Sources of Upset, Part Three: Thwarted Intention

This post is the last in a series about the three sources of upset between people.  The first two were:

  1. Withheld communications
  2. Unfulfilled expectations

The third source of upset, thwarted Intention occurs when we wish to take action and, for a variety of reasons, cannot do so.  Our inability to take intended action could originate with ourselves.  We could:

  • Lack the skills or knowledge to achieve our intended action
  • Not follow through with our intentions

Others could squash our intentions by intentionally or unintentionally blocking our action, perhaps replacing it with their own action.

Let’s look at how we thwart our own intentions.  Most often, we can avoid sabotaging ourselves with proper planning and forethought.  This includes asking such questions as:

  • Have we defined the task?   We often lack a clear objective or understanding of what it is we are setting out to do.
  • Do we have the right resources to accomplish the task as defined?  This includes having the necessary skills: yours and those of others assisting you.
  • Do we have the time to accomplish the task?
  • Do we have the will to see our intention to completion?

Once we are on the path to fulfill our intention, the ability to assess our progress and adjust our plan can help us to reach our goal.  Reassessment can include the decision to abandon our intention!  Be honest with yourself and ask: “If I continue on this course, what is the cost and probability of failure?  If I stop what I’m doing right now,  what is the cost to me, and how does it compare to the cost of continuing and failing?”  It can be painful to admit that you are not on the right path, but failure to consider even the harshest of options could result in greater pain and expense later.

Planning should also consider the potential reactions of other individuals and organizations, for they can also thwart our intentions.  A clear-eyed assessment of not just what others are doing, but what they will do in response to our actions, is important.

Referencing the four temperaments described in the preceeding post on unfulfilled expectations, you can see that individuals will be successful or challenged by what is described above, depending on their core psychological needs.  For instance:


  1. Will be quick to take action, but such haste may lack proper planning and thus jeopardize a successful outcome.
  2. Are cool-headed and tactical.  They often find solutions to problems that seem insurmountable to others.
  3. Can be perceptive about what is happening in the moment.  They are usually flexible, and can use flexibility and awareness to adjust their solution or quickly abandon a doomed intention.
  4. May have such a focus on the moment that they miss the bigger picture and what lies ahead.
  5. Can be good negotiators with others who stand in the way of their intention.


  1. Will not proceed with action until they have analyzed what past experience says they should do.  They seek a clear, logical plan to follow.
  2. Are skilled at keeping the plan on track, bringing the right resources to bear on the process.  May hunker down and apply the rules more rigorously when faced with obstacles.
  3. Are usually very aware of the here and now, yet may be so focused on the plan and the rules as to be slow in adjusting to new information.
  4. Focus on tradition, thus their view of the future might be based upon what the past says is likely to happen.
  5. May react to others who block their intentions with rigid resistance, not flexible negotiation.


  1. Are often quick to strategize a plan, and quick to put their plan into action.
  2. Anticipate obstacles and ways to surmount them.  Alternatively, they may try to roll right over obstacles.
  3. Can be persuaded to change or abandon their strategy if new and trusted information comes to light.
  4. Focus on the outcome, and may not attend to the details of the plan.
  5. May appear ruthless to those who get in the way of their plans.  Others may perceive them as visionary.


  1. Create a plan ranging from vague to detailed, but they are not likely to act until they have buy-in from others.
  2. Diplomatically seek a solution that includes everyone’s input and, ideally, agreement, when faced with an obstacle.
  3. Are generally very tuned into the mood and needs of the group, thus are able to shepherd others in an effort to achieve a goal.
  4. Focus on the process, and the meaning and significance of the intention.
  5. Can shift from inclusion to intensity if the values of the catalyst are threatened or disregarded.  In the extreme, think of a mama bear protecting her young.

As I concluded this three-part series on the three causes of upset, let me rhetorically ask, “Why?”  My answer: because only when we understand what underlies our emotions, our anger, our happiness, our sadness, etc., can we gain control over those feelings.  By understanding the cause of our emotions, we are taking the first step toward promoting those that are productive, and changing those that are not productive.  As we gain control over our feelings, we can begin to understand the emotions of others.  Our empathic understanding of others can then be used to help them gain control over their emotions.  Thus, the foundation has is laid for more satisfying relationships at home, at work, and in all social settings.

One Response to “Sources of Upset, Part Three: Thwarted Intention”

  1. Mike Russell Says:

    This was great!

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