Humans are born with the ability to perform many functions without thought or attention, such as heartbeat, respiration, digestion and many others. However, it may be surprising to learn that the brain also has a set of intrinsic behavioral goals called inbornintentions. This hypothesis, that we have guidelines for behavior implanted in the brain from birth, sheds light on why we behave as we do.
A good way to illustrate this is through a thought experiment.
Imagine two adult human beings, whom I will call “Lee” and “Marie”, who have learned nothing from the moment of birth except how to speak. They have no memories or beliefs on which to draw for directions in navigating the world. However, both have a perfectly functioning brain and body. They are intelligent and articulate. In our thought experiment, the world itself is normal except for these two individuals.
What would Lee and Marie intent to do when they find themselves in a totally unfamiliar environment? How would they behave absent any experiences or beliefs as guides?
Deep within the recesses of their hidden brains, completely inaccessible to their conscious minds, lie the basic goals toward which they would intend to move. They would choose to live, to make choices without restriction, they know that they must acquire food, clothing and shelter and they look favorably on each other and the world outside themselves. They possess the inbornintentions of human dignity, freedom of choice, sense of accomplishment and love.
They would both act in ways consistent with each of these inbornintentions, even though they are not aware of the reasons for doing so.
Attributes of inbornintentions
Inbornintentions are common to all humans, so they are universal. They are a part of every living person regardless of gender, race, age, creed, state of health, nationality, behavior or any other variable. Indeed, it helps to understand what it means to be human by understanding the concept of inbornintentions.
Inbornintentions are innate. If any one person possesses them, everyone must, and the only way something can be a part of everyone is that it is present from birth. Acquiring them is unnecessary because they are within each of us already, from start to finish.
Inbornintentions are also immutable. As long as we live and breathe, as long as we exist as human beings, they are a part of us. They are always present regardless of our awareness of them, and they are impervious to change by force or any other influence. It is impossible for one individual to erase their existence from someone else, short of taking their life. Acquiring them is unnecessary because they are there from birth to death. We never lose the intrinsic and immutable intent even when they are insulted or restricted by self or others.
Understanding inbornintentions helps optimize mental health
Consider a behavior and determine whether or not it is consistent with the inbornintentions . Behaviors consistent with inbornintentions indicate a healthy mental state and behaviors contrary to them are likely to suggest that this one aspect of mental health could stand improvement. Just as individuals with high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol are well advised to take actions to correct the situation, behaviors that fail the inbornintentions test suggest that remedial action may be in order. I will discuss in another post how basic beliefs help (or hinder) progress towards the inbornintentions.
The degree of consistency between behaviors practiced daily and those defined by the innate standards determines the quality of your mental health. The closer your choices are to what these inherent directions call for, the healthier your mind will be.
Why this new word was coined
Robert Olsen in his book “An Introduction to Existentialism” describes what he calls “human values”[i]. Although individually these values have been the concern of philosophers, educators and religious leaders throughout the ages, examining their collective role as a basic part of human nature has previously eluded exploration. To emphasize their fundamental role in human behavior, and to be able to refer to them collectively, Olsen’s “human values” were reformulated into “inbornintentions.”
“Inborn…” means that humans are born with these qualities or characteristics, making them innate. They have been present since birth; learning them was as unnecessary as learning to breathe. They are part of our makeup just as is every other natural function of our body.
The second part of this new word, “… intentions”, implies that by nature we intend to choose behaviors in the direction of these innate instructions. We are predisposed to establish a positive relationship with each of them. There are, however, many influences from both previous experiences and current circumstances that frequently result in behaviors contrary to them.
Consistency with inbornintentions promotes internal validation
When your behaviors are consistent with the inbornintentions, you will feel internally validated and have a sense of “I’m OK.” External validation, as in “I need your approval”, is unnecessary. You are more likely to be okay with yourself regardless of what others may say or do; external validation is nice, but it is unnecessary for mental health. On the contrary, if you need external validation to be comfortable with yourself, it is negative with respect to mental health. If your behaviors are mostly consistent with the directions, there will be no need to seek external validation.
A question for your consideration and comment
If you were going to validate the concept of inbornintentions for yourself, how would you about doing so?