt was, I waited for him to say more. And he did.

What the heck??? 

And then,

Look at these red marks, all over my shirt!!!

I moved closer to son’s outstretched arms and the shirt, dangling lifeless and forlorn — perhaps as the unknown but deliciously fresh fish I had just eaten at a nearby restaurant had recently dangled from a Scottish fishhook.

As I inspected the shirt — my son’s continuing cries of “What the heck?” ringing in my ears — I noticed these:

Tiny splashes of red, covering his shirt. The more I looked at the shirt, the more of these I saw.

What were they?

Could they be ….

BLOOD?

Nope. Wrong color red.

Could they be …

RED LIQUID HE HAD SPILLED WHILE WEARING THIS SHIRT?

Nope. He hadn’t worn that shirt in days.  And he had seen that shirt, unspeckled, lying on top of his opened suitcase, yesterday, in the bonny town of Edinburgh.

Could the speckles be …..

THE BLEEDINGS OF ANOTHER GARMENT, ONTO THE SHIRT?

Nope.  He had only one piece of red-colored clothing in his suitcase, which was (1) the wrong color and (2) had not been packed anywhere near the now-speckled shirt.

My son and I used the best parts of our inquiring brains, exploring different possibilities.

We were stumped.

So we decided to  reach out for help and consult with experts who might

  1. solve the mystery and/or
  2. save the shirt.

First, we spoke to the people at the front desk at the hotel.

The helpful woman at the front desk looked at the shirt and, like us, was mystified.  She immediately ruled out foul play by the hotel staff.  While cleaners had been in our room since the the last time the shirt had been seen unspeckled … all cleaning fluids at this hotel were colored clear, not red.

While she would have been happy to clean the shirt for us, all laundry had already gone out for the day. Waiting for the next pick-up would mean the shirt could not return in time to leave with us on our return passage to the United States.

What to do?

She sent us on our way to consult with other experts, a little ways down the street, who might be able to help:

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The two laundresses there inspected the shirt carefully, as we told them all we knew about The Speckled Shirt.  I watched as confusion, concern, and other emotions flickered across their fresh, young faces.

This must have been caused by some kind of spray!  Look at that pattern!

I suspect the cleaning staff at the hotel.  Even if their cleaning liquid aren’t red, this could definitely be a chemical reaction.

We would be happy to clean this for you, but I’m afraid we might not get these out.  Look at all of them!


Following the advice of these two laundry experts, we trudged back to the hotel, speckled shirt in tow. I recited, unemotionally, just the facts of what we had been told, in the tradition of another famous American detective.

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A manager was summarily called, who assured us the hotel would take care of the Speckled Shirt, in time for our departure, as best they could.

Wondering about all the confusing and conflicting evidence we had heard, recognizing we could not sort it all out, we put shirts and speckles out of our mind, and enjoyed another day in beautiful Edinburgh.

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Several hours later, after we returned to our hotel and got off the lift onto our floor, I was surprised to see, at that precise moment, a dapperly dressed gentleman rushing towards us, holding a hanger with a beautifully pressed shirt.

At first, of course, I leapt to this conclusion:

It’s the return of the shirt, speckled no longer!

However, this hope was quickly dashed by the gentleman moving swiftly by us and leaping onto the lift, apparently in pursuit of urgent business on other floors.

I said to my son, marveling at the coincidence. “Did you see that man?  There are other people in this hotel with Shirt Issues today.”

Minutes after we returned to our room, there came an urgent knock on the door.

As I opened the door, I discovered that same rushing man with shirt, now standing quite still. Said he,

Here is your shirt.  I had the wrong room number. My apologies.

And just like that, he was gone, leaving behind my son’s shirt, pressed and virtually speckle-free.

Let me ask you this, dear readers: Is that a mystery to you, that we did not recognize that shirt, rushing by us, as we left the lift?

Well,  I guess that speaks to many things, including the sometimes dubious nature of eyewitness testimony.

Now, as I bring this humble tale of The Speckled Shirt to an end, perhaps you may have noticed something else.

While the shirt was restored, with almost all tell-tale evidence removed ….

The mystery was never solved.

It now enters the realm of other unsolved mysteries I’ve experienced, including the first one I can remember.*

It’s difficult to tolerate the unknown, especially for important things.

In the meantime,  I will do my best, trying to solve mysteries and accepting that, for some, I may never know.

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Thanks to broox09, who posted that first “Unsolved Mystery” video on Youtube; detectives everywhere; the shows, books, movies, and people who have helped me get through some difficult times; and to you, for participating in this mystery today.

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* Who killed President John F. Kennedy?

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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