The other side of intrinsic motivation

As well as learning, we also need to be able to function effectively within a social environment. As with motivation, guiding figures (parents, teachers), can provide a form of extrinsic or intrinsic motivation.

Within the literature, we can ‘introject’ or ‘integrate’ the rules and ways of being and doing that are needed to be fully effective in social contexts.

Introjection is essentially imposing a set of rules and behaviours, crudely, ‘declare, demand and demean’. There are three responses. There is compliance, the rules are followed but not internalised, if enforcement of the rules drops off then so will compliance. There is a half-hearted acceptance, sometimes applied and sometimes not. Finally, there is rebellion, the imposed rules are resisted. In none of these cases are rules and behaviours that are needed for fully functioning, being internalised as part of the individual’s own way of behaving.


In fact, the individual’s self-determination is reduced however they respond, it is the rule that is determining their behaviour, not their own volition. Reduced self-determination will lead to anxiety and difficulty in adapting to social conditions. Many people are held in the grip of introjects their whole lives, every time they feel they ‘should’ do something even when they don’t value it for themselves.

Integration occurs when the individual can determine for themselves the value of behaving in a certain way so that they continue to do so even when there is no external imposition. The new behaviours are fully internalised.

Integration is achieved through supporting the individual’s development of self-determination. By integrating a range of ways of functioning effectively within various levels of community the child grows into a well-functioning adult.

The teacher who is practicing encounter with her students is not only developing better learning and learning outcomes but is also helping the child to integrate a way of behaving that is ideal for operating in human society.

It is for this reason that such teachers have a life-long impact on their students.

Just as the practice of encounter causes the red zone to fade away, it also allows us to free ourselves from introjects that we have taken on early in our lives. Both these effects allow us to be more self-determined and purposeful in our lives.

A longer version of this post appears on LinkedIn.

John Corrigan is an expert in helping individuals to bring their whole of mind to their daily life and increase their effectiveness and the effectiveness of those around them. This expertise scales from the individual to the team to the organisation. At the core of this work is the practice of encounter.

John Corrigan