Originally posted February 17, 2015
Have you ever had an intuition?
Intuition is when an idea pops into your head fully formed without being preceded by a step-by- step logical chain. These intuitions may come to you with “cognitive elements” usually in the form of a feeling. You understand the meaning of your thoughts and what it is you are saying to yourself, without having heard words spelling it out. Although often there may be no image that you can see in your mind, in heightened states of consciousness you may be able to see an image tied to this intuition.
These ideas flash into our mind and usually flash right out again unless we have a strong and abiding mental intention to pay attention to and remember their content. Without such conscious intention, we probably won’t even notice these fleeting intuitions. They are a subtle guidance system that does not speak loudly in our mind.
Dan Goleman points out that at least some of these feelings — the ones we call “gut feelings” — are called that because we sense they are somehow coming from our gut, which is accurate because the part of the brain from which these intuitions come (the basal ganglia) is also associated with the nerve connections between the brain and the gastrointestinal system. These intuitions are really the net guidance stored from our experiences in the form of summary action implications that tell us the way we are going either worked or failed in the past.
By contrast, the ego voices that dominate most of our mind at most times are loud, strident and salient. These ego voices are the thoughts, inner dialog, and feelings that are linked to our base motivations. We are pulled around by our negative fears and anger reactions to events around us when we feel our livelihoods and social standing are at stake and sense at any moment something can be taken away from us. The ego is also stressed out due to Acceleritis™ (Information Overload), thus exacerbating its own predisposition to worry.
As a result of this inner competition for attention and the fact that most of our attention at nearly all times is cast outwards not inwards, we don’t even catch these intuitions in the first place.
If we do catch the intuition, it is generally not heeded because of the jumble of subsequent louder thoughts giving us impulses to verbally fight, complain, argue, dismiss, or otherwise rain on whatever it was that somebody just said that may have triggered the intuition.
How to Use Your Intuition More Effectively
This is a testable hypothesis — try this:
Start a program of paying attention to your own hunches and look for them to arise. When they do, put off the other business that seems so important to the ego and everyday mind, and focus on what your intuition just told you. Make sure you remember the content by either writing it down or forming a keyword, key phrase or key image that will serve as a retrieval mechanism to bring back the whole content of the idea.
Then at an appropriate time in whatever is happening, tentatively see if the application of that intuitive idea seems to contribute anything to the situation taking place around you. Do this instead of — or at least before — offering the people around you any of the subsequent jumble of thoughts that came after the intuition.
On the other hand, you might see what the intuition is and realize that although triggered by the current situation, it really applies to another situation. Then wait to tentatively apply the hunch until you are in the other situation. In this case also resist the tendency to edit that first flash — though using diplomatic language is always a good idea so long as you do not distort the original idea.
Sometimes the intuition gives us not the right strategy but rather a strategy that although wrong will lead to the right answer, one that might not be reached other than through considering this wrong answer. Socrates appeared to know this — he flowed with his intuitions yet by phrasing the ideas as questions he protected himself against error.
Most often our mental process is to speed past the intuitive event and come up with some other strategy for dealing with the present situation. If we even retain memory of the hunch, our tendency is to later edit and “improve” upon it, which often has the opposite effect. Based on my experience, stick with the way it appeared in the beginning — the odds favor this being the successful course of action.
Best to all,